Since I've been modeling for 10+ years, I am considered a veteran in the industry. I have worked with some of the most talented designers, photographers, stylists and, of course, some of the most beautiful women in the world.
Many people, particularly women, are very interested in my job. “You're so lucky,” they tell me, “You must love what you do.” “I wish I could take pictures all day and get paid,” etc.
I don't want to sound like an ungrateful brat, because I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I have. Very few people in the world get to experience the things I do. Very few people have the necessary proportions, body type, attitude, look, etc. So what's my problem? My problem is that my job is not to be smart, hard working or dedicated. My job is to be pretty.
So why then, when I am paid to be “beautiful,” am I dealing with insecurity? Shouldn't I be the most confident person for miles? I plan to explain why some of the most exceptionally beautiful women in the world also happen to be some of the most insecure.
Now before I really delve into this topic, I want to begin by saying that I am in no way implying that ALL models are insecure or deal with issues of self-worth. In fact, I happen to know a number of very confident, intelligent, self-assured women in this industry, so I feel the need to point out that this is not inclusive of all models by any means.
However, I can honestly say that I believe this applies to a majority of women working as models, and even beautiful women in general. You might wonder: how can someone who is in the pages of magazines wearing designer clothing, walking runways, dating millionaires and rubbing elbows with celebrities be insecure? Well, there are a number of factors at play that contribute to this issue.
Over the years, I have met some of the most stunningly gorgeous women one could ever imagine. It's hard to picture these women ever feeling anything other than self-assured and confident. But on the contrary, the one characteristic that many of them share, besides being exceptionally beautiful, is that they have major self-esteem issues.
Modeling is a job that for most has an expiration date. There are only a handful of years a young woman can model before she has to be put out to pasture.
There is a constant fear, an ever-present awareness that time is ticking and the clock can't be turned back. This puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on models. Success in modeling is not measured by how hard you work; often times it's just dumb luck — a combination of looks, timing and connections.
One of the most frustrating realizations to face as a model is that you have little to no control over your success or lack of success. No amount of dedication, ambition or “hard work” is going to help you reach that coveted supermodel status.
As a model, you are in constant competition with other models, so comparing yourself to them is unavoidable. You wonder why certain girls are booked for jobs and you're not. You begin to wonder if they are prettier than you and if they're more worthy.
And that feeling never really goes away because there is an endless conveyer belt of models. Younger girls get churned out every day. The aging models get pushed aside year-by-year. Clients stop booking them. There is no loyalty in this business. Even a slight weight gain could result in losing clients and even getting dropped from your agency.
When you can't trust anyone or count on anyone — when you are judged solely on your appearance every single day, it begins to consume you. You become obsessed, and the constant rejection definitely doesn't help matters.
Regardless of how many compliments models receive from men AND women, for some reason the good things are harder to remember. It's the “You need to lose five lbs.” and the –“Your hips are too big” — “You aren't tall enough”– “You're TOO tall” that are the hardest to forget comments. Is it any wonder why so many models have eating disorders?
It is because this industry sucks away every and any positive feeling a young woman has about herself. That is why so many girls become victims. Victims of drugs, sex, body issues. How can you be happy with yourself when all you hear is criticism? When all you feel is rejection? How can you trust anyone when they are ready to step on your back if needed?
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons beautiful women are so insecure is because men constantly use them as trophies. There is the constant question of whether he is interested in the person inside, or the package it comes in.
It is really a vicious cycle because unfortunately, when a woman is feeling insecure, she seeks validation — often in the wrong places. Many men in New York are familiar with this, and know how to play it to their advantage. I know certain men that go through models like mints.
They spew out false promises and provide a false sense of security until they reach their ultimate goal, which is usually sex. When they've gotten that, it's on to the next. The really smart ones prey on insecurities.
They might act cold or distant; they might flirt with others and comment about how hot another girl is, all because they know it will only make their target hungrier for their acceptance.
These men are predators who prey on women by perpetuating their negative feelings of low self-worth. Again, this is not inclusive of ALL men but it is a very common occurrence, particularly in the scene-y crowds of New York City.
If you are a model in New York, you likely do not have a real support system. You have no family close by; your closest friends are not around, so naturally you form relationships with people you meet in your environment, namely other models. These relationships are often not genuine, but those of convenience or necessity.
Speaking from personal experience, I can honestly say that while not impossible, it is extremely difficult for models to be true friends to one another. They are in constant competition with each other — for jobs, for men, for attention.
There is no trust between them; the cliques they form are infested by gossip, sabotage and resentment. Attention seeking is a common, extremely frustrating and annoying habit that some models resort to in order to get the validation they so desperately seek.
I think there is a complete contradiction in the way society views modeling. On one hand it is perceived to be a glamorous, exciting and sexy world. People often idolize models and put them up on pedestals.
But on the other hand most people automatically assume that if you are a model, you are stupid and have nothing important to say. I have encountered so many pretentious, condescending people (both men and women) who look down on me as if I am doing something shameful or ridiculous.
Maybe that's just their insecurity, I can't be sure. But whether it be bad or good, people inevitably have an opinion about me before I even open my mouth and that is perhaps the worst thing of all.
Don't get me wrong, I am proud of my accomplishments and I am so grateful that I have been able to experience all the things I have. I would not be able to write this article today without them. But I also don't want those things to define me. So when I'm gone, what are people going to remember about me?
That I got to pose for Maxim a few times? That I got to walk down a few dozen runways? No. Not if I can help it. I want to be remembered for something more. Something significant. Even if I don't know what that something is yet, it's ok…because at least I have the good sense to know that there is more to life than the way I look.
So I suppose that makes me one of the lucky ones. Because the sad truth is, there are heaps of women out there who will probably never come to that realization.
Alice Panikian | Elite.
Alice Panikian is a Canadian model and former Miss Canada. She is currently working on a beauty blog and splits her time between New York City and Toronto. Follow Alice on twitter @alicepanikian
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