How Modeling Taught Me Acceptance
By Creative Freelance Model & Influencer @AlexUndone
It was the boldest thing I have ever done. I wasn’t entirely sure about it, but before I could change my mind, I loaded my car with whatever belongings would fit and drove cross-country.
I had officially decided to move to LA to try to become a signed model.
I had been working as a freelance model on the side while saving up, but decided that this was it. I could always go back to my day job, but with modeling, I might miss my window. I couldn’t get signed in New York, but hoped my luck would change in LA. I was living in Virginia at the time, and to this day I remain eternally grateful to my dear friend that made the five day trek to the west coast with me.
Here are five things I learned during my journey.
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
I’m not from a major city. I don’t come from a wealthy family, and I had a later start to modeling than most. Right off the bat, I felt uncomfortable in LA.
I also struggle my way through beginner yoga poses. My body still stiffens more than it gives way to any kind of flow. I may never be a yogi, but I quickly learned that the classes I take directly help to make me a better model.
From the start, I seemed to constantly be competing for jobs against dancers and trainers with a type of endurance and strength that I didn’t have. I realized I could get mad at these people I was losing jobs to, or I could learn to compete on their skill level. My version of “fake it til you make it” meant not letting a negative internal dialogue take over and instead, trying something new.
Stepping out of comfort zones is supposed to feel scary. I’ve learned to feel the fear though and to do it anyway. Putting yourself out there is the only way to evolve.
2. I can validate myself
Upon moving to LA, I was immediately overcome with imposter syndrome. I felt like I wasn’t good enough and didn’t know enough.
Everyday I found myself playing the comparison game on social media. How could I possibly work a room if I couldn’t even work from MY room? My confidence was shot.
I realized very quickly that the only way I was going to last in this industry was if I felt like I actually belonged in the spaces I entered. To tackle the problem, I made a list. In the first column I wrote down every feeling that threatened my ego. In the second column I wrote down the corresponding triggers, and in the third I wrote down what I felt each point revealed about me.
(Example: I feel jealousy when I scroll through certain Instagram accounts. I compare what they have to what I’m missing and feel like I’m not enough.)
The great thing about this list is that it showed me where there was room for growth. It showed me that this was an inside job and that I had the power to make a change. I realized that i didn’t need to wait for anyone else’s permission to feel acceptance and validation.
3. My story matters
As a side note, I’m a young mom. When I was starting my career, I was once told not to mention that I had a child. It would be seen as a hindrance and would alert clients that I had limited availability and scattered focus.
From the start though, I felt like this couldn’t have been further from the truth. My daughter was the driving force that propelled me to take action. I wanted to be proud of who I was, but I couldn’t do that if I was hiding a part of myself and my life. I turned to social media to tell my story and with that, the online movement #KEEPGOING was created.
I opened up about identity, mental health and my struggles with depression. I shared the joys of parenting and the fears of being a teen parent. I explained my failures, as well as successes.
In world filled with social media highlight reels, #KEEPGOING is an opportunity to keep it real. Through storytelling I’ve found my voice, my community, and my healing.
4. Sometimes it takes a village
If it wasn’t for my tribe, I wouldn’t be here. Making friends that rode the waves with me made the lows more bearable and the highs that much sweeter.
From the photographers that took a chance on me, to the friends that let me crash on their couch, and family members that so lovingly encouraged me, I have so many people to thank for getting me to where I am today. In many ways, I felt that the best way I could repay them was by succeeding. Success makes sacrifice more worth it.
Help doesn’t always come when we want it or from the people we expect, but it is always out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. It’s important to remember that very few people ever reach the top alone. It’s worth creating a network around you while you’re making the climb. You never know who you are going to need or who might need you.
5. Accept and Let Go
I finally fully accept and trust the timing of events in my life. The truth is, had my modeling career taken off when I originally wanted it to, I would not have been ready.
I needed to hear every single one of those “no’s” because it gave me thick skin needed to get an eventual “yes”. The endless castings, and getting excited about callbacks that ultimately fell through was also just part of the overall process. When I did start booking gigs, I was that much more appreciative because I knew what it felt like when work was slow.
What drew me to modeling initially was that it allowed me to step outside of myself. On set, I could transform into anyone I wanted to be. The wilder the hair and makeup, the more excited I became, because it felt like a veil I could hide behind. While I still enjoy being a shapeshifter, I no longer model to be someone else. When I show up on set, I do so as me — unapologetically.
It’s easy to get swept away in an industry that’s so superficial, but these lessons have truly grounded me and I continue to practice them even now. L.A. simultaneously houses my best and worst times, but I’m grateful for every opportunity and lesson. It was the body of work I built during that time that finally got me signed in New York. What I know now is New York wasn’t telling me no. New York was telling me “not yet” and I had to #keepgoing to discover that.
Catch Alex Undone discuss all this and more in our upcoming Women’s Panel: “Rising Women.”
Monday, April 22nd 7–9pm
Class & CO — 260 Ainslie Street, Brooklyn NY