C Can you hand me a cookie?
C Do you think she (Rebel) can have some?
B Yeah! It’s just sugar.
C No, I need to break this habit.
B For you or the dog?
My friends and I have had countless conversations about the misunderstood aspects of our job. So I thought one day, I would record one. Last week, 2 of my best friends (Chloe Braaten, Mali Koopman) and I gathered in Mali’s Williamsburg kitchen to eat Wholefoods cookies and have a good old-fashioned yarn about our job: what we love, what we don’t, what confuses us, and the fact that we’re really just kids fumbling our way through this amazing and unpredictable industry.
Chloe and Mali are two beautiful models who are taking New York by storm, but to me they’re my mates, goofballs who love their parents and their teddies. This is directly transcribed from our conversation, so is as real as real can be! Please read to a soundtrack of crackling cookie packaging, the yelps of Chloe’s puppy Rebel, and the traffic of New York City.
A Texan, a Northern Beaches chiller and a Melbournian walk into a kitchen…. this is what happened!
C There really isn’t an average day.
M You know what kind of day you’re gonna have depending on the job. If it’s editorial it’s 10 looks, non stop. If you’re doing [online] you know that’s a f****** average day.
B For me, the ‘bread and butter’ day is like 70 ouftits, front side back, front side back. That is the money-maker, what makes way for the fun editorial and creative stuff, and campaigns. That’s the day that happens most often, the other stuff is the novelty.
C. [The job is] 24/7, it doesn’t stop, you don’t go home from it.
B If you think about it – especially during fashion week – agents will stay in the office until 11pm or midnight. They’re always on call, they get calls from clients on the weekends, it’s not only us that are always on. It’s the nature of the industry that there are no ‘business hours’.
C I would say [the best moments of the job] are any really, really fun time I’ve had with other models – friends. Like the really fun nights we had in LA or connect[ing] with y’all in different cities. The fact that me, you and Becca were together in New York after LA… that kind of stuff.
M I love the fact that modelling brings you to different countries and you can still meet up with friends, because of the job.
B The best moment for me was when I was on this job in Mexico and I was just standing, staring at this beautiful green lush mountain next to the ocean and I just thought ‘This moment is perfect. I’m surrounded by beautiful people who only fill me with joy, and I’m in this beautiful place.’ That was probably the highlight of my life.
M It’s just hard being away from home. We’re only 19.
B Yeah, I’m 19 and this year I’ve seen my parents twice, for a few days. I’m lucky if I get 4 days with my parents – like it is a choice [to be away] but there’s always something to be away for.
C When I was in Australia and you (Bridget) weren’t there – I was so confused all the time. Just little things…like words don’t mean the same things.
M That’s so true. Like in Japan… I have never been so sad.
When you go interstate for a few days, you think ‘Oh cool I’m going to San Francisco!’ But then you get there and you don’t actually see San Fran. You see the hotel room, the studio and the inside of ubers.
C It sucks being on your own. I’m considered by my mother agent the ‘baby’ of all her girls because I go home every 2 months, but most of my friends have never been away from home for more than 2 weeks. We’re all in this weird little industry bubble.
The second you leave home every single thing about your hometown becomes amazing.
Like – when you get home and your mom’s put fresh sheets on your bed?
B Ohhhh yes!
C Or your mom cooks you a meal…
C And you wake up and there’s a Keurig?
B …A what?
C Like a coffee machine
I hate that I’m missing stuff at home.
C It’s 10 times harder when your sisters start having babies. I’m missing my nieces and nephews growing up. I have this weird thing because I’m the youngest that I have the least amount of time with everyone. This is the time of my life where I can still sit down for dinner with my grandfather. I can fall asleep on the couch watching movies with my dad.
B It’s very overwhelming. But I think the up-side of all of that is it’s so character building. Travelling young is invaluable. It’s the best part of the job. And sometimes the worst. (laughs)
B (whispers) These cookies are so good!
M I feel like modelling’s made me more reserved because it’s made me so much more aware of what I look like.
B Funnily enough modelling has made me – I don’t know, kind of remove myself from it as well. Like I see it as a work thing rather than – it’s not attached to my identity so much.
C So it’s super easy to criticise for me.
C When you look at your body you’re looking at your resume.
B Yeah. But I’m able say ‘That’s not me, that’s something I use for work and I am the person inside of it.’ Which is kind of empowering. So it goes in both directions. I am a lot more aware so I’m having more negative thoughts but I’m also able to detach from that, and appreciate the things I do like.
M See I find it really hard to detach from it when work is busy.
B Especially because you’re in this high fashion realm – like runway and all that stuff: is the pressure really taxing?
M Yeah. I never want it to be because like-
B -it’s such a superficial thing-
M –yeah, you never want to succumb to it. Runway can be really risky on the mind.
It must be the same if you’re an actor, or if you’re in a band, or if you’re a writer, [you feel] consistent judgement. But for us it’s purely external and we desperately feel like we need to change it but we can’t.
C I’ve googled ‘weird ways to make your legs grow’. Like clear my search history, that is psychotic!
B It’s something that especially for teenagers is so tied in to our identity, because of this warped way that we look at ourselves in this society.
C I 100% have body dysmorphia.
B I definitely think I look in the mirror and I see something different from what everyone else sees. For me it’s actually become a matter of saying to myself ‘No Bridget, your brain’s lying to you’.
M You know that, but you still fall into [the] trap.
B I think it’s because I focus in on certain parts of my body so hard when I’m working they become amplified in my mind.
C I just wish I didn’t care at all, you know?
C That’s the thing, if you think about it as a job then it’s fine.
B Totally, because everybody’s job has its ups and downs.
C So I just want people to view it as a job.
B Mhmm, not a ‘dream lifestyle’.
C See it as a job. Don’t tell me I’m having the time of my life because that’s just frustrating. Like you want your hard work to be recognised by people.
M When I talk to cab drivers I never tell them I’m a model I just say ‘I work in fashion’
C Me too!
M And they’re like ‘Oh I bet you deal with really tough models, it’s such an easy job!’ I love to just roll with it. They’re like ‘They just get to travel, it’s so easy and they make all this money’.
C My friends say ‘You’re travelling the world and I’m at school taking tests’.
B Yeah, building the rest of your life!!! (laughs). I think people see it as either this perfect life or this horrible world where everyone feels bad about themselves and everyone’s…
B Or being exploited.
B And it’s neither of those things, it’s just an occupation.
C Those things exist in everyone’s life. You don’t have to be a model to have an eating disorder and you don’t have to be a model to have an amazing job that lets you travel.
C It’s little things my friends don’t understand that you have to worry about. This is the smallest example but no one thinks about the fact that [we] have to think about whether [our] hands look like claws.
B This photographer I work with in LA, when your toes go off the front of the shoes he calls it ‘shrimping’.
M Oh my god that always happens to me!
B He’s like ‘You’re shrimping!’ (laughs)
B The people are what makes or breaks a shoot for us. It’s not about the catering or the cars or the location or the clothes. It’s about the people, this whole industry, the good and the bad. If the people are good, nothing else matters.
C And it’s the other way around too, models who can’t communicate with people are never going to be successful.
B I find that part a bit difficult actually, having to be bubbly and charismatic all the time, because…I’m so socially awkward.
M It’s purely just a form of shyness to act happy, like when you first start modelling and people offer you water and you’re like ‘no!’
B (laughs) Actually, I need water to live.
C [I won’t even] complain about the air conditioning. I will be getting hypothermia and not ask.
M I also think it’s because we’re still kids. We get perceived differently. If we’re complaining it’s like that whiney cousin…
B I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m able to ask to turn the AC down. (laughs)
M I can’t even do that.
C A lot of that is in our heads. Because we’ve had a couple of bad experiences that’s just like umbrella for everything.
B It’s true.
M I really wish there was some kind of reality TV show where they get adults to do modelling, you know?
C Like wife swap but with a model.
B Career swap.
C It’s all about learning how to do it and then you’re fine.
B It’s more like you have to learn the lifestyle.
M You have to be a different person kind of.
Hey I found my-
B Oh you found your pin!
[Mali drops the pin]
B She says as she drops it…
M … how cool is it?
C What is it?
M It’s like this pineapple pin I got from Australia and I thought I’d lost it and I was so upset.
C Ohhhh….I lost my Texas pin in Australia.
B It’s there for us to have a little piece of you.
C It’s so sad, it’s on some stupid bus in Australia.
What needs to change?
B The industry is very relationships based. There’s a lot of trust. Agreements are made, but not on paper. I’m a very go-to-the-books-have-everything-documented kind of girl, so it kind of stresses me out that you have to trust –
…Are we gonna have a power outage?
M I unplugged the computer so it should be fine.
M I think that’s most creative industries. If you’re a writer you’ve got an agent as well-
B But surely there’s a writer’s union, right?
M Yeah, oh completely. It’s not really treated as a creative industry on a model’s behalf.
B There’s no ‘higher power’ to go to.
M I think that parents should be more involved. It’s really weird that agents deal just with the kid themselves.
B Especially when they’re under 18.
M Yeah I find it so weird. I asked my agent to Cc my parents into emails-
C And you feel like such a loser if you do that!
M Parents are wise. They know what a job should be like. They’re the people that have actual experience in a normal work industry so if something strays [from that norm]…
B Yeah we don’t have standards to apply.
M We have school.
B I feel like I’m more motivated by protecting relationships than anything else. I find it really terrifying to say no to my agents because, you know, people say ‘Keep the relationship strong. It’s the most important thing.’
B What’s your biggest fear about being a model?
M Being talked about. Just people talking about me.
C Ah, yeah I guess just having my feelings hurt. It’s like, such a simple thing but it’s just like middle school all over again.
M I think it’s such a high risk, so you are always fearful of it.
B I’m scared that I’ll keep doing this and just keep putting Uni off then I’ll have to go back to the real world, stick to structure and go to classes and sit at home and study. I’m scared I’m not gonna be able to go back. Like I was such a nerd at high school, I did 2 Maths, I was captain of the Glee club (laughs). I’m scared of losing that, for something quite superficial like fashion.
Chloe: I’m scared of life without modelling. I don’t know what I would do without it, I don’t know what I’m good at.
M I feel so much better now that I’m on holidays essentially. I already feel like I’ve come out of a tunnel.
B You can like… breathe. It’s not like ‘oh there might still be something happening tomorrow’ at 8pm the night before.
C I stress about getting work. And what’s gonna happen when I don’t get it. I don’t remember the last time I worked 5 days in a row.
B Ohh no no no. I’d die.
B What keeps us here?
M It’s exciting, essentially jobs are organised for you, you go, you make money so you can do things. Like I’m going to LA tomorrow to see my brother and I can afford to do that.
B For me the reason that at the end of the year I look back and go ‘That year was really worth it’ is because I learn so much.
C Well, and the people you meet.
B If you learn a lesson from every person you meet, which I believe you do, that’s a lot of lessons you can learn in a year.
M But that’s also where I feel like you get the most lonely because you’re always working with different people.
B You can’t ever dig your roots in somewhere. After a 5 day booking you start to feel supported, and then it’s like…. ‘Great, I’m never gonna see these people again. Cool. Onto the next relationship I have to build this week.’ It can be so lonely, constantly jumping from place to place.
And saving money up before university is always a plus.
C Mine’s like, saving up money so I can go home and go husband hunting.
C You think I’m joking…
B One of the main reasons I stay in the job and I don’t pursue other things at the same time, I’m not at uni, I never go home, is because there’s always a chance that something’s right around the corner. You have to just be ready and waiting for it to come up last minute.
C And it always does! It’s like, you should plan a trip home because then you’re gonna get a job!
M So true!
M I kind of love it when the job plainly makes you laugh at the most random situations, just obscure things. All of the stuff that I’ve written down in my notes is like… ‘the politician of the democratic party of Japan came into the agency and I stayed seated and it was a taboo’. Like things like that I just find really funny.
C The fact that I’m a Republican is literally so awkward. Like I can’t say it…
M That’s the best!
A Republican, a Japanese taboo and a Glee club captain walk into a bar…
A MASSIVE THANK YOU to my two amazing friends who managed to put 2 hours aside despite busy schedules, flights to catch and urgent emails to respond to. I hope this was as real a portrayal of the industry from our perspective as possible. And please feel free to post any questions/comments.