Buy “Runway”



Top 10 Questions People Ask Me About Modeling

When people hear I used to model and that I wrote a memoir about modeling, they have a lot of questions. Here are the answers to the top 10 questions people ask me:

1. Did you meet a lot of celebrities?

Some. I wasn’t much of a partier, but I danced with Milli Vanilli, met Robert DeNiro at a cocktail party, saw Isabella Rosselini at the Armani show, and worked with many top fashion designers, including Armani, Jil Sander, Missoni, Kenzo, John Galliano, and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. I did fashion shows with most of the top models of the late 80s/early 90s, including Christi Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Carla Bruni, and Tatiana Patitz.

Depeche Mode 2

2. Do you miss it?

No. I miss the travel sometimes. I never stayed in one country for more than three months at a time. I lived in Paris, London, Tokyo, Milan, Hamburg, Munich, Zurich, Sydney, and New York and traveled to Greece and India. And I miss the money sometimes. I could afford designer clothes back then. I owned a $2000 jacket and several $400 pairs of shoes (and this was 25 years ago). I bought my own apartment in Paris when I was 21 (long sold, sniff sniff), and an Alfa Romeo for my French boyfriend at the time. But it’s really true that money doesn’t buy happiness. I’m much happier now wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes  than I ever was back then.

3. Do all models have eating disorders?

Some do. I didn’t. Many of us, like me, were young and had extraordinarily high metabolisms. I could eat anything I wanted and not gain an ounce. In fact, my French boyfriend wanted so badly to fatten me up that when we were on vacation in Italy one spring he made me eat multi-course meals for lunch and dinner every day (I’m talking pasta followed by meat or fish followed by cheese followed by dessert twice a day) until I threw up from overeating. All that changed when I hit 27 and suddenly couldn’t keep my weight below 130 anymore. That’s when my modeling career ended.

4. Do all models do drugs?

Again, some do. I wasn’t part of that crowd. I didn’t do coke and I only smoked pot a couple dozen times in my life. Models are as diverse as any other crowd of people—there are those who do drugs and and drink a lot, and there are those who take their jobs seriously and go to bed early so they can get to work on time in the morning looking their best. I fell into the latter category.

5. Do you get to keep the clothes?

I wish. Sometimes top models are given gifts by designers but, in general, no, you don’t get to keep the clothes. I was fortunate to be able to buy Jil Sander’s clothes at cost when I was working for her. This meant I could get a $500 shirt for $250. I think I paid $1000 for my $2000 jacket. And some up-and-coming designers who couldn’t afford to pay their models would pay in clothes. I got paid in clothes for doing Martin Margiela’s show a couple of times. I loved his clothes and would have bought them anyway, so I was more than happy to take a skirt or a shirt as compensation for a couple of hours’ work.

6. Is it fun?

Modeling can be fun, but mostly, it’s like any other job. Like this article suggests, your job as a model is to make whatever you’re doing look effortless, to make it look like you’re having the time of your life. That’s not easy when it’s 6 a.m, it’s cold—maybe you have your period or the flu—and you have to be laughing and smiling and running around on a beach in a bikini. The Japanese always used those hand warmers to keep us warm. They’d shake them to activate them and then tuck them into the waistband of our pants to keep us warm while shooting outside on a cold day. Winter clothes are shot in the spring/summer and summer clothes are shot in the fall/winter, so unless you’re shooting in Miami—which is where most of the catalog shoots are done—if you’re in a bathing suit, you’re probably cold.


Hillsdale Mall poster


7. Are most models bitchy and dumb like they are portrayed on TV and in movies?

No. Although some do get big heads once they achieve stardom, almost every model I met was kind and sincere. I rarely met a model I didn’t like. Most of the models I knew spoke multiple languages (because they either lived abroad or traveled a lot), read a TON (because, pre-Internet, there wasn’t much else to do while sitting around backstage at fashion shows and in studios on photo shoots), could navigate just about any foreign country, and were wise beyond their years. That said, models don’t read the newspaper much and often haven’t gone to college, so they may seem uniformed/ignorant about a lot of topics. Why is that? Well, if you were 16/17/18 and trying to make it in the fashion business, would you be reading Vogue or the New York Times?

8. Do you want your daughter to model?

Hell no. I’m hoping my daughter will be an engineer or a scientist, but she’s only four, so who knows which path she’ll choose. She’s going to be tall like me, but I’m going to try to steer her clear of modeling.

9. Why?

Being alone at 18 in a foreign country just isn’t a good thing. You’ve got 30+-year-old men hitting on you all the time, you’ve got men masturbating in front of you and against you in the métro, you’ve got an agent who is nice but who is busy doing her job, not babysitting you, so you’re pretty much on your own to figure out how to pay your bills, how to get around Paris/Hamburg/Tokyo/Milan, what/how to cook yourself for dinner every night, how to lose weight, how to call the U.S. when you’re sad, etc. You’re lonely as hell because your friends and family are thousands of miles away and every time you make a new friend, either she or you move on to work in another country (These days there is email and there are cell phones. When I was modeling, we had no way to keep in touch with each other.) You’re often broke (It takes a long time to start making a livable wage as a model), and—due to the constant rejection and the fact that you know you’re using your body instead of your brains to make a living—your self-esteem is pretty damn low.

10. My daughter/sister/niece wants to get into modeling. Should she attend a modeling school?

No! Whatever you learn at a modeling school will have to be unlearned later. The best way to get into modeling is to take some simple snapshots of yourself to the open call at your local modeling agency. First, do your research and find out which agencies in your town are the most reputable. Second, have someone take photos of you with little or no make-up and clean, unstyled hair. You’ll need a close-up and a full-length photo, preferably one that shows off your body (either in a bathing suit or something body-conforming, like a skirt and tank top). Every agency has an open-call day, often a Tuesday or a Wednesday, when models can show up to meet the agents. An agent will know in 30 seconds if you have potential. If they’re not interested, they will tell you “You’re not right for us at the moment.” That could really mean that they have a model who looks exactly like you and that they don’t have room for another. More likely, it means they don’t think you’re right for modeling. But there are other agencies. And here’s what’s important to remember: You may have the most beautiful face in the world, but if you don’t have the right body type (very tall and rail thin, with almost no curves), an agency won’t take you. They want models who can do it all, not specialize in one area (face modeling, for example.) There are exceptions. Isabella Rosselini was rejected for having the wrong body type, despite her famous parents. Later, she went on to become the face of Lancôme for a multi-million-dollar contract. Unfortunately, modeling isn’t something you can work at  (aside from losing a few pounds) to achieve. You’re either born with the right body/bone structure, or you’re not. All the more reason to pursue a different career path!

If you have more questions, feel free to post them in comments. I will try to answer them when I have time.

19 comments to Top 10 Questions People Ask Me About Modeling