Life as a Glamour Model: Accepting your career is over.

Accepting your career is over is something you never want to have to face, not this early on in life anyway. All the long lusted ideals of what your life will be like, the high hopes that you’ve hung your dreams upon and the promised land in which you never got to travel disappear from your eyesight. It’s over. I am no longer a model.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. Especially when you are still so in love with your craft. Of course, everyone knows that there is a time limit to this career path, no one stays young forever they say. But the problem is, I still am. Whilst a lot of things in my life felt uncertain, my career was not one of them. I knew exactly what job I wanted, and I was as determined as anyone could be for success. I fell in love with modelling, fuck I fell hard. I loved every single moment of it. From the 5am Megabus’ to London and the castings in office cupboards, to the dodgy locations (yes FRONT mag) and even dodgier styling. The good always outweighed the bad when it came to this profession, always. I knew I was never the prettiest, the tallest, the skinniest, but I was adamant that I could make up for this through my boldness and fortitude in my love affair for this role. I faced off time and time again with rejection, yet each battle played a collective part in my story, building up a beautifully tragic puzzle of euphoric dreams and delusion.

Image by Harris Nukem

Being booked for a photoshoot was my Apollo 11. I was being paid to live out my childhood fantasy. I could never quite believe my luck. Each job was a journey, navigating at different stops. The first station would be hair and make-up, boy I loved this one. I would carefully soak in the craftsmanship, absorbing as much detail as I could on how to create the perfect smokey-eye. Each time without fail my eyes would water, their glazing blue-ness too sensitive for all the poking and prodding. I would sit there apologising, all red-eyed and irritated, clenching my fists praying that the tears wouldn’t fall and ruin the masterpiece which had adorned my face. The next stop was wardrobe, which usually consisted of various items of clothing spread out on the floor. “I hope I get that one” I’d think, waiting patiently for my look to be pieced together. I very rarely got “that one”, but I didn’t mind. I observed the stylist’s moves, their precision and eye for detail. Pinning and tucking, clipping and steaming. They minded every tag and seam with such an air of responsibility. The last stop put me in front of the camera. The holy grail. This is what it all came down too, this is what it was all for. Stepping on set always set off a wave of imbalance within me, a convulsion of hysteria and a dreaded feeling of don’t fuck it up. It was always in the back of my mind that this one shoot, this one job, could get me noticed and lead to my big break. That was both utterly terrifying and wholly spine-tingling. The photographer embeds their knowledge within you; chin up, back curved, towards the light, mouth a tad open. Their ability to execute an image in their mind to a living, breathing artwork in front of them is a demonstration of pure excellence. Anyone can pick up a camera, but only these select few are artists. Stepping off-set I would feel excited and drained. What if the pictures aren’t good enough. But as always, the good outweighed the bad, and I would leave the shoot feeling as if my dopamine levels had burst out of my brain. I want to feel this happy at work forever. I wish I hadn’t taken those days for granted.

Image by Matt Comer

Your life begins to build up around this path you’ve chosen. Your best friends become girls that you model with. Your travelling buddies become the make-up artists and stylists. Your agent becomes your second mother. Your drinking companions become the photographers. You meet up outside of work just because you want too. These people know all your secrets and your stories, your desires and your ambitions. You’ve shared life-changing experiences and travelled the World alongside them. You’ve created this whole family dynamic around you, and then one day, it’s just sort of, gone.

No one really warns you when your World is about to come crashing down. It doesn’t all happen at once. Much like a cliff repeatedly battered by the ocean, it silently erodes away piece by piece until one day you look up and nothing is there. This final stage of rejection is not one that I can accept so freely. I never fell out of love with modelling, but it fell out of love with me. The glamour industry evaporated and the other sector’s turned their back. You don’t fit the bill anymore, your job does not exist. I wish I had done more. I wish I had put myself out there more instead of spending so long feeling shy and uncertain of who I was. I wish I had spoken up and shared with my colleagues how much I really loved this job, this role as their fellow companion. The one thing left behind from my modelling days are my social media followers. But unfortunately this means I have to face trolling and negative comments about my looks, whilst no longer reaping any of the benefits that come with the job. I imagine it to be much like the career of a sportsman, through injury or old age (if you can call it that!) their time abruptly stops and they’re thrown back into the deep-end to try and forge a new path. Except when you’re a model, your passage has become blocked. Companies and brands don’t want to work with ex-glamour girls, and you’re once again running against the wind, trying to catch a break.

I’ve built up a plethora of knowledge through my experiences in this industry. I can, and have executed entire projects for brands from on-set shoot management, sourcing and casting, to client liaison, styling and production (you can check out some of my work here btw). But gaging respect from others as an ex-model is still something I struggle to find. The support network does not exist whilst the judgement unfortunately does. Life sometimes feels like an uphill battle and facing that your career is over as a 25 year-old, whilst feeling like you have so much left to give, is a hard wound to heal. I wrote this blog whilst tearing up, this really was my world. To many this may seem a bit silly, but starting from the bottom when you were so close to the top is a scary thing to face. I hope that I can be the exception and break away from the mould that us ex-models are forced into and forge a career behind the camera. But until then, I’ll continue to blog about my experiences through a new series I’ll be featuring called ‘THE MODEL DIARIES.’ Keep an eye out!

Tits up: The Rise (and Fall) of How I became a Glamour model.

Surprisingly, I hadn’t always wanted to be a Glamour model. For a good chunk of my childhood I wanted to be a pop star. God I loved singing. Problem was, I’m bloody awful. I could do a whole blog post on the embarrassing mishaps my cursed voice has brought upon me. Getting laughed off stage at my 10th birthday party when I attempted an Sclub 7 classic on the Karaoke. Being ordered to mime in the school choir. And my personal favourite, being told by my teacher at 9 years old that “If I was a good friend”, I would let my best mate (who could actually sing) duet with someone else at the Eisteddfod. HEARTBREAKING. Anyway, it soon became apparent after constantly (honestly, could people not just lie to protect my feelings?) being told that I couldn’t sing, that I needed to find another way to “make it”.

Then it came to me. I was going to be a model. God bless my teenage confidence, I don’t know where it came from, I didn’t exactly look like Cindy Crawford at 13 years old. But I was pretty damn certain I could do it. I was scouted” at the Clothes Show in Birmingham for one of those Teen Queen competitions when I was about 14. I was seriously excited at the time, but it soon turned out to be one of those happenings where you pay £500 for the photos (chrz Dad) to then be told “you didn’t get through this time”. But nonetheless, having my first real photoshoot only stimulated my desire to be a model even more. THIS WAS MY PATH. There was only three things standing in my way. My height (obvious). And these two huge things that had grown on my chest (even more obvious).

One of the self-timer images I sent off to agencies

I applied to agency after agency, and even took part in some beauty pageants (come through Miss Wales Finalist 2010), but I kept getting the same response:

You should try Glamour modelling”.

They all enthusiastically pushed my eager, just-turned 18years old self towards the world of Glamour. And I wasn’t mad about it. I loved Jordan in her Peter Andre, braided hair days. Maybe they were right, maybe this was my calling. I sent a few amateur pictures off that I’d taken on self-timer to a Glamour model agency in London, and after getting a call back I dragged my friend down on the train and I met who was soon to become my agent. The wheels were finally rolling.

Serving up beauty queen realness at a Teen Pageant

My first real breakthrough in Glamour modelling came a few weeks later when I was on the train from Cardiff to London for a casting with Nuts magazine. I hadn’t even reached London yet when my agent called “Nuts want to shoot you today!” What! I couldn’t believe it. “They’re not going to bother casting you, they want to shoot you right now for their Next Top Model feature. There’s going to be a car waiting for you at the station to take you to the location. Have fun!”. Fuck. This was it. It’s happening! I’d never had a driver pick me up before. I don’t even think they have those kind of services in West Wales. I was so excited. I had a boyfriend at the time. He was less excited. In fact, he was fuming. He thought I’d lied and that I knew I had a shoot all along. I hadn’t of course, but I didn’t even care, I’d wanted to be a model for so long and it was finally coming true.

I spotted the driver in Paddington station holding up a sign with my name on it- (SO cool) – and he drove me to a huge townhouse in London. “We’re here, Miss!”. Erm, yeah thank you. Did I have to pay this guy? I couldn’t afford too. I just shuffled off quickly and hoped he didn’t follow. I remember what seemed to be a hidden garage doorway opening, and being greeted by a few guys who worked for Nuts. “Come in! We’re just having pizza.” I will never forget the site that I was met with that day when I walked in- all bushy tailed and bright-eyed. There in the kitchen were three, maybe four, beautiful models eating pizza in just a thong. This was every teen boys fantasy. I COULD SEE NIPPLES. I don’t think I’d ever seen another woman’s nipples. I didn’t know where to look. Am I supposed to make eye contact? God, keep cool Jess. It was like being the new kid at school, but luckily everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I barely said a word. I think there was a mutter of how I’d come all the way from Wales. Welsh girls very rarely leave the valleys you see. I was sent straight upstairs into hair and make-up. I’d never had my make-up done before. I felt like Béyonce. This world was so new to me. It was all so g l a m o r o u s. The house was spread across three floors and everything was painted white. How very minimalistic. These Londoners knew how to decorate. The photographer was a woman, phew, that eased my nerves a bit. I was decked out by the stylist (honestly, it just gets fancier) in black lingerie- suspenders n’ all, and thrust, quite literally, into the spotlight.

A shot from my first Nuts magazine shoot

God, I loved it. I felt so sexy, so confident, so beautiful. That feeling that comes over you when you’ve had your hair and make-up done, outfits chosen for you and been pampered and primped to an inch of your life whilst being told how great you look by a whole team of people is indescribable.

At that moment, you really believe your hype, and it shows through the lens. I guess that’s how they get great pictures. But then all of a sudden the hype came crashing down. “Okay, can you take the bra off now please?” What? Fuck. I hadn’t agreed to go topless. I hadn’t really discussed anything, it was such a whirlwind morning of excitement that I hadn’t even asked what the shoot would entail. Naive as it may have been, I was only eighteen and new to this whole world and didn’t know what to expect. I’d told my agent when I first signed with the agency that I wasn’t going to do topless, and I naively assumed that they would have relayed this slightly important detail onto the client.

“Um, erm, I, um don’t do topless sorry” I mumbled. Awkward silence. I continued to tell them how I couldn’t do topless as I was scheduled to take part in another beauty pageant in a couple months, and they had banned anyone who had posed nude or topless. Power to all females, right? *eyeroll*. The team let me take a break to call my agent who assured me that this was a huge opportunity for me, that they’d booked me without even seeing me, that I should just do it. But I stood my ground- Rule #1.

I learnt very early on that if you were going to survive in this industry, you needed to be strong and assertive when it came to marking out your line of what you will and won’t do. I think this is where some girls went wrong and ended up having bad experiences. I know of a few who were too shy or embarrassed to say that they were uncomfortable doing a certain shot or pose on set, and then would contact the photographer or client afterwards asking them not to use those shots of them. This would piss the client off because they’ve just wasted their time getting pictures they can’t use, and have to sift through thousands of shots picking out the ones you don’t approve. It was much easier, however awkward it may feel at the time (and it really does feel awkward standing their practically naked trying to explain yourself to a group of strangers), for you to just to say “Sorry, I’m not comfortable doing that” and then you could all move on and find a different solution together. This is what me and the team at Nuts did. We met at a compromise of implied topless, so bra off, nipples covered. This reluctancy to show everything right away actually proved to be a positive and became my main selling point in the industry, leading to me being offered lucrative deals from mags for my “first big reveal”.

I have to point out that the level of mutual respect between everyone on set, not just of this particular shoot, but every professional lads mag shoot I’ve worked on, was unquestionable. This is one of the reasons why I think the loss of Nuts and Zoo is such a shame and a danger to aspiring models who don’t have that support network or safety net around them. I still shoot with this same female photographer six years on, which is testament enough to how comfortable and respected I felt on that day.

Another shot from my first Nuts shoot.

So that’s it. I was now a fully fledged Glamour model. I was so pleased with how my images came out, although there was one issue. The main pull quote on the article read “GETTING MY CLOTHES OFF IS NOTHING NEW TO ME” WHAT. I hadn’t said that. This is where I learnt Rule #2 of the Glamour modelling world. Never say anything in your post-shoot interview that could be twisted into something suggestive. What I’d actually said was that I had done a swimwear round in a pageant before, but of course that wasn’t juicy enough for the male readers. From that day on my interviews were as boring as I could make them. I remember Zoo mag once asking me what I wore to bed. “Pyjamas”, “Well what kind of pyjamas?, “Fluffy ones”. I wasn’t giving anything away.

After a couple of shoots and losing out on one of Zoo mags’ new girl contracts because I wouldn’t go topless, I soon realised if I wanted to try and make a career in this industry, that I would have to free the nipples. By now my relationship had fell apart and I was being promised big bucks and opportunities if I would just throw caution to the wind and bare all. Everything came to a head when an uncensored aka nipples out image of me in a pink mesh swimsuit was published in a Nuts Summer Special Issue. I had been promised by my agent that my nipples would be photoshopped out- and I again, naively assumed this would happen. I remember seeing the image circulate online and I cried for hours. What have I done. But my family and friends were hugely supportive. To this day it’s actually my mums favourite picture of me (she’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom). So instead of wallowing in my own titty-pity party, I decided to take control and own my title as a topless model. I signed an exclusive retainer contract with Zoo magazine for my “big reveal” and claimed it as a big F U to any comments or judgements that I’d been on the other end of.

One from the Zoo magazine archives

Obviously it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, the professionalism and fond memories I talk about are directly in reference to the main lad mags that I shot with. Outside of that, I’ve had some dodgy experiences, bad advice and done things that I regret. But I’ll delve into that another time.

Of course, the big bucks never came and all the amazing opportunities I’d been promised never materialised. Truth is, I started my journey at a time when the industry had already started to decline. Protests had began against Page 3 and a new-wave of feminists began speaking out about how Glamour models were bad role models for women. I was angry. They were wrong. This wasn’t my industry, my peers, my employers that they were describing. I could think of nothing that encapsulated feminism less than telling me what I can and couldn’t do, how I should and shouldn’t feel. These individuals were taking away our dreams because how they thought we felt, instead of actually engaging in conversation and celebrating our sexuality alongside us.

Attending a Nuts’ Magazine Birthday Party

Fast forward six years from where it all began, and all the lad mags have died. Big Brothers been cancelled. Donald Trump is President. Boris Johnson fucked us over. Toblerone’s have bigger gaps. Oh, and we’re now living through a movement where women are being encouraged to be more open, embrace and own their sexuality, and to free the nipple. I’m all for it, anyone that follows me will know that. However, I wish it wasn’t such a selective celebration of womanhood; but a unity of women supporting women in finding empowerment through which ever form they see fit. Whether that is in the pages of a glossy magazine, or at a political protest.

Image by Haris Nukem

Is it Naked time yet?

All I’m writing is just what I feel, that’s all. I just keep it almost naked. And probably the words are so bland.” – Jimmy Hendrix

Pussy Power via LappTheBrand.

So this is it. Time to lay myself bare to the World. Or at least to a couple of stragglers who stumble upon this blog on the Internet- Hey you guys! And I’m not talking bare as in, butt naked, no- that happened along time ago (Chrz google). We’re talking bare in terms of actual words and actual feelings and sharing who I actually am.

Starting a blog is something I’ve wanted to do for years. Not to try make some dollahhh, or promote skin products that make your skin all dewy like those Instagram models (how do they look so perfect all the damn time), and not even to share my plethora of knowledge on any given subject (limited). I just have a lot to say, I guess.

I’ve tried to use social media as a tool to share my views and opinions, my thoughts and the things I love, or don’t. But an Instagram caption rambling on about gender equality and why the freedom of nipples are important underneath an image of me in minimal clothing whilst guys commented emojis along the lines of 😍👅🍆😈 or “stick to getting your tits out”, wasn’t exactly hitting my g-spot when it came to wanting to share how I really felt. Sorry boys.

I’ve loved writing since I was young. I used to write stories in my spare time when I was a kid, piece together crappy poems, and write apology letters to my parents when I knew I’d effed up. I didn’t even mind taking on extra story-writing homework for a boy I fancied in school. UR WELCOME BTW. But then University came along, and writing became a chore, and social media was so easy, that I just sort of, stopped. I’ve wrote a couple articles here and there over the years, but I really started getting back into it last year when I was tasked with writing blog posts for a female-led women’s underwear company. Perfect!- I thought- I can write about women’s issues and fun but important things like tampons and periods and yay, you get the picture. But I had to send all my articles over to be checked and edited, muted and corrected, fuck I hated that. So yeah, that job’s now a distant memory.

So all of this, plus a quarter-life crisis, an impending fear of WTF am I doing with my life and a love for oversharing my opinion- *Does anyone remember that “Hey Andrew, why do you hate poor people?” Meme? Well that’s me after two glasses of Malbec* has led me here today.

By here, I mean sitting in a luke-warm bath typing away on my phone like Rev Run whilst avoiding any given thing I’ve tasked myself to do. Ahhh procrastination, I’m pretty good at that. But we’ll get to that another time. Or will we. I guess you’ll have to wait and see. I’m not promising life-changing content, I’m not even going to promise interesting content. In fact it will probably be more like a bin – or more nicely put – a filing cabinet – for my thoughts, opinions, experiences and anything in between. A place to jibber jabber with myself and share it online in the hopes that someone, somewhere might be feeling or thinking the same thing.

So here goes nothing, Is it Naked time yet?