I’m not naive. I’m extremely blessed.
I hit DNA jackpot: Being 1.82m tall and having decent features gets you places.
Having huge balls (metaphorically) helps, too. More on balls later.
From 2009 to 2015, I’ve had the opportunity to pose for a few cameras. In the process, I landed a few features here and there.
Over time you get attention and something that vaguely feels like “fame”.
Then you realize it’s only among your 91 friends on Facebook, and all family members; from the oldest auntie to the nephew still in the womb, they seem to get the news the very second grandma knows about it.
But modelling isn’t all moonlight and roses.
Insane call times, full day rehearsals, thick make ups marinated into one’s face, these were part and parcel of photo shoots and fashion shows.
Bad pay agents (I have up to RM8000 outstanding payment), people who want to take advantage of you in any way imaginable, by “any way imaginable” I mean sex (reader discretion advi… forget it), and people who promise the world one moment and disappear the next.
I’ve encountered my share of fascinating characters over 6 years of modelling.
But the person who gave me the most problems, was the monster I created within me.
The pressure of always having to look my “best” ate me up.
But I loved every single job.
The downsides were nothing compared to the exposure, experience, friendship, connections and the thrill that came with it.
Showing 90% of your skin on stage teaches you lessons that no classroom can emulate.
Of course, the money was sweet.
Fashion shows and ushering jobs can range from RM400 to RM1000. Commercials can pay up to RM10k per talent.
The money from modelling was the main reason I was able to invest and co-own FITBOX.
Thus, I’m willing to be transported back in time. Even if it’s straight into the most searing moments of my career.
And those moments were many.
Runway trips, clothing tears (push ups before shows = bad idea), backstage chaos (10 models, 100 square feet room, 100+ clothing items), missing accessories, catwalk sequencing errors, the mind blanking on stage when it comes to posing…
I am an introvert, and I’m not programmed to take embarrassments well.
But some wiring error decided that the unstructured and chaotic nature of modelling would be a good fit for my trait.
On the runway, a model’s an ant, and everyone’s holding a magnifying glass.
When shit happens on stage…
SHIT. HAPPENS. ON. STAGE.
Time stops. Loud gasps. “Tsk tsk tsk”. Furious camera flashes. Heart stops beating. Vision fades. Pass out. Wake up backstage. Designers scream, “You ruined my brand. I’m going to sue your fucking ass”. Run. Evict. I am writing this post from Uruguay.
The scenarios inside my head didn’t translate to real life.
You pick yourself up, the show goes on, and immediately after the show, the catastrophe was so yesterday.
“Good show guys!”
The worst case scenario just wasn’t that bad.
Problems with “success”…
At the other end of the spectrum…
You can strut the runway wearing Coach jacket, Armani jeans. The next week, nobody gives a hoot if you’re wearing Flippers to pasar malam.
You can have rippling abs and feature for the largest men’s magazine. The next week, another set of abs takes center stage.
You can write a profound, life-changing post on how modeling changed your life, people scroll through it looking for the click bait pictures you posted on Instagram. I digress.
The moment you let a success define you, you’re going to crave more of it.
You carve an identity from this success, and cling onto your operative definition of it.
But soon, it’s finite nature will weigh you down, unless you un-cling.
I’ve struggled with this, this problem of “success”.
“Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. When time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.”
-David Foster Wallace
In an 180 miles/hour society, nobody remembers you in a week.
Thus, the modelling lesson that profoundly shaped my life up to this point:
Nothing Defines You
Even on the most glamorous platform, the grandest failures are forgotten, and the largest successes fade.
This negative spin of a lesson has helped countless times with life after modelling.
It kept me sane when stripped bare (metaphorically, … and literally), and kept me wary despite having gotten somewhere.
But if I were to expand it beyond it’s semi-stoic tone:
No mistake can break you,
No success can define you.
Modelling exposed the transient nature of failures and successes, installing in me an operating system that overcomes the resistance.
This OS allows me to act with the calming assurance that if nothing defines me, I can do work that truly matters.
And if I fail, I’ll recover. And if I succeed, great! But I am not my success.
More than anything, modelling gave me balls to fail and succeed at work that truly matters to me.
I hope you’ll find the balls to do your work too.
This post has been sitting in my drafts forever. The more I edit, the further it is from completion. Ironically, it’s another modelling analogy that got me to ship:
You’re back stage, rehearsing in your head, setting your hair for the 20th time, prepping and prepping. You’re far from ready.
When the emcee cues and the music rolls.
You step out.
Screw perfection is something that bears repeating.
There is no perfect preparation, ship.