Heavy Issues.

Original article published on Xojane.com

I WAS CONFIDENT WITH MY BODY UNTIL ALL MY FRIENDS LOST WEIGHT

There was something so insidious, so darkly threatening about those words: “the biggest.”
It started when the dress didn’t fit.

Now, dress sizes don’t faze me. It’s just a number. If a dress doesn’t fit, it’s not because I’m too big –- it’s because the dress is too damn small.
But this particular dress belonged to a close friend, H, who had always been roughly the same size as me. We had shared clothes before. I sometimes had trouble squeezing my G-cups into her tops but this dress wouldn’t even come over my thighs.
I’ve been lucky with my group of friends. The five of us have stuck together since high school. We’re like the Babysitters Club but with sex lives and wine. At one point, we lived in five cities on three continents and still managed to stay connected.
For years, my friends and I were a Lego set of different shapes and sizes. It was a point of pride. Other girls went out in peroxide-blonde size-2 packs but we all had our individual looks.
I was the confident one. I wore a bikini no matter what state my stomach was in. I never stressed about what boys would say if they saw me naked –- “Hallelujah” was the only response I’d accept. I rarely thought about my thighs unless I spilled something on them.
No one but the shallowest of frat boys would have called me fat. But neither would anyone describe me as thin or skinny or any of the things girls are meant to be.

Our culture likes to remind us that “medium” actually means a big fat fail. Jennifer Lawrence is praised for her “realistic body”, despite being skinnier than 90 percent of America. Magazines targeted at women are all about getting toned, shifting pounds, tightening up. Co-workers talk about dieting as thought all women do it. “Have you ever tried paleo?” they ask, then shift awkwardly when I say I’m not looking to lose weight.
I used to fight this negativity head on. When friends hesitated on dessert, I told them to eat what they wanted. When they were uncomfortable showing their legs at the beach, I told them to be less self-conscious. I rejected fad diets, rolled my eyes at boot camp. I preached my message far and wide: Love yourself. Love your body. Love your life.
Yet there I was, battling with a dress, trying to remember my own message of love and self-acceptance. It’s just a dress, I told myself, and took it off before the seams burst open.
H was giving away clothes before moving overseas.  I knew she had recently discovered veganism. She looked amazing and had that healthy, energetic glow. I was happy for her. But I had missed the transition where we went from roughly the same to me being two sizes larger.
Looking around, I wondered if my focus on body positive messages had blinded me to changes in my friends.
Another girl, C, had come to visit from interstate. She had looked more or less the same to me, pretty, blonde and the life of the party. It wasn’t till I looked at her properly that I saw the massive impact of her steady efforts to get fit. She was tiny. And positively radiant with self-confidence. I was thrilled that she was happy, but a nasty thought was creeping up on me.
All my friends were now thin and I was not. I was the biggest girl in the group.
It didn’t change my feelings towards them. We were still the same people. But there was something so insidious, so darkly threatening about those words: “the biggest.” I was already the shortest in the group and the loudest and least employed. Now I also had another label and I couldn’t get comfortable with it.

For the first time, I poured over group photos, comparing the thickness of my waist to theirs. I became aware of my stomach pushing against my jeans, my thighs spreading out when I sat. I was fretting and fretting meant eating and then feeling worse about how I looked.
I had always firmly believed that weight loss was a false ideal. This idea of “skinny = happy” was a conspiracy by the patriarchy to make women doubt themselves.
Yet my friends seemed happy. Maybe losing weight could make me happier too? Plus what were they thinking as they watched me tuck into a bowl of chips? Did that seem disgusting?  Did my confidence seem like a joke? Were they judging me? Were they judging my body?
The answer, of course, was no. They were my friends who loved me. This was in my head and no one else’s. The negative thoughts fed off each other, creating monsters out of air.
Then I started to ask myself: Was weight really the problem? I had just turned my back on a career in law. I was moving to a new city. My new medication had all sorts of weird and wonderful side effects.
“My friends are all thinner than me” really meant “I feel bad about myself.” And as soon as I realised that, I realised changing my weight would not fix any of the issues in my life.
For some people, their weight is holding them back from some great life goal. Achieving that goal genuinely gives them personal satisfaction. But for many of us, focusing on weight lets us avoid all the other issues in our lives.

Instead of counting calories, I got my shit together. I got a writing job. I worked on my blog. I made an effort to get to know new people. I started running because the one thing I truly envied was how C could bound up stairs without panting.
I may still be the biggest girl in the group, but it matters less when no one’s keeping score. I’m once again at peace with my body.
But when I have the urge to tell someone to “love their body” or “stop worrying,” I bite my tongue. Body acceptance requires letting go of a lifetime of cultural and societal influences. It means waging a constant war against the forces telling you to be “bikini ready.”
It’s not a matter of being confident or not. It’s an ongoing process. Some days we feel a million bucks. Other days it’s like being a St Bernard in a room full of Greyhounds. Good friends understand and support you; they don’t admonish you for being self-conscious.
From now on, the pep talks are out. All I’m offering is genuine empathy and a sympathetic ear. We’re all fighting our own battles –- all we can do is have each other’s backs.

Model Scouts Recruit Girls Outside Eating Disorder Clinics.

Original article can be found on The Huffington Post.

Modeling agencies in Sweden have come under fire this week following claims thatscouts solicited young girls outside specialized eating disorder clinics.

According to Sweden’s The Local, staff at the Stockholm Center for Eating Disorderstold Swedish-language media that agents have approached teenage patients outside the clinic, presumably to recruit new models.

“We think this is repugnant. People have stood outside our clinic and tried to pick up our girls because they know they are very thin,” Anna-Maria af Sandeberg, the center’s director and chief physician, told Metro newspaper (according to a translation by The Local). “It sends the wrong signals when the girls are being treated for eating disorders.”

Though the incidents occurred last year, news of the controversial practice only recently came to light after employees who witnessed the scouts approaching girls contacted local media.

As the Agence France-Presse notes, the center has since changed its schedule to head off potential run-ins.

While the names of the scouts and their associations are unknown, Fredo Kazemi, director of Elite Model Management in Stockholmcondemned the “unethical” scouting method to Swedish wire service TT, adding that he does not believe the large, reputable model agencies work that way.

However, Madeleine Lithander, the head of a smaller agency in Sweden called Mady Models, told Radio Sweden that she is not surprised by the practice, even though she has not heard of any specific cases.

It’s well known that eating disorders plague fashion models in disproportionate numbers. According to an industry survey conducted by Model Alliance in 2012, 64.1 percent of models said they have been asked by their agencies to lose weight, while 31.2 percent admitted to suffering from an eating disorder.

Last year, in a health initiative launched across all of its editions, Vogue pledged that it would not “knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.” But as any fashion insider knows, the pledge was just one small step in a rather arduous battle.

Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful, they already hate themselves.

Original article retrieved from The Elite Daily

Since I’ve been modeling for 10+ years, I am considered a veteran in the industry. I have worked with some of the most talented designers, photographers, stylists and, of course, some of the most beautiful women in the world. 

Many people, particularly women, are very interested in my job.  “You’re so lucky,” they tell me,  “You must love what you do.”  “I wish I could take pictures all day and get paid,” etc.

I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful brat, because I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I have. Very few people in the world get to experience the things I do. Very few people have the necessary proportions, body type, attitude, look, etc.  So what’s my problem? My problem is that my job is not to be smart, hard working or dedicated.  My job is to be pretty.

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So why then, when I am paid to be “beautiful,” am I dealing with insecurity? Shouldn’t I be the most confident person for miles? I plan to explain why some of the most exceptionally beautiful women in the world also happen to be some of the most insecure.

Now before I really delve into this topic, I want to begin by saying that I am in no way implying that ALL models are insecure or deal with issues of self-worth. In fact, I happen to know a number of very confident, intelligent, self-assured women in this industry, so I feel the need to point out that this is not inclusive of all models by any means.

However, I can honestly say that I believe this applies to a majority of women working as models, and even beautiful women in general. You might wonder: how can someone who is in the pages of magazines wearing designer clothing, walking runways, dating millionaires and rubbing elbows with celebrities be insecure? Well, there are a number of factors at play that contribute to this issue.

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Over the years, I have met some of the most stunningly gorgeous women one could ever imagine. It’s hard to picture these women ever feeling anything other than self-assured and confident. But on the contrary, the one characteristic that many of them share, besides being exceptionally beautiful, is that they have major self-esteem issues.

Modeling is a job that for most has an expiration date.  There are only a handful of years a young woman can model before she has to be put out to pasture.

There is a constant fear, an ever-present awareness that time is ticking and the clock can’t be turned back.  This puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on models. Success in modeling is not measured by how hard you work; often times it’s just dumb luck — a combination of looks, timing and connections.

One of the most frustrating realizations to face as a model is that you have little to no control over your success or lack of success.  No amount of dedication, ambition or “hard work” is going to help you reach that coveted supermodel status.

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As a model, you are in constant competition with other models, so comparing yourself to them is unavoidable.  You wonder why certain girls are booked for jobs and you’re not. You begin to wonder if they are prettier than you and if they’re more worthy.

And that feeling never really goes away because there is an endless conveyer belt of models. Younger girls get churned out every day. The aging models get pushed aside year-by-year. Clients stop booking them. There is no loyalty in this business. Even a slight weight gain could result in losing clients and even getting dropped from your agency.

When you can’t trust anyone or count on anyone — when you are judged solely on your appearance every single day, it begins to consume you. You become obsessed, and the constant rejection definitely doesn’t help matters.

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Regardless of how many compliments models receive from men AND women, for some reason the good things are harder to remember.  It’s the “You need to lose five lbs.” and the –“Your hips are too big” — “You aren’t tall enough”– “You’re TOO tall” that are the hardest to forget comments. Is it any wonder why so many models have eating disorders?

It is because this industry sucks away every and any positive feeling a young woman has about herself. That is why so many girls become victims. Victims of drugs, sex, body issues. How can you be happy with yourself when all you hear is criticism? When all you feel is rejection?  How can you trust anyone when they are ready to step on your back if needed?

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons beautiful women are so insecure is because men constantly use them as trophies. There is the constant question of whether he is interested in the person inside, or the package it comes in.

It is really a vicious cycle because unfortunately, when a woman is feeling insecure, she seeks validation — often in the wrong places. Many men in New York are familiar with this, and know how to play it to their advantage. I know certain men that go through models like mints.

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They spew out false promises and provide a false sense of security until they reach their ultimate goal, which is usually sex. When they’ve gotten that, it’s on to the next. The really smart ones prey on insecurities.

They might act cold or distant; they might flirt with others and comment about how hot another girl is, all because they know it will only make their target hungrier for their acceptance.

These men are predators who prey on women by perpetuating their negative feelings of low self-worth. Again, this is not inclusive of ALL men but it is a very common occurrence, particularly in the scene-y crowds of New York City.

If you are a model in New York, you likely do not have a real support system.  You have no family close by; your closest friends are not around, so naturally you form relationships with people you meet in your environment, namely other models. These relationships are often not genuine, but those of convenience or necessity.

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Speaking from personal experience, I can honestly say that while not impossible, it is extremely difficult for models to be true friends to one another. They are in constant competition with each other — for jobs, for men, for attention.

There is no trust between them; the cliques they form are infested by gossip, sabotage and resentment. Attention seeking is a common, extremely frustrating and annoying habit that some models resort to in order to get the validation they so desperately seek.

I think there is a complete contradiction in the way society views modeling. On one hand it is perceived to be a glamorous, exciting and sexy world. People often idolize models and put them up on pedestals.

But on the other hand most people automatically assume that if you are a model, you are stupid and have nothing important to say. I have encountered so many pretentious, condescending people (both men and women) who look down on me as if I am doing something shameful or ridiculous.

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Maybe that’s just their insecurity, I can’t be sure. But whether it be bad or good, people inevitably have an opinion about me before I even open my mouth and that is perhaps the worst thing of all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my accomplishments and I am so grateful that I have been able to experience all the things I have. I would not be able to write this article today without them. But I also don’t want those things to define me. So when I’m gone, what are people going to remember about me?

That I got to pose for Maxim a few times? That I got to walk down a few dozen runways? No. Not if I can help it. I want to be remembered for something more. Something significant. Even if I don’t know what that something is yet, it’s ok…because at least I have the good sense to know that there is more to life than the way I look.

So I suppose that makes me one of the lucky ones. Because the sad truth is, there are heaps of women out there who will probably never come to that realization.

Alice Panikian | Elite.

To Tattoo, or Too Taboo?


Accessories are an essential part of anyone’s wardrobe because they complete your look. One could use the well known cliché, and say: they are the “cherry on top” of your outfit. But what happens when your accessories are no longer something you put on and remove, but are a permanent part of your body? No, I’m not talking about braces. I’m talking about the new fad of making tattoos your accessories. What was once considered a symbol of rebellion or a stamp utilized to indicate membership of a group, band, or Harley Davidson motorcycle gang has now become the exact opposite. Tattoos have now become either a way to differentiate yourself from the rest of the world, or simply an accessory you choose to wear as you would wear a handbag.

In America about 35% of adults have some sort of ink on their bodies. Some are quotes that inspire them, or symbols that point out their individuality or remind them of obstacles they have overcome: “Memories are always distorted in your head” says Emerson College Senior Julia Libani, who currently has 12 tattoos. “But if you get a tattoo you will always remember exactly what happened and why that event was so significant in your life.” She says she sees her tattoos as scars; just like you fall down and get a permanent scratch on your body, a tattoo is a scar you choose.

However there’s a new phenomenon occurring among celebrities and common citizens as well: getting tattoos that hold no meaning to them and serve strictly as a decorative element on their bodies. A good example of this would be Rihanna, who says she got the famous star tattoo in her neck bone and upper back to take advantage or her backside, attracting more attention to it by decorating it. Like her, there are tons of people who get little details to emphasize the parts of their bodies they love. Others just get symbols they feel would “look cool” on their bodies.

But how much is too much? When one sees celebrities like David Beckham or Meghan Fox with so many tattoos, one may think they see their bodies as little coloring books in which they draw tattoos according to their moods. However, most people who have a significant amount of tattoos claim that they see their bodies as timelines to draw their autobiography on. A detail that people tend to overlook is that once you start drawing things on your body, you may start coming across more and more things you would like to put on, that hold significant meaning for you or that would simply be a nice conversation piece.

It would be an over generalization to say that people no longer get tattoos that have meaning to them. The fact is that because tattoos have become more socially acceptable, they have also become more mainstream. The best example of this, is that fashion magazines no longer feel the need to airbrush models who don’t have ink-free skin. Also, people are not as quick to judge a person because of the fact that they have tattoos anymore. It used to be that you wouldn’t even bother to get to know a person with a tattoo because you would immediately catalogue him or her as bad news, whereas now most people just perceive tattoos as a form of expression.

But as all trends come and go, I can’t help but wonder what will happen when tattoos aren’t “stylish” anymore? Or when their owners decide that they don’t hold the same ideals they did when they decided to get them? This happened to another Emerson Student who wishes to remain anonymous. She got a tattoo when she was 14-years-old and grew bored of it, so in order to get rid of it she got another- even bigger- one on top of it to cover it. She says she didn’t even know what she was going to get and asked her tattoo artist to just give her whatever his favorite thing to draw was. This made her tattoo go from something meaningful to a simple drawing in her body she got just to go with the flow. Yes, there are ways to correct tattoos that are not wanted anymore and now there are even several different removal methods. However, this defeats the purpose of getting a “permanent” symbol on your body to express your individualism, doesn’t it?

Fashion Image Consultant

During my summer in Paris I attended Istituto Marangoni, a world renown fashion school. I did a 3 week Fashion Image Consulting course which basically consisted in learning how to  be someone’s personal shopper and also a magazine fashion editor.Our final project was to come up with an editorial for a fictitious fashion magazine. We had to create a theme, choose a model and shop for the clothes and props we would utilize for the photo shoot. My theme was 1950’s Jet Setter.

Here are some instagram pics of my final project.

And here are the final, edited versions of the pictures.

Photo Credit goes to Fabio Piemonte

What I’ve Been Doing While You Were Sleeping

My followers keep asking me why my blogging has been so sporadic for the past 3 months or so. The reason behind my inconsistency is because I was traveling for the most part of the summer. Those of you who keep a close eye on my blog saw my “snapshots of London” post, which is one of the many cities I visited throughout the summer. I also visited Paris, where I stayed for a good amount of time since I was doing a Fashion Image Consulting course. I roamed around Istanbul, the south-east of Turkey, Istanbul again, Cannes, Nice, Juan Les Pins and finished off once again in Paris.

However that wasn’t quite the end of it. My summer concluded with me landing a job in New York Fashion Week, working for The Daily Front Row which is Fashion Week’s official publication.

During my job there I got the opportunity to attend Fashion Shows, work for their social media outlets and attend their booth at Fashion’s Night Out. However the coolest part of my job is that I got to HOST the Daily Style Sessions at the Empire Hotel’s rooftop bar. Here are a few snapshots of my glory days this past NYFW.

Empire

Empire Hotel Rooftop View

Lauren Conrad

Lauren Conrad Visits The Daily

Kelly Osbourne

Kelly Osbourne Visits The Daily

Miroslava Duma

Miroslava Duma walking right past me outside of the Jason Wu show

NYFW

Uber Stylish man reading The Daily

Flower children

And yours truly messing around with some of the free gifts they offered at the Style Sessions

September covers unveiled

Vogue: Lady Gaga

Harper’s Bazaar: Gwen Stefani

Marie Claire: Miley Cyrus

Glamour: Victoria Beckham

Elle: Katy Perry

Cosmopolitan: Lucy Hale

Allure: Sofia Vergara

Vanity Fair: Kate Middleton

Lucky: Eva Longoria

W: Penelope Cruz

In Style: Jennifer Lopez