By Alison Satterwhite
Part 1: The Psychology
I was a young, vulnerable and insecure girl of 18 when I, out of a deep seeded need for others approval, embarked on a journey into the facade of modeling. It was a journey that would ultimately force me to face my deepest, although youthful convictions head on, and proved to be a test of my meager courage. Insecurities bubbling up all around threatened to steal my true identity and maim my developing sense of self-worth. When mixed with the pressures of what seemed glamorous and alluring at the time, I was as a raw onion, being peeled back, layer by layer.
Oddly enough, my journey would begin at one of those ridiculous radio casting calls, where you are never sure what the motives or professional credentials are. “Come meet with the top agencies in the business,” the voice coolly lured me in. I quickly envisioned myself being plastered on every magazine cover and walking a runway in Paris, looking my best, everyone seeing in me what I wanted them to see for so long. As far as I was concerned, this was a long shot, but in my naive youth, the world was my oyster, and nothing could stop me from trying. I was a skinny, pale and fragile little bird for so long–until I was 16 to be exact. I had braces, stringy hair and was often sneered at for being too skinny. This hurt me deeply–to the core, and I often saw being overweight and healthy looking a far better alternative. I longed for what I deemed “normal” or “average” looks. In my mind, that was better than the oddly different look in which I felt I possessed. It was, after all, the age in which every girl just wants to fit in and standing out in any way is seen as cause for undue attention. All of the things which should have exhausted my attention at this stage, like school, friends and youthful pleasure, took a back seat to my absorption with my perceived physical inadequacies. Never mind that I was a highly accomplished pianist and was working to develop my burgeoning talent on the cello and voice. Never mind that I had a strong spiritual bent and had had personal witnesses of truth and relied on and received answers from God much of my unsettled teen years. Never mind that I possessed the gift of deeply understanding my divine potential and self-worth. That was secondary to the greater need to fill the black hole of inadequacy with the immediate aspirin of acceptance, that I longed for. I still ask myself, when did this unbalanced sense of insecurity take root and why?
It was as if it were overnight. I came back to my Junior year of high school, and people literally didn’t recognize me. At last, the “seven-year uglies” had ceased and the metamorphosis had brilliantly occurred. The new school year had brought with it hormones and there was much attention from boys at every turn. I had a new toy. The ability to draw people in based on something so ridiculous, so out of my control, so superficial. My lifelong work on more important endeavors didn’t have the same power over me that this sense of approval did. It was my heroin. From that point on, it became a quest to prove to myself and others that I was acceptable, and in the process real self-worth was confused and replaced with the acceptance of “the world”. For the next 2 years, I proceeded to sabotage every healthy relationship and rebelled at every opportunity. It was as if I was saying, “I don’t want anything to do with who you have molded me to be”. It was their ideal version of me, not mine. I had become every mother’s worst nightmare–I was in charge and cut off from any of her advice or wisdom.
It was a 5 hour drive to Seattle. I was nervous and excited. Dressed in my denim button down dress and black high heels, I was ready for the final seal of approval–signing with an agent. I had dropped out of college and was off to see what my oyster would hold. After all, college didn’t seem nearly as exciting as traveling the world and being revered in the world of beauty. Being 18, I had outgrown much of the accompanying awkwardness and my sickly skinny genes were working to my advantage. My mother and I arrived at the hotel where the modeling agencies would host the big event. I had no idea what to expect, nor did my unexperienced mother. We weren’t on good terms. She was still mourning the loss of her lifelong work. Her little ball of clay didn’t set up the way she had molded it. It was cracked and unusable in her mind. “Anger comes from unmet expectations”, she would say. I was the source of a lot of her anger. I paid no attention and my heart was cold. I was already in Paris. I had rewritten my life, the past angst a distant memory and was going to have no affiliation with the life that had shaped who I had become. It was too painful and this was my right of passage.
There were crowds of girls, each with a strangely forced countenance of ennui. The massive runway in front of me gleamed with lights and the music pounded into my heart as my turn came to face the twenty or so agencies in front of me.