What Happens To A Model When The Industry Doesn't Want Her Anymore?

11/07/2013 20:13 | Updated 22 May 2015

What happens when - after modelling for a decade - the industry you grew up with doesn't want you anymore? Today's Discovery Drive journalist, who has chosen to remain anonymous, became a model with she was 14 and is now embarking on her second career. Thinking of the future, she made sure she got an education. Many of her peers aren't so lucky...

I have read countless negative articles about modelling. About weight loss, corruption of youth and lost childhood. But I've very rarely seen this question come up: what exactly happens to models after the golden years are over?


I have been modelling since I was 14, and while I have certainly witnessed some of the things people label as the main faults of the industry, it is this career no man's land that many of my contemporaries now find themselves in that is the most demoralising of all.

When modelling is brought up, people understandably fail to find much sympathy with those of us doing the job. In our teens, we speed past the majority of our peers with pay cheques that seem too good to be true, and although I don't regret these experiences, they can leave you totally deflated by the age of 25, which I currently am.

The dream starts to end, reality slips back in, rent becomes harder and harder to pay, and you realise your irrational, excitable teenage mind failed to have the sense to put any of that too easily earned money into savings for your future self.

I was lucky enough to be pushed reluctantly through school in between castings by my parents and a few years after leaving, made the decision to go to university. Although I'm a little bit older than other people at this stage in journalism, I don't think this is making things any more difficult for me. However, I know countless girls who have dropped everything to move to London for a glamorous career, only to find themselves left with an sparse CV, no qualifications and very little idea about their own passions or where they want to go.

I remember when I was 15 or 16, looking at girls in their early twenties at castings and wondering why they were still bothering - at that age they looked so much older than us. Now, as one of those girls in their mid-twenties, I hear everyone saying how past it they feel, how haggard they look and how impossible it is to maintain the body required by the industry.

People always assume working as a model inflates your self-esteem when it comes to your appearance. The truth is that while it gives you a bit of a detached body confidence, it makes you coldly aware of your own flaws. Over the years I've been told my nose looks broken from some angles, that I would make more money if I had a nose job, that I'm too tall, too short, that my feet are too big, that my rib cage is big in proportion to the rest of me and have had a pay cheque slashed in half for retouching fees on my apparently unsightly bunions.

After 10 years, I feel not unattractive, but totally aware of everything that makes me unworkable. I have eczema every time I wear skin make up because of how many products I have had on my face and at points my hair has been falling out at the temples from aggressively speedy backcombing where my head has been wrenched around with all the gentility of a football mid match.

As with all industries, people in modelling are trying to make money, but the difference here is that the money makers are pretty naive. One thing that could be done to help girls going into the industry at a young age is teaching them to manage their expectations and informing them their modeling career is unlikely to last forever.

Teenagers rarely know what they want from the future, and so giving up everything for modelling makes sense in the short term. But years down the line when you're back at the bottom of the career ladder, with an unrealistic view of what you should be earning and an industry you were part of turning its back on you because you're too old (at an age when most women feel in their prime) you can end up feeling pretty short changed by the whole thing.

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