Welcome to The Model Diaries, a 3-Part feature exploring and exposing The Good, The Bad and The Bat Shit Crazy events and experiences of my life as a glamour model. Parental Warning: Expect nudity, alcohol, guns and lots of WTF moments.
As the great Marian Wright Edelman once said, In every seed of good there is always a piece of bad. With the tremendous highs of my career came some crashing lows. The rejection, the waiting, the lies, the late payments, the never payments, the broken promises and the constant attack on your image. Of course, you go into this career knowing you are trying to get a job because of the way you look. If you grasped at the root of it’s definition and tugged on it’s weeds you would be floored by the reminder that you chose to be judged, to have your petals plucked off by a passing stranger. But no one’s trunk is that strong to not be shifted by the storm of critiques that shower upon on you in weekly downpours. By your agent, the client, the casting director, the make-up artist, the readers, the twitter followers, the YouTube commenter’s. I listened to Fearne Cotton’s podcast “Happy Place” recently where she spoke with Emma Willis about her time as a model. Emma, being the God-like woman she is shared how her self-proclaimed glass half-empty ‘this won’t last forever’ attitude helped her deal with the fact not everyone is going to like the way she looked, and that she was okay with that. This is the attitude you aspire to reach, the IDGAF vibe. Some days are easier than others, some days you go ‘Eh, oh well I wasn’t the right fit’ and you just move on. The days when it’s harder to do this is when someone highlights something that you already hate about yourself.
I used to shoot Page 3 for one of the newspapers and the photographer had a reputation for ahem- ‘saying it like it is’ shall we say. You’d walk into the studio with baited breath, hoping that this time you’d get a pass and she’d fail to mention your wonky boobs. “Your eyebrows need doing; Your nails are awful; Learn how to curl your eyelashes; Are you moisturising your skin” – This was just the onslaught from the make-up chair. You nod along sweetly whilst inside your budding flower is now shrinking through shame and embarrassment. After the most recent downpour which has left you feeling like a rat drowned in your own misery, now you have to step on set for the shoot and pretend you feel real sexy about all your flaws. The blasé comments spill onto the hardwood floor as you stand around, desperate to impress whilst contemplating just how much you need the £300 to simply be insulted all afternoon. “You can’t wear this because you’re too big”, “Lift your arm up because you’re left boob is saggy”, “You can’t do that pose because you have chunky legs”, “When are you going to get your teeth done?” Oddly there was something extremely intriguing about this woman. She was hurting your feelings but you still respected her, she was kind of…. sweet. Much like a crazy aunt who slags off your outfit and flirts with your boyfriend, she’s not being that offensive, but you’re definitely not offering her your couch for the night when she argues with Uncle Bill after downing a bottle of vodka. I’ve heard she’s made many girls cry when they left her studio, but we all went back anyway; Whether through some fuckery of wanting her approval or really needing some money for your big night out in Oceana on the weekend to meet Gaz from Geordie Shore. Being told the shit things you already know about you is well, shit.
Next comes the interviews. Those shitty, demeaning, dehumanising interviews. I once went through the effort of having a test shoot done for Valentine’s Day, with the idea that the photographer and my agent would try sell the pics to one of the publications and earn us all some solid queen elizabethz£££. To start with, the whole context of the shoot was just cringe and lacked any smidge of creativity, with it’s white wall back drop and heart foiled balloon. The photographer was hating it, I was hating it, and it was ironically a big fuckery of loathness for what was supposed to be the most romantic and heartfelt day of the year. After battling on (first world problems IKR) through the shoot and getting dem’ money shot$$$ we managed to secure an image sale to the Daily Mirror. Wooooo. The glamour. A woman from the newspaper phoned me up to do the interview which was going to accompany the images. “Hi Jess, I’m just going to ask you a few questions” Sure, fab, yeah, continue. “What’s your favourite sex position?” _______________________ Flat lined. My eyes rolled to the back of my head as I couldn’t comprehend a reason why the fuck I would divulge this information to you, to tell your thousands of readers, the possibility of my parents seeing, to be belittled down to nothing but a sex move and for what exactly? The Twenty Five Quid a picture you’re going to pay me? No thanks hun. “I don’t answer questions like that sorry”. “Oh, okay well next one. What’s your signature move in the bedroom?” _______________ *my eyes have come full circle by now* “I don’t answer questions like that sorry”. “Well um, they’re all like that really so do you want to have a think and get back to me in an hour?”. It took me 1.5 seconds to think. I’m not doing it. My agent continued to tell me how they won’t use the images without the interview, how they were only words, how my career was only worth the £75 they were going to pay me and the privilege of being known as Doggy Davies for the rest of my life. Okay I made that last bit up. But it’s safe to say that that one was filed under the ‘How I’ve wasted my life instead of working towards having a ‘real’ job saving other peoples lives‘ folder.
Let’s talk about the photoshoots with people who you don’t actually know. Who you’ve never met. Who aren’t a brand, a magazine, a company. I am honestly flabbergasted that there isn’t more horror stories out there of models being abused or exploited in these situations. Although being in the Harvey Weinstein era I am sure that there are unfortunately many out there, who felt and still feel like they couldn’t speak up without it affecting their career. British Glamour Model Chloe Ayling’s story of her being drugged and kidnapped by some dickhead in Milan after being lured there for a fake photoshoot was unfathomable for some people to believe, but I was just shocked that this was one of the first times it had happened (or that we’ve heard about at least- we’ve all watched Taken). You rock up as a young woman on your own, to a location which is usually isolated i.e a hotel room, an apartment, a studio etc, to meet someone- usually a man in this industry- that you have never met, and then strip off and have your pics taken. When you type it out like that it sounds fucking ludicrous. How could I be so stupid? But you put trust in your agent, in your colleagues, in the industry. That everyone is in the same boat and just trying to make a living out of it. I’ve had a couple photographer’s be a little bit handsy when moving you into positions that made me freeze up and think plz stop touching me. Would I of felt awkward if we were on a big set with ten other people around? No, probably not. But when you’re in a two ft by two ft hotel room by yourself the situation is a tad more intimidating. Read the room guys.
Talking of trusting your agent, early on in my career I was booked for a job for ‘Harley Davidson Magazine’ – Does this even exist? Did it ever exist? Who fucking knows. It definitely isn’t something I’ve found on Google. Anyway, young and full of enthusiasm I headed down to London to meet the photographer Sal* (name changed cos I don’t wanna die.) I walked into the studio which was on an industrial type-esque estate and was greeted by Sal, a big bald chap. He seemed friendly enough and I sat down to get my hair and make-up done. What unfolded was one of the strangest shoots I’ve ever experienced. First off the clothes he handed me- some random Marilyn Monroe type floaty dress. A corset. I think some leather was thrown in there. It was all just so fucking random and I remember thinking…. What the fuck does this have to do with Harley Davidson? I plodded through the shoot until we hit a stumbling block. “Have you ever experienced real sadness in your life?” ….. “I want you to cry and look really sad”….. “Think of someone close to you who has died”….. Erm. WTF. Yes, I’m sure all professional lad mag’ shoots want you to cry on camera about your deceased family member whilst wearing pleather and wishing you were the one who was dead. I think I realised quite quickly after the crying request that this was probably not a photoshoot for a magazine. Thank fuck I didn’t shoot topless at the time because things could have got really weird, really fast. The whole shoot just left me with a weird vibe and I was glad to get out of there. I told my agent that I wasn’t happy with how the shoot went and that I wouldn’t be shooting with Sal again. A few months later and without seeing any pictures from the shoot or publication of these images (there’s a surprise) my agent emails to inform me Sal wants to shoot with me again. Yeah I’m not doing that. I told her that after the last time I’d already made it pretty obvious that I didn’t have a burning desire to go and weep about my personal life with my tits half out to an old man again. Weird that. Skip to a few weeks later when I’m cruising down the coast of West Wales for the weekend when I get an angry message from my agent. “WHERE R U?” Erm just passed through that well known seaside town of Aberaeron, why? “UR SUPPOSED TO BE SHOOTING WITH SAL TODAY! I CONFIRMED IT” Oh my bad, because what part of “He makes me uncomfortable I’m not shooting with him again” did I not make clear? “Don’t put anything on twitter and I’m going to have to say you broke down on your way there” Or maybe just tell him I don’t want to shoot with him again cos he wanted me to shed tears. This news did not go down well with Sal. Sal was not happy. Sal tweeted about unprofessional models “breaking down” on the way to the shoot (Fair play Sal, I wouldn’t of believed it either). Sal then proceeded to tweet me asking when I was going to fix my teeth. Sal mad. Be less like Sal.
Trusting your agent. Ahhh this could be a theme. Perhaps the ultimate horror story of my life as a glamor model falls under this umbrella. A betrayal of trust I’ve never really discussed, or ever really confronted. But we’ll leave that one for the book, shall we?
Keep an eye out for the 3rd and final feature of The Model Diaries, aka The Crazy, coming to Jabber With Jess soon! In the mean time be sure to spend your lunch breaks trawling through the rest of my blog posts and let me know what you think!