The Quarter life crisis: I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.

It was approximately 0.36am when, as I surrendered myself underneath the familiar walls of warmth around me, the increasingly present thoughts of dread came crashing down. I lay there in silence, staring out of the 10cm gap I always leave between the blind and the window sill, as if it provides a comfort that I would at least be able to see the monster who was going to eat me in the night. And then it dropped, a single tear. This scene could have been right out of a music video. A really fucking sad one, of course. An Adele original, wailing in terms that no one understands about a love from ten years ago that you should have most definitely forgotten about by now. Except I wasn’t crying about a lost teenage love . I really wasn’t sure why I was crying at all.

Adulthood tends to have this effect on me. This ever engulfing cycle of responsibility and expectations, hopes and dreams, successes and failures, excitement and disappointment. It’s a whirlwind which I face regularly, a wave of eagerness and fear all rolled into one. Sometimes it smacks you in the face like a breath of fresh air, igniting the ambition from underneath you. And other days it collapses on top of you, sinking you further into the hole that has formed at your feet. Today was one of those days. I’m 25 years old, and I am lost. Lost somewhere between kidulthood and adulthood. I am, as Britney Spears so eloquently put it, not a girl, not yet a woman. But I guess I’m not really lost at all. I know exactly where I am, and it’s not where I want to be. But it’s better than where I was five years ago. Ugh, but it’s not where I was last year. I’m just sort of, floating. Floating in this realm of uncertainty, desperate to have everything figured out but doing the absolute minimum to fix it.

As I lay in bed that night with the weight of the world on my shoulders, every thought and every fear ran through my head. My emotions were Mo Farah and my brain was his track. What the fuck am I doing with my life? What the fuck am I not doing with my life? I’ve put on weight, I sigh, as I pinch my belly underneath the covers. Maybe I’ll try one of those detoxes. But all I really want to do is sit in bed with a sharing size bag of bacon flavour crisps and not share them with anyone. Fuck I love food. Why do I love food so much. Everything tastes as good as skinny feels to me. I book myself in for a 10am gym session knowing that there is a good chance that I will cancel it in the morning, and put myself through more feelings of shame and disappointment. When am I going to buy a house? I don’t even want to buy one at the moment, I love the flat I live in, in fact I never want to move. But all my friends are buying houses, so I should too. And I especially want one at 1am in the morning. Will I ever get married? I don’t think I’m overly fussed about marriage. I’m more interested in the day and wearing a nice dress and getting drunk with my friends and a nice man who seems to share this mutual feeling of thinking I’m nice too. Maybe if there was a faint glimmer of a courtship on the horizon then everyone and their dog would stop asking me when I’m going to find a guy to settle down with. Am I not interested in that young postman? Or the Iceland delivery driver? Or any Male under the age of 40 that looks in my direction? I don’t even want a boyfriend. I want to go travelling. And I certainly don’t need a man for that. Uh, except I kind of do. Because “it’s not safe to go there alone as a girl” or as a group of girls for that matter. And anyway, it’s really fucking expensive to travel alone when hotels are double the price. I want a baby. Oh god, not now, definitely not now. But you know, maybe before I’m classed as an older mum and everyone mistakes me for my kids grandma in the playground. That’s what people think of mums over 30, right? And what if I’m barren Darren? What if nothing works down there and I won’t know until it’s too late and I’ve found a nice gentleman who won’t want to stay with me and my bad batch of human eggs. I’m lonely. Where did all my friends go? Well they grew up, duh. They have lives and they have responsibilities and they have boyfriends and they have hobbies and they have new friends. New fucking friends, ha! How do you meet these new friends everyone talks about? Am I ever going to have the career I want? Will I succeed with my huge dreams, or will I have to go back to working in Boots and selling people meal deals or fitting shoes for old ladies in Dorothy Perkins. Things don’t work unless you do, Jessica. Ah, but that would entail getting through the impossible task of getting started to start with. Just one phonecall, just one mood board, or just one fashion sketch feels like the pressure of ten concrete blocks crushing my bones. Then comes the actual blocks, the creative blocks. When grabbing for my phone and scrolling through Instagram for the 100th time today is a better option than sitting down and actually having to think. Tomorrow is a new day, tomorrow things will be different.

Except 95% of the time, tomorrow hasn’t been different. I’m still waiting by my phone for an email, a text, a sign that says THIS IS IT, THINGS ARE HAPPENING. And as things stop changing, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell yourself to stay positive, to keep in a happy frame of mind, that you have got this. Ironically, I would say that I’m an extremely positive person. I read self-help books, I go to yoga, I meditate, I watch motivational documentaries, I write down what I am grateful for and I practice the Law of attraction. But nothing, not even a serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul can stop the quarter life crisis from grabbing you and turning you inside out.

Does this dread ever disappear, I wonder? Maybe when I start ticking off some “firsts” then the doubt and worry will fade away. Maybe when I actually become an adult. A real one. Not one who’s forced themselves to enjoy adult things likes olives and red wine. But an adult you know? I mean, okay technically I am one. If I went missing, the newspaper article would read TWENTY-FIVE YEAR OLD WOMAN. But that’s not the point. I haven’t achieved full adult status yet. Of course, I’ve switched electric providers. That’s pretty adult-y. And I’ve hosted a Christmas dinner party. That’s quite adult-y too. But I’m still not a real adult yet, am I?

I wait longingly, desperate for my transition to be complete; to know it all, to have it all. But then I remember my last minute night out four weeks ago, where “one drink” turned to 10, and “one quick dance” turned to a full blown Destiny’s Child routine. I think back to our girls trip, our decisions on a whim, our 2am drunken chats over pizza and our epic hangovers the next day. I thank god for my lack of responsibilities, for being able to lie in bed watching shit movies eating pesto pasta and not worry about anyone else other than myself. I laugh remembering all the stupid situations I’ve got myself in, and smile because I have no one to answer to for them. Maybe being 25 isn’t so bad after all.

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

My relationship with Social Media: Make up, or Break up?

I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome, Then she finally got to Rome, And all she did was post pictures for people at home, Cause all that mattered was impressin‘ everybody she’s known”

The power of Social media as a tool for business growth is unquestionable. But somewhere on this path I confused myself with a business and got lost along the way. See, I don’t make any money from my social media, but I happen to have a lot of followers. I’m not an influencer, but I’m expected to post “interesting” content. Of course, I’ve put that expectation on myself; putting currency into follower count is probably where it started to go wrong. I would force myself to post daily updates to stay “current”- I’m not entirely sure what I mean by this, but I just remember reading articles that said you should post at least once a day- so I did, I’d post anything. Uploading throwback after throwback of my travels, selfies of me with a full face of makeup on, and generally making my life look pretty damn great. And it is great, but not for the reasons my pages would lead you to believe.

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My relationship with social media grew at the same time as it’s popularity. { Just as an FYI, I use Twitter and Instagram the most, and Facebook privately. } My following grew organically thanks to S/O’s from Lads mags *RIP TittyTuesday* and I was enjoying reaching so many people on different platforms, through my new found *fame* (insert extremely big finger brackets here, I use the word fame in as loose of a term as possible). Due to my job and my environment at the time, my feed was pretty much full of scantily clad females, plus a few standard celeb accounts thrown in. You would think seeing beautiful women retweeted on my timeline constantly would have set me on my way to an early social media meltdown, but ironically, this “era” was the most comfortable I’ve ever felt online. Of course, there’s a wonderful irony in this- with the argument that glamour models are bad role models for women; but seeing the bodies of my fellow peers and strangers so freely shared on my timeline with such blasé and no editing or filters, well, it was empowering. And so fucking n o r m a l. I guess you could say these were my influencers. And I sure as hell was not worrying about how even my eyebrows looked or if my lips were plump in my selfies- and trust me, I know there is some dodgy photo’s out there to back these claims up! These platforms were a fun space where we all came together on a Wednesday afternoon to tweet #Humpday pictures, swap lighthearted comments and just have fun. I remember getting messages from up and coming brands – “Hey! We’d love to send you a tshirt in exchange for a post?”‘ FREE SHIT. This was mental. At one point I was paid £50 to upload a post holding a tub of protein powder. FIFTY QUID FOR A POST. This was the best job ever, or so I thought. Of course, now I know I was hugely undervaluing my “posting charge”, do you know how much these fuckers are being paid these days? TO POST AN INSTAGRAM PIC? It’s mind boggling. Anyway, Twitter and Instagram were an exciting place; they were fresh and they were new and I was growing with them.

I know a girl that saves pictures from places she’s flown, To post later and make it look like she still on the go, Look at the way we live”

So what went wrong? I fell down the rabbit hole. The search for validation from strangers online, constantly checking my “likes” hoping my next post will be the most popular yet. And if it didn’t do well? Fuck. That sinking feeling. The confidence I felt five minutes ago when I posted it had turned into despair. Do I look shit? Do I look fat? My boobs are saggy. Should I delete it? Maybe I’ll wait ten minutes. No I’ll just delete it, it must be shit if I’ve not hit 1000 likes. I’ll just try again and upload it later .Yes, this really was my thought process. On every post. Every day. Then came the dawn of the influencers and you might as well have pitted me next to Naomi Fucking Campbell because from now on I wasn’t as good as anyone. “Why don’t I live in a house like that?”, “Why am I not in Bali?”, “Why don’t I have abs like that? A bum like that, teeth like that”, “Why don’t I enjoy eating bowls of kale?”. The list goes on. I even started posting about my “weight loss journey”, when I was a Size 10- max.

Comparison became the thief of my happiness online.

Not only am I having to Keep up with the Jones’s- I’m trying to keep up with the whole World. Which of course, you can’t. Fuck, these girls can’t even keep up with themselves. I put so much value into the opinions of strangers, that I stopped taking notice of how social media was making me feel. I felt like I couldn’t share the everyday parts of my life, the parts that made me, me- because they weren’t exciting enough, or glamorous enough, or worthy enough. This might all sound a little excessive, but I truly don’t think I’m alone in thinking like this.

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My “progress” pictures from my weight loss journey. This is what influencers do, right?

Oh God, It goes on. Having a bad day? Then I’d post, and the mere validation via the form of likes from people I’ve never met, would give me an instant feeling of gratification. This is a fact by the way. The instant “hit” from seeing a like roll in releases the same amount of dopamine as sex or a line of cocaine. So rock’ n roll.

I cannot go ten minutes without checking my accounts. I automatically reach for my phone when I’m working, and have to force myself to put it back down. Endless scrolling fills my days with mindless tweets and Instagram models that I will never look like, who live lives I will never lead. I post selfie after selfie, engaging in this constant cycle of comparison and validation, liking and posting, like I’m wired up to some automatic millennial mode. Some may even call it narcissism. Is it? I don’t think it is. I think it’s probably the opposite. A strange need to be liked by others. But I can’t stop. And do I even want to? We need to call out our social media usage for what it is, an addiction.

This light-hearted confession of my “addiction” to others is what made me take a long hard look at my relationship with social media. Instagram and Twitter have no real effect on my life, I know that, but I put so much value upon them anyway. Why do I care about what others think? Why can’t I just be happy being me? But actually, I am happy being me. My comfortable-ness with who I am right now has allowed me to be so brazen and open about my feelings for the first time in a while. So perhaps the question is, Why can’t I just be happy being me, online? I’m not sure if I’m pitching this as a rhetorical question, or an open-ended one. The answer could be obvious, but I can’t seem to grasp it.

I think in time, or that I hope, that this idolisation of others online will come crashing down, and social media will become a collection of friendly, fun and lighthearted platforms again. We’re all aware of the exaggeration of reality across the gram’, yet we feed into it nonetheless, desperate to be a part of this new-age movement of status and belonging that faces our generation. But how about we go against the current; We are so much more than our follower count, our likes and our selfies. Let’s make that our millennial revolution.

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?