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My Modeling Agent Said I Was "Too Big" — Here's What I Wish I'd Said

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    Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Schwartz.

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    I was 17 years old when I signed with one of the top modeling agencies in the world. It had been my dream since I was little to become a model, and as I grew older and (much) taller, that path began to seem like less of a fantasy and more of an actual possibility for me. I was elated when I finally signed a contract with a world-renowned agency, and I was determined to seize the opportunity and make the absolute most of it. With laser focus, I decided to concentrate all of my energy on becoming the "best" model I could be.

    Here’s something you should know about me: I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I have some serious people-pleasing tendencies — which is an incredibly dangerous combination in a cutthroat industry like modeling. I didn’t want anything to hold me back from achieving my dream, especially my body, which I believed I could mold into anything I wanted if I just tried hard enough. I was determined to prove that I was right for the role, and I was desperate to please my agents. I was willing to do "whatever it takes." I pushed aside my own values, desires, and needs, starving myself in the hopes of proving my raw enthusiasm.

    Ultimately, my youth and naïveté (and the sometimes vicious nature of the modeling world) stripped me of the backbone required not just to excel in the industry, but also to preserve my health, dignity, and self-worth. My perpetual terror of being dropped by my agent led me to become little more than skinny and agreeable. I didn’t know yet that I and my health were worth standing up for. I feared that if I was too difficult, I’d be out the door, and to me, that prospect was far worse than starving my life away.

    In the end, I landed in treatment to deal with what had turned into an all-consuming eating disorder. In therapy, I gained perspective and finally began to develop a sense of self-worth. I could see for the first time how fear and insecurity had obstructed my ability to advocate for myself as a human being, and had actually, ironically, destroyed my chances of a successful career as a model. As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and mine is crystal-clear. I can’t say I regret my mistakes, though. I learned so much from my experience — most importantly, how to stand powerfully in my own body without apology or regret.

    There are many conversations that transpired between my agent and myself that I can remember as though they were yesterday. I sometimes think about these chats, and I’m so proud when I consider how different my responses would be today, as the new me.

    Here, I’ve compiled a few of the body-shaming comments thrown my way while I was modeling — and what I should have said in response.

    It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both.
    Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.


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