Rejection in Modeling: Minimizing Your Mope, Maximizing Your Cope

What's the most routine part of a model's life?

"Ooh, earning $15,000 a day, working with legendary designers!"

"Flying in private jets from Paris to Rio!"

"Living lovely in Park Avenue penthouses!"

True for a small percentage of models. For the rest of us in the industry, a more accurate answer would be (drum roll!)...rejection.

"Nope, you're too plain looking."

"Your face isn't edgy enough."

"In my eyes, you're not model material." Usually not explicitly stated, but disguised in a number of tactful turn-downs.

This rejection occasionally liquefies the most rock solid of self-esteems. What's more, we cannot always change the reasons why clients and agents reject us. Our cheekbones are not going to get higher, and neither is our height.
Unless we are thirteen and our bodies are still developing, or if we have plastic surgery. No guarantees there either.

It's no surprise that models struggle with feelings of shame, inadequacy, and resentment. Hopeless wishes to have been born with "better" genetics. I have been to this painful place of self-loathing. While I still get lost there occasionally, I have found ways to return to that sanctuary of confidence and inner peace. I hope they help you too.

1. Embrace your intangible talents.

"Thank you so much for getting here early!"
-A beauty client, at 5:30am.

"What an exceptional business sense you have."
-Several entertainment lawyers, during business meetings.

"You're a true professional: you wore wool clothes in ninety-eight degree heat and you never complained."
-A makeup artist, during a photo shoot.

Do these statements sound familiar to you too? I'll bet you also have professional strengths that can only be created by character and not by Photoshop. Maybe clients appreciate that you check your attitude at the door--not that you had an attitude to begin with. Perhaps your bookers trust you as one of their most reliable models. You don't come down with "sea sickness" when it's raining outside. Maybe your exceptionally shrewd business sense lead you to make wise decisions in your career.

Yes, modeling is a superficial business where your looks matter more than your gray matter does. Let's not pretend otherwise. Nevertheless, it is a business, and let's examine what that means.

Producing photo shoots and shows is no day at the beach, even when they take place on the beach. Consider the figurative and literal storms to weather. Six (or lucky number seven) figure budgets are on the line. Along with jobs. Contractual agreements with agencies, venues, rental places--the list goes on. Models, makeup artists, et al, who show up late, or don't show up at all. Delayed shipment of wardrobe. Time constraints. Disagreements with _____ (fill in the blank 100 times over).

Let's put a saving grace in this equation: you. You turn off your phone and listen to the show director who says, "May I have everyone's attention?". You keep a level head come hell or high water. You radiate with beautiful energy both on and off camera. At the end of the assignment, the client gives you a big hug and thanks you for your outstanding performance. This isn't in vain, but in gratitude.

Clients can easily find striking beauties. Casting directors can log into one of the many agency websites and see hundreds of beautiful faces staring back at them. Furthermore, beauty can become even more beautiful with makeup, styling, lighting, and calculated camera angles. Where (not if) these fall short, photo shop rises up. Beauty is easy to find and create.

But professionalism, on the other hand, is more elusive and less attainable. So if you have this quality, you have a priceless gift to offer.

2. Remember, the modeling industry is unpredictable...

And it can be unpredictable in your favor! The model who is dismissed as "too American" this year may rise as the Timeless Beauty next year. The girl who is deemed "too curvy" today may become the dynamic bombshell tomorrow.

Look at the "unlikely" success stories that have cropped up in recent years. Refreshingly, we see more Asian models gracing the international runways and the pages of Vogue. We see more models over 25 landing lucrative contracts and appearing in high-profile campaigns. Imperfect circumstances make for more compelling success stories.

You may have just gotten an email from an agent that said, "We're not interested in representing you. Good luck."

Good luck may come in the form of another agent saying, "We're very interested in taking you on. Oh, and by the way, one of our clients is looking for a model. Would you be free to fly to Bali next week to shoot an ad campaign?"

With uncertainty comes possibility. That possibility may become your reality.

3. Accept rejection graciously.

One warm summer day, I received a phone call from my agent. "I am so excited about this booking I have for you!" she said. It was an assignment for a well-known client on Fifth Avenue. I was excited too!
"Check in with Amy (not her real name), the client's assistant, when you get there." instructed my agent.

Amy greeted me with welcoming smiles and enthusiasm. The client? "No, I cannot use her." the client said to Amy. "She does not have the right look."

Ouch. Being passed up at a casting is one thing: you know it's hit or miss. But showing up to a job you've supposedly booked, and getting sent home? This wasn't just added insult to injury, this was added assault to injury!

Still, I had to speak from a place of professionalism rather than a place of emotion.

"I understand." I said to the client. "It's the nature of the business."

Amy apologized profusely as she walked me out. "I am so sorry, I don't understand, I just feel bad for you, you came all the way here and--I'm just so sorry!"

"It's not your fault, you need not feel bad. This is the nature of the business. It's important to take the bad with the good." The bad had a good ending here. The client agreed to compensate me.

Mind you, I am not in love with rejection. Ask my friends who have listened my sobbing, swearing rants. Ask the punching bags at my gym. Ask my diary (actually, don't do that...).

On that note, some advice about "venting". When it exceeds moderation, it becomes self-pity, which prevents progress. Be very careful how you verbalize your frustrations, for you never know who may be listening.

Your response to rejection determines the ultimate outcome. Sometimes no means "Not yet". If a client sees that you gracefully respond to rejection, that no may blossom into three yeses when the time is right.

Another reason to remain hopeful about rejection? Not only do fashion trends change, people within the fashion industry change positions. The editor who rejected you for the ten page layout may become the casting director who books you for the ad campaign. We often misinterpret no as "never".

Besides, what does "never" mean anyway? A lot of supermodels were once told that they would "never" make it in this business.

4. The warm embrace of a healthy personal life

When you can look forward to healthy relationships and pastimes, rejection is far more bearable.

Surround yourself with people who appreciate your character. Your kindness. Your charisma. Your "cookyness"!

The friends that you can count on, hold them close. Cherish the trust and the laughter that you guys share. Reach out to them when you need a hug. Hug them when they reach out to you.

Have some good ol' fashion fun with your friends on a regular basis. Sing karaoke, play video games, go skiing, and just be silly! Whether a client books you or not, your life is worth living and loving.

Love yourself in your alone time too. Play guitar. Scrapbook. Listen to your favorite music. Indulge in an occasional massage or mani-pedi.

Bottom line, you're bigger than the rejection. No fashion powerhouse has the authority to determine your self-worth. A failed modeling career wouldn't mean a failed life. That said...

Don't consider failure as an option. Get back onto your best feet and put them forward.

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