8 Ways To Get Ahead — From A Woman Who Worked Her Way Up

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Okay, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: My path to success wasn’t always an easy one. Nothing was ever handed to me. I worked so hard for every "yes" I got, and equally as hard for every "no." I started my career when I was 19 years old and modeled throughout my 20s. Later, once I was established, I became a television host. This all may seem glamorous, but as an aspiring model and actress, I heard the word "no" so often that I sometimes thought it was my first name.

Few of us have an easy path to success. Hard work, determination, and patience are just the beginning of what's involved in reaching your goals. Ahead are eight of my best kick-ass career tips to help you make it happen.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Straight out of Murray, KY (population: less than 15,000), I walked into my first meeting at Next Model Management wearing pearls and pantyhose. I carried a leather briefcase. I definitely didn’t look the model part.

I met with the four owners, and it was clear that two of them saw nothing in me. But one of them, Faith Kates, saw something the others didn’t see. And, the truth is, all it takes is one person who believes in you. That can make all the difference in the world. If you find yourself in a similar situation, where one person sees your potential, even if it feels like no one else does, just go with it. Accept that person’s belief in you, because it might just change your life.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
After a few weeks in New York, the modeling agency I'd signed with sent me to work with an agency in Hamburg, Germany for six months. I arrived as innocent as a southern daisy — and, for lack of a better word, I felt lost.

Things got worse when the head of the agency abroad looked me up and down and said, “Absolutely not. You are too fat.” Word. For. Word. The day I landed was the same day he fired me as a client.

Can you imagine? I was 19, away from home and from everyone I knew and loved. I begged him to send me out to castings. I was NOT going home. My persistence paid off, and I went on a few casting calls, eventually booking a job — and then another one after that.

At each casting, I told myself: Someone is getting this job; why shouldn't it be me? I wasn’t the prettiest, the tallest, or the skinniest. I didn’t have the clearest skin or the best body. But what did I have? Determination. I knew how to be my own cheerleader.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Confidence is everything. The next time you go to an interview, walk in confidently, like you know you're the person they're going to hire.

I've always done this, and even though I haven't always gotten the job, I never stopped projecting confidence. At the end of the day, the projects I didn’t get didn’t matter.

Even if it’s faux confidence, people will take notice of your tenacity and how you carry yourself. So, get fired up. Be passionate about what you want. Goals charged with spirit, soul, and sass have more strength and momentum than lackluster ones.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Start now. Get to it! It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of "future you” and forget all about what it takes to get there. Make daily goals, monthly goals, yearly goals, and even decade goals.

If you don’t take the time to identify what your goals are, months and even years can go by. Prepare, study, and do your homework. Do what you can to give yourself a leg up.

I’m a big believer that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. If you want to be a writer, start working for yourself; start writing. If you want to learn to be great at marketing, read every book and blog you can on the subject. Don’t wait for someone else to hire you if it isn’t happening. You might surprise yourself by how capable you are of learning the skills you need to succeed.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
The second you stop doing things that terrify you is when you stop learning, growing, and expanding. You’ve got to take risks in life — measured, calculated risks — not idiotic, hasty ones.

So many of us are paralyzed by fear that we don't speak up and we don't challenge ourselves professionally. Our fear of failure, rejection, screwing up, and not being good enough holds us back.

Making the leap from modeling to acting was one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken, but I'm so glad I did. Success lies in feeling comfortable with feeling a little uncomfortable. Once you get used to this feeling, you will go far.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Criticism is inevitable. Don't try to avoid it (because that’s impossible); instead, try to change the way you view it. Even if you receive negative criticism or feedback, you can gain from it.

When I first started on MTV’s House Of Style, I was so inexperienced and kind of clueless. I'll never forget one of my first interviews. I kept dropping the mic on the floor, and when I wasn’t dropping it, I was forgetting to hold it up when my interviewee spoke.

After that fiasco, I took voice lessons because the producers said that my voice was “too high and squeaky.” I had to learn to lower the register of my voice and speak more modulated — and hold the mic correctly, of course. I worked hard; I went to media training. And I improved. By the end of the season, I was a pro. I didn’t allow the criticism to control me. Instead, I took control and made changes. Feedback and criticism are essential for growth (and, ultimately, your success) so the next time you get feedback that's unfavorable, consider what you can do to turn it around.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Making comparisons can be disastrous to your self-esteem. When we compare, we instinctively diminish our own light. Trust your path and follow it all the way.

Like I’ve said before, I wasn’t the prettiest, the tallest, or the skinniest. I didn’t have the clearest skin or the best body. But I was determined, and I was confident, and I understood that my path was my own — not to be compared to anyone else's.

Resisting comparison can be very hard to put into practice, but never let envy of another’s achievements get in the way of your path. If anything, use it to motivate you to be great.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This is straight out of my grandmother’s mouth. She taught me that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do; everyone deserves respect. Be nice to assistants. Be nice to your boss. Be nice, be nice, be nice. Don’t overlook anyone.

One day, that assistant will be the vice president of the company you aspire to work for. When you are nice, and people like you, they will go out of their way for you. Being kind isn’t a sign of weakness. It sounds simple, but there's a payoff. There are a lot of assholes out there, and you don't need to be one of them to get ahead. The reality is that people like to work with nice people, and if you are respectful of everyone, you’ll stand out.
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