When I was a kid, I wanted to be so many things. A chump wasn’t one of them.
I wanted to be a model, a lawyer, the president, a fashion designer. My parents were always telling me how pretty and smart I was, and hey, it went to my head. I went through an awkward phase or something in High School and in College, and a few years after… and not getting much attention from boys, I wasn’t sure where I fell on the pretty spectrum. That hurt, but it wasn’t my worst fear. I still thought that I was pretty, it had been ingrained in me from an early age, and anyway I was afraid of boys. A few years ago, I wanted to have a go at being pretty again, with some renewed confidence courtesy of the opposite sex. I went to what I figured was the most reputable modeling agency in Richmond, Modelogic-Wilhemina. It is attached to a big name, and Richmond is a very small market. I was so nervous going to it, I mean, what could be more pressure than having someone else judge you on your looks? Was I pretty enough to be a model? That was the question.
As it turned out, that wasn’t really the question. I was being judged on something else entirely.
I brought in some casual headshots, and talked to the agent a bit, giving her my background. I told her that I was a flight attendant, and I found out that I worked with one of her friends. This was a nice connection, but it wouldn’t make me pretty.
They told me they would email me in a few days.
I nervously opened the email. They wanted me to come in again! She said “We feel you have something to offer this market.”
Here I did a bit more digging. I guess I shouldn’t have been skeptical, but I wanted to be prepared.
About a week later, I went back to the agency for a second meeting. At this point it became a sales pitch for modeling classes and comp cards, with a thousand dollar price tag. And then I realized–this was my worst fear. Being someone considered vain enough to spend thousands on glamour shots, just with the possibility of getting my face out there. They thought that I was a chump.
Of course, they said I could get my pictures done elsewhere, but from what I read online, they were unlikely to accept them. Even those who did pay for their vanity package didn’t necessarily get work. I’m not saying it’s a scam, but just really savvy, fairly ruthless business ploy. They invest no risk in paying for the shots, and in fact make money selling them. And if you do get work from them, they get their commission. Their books are filled with girls who are pretty, but who may never get work, and who the agency doesn’t believe in enough to invest in photos.
I might sound bitter, but I’m only a little. While being viewed as a chump is pretty horrifying, I didn’t go for it, so at least I have that little shred of self respect.
Although there is certainly a standard of beauty in our society, beauty is still subjective. I’m not really worried about being unattractive, although getting society’s seal of approval via acceptance to a modeling agency would have been nice. Still, besides little tweaks, you can’t really change how you look, bar surgery. But if you’re a vain chump, that’s something of your own creation, and something I will have to battle with for the rest of my life.