Once upon a time, not too long ago, I wanted to be a model. Or so I thought…
When I was a little girl, we would play to be models. We would put on our bathing suits, blast our favorite music on a boom box (back when CD’s were a brand new technology), and we would strut our little eight year-old booties back and forth on an imaginary runway next to the swimming pool. We would clap and cheer for each other and secretly envy the older girls that knew how to “work it” better.
In Colombia, private schools held – and still hold – fashion shows every year which are organized by the Senior Class. Serious castings were held and girls (and boys) from every grade were chosen to model anything from trendy casual clothing, sleep-wear and bathing suits all sponsored by popular clothing brands. Established local models would participate as well. To be chosen for the yearly fashion show was a HUGE deal. It meant you were pretty, well-liked by your older peers and ultimately, it made you popular. This, along with the model adoration that still exists in Colombia (Google “Natalia Paris”), as well as the culture-driven need to be as physically perfect as plastic surgery will allow it, sets the mindset for young girls that to be liked and to be successful (and to marry well), you must be beautiful. This is why we would play to be models. It was in the media, it was in school, it was everywhere.
At a very young age, I landed a national Christmas campaign for TCC, the Colombian version of FedEx (I still have the poster somewhere) and I was formally signed to a local modeling agency at the age of thirteen. I went to castings. I participated in my school’s fashion shows and LOVED IT. I developed an eating disorder (anorexia) that nearly landed me in the hospital and a crushing sense that I no matter how good I looked, I would never be good enough. This lasted well into my teens and my young adulthood. Like most of my friends, I had a toxic relationship with food. I wanted to gain weight so I could have curves and be like the sexy models all the boys drooled over but I couldn’t stand the sight of the weight on my body. I would go entire days consuming just a gallon of water and an apple. My mother tried reasoning with me, talking to me, counseling me, punishing me and ultimately, threatening me to have me hospitalized if I didn’t start eating more. As an adult, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her. Fortunately, it never got to that point. I grew out of it eventually (Thank God), and developed normal eating habits (and good self-esteem). What helped me is that I am naturally thin so I never got to the point where I felt threatened again, until last year.
Last year was a one of monumental change in my life. I truly feel that twenty-six was the year where I was no longer a girl. It was simultaneously the worst (and hardest) and the best year of my life so far. The reasons are plenty (and that’s a separate post) but the main reason is that I felt a sense of confidence like never before. After moving to Miami almost eleven years ago, I didn’t seriously think about pursuing modeling. I was attending college full-time on scholarships which meant I had a to keep a high GPA and, I worked full-time. Modeling became a distant memory until I listened to some friends who always picked on me for not trying to get back into it, and I summoned all my courage and I decided to give it one last shot here in the US. I felt grown up. I felt brave and confident enough where I believed that the pressure wouldn’t get to me. I was positive that my old deamons wouldn’t come back and pull the strings of my insecurities and emotions and turn me into a rag doll again. I was wrong.
I put together my portfolio with the photographer who shot my wedding (yes, I was once married, yet another post) and I was ready to take on the world! I am aware I’m 5’ 7” , two inches shorter than the industry’s standard for High Fashion modeling (runway, Vogue) so I went for the agencies that worked with commercial models (catalogues, lifestyle commercials, online clothing). I was picked up by Michelle Pommier Models, a boutique agency in South Beach and I started going to castings. I was excited at the beginning, but then I started noticing that even though I was in the gym 5 days a week and eating healthy (and looking great! If I may add), I started obsessing over everything I ate: “I can’t eat this, I have a photo shoot/casting in a week.” At the same time, I started feeling very self-conscious about my naturally thin body-frame. It was like I couldn’t win. The pressure was getting to me. I went from feeling on top of the world to feeling like a sweaty-palmed, twelve year-old girl again. I also realized I felt a little embarrassed to tell people I was pursuing modeling. It felt…silly and shallow. Here I was with a college degree, a fantastic job that I love and a voice and all the skills I’ve acquired and I felt I might as well be in my bathing suit, walking on that imaginary runway with the boombox blasting. At one point in time I would’ve been thrilled to become a model, but as a twenty-six year-old woman, it felt dumb and I realized that absolutely nothing is worth compromising my well-being. I realized modeling had the potential to take me to a very dark place again and with that realization, I chose and still choose me: My emotional, physical and spiritual well-being is more important than any validation I could receive from earning a living in front of the camera. Coming to the end of that chapter in my life, led me to starting this blog. I wanted to be in front of the camera because I love it (and I’m not ashamed to say it), but I wanted it to be on my terms. I also felt that there was more to me. I have thoughts I’m dying to share…I wanted to extinguish any remaining thoughts in my mind that the beauty-obsessed culture I grew up in planted in me so deeply, that I didn’t need to look perfect to be liked or accepted… and then the idea for Own Your Glam was born. I am happy to share that even though eating disorders are something you rarely, fully overcome, I have healed. I am in a great place in my life and I have developed a healthy relationship with food and exercise and I am in the best shape I have ever been, not only physically but mentally and spiritually as well.
What is the moral of this story? That it is okay to be flawed. You can’t control every aspect of your personality but you can control how you react to things and you can choose to eliminate potentially negative things from your life. It doesn’t make you a quitter, or a looser or a coward. It makes you human! And I choose to be one that is constantly growing and re-inventing herself, one that isn’t afraid to say no to certain things even if they seem glamorous and promising. Most importantly, I choose to love myself, and so should you.