The Modeling Industry Killed My Soul Part 3: Escape to Canada
At Cleo’s one night I ran into one of my Elite colleagues, a male model named Ryan. We were friends at the agency and at the end of the night, Ryan asked me if I wanted to go back to his apartment and have some food. I agreed. When we got there we talked a little, ate some noodles. Then Ryan asked me to lie down in his bed. I thought it was weird, but I agreed to it. I lied there with my clothes on while he stripped down to his white underwear. It happened so fast, I didn’t know what was going on. I continued to lie on his bed like a corpse, not moving a muscle and becoming more and more confused. While lying on his bed, I got a weird, twisted feeling in my stomach and then he started to get mad. He said mean things like, “Why are you just lying there like a piece of cardboard? Why don’t you just take off your clothes now?”
I decided that the time was right for me to zoom out of Ryan’s apartment. I left quickly and I turned to face him. He was standing just inside the door with nothing on but his white underwear. He looked perfectly chiseled. He represented an adult world that I did not understand at all. I left his apartment feeling a bit ashamed and confused. But I was happy that nothing else happened.
I thought Ryan was just a friend. I thought he just wanted to have me over for a snack. I didn’t understand that he wanted to eat me for a snack. At that time I was incredibly, absolutely naive when it came to sex and boys. I didn’t even know that the phrase, “Do you want to go to my apartment?” meant “Do you want to fuck?” I had a lot to learn.
I harbored no bad feelings towards Ryan and he took the blow well. He apologized to me the next time I saw him at the agency.
Later on, at Cleo’s, I met a handsome 21 year-old American artist. He had a bob haircut, just like June. The first time I met him I remember thinking that he was sort of a phony. He seemed very into his ideas. He was jaded, full of vitriol and thought of himself as someone who suffered more than the average person. He did not suffer financially, as he was from a wealthy family in Los Angeles. He seemed to hate everything that Los Angeles represented: cosmetic surgery, fake smiles, drippy conversations, obscene wealth, celebrity worship and plastic friendships. He was very intriguing to me because he had such fierce opinions on everything. I got the feeling that he was a bit ashamed of his priveleged background. But mostly, I was in awe of him. He introduced me to Jack Kerouac, Wayne Thiebaud, the band REM, Antonin Artaud and a host of other amazing artists, writers and musicians.
I fell in love with him. He was unlike anyone I’d ever met. I think, looking back at this relationship, I wanted to be him. He resuscitated a dormant creative spirit within me and taught me all about life’s priorities: art was number one and everything else came second.
I was not ready for his lessons, as I was just out of high school. I was still a virgin, which he respected. He never forced me to go beyond what I was comfortable with. I really loved him for that. He was the first man I’d ever let feel my chest. I still remember how awkward I felt. That was about as far as we went sexually. We spent most of our time kissing and talking feverishly about topics.. But I was not his equal. I felt a little stupid around him sometimes. This caused my ego to suffer. I was embarrassed about how much he was influencing me. I began to see the world through his tortuous, slightly contrived, artistic lenses. I loved him obsessively, completely. I wanted more from him, but I was only 18 years old. I had a feeling that when I went back to the US, our romance might end.
Then my modeling contract in Japan ended. I went back to Chicago to continue working as a model. I was miserable. I had started drinking while in Japan and I continued drinking. I was still in contact with the Artist and we agreed to meet again.
One day I cut off my long hair. I gave myself a short bob. My agent got really angry. She screamed at me, “Now we’re going to have to re-shoot all your photos! How could you do this to me without asking me first?” I remember being scared but defiant. My Artist lover had changed me. He had infected every cell in my body. I didn’t last much longer at Elite Chicago. My bulimia was still raging, I was cutting myself regularly, I was unhappy and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing as a model. I felt that the modeling world was empty and vacant.
I was lost.
The big money wasn’t making me happy any more. When I was in Japan, traveling on trains in the countryside, I remember wishing that I had a real purpose in life, just like the women I saw tending their rice fields. I wanted a purpose more than I wanted gobs of money.
At midnight on that same night I got drunk, I internally combusted and drove myself to Canada. I bought a map. I took only one suitcase. My other suitcase I abandoned in my apartment. I left a bunch of clothes and other belongings there. I didn’t care. I drove all night until I reached the border. I decided that just like Jack Kerouac, I would take off and explore the world, starting with Canada. Canada was not the USA, it was a new place, a different place, a place I could just be myself, instead of being the property of Elite Model Management. When I got to Canada, I called my parents, told them that I was in Canada. Of course they were horrified. Then I bought a card for my agent. On it was pictured a Shar-Pei. It said, “Beauty is only skin deep.” My habit of sending people weird stuff in the mail would continue throughout my life.
I traveled around Canada, exploring my passions like photography and I met a lot of interesting people. But after a few months, I got bored and felt like I was just treading water or waiting in line for something that would never be revealed. I still struggled with bulimia, too. I decided I was ready to go home to my parents’ house. I was 18 years old. When I drove back to Kansas City, instead of driving to my parent’s house, I drove straight to a psychiatric ward and checked myself in. I knew that I needed to get over my bulimia. I felt that wasting so much food was stupid since many people in the world were starving to death. I knew that bulimia had the potential to kill me if I didn’t address my underlying issues.
At the psych ward, I enjoyed being around other anorexics and bulimics, and within some weeks, I recovered. I came to understand that the modeling industry was the main cause for my eating disorder. The other reason was tied to the sexual abuse I experienced as a four year-old. I was abused by a male teenage babysitter.
My most memorable moment at the hospital was meeting the girlfriend of the lead singer of Gwar. She taught me how to draw an ambiguous two-dimensional, double-themed form called a Rubin’s vase. For some reason, learning this little artistic trick made my time in the hospital entirely worth it. The shrinks at the psych ward were mostly useless to me. My recovery really happened because I opened up to the other patients and got to share my experiences with them.
Talking about my experiences as a model became a sore spot because most people have no idea about the dark side of the fashion world. People just assume that modeling is full of sunshine, money and rainbows. For me, modeling represented a descent into illness, self-hate, and the devaluation of my soul. None of my managers overtly suggested that I should starve myself, but for me, that was the only way I could achieve the emaciated body that they told me I should have. Being a model was like being a slave. I did not enjoy being a slave.
If you are a parent, save your daughter a ton of pain and refuse to let her become a model. There are other, less soul and body damaging ways to earn money. I do not recommend modeling for anyone. The key points you need to learn from this section are: not all lucrative professions are going to be right for your personality, if you feel a strong dislike for a particular career, follow your gut and leave that career and don’t cave in to what society wants you to do. It’s more important to carve out your own unique path in life based on your internal strengths, creativity, aptitudes and personal preferences.
If you liked this story, you might also like Why I Checked Myself Into A Psych Ward At 18.
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