So You Wanna be a Model?

“Your son’s so cute. Have you ever thought about putting him into modelling? It could pay for his college.”

People say that to me a lot. And if you’re one of them, hey, thanks for the compliment. But, no, I’ve never considered securing an agent for my six-year-old son.

Why? Because a kid shouldn’t have professional representation.

Yes, it could pay for his college. But at what cost?

Look, modelling isn’t for everyone. Short? Sorry. Overweight? Nope. Thin-skinned? There’s the monogrammed door, you sweet, sensitive soul.

It’s not right, fair or changing anytime soon.

Still, it seems everybody wants to be a model. At least they think they do. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel the world, attend glamorous gallery openings, hang out on yachts anchored in the Mediterranean, drink gratis in nightclubs and rub elbows (amongst other body parts) with some of the most beautiful people on the planet?

But just because the well-heeled gatekeepers of the industry deem you worthy to enter it – doesn’t mean you should.

I did it for six years. I walked runways in Italy, shot editorials in Greece, catalogues in Germany. I lived in Milan, Athens, Munich, Hamburg and Barcelona.

Guess what? Modelling is hard. Okay, so you’re not digging ditches and there aren’t any complex equations to solve, but understanding how to work the camera takes as much skill as knowing how to capture compelling images with one.

The real challenge, though, is getting a job. And trying to stay positive when, again and again, you don’t.

I was a terrible model. Mostly because I was shy, self-conscious and thought the entire enterprise was kind of stupid. Though maybe if I’d been busier I would have had less time to contemplate its futility.

I worked a little. I partied a lot.

On drugs, I was an excellent model. At least I thought I was. But – surprise – a major downside to doing a bunch of drugs is that you start to look like someone who does a bunch of drugs. For someone trying to make a living on how they look, this is a bad strategy.

Then again, in my 20s, responsible decisions weren’t my strength (see: purchase of new 1990 Ford Mustang 5.0; inadvertently running drug checkpoint in Mexico; being a model).

Shortly after I signed with my first modelling agency, I begrudgingly participated in the 1995 Ford Supermodel of Canada contest, put on in Toronto by the now-defunct Canadian wing of the storied Ford Modeling Agency. In addition to strutting the runway in various garb, each prospect had a sitdown interview with Katie Ford, then the Manhattan-based company’s CEO.

“So why do you want to be a model?” she asked.

I stared at her, dumbfounded, like she’d just asked me to explain the strong cosmic censorship hypothesis.

Then, a spark of brilliance flashed across a synapse. “Uh, because the money’s good.”

Needless to say, I didn’t place.

The winner of the women’s competition was a blonde teenager named Malin Akerman, who went on to have an enviable modeling career before successfully transitioning to acting. You might have seen her in Watchmen, The Heartbreak Kid, or Trophy Wife.

You have not seen me in anything.

One of the last gigs I ever booked in my not-so-illustrious and somewhat-abbreviated career was for a fashion show at a huge nightclub in Toronto. The pay sucked and the emerging Japanese designer fitted me for her unique creation: a potato sack. Not designed to look like a potato sack. An actual potato sack. Now, I can’t remember if there was some environmental or cultural critique being made with said sack. After all, that wasn’t my concern. I was being poorly paid to sashay down a runway wearing a potato sack. So I slipped it on at the fitting and, well, it fit like a potato sack. It was not flattering. Also, it was really itchy.

On show day I sat around backstage with my colleagues, waiting for the event to start. But before it did a headset-clad production assistant slithered over to me and, peering and sneering over the top of clipboard, snottily informed me that I’d been released, with no explanation as to why I’d been unceremoniously cut from the show.

I’d simply been sacked.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got a lot of great memories from my years as a model – and I met some wonderful people in the fashion business – some of whom I’m still friends with. A few of them are still modelling, too. Which is great. And if my son wants to get into the business when he’s an adult (I was 24), that’s his call. But until then, we’ll be steering well clear of it.

After all, his dad paid for college the old-fashioned way: student loans.

Like I said, modelling isn’t for everyone. I mean, who wants to perpetually wonder when the next job is going to come? Who wants to be endlessly criticized for their work? Who wants a life of relentless rejection?

That’s why I became a writer.


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