The life of a model can seem glitzy and fun (and it often is), but like any job, there’s more going on behind the scenes than what first meets the eye. The modeling industry in particular can be a challenging place to try to establish yourself and grow a successful career. Models are often subject to financial mistreatment, racial discrimination, online harassment and bullying, sexual harassment and abuse, and sometimes even trafficking. These experiences, especially within a largely unregulated industry with very little support and very real fear of retaliation, often have a lifelong impact a model’s mental health.
In a 2012 survey conducted by nonprofit the Model Alliance, nearly two-thirds of the models they surveyed said they’ve been pressured to lose weight, and more than two-thirds said they suffered from anxiety and/or depression. Unfortunately, unlike most traditional workplaces, there is no real HR department for models so they often have to seek support outside of agencies, making it difficult to get the aid they need.
In the modeling industry, models must be their own biggest supporter and number one advocate. Knowing how to take care of yourself and stand up for yourself is crucial to navigating the industry. So how can you protect yourself and support your mental health as a model?
Do Your Research For new or aspiring models especially, it’s really important to do your due diligence and put yourself and your safety first. Not all agencies, photographers, or clients are safe to work with, and some operate by preying on the naivety that a lot of new models have. Never allow yourself to feel pressured or coerced into signing something you’re unsure of. Do your research before signing any agency contract or working with photographers, even the “big name” ones. Never hesitate to ask for references or reach out to other models that have worked with them before and get an honest review. Don’t work with clients, agencies, or photographers that have a reputation of taking advantage of models.
Know Your Worth
In life and in modeling, you have to have a good sense of self-worth. You need to know you have the right to say no to the people try to take advantage of you or treat you less-than. You are a human being, and you deserve to be treated with respect. Never allow the opinions of someone affect how you see yourself. The modeling industry is a tough business, and it is run as such. Never take it personally and certainly never let it get you to the point of considering changing yourself to fit the trend of the moment.
Take Care of Your Physical Wellbeing
Ensuring you look after yourself physically by eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising and drinking plenty of water is key to maintaining your mental health. Don’t work out or diet to reach a certain aesthetic (that will only fuel the negative mindset), but instead to reach a level of health specific to you. If someone makes a suggestion for you to change your weight or something about your looks and you know by doing so it could negatively impact your health, it’s a clear indicator that the person suggesting it may not have your best interest in mind. Knowing that you are healthy, whatever that may look like for your body type, will help you see those comments for what they really are (useless), and not let it negatively affect your mental health.
Check-in with Yourself
Take time to regularly check-in with yourself both physically and mentally to see how you’re doing. Knowing when your emotions are normal and when they aren’t is important in keeping in touch with your wellbeing. Off-days are standard and we all have them, but when they seem to never end, it’s time to address it.
Pay attention to how you feel and take rest days when you need them rather than allowing yourself to burn out. Be honest when you simply don’t have the capacity to do something. Take regular breaks from social media when you find yourself mindlessly scrolling too much and comparing yourself to what you see on there.
Build a Support System
Having a strong support network of friends and family is key to protecting your mental health. Knowing you have people you can trust to go to with issues or just to talk things out can help keep your anxiety at a manageable level. Knowing where you can go if you’re struggling and don’t have family or friends close is also really important. Having a reliable therapist is a great way to manage any mental health struggles.