On route from Brooklyn to the Fashion Week venues I came across a girl I immediately knew was a model. We began chatting as I asked her where she was travelling to. She seemed very open with me as we began to chat about the industry, her dreams, struggles and ambitions. My heart was moved by her response to some of my questions and by the fact that she had bravely moved to New York alone in order to pursue a career in modelling. As she mentioned the fact she could barely recognise herself now due to all the changes of her body within the last year, I felt I wanted to give her a Treasure note from the few I hand left in my pocket. I lucky dipped into my coat and pulled out the one with “YOU ARE LOVED” written on the front. I explained that I had written this a few days ago and only gave them out to those I felt highlighted to me during the day, so hoped she was blessed by it. A smile came over her face. I went on to explain that I also have a passion and desire for people to gain a true reflection of their inner beauty and love to do this through photography. So I invited her to message me between castings if she was ever around and would like me to take her photograph.
A couple of days later she did message me and we met and walked ourselves to the bottom of the Empire State building. On realising they had beautiful marble walls with a beautiful reflection, we decided to take the photographs there. I began to ask her questions through the camera and asked her to repeat truths into the lens. Some were a struggle for her to repeat, but slowly she got the hang of it. My heart was moved due to the lies she believed about herself.
Afterwards she wrote to me about the experience from her side. This made me cry:
“I randomly met Jessica when I accidentally found myself taking the L train in the opposite direction of what I had intended. This was an afternoon this past February and I was on my way to my first fitting for NYFW F/W 2018. As a very new model who had only been signed a few weeks prior after months of little success, I was extremely excited to have booked a presentation that was featured on Vogue Runway, and slightly overwhelmed since the casting the day prior was the very first one I had actually attended. I found myself sitting next to a friendly young woman with a distinctive sense of style, and we struck up a conversation based on her assumption that I was a model. We spoke about our opinions on the tough standards required by the industry and I mentioned how modelling was a lifelong dream of mine that was finally beginning to approach fruition. When I mentioned the self-doubt that had long plagued me as I found myself altering my appearance numerous times since I had begun pursuing modelling nine months prior, Jessica told me of her own experience as both model and photographer and asked if I would be willing to participate in a photoshoot for her project. I of course agreed, and she shared with me a brief and inspiring note about being “enough” as I am, which I have since held onto.
We made plans to meet the next evening in Penn Station before Jessica was to return home the following morning. Eventually we made our way to the lobby of the Empire State Building, as the iconic location provided an ideal backdrop for what was a candid, casual shoot. After finding a spot away from the masses of tourists and watchful security guards, Jessica took snapshots while I talked about my experience in modelling thus far, and where I hoped to go from here. I mentioned the inherent difficulty I had faced moving to New York City with no friends or family at the age of twenty, and how I did not want the struggles I had faced in my past – abuse, sexual assault, depression, and disordered eating among others – to define me, as a model or otherwise. Towards the end of our short session, Jessica requested that I do something models aren’t usually encouraged to do on camera, and smile. While the resulting pictures of me grinning cheesily with minimal makeup aren’t necessarily something that would wind up in my professional portfolio, I’m so glad they exist, as they show a side of me that is often hidden. I’m thankful for the opportunity afforded to both of us by this chance encounter and for the words of the note she shared with me, as it reminds me every day that even as I begin a career in a highly competitive industry centred around the pursuit of perfection, that I myself am not just enough, but treasured.”