Life On A Higher Plane
Putting Self Respect on the Front Burner
Article by Paula Erskine
Photo of Paula Erskine by John Vanderschilden
Last summer, I watched a reality modeling show in the England called something to the effect of “Models, Misfits and Mayhem.” Drama started to become a real creep show when two young teen-age, twin sisters got very upset at the prospect of wearing lingerie in a photo shoot. It was going to be a 40’s style calendar, but still the outfits left little to the imagination. The girls tried to refuse, but the head honchos running this modeling contest, (may the least dressed win?), were told that even though they were uncomfortable, they would not be able to refuse such a job.
They were told they were unrealistic, uncommitted and unprofessional. The twins decided to gracefully end their top model journey because they refused to participate in this photo shoot where they would be exposed. They were heavily criticized and cast out from the show. There was no attitude, but a quiet, firm no, delivered with grace to the judges. The girls were just so uncomfortable, and such innocents that they did not think it was worth winning the contest. Nobody, not one “mentor,” on the show recognized their innocence and nurtured it. They were only encouraged to “obey” this task.
Perhaps they looked like adults, and show co-ordinators wanted them to grow up fast and reveal themselves to break them in. The girls were upset and wanted nothing to do with exposing their bodies for the show or for fashion. Does everyone see what is wrong with this picture? What if this 14 year old was your daughter, your sister? Shouldn’t they be treated as such by all of society? Shouldn’t their innocence be protected and respected?
“Like Stars on Earth,” starring Aamir Khan, is an Indian movie that reveals how one teacher or mentor reflects the notion that all children should be nurtured and protected. (watch the trailer here “http://www.youtube.com/embed/DBg6HSMF9X8?rel=0“)
The quality of innocence must be put on a pedestal. How many times have we learned wise words coming out of the mouths of children simply because they see the world unjaded, and without pretense? The twin girls of “Models, Misfits and Mayhem” showed such gravity when finally deciding to leave the show quietly. They had their feet firmly planted even though everyone was telling them they were the ones that were wrong not to pose half-dressed. They knew they had a choice, and could not be manipulated.
This is how the media dictates that we must put self-respect on the back burner. From my personal experience as a plus size model, I can tell you that I was never given an ultimatum regarding the subject of lingerie modeling. Nobody told me I had to comply or lose my job. Models can set their own standards as actresses have always stipulated not to reveal too much of themselves onscreen. This is an accepted practice. Not everyone is suited for lingerie modeling because they do not fit the sample sizes or they don’t have the right proportions. I was lucky because when I chose to model lingerie, the plus size pieces were conservative and shot for conservative catalogues. I had trustworthy people around me. We knew we were paving out new territory and I had agreed to it before hand. I was very interested in pushing real size images into the media mainstream and was proud to be part of the changing face of fashion. I wanted women to know I was proud of my voluptuous figure and that they could buy these items in many stores. But I also had the choice to tell my agent what I would, and would not do. I have refused, for example, to model lingerie and bathing suits on television without a proper cover up. At the time, there were few, if any, media images featuring plus size models because fashion for us was designated to “oversized” items that were boxy, girdles, or business suits. When you don’t see yourself represented in the media, you can’t sew with two left hands, and all around you are people size 12 and up, then something’s gotta give. So the success of the first bold full figure marketing campaigns had “average and up” size women breathing sighs of relief.
An agent works for the model and makes a commission, not the other way around. Once the agent knows the model’s limits, they can work within it. To start, don’t showcase on your composite card (a model’s business card with sample photos) what you’re not willing to wear for a client. A model who is specializing in lingerie likely is providing her measurements, a professional sample photo and is only introduced via the agent to a trusted client. What you don’t pose in, won’t come back to haunt you.
If you are uncomfortable, you can protect yourself by not providing such a photo in the first place. Unease can signal a warning that it is going against your core beliefs on some level, so listen and heed your own principles. This is never a deal-breaker. There are plenty of other things to model fully clothed. If a model does not want to pose in fur, bathing suits, lingerie, audition for seedy ads or work out of the country, one can simply say no thank you from the get-go.
So if anyone in this modern society does not support a young girl’s right not to expose herself, to listen to her gut extinct, to refuse what makes her queasy and what attacks his/her innocence, then one should question what is the basis for their morality? Is it what the media or colleagues tells us it is? Are we going to swing in any direction the wind blows us, or are we going to stand our ground and have some limits that protect us? Innocence exists to protect what is so special in every human being. And how young or old does that innocent have to be for us to see the point? I have witnessed innocence in my husband’s love for nature, a senior citizen’s fight to protect their independence, a rebelling teen-ager finding his/her way in the world or a passenger conquering their fear of flying. It is the innocence that gives us the power of wisdom to make choices based on the innate boundaries that protect us. Read more about the root energy centre’s qualities and the innate guru principle we have within us at www.free-meditation.ca.
What if she were 21,14, 10 or 4…would it be ok to pose half naked in suggestively sexual lingerie? Let’s face it, lingerie is linked to sex. When children pose in clothes created to arouse men it does not evolve mankind in any way and actually numbs us to what should be preserved. It is innately unnatural to sexualize children. And doesn’t the lingerie on an innocent child sexualize the child to the media and spoil our perception?
Modernity should not be confused with lack of personal boundaries. I applaud these young, innocent, 14 year old girls for sticking together and refusing, politely, to pose in sexy lingerie. They weighed the pros and cons and risked the loss of a major modeling contract offered through the TV show. A pat on the backs to their parents who instilled something that stuck. A bunch of circus agents and judges couldn’t lure, convince or destroy their principles. Dignity won.
Personality has everything to do with being a successful model, and these girls had a whole lot of good character. It is these twin girls that are the heroes, and this sham of a show, which encourages models who want to “make it big” to obey their every command for the sake of ratings. How was the balance of mentors represented? Nobody came forward to tell them they had a choice! There were no parental type figures or anyone who could provide another point of view. It is complete propaganda not to offer more than one point of view, or more than one way of presenting a story. This is the only way to start to know the unbiased truth. Tainted truth is harmful to our community and creates a false sense of what is nourishing for the soul and spirit.
If you are grooming young girls to obey everything a client tells them to do, are you not setting them up to be manipulated, exposed and put the needs of others above their own sense of boundaries? There’s a reason for stage moms with a conscience. Someone has to represent vulnerable young people and give them an alternate point of view of the consequences. If we don’t protect the innocent then we are also predators with a perverse agenda. Money and fame may get the headlines, but are they society’s gurus? These girls should be celebrated for shining a light on their inner principles and proving their worth is not equated with following the crowd into the mud. Examples of such good character should be the norm and provide models for self-esteem, not fame and fortune.
I wonder how many other viewers saw the blatant disregard for the young teenagers’ welfare? The girls could not be bought. And frankly, they could be offered a modeling contract anyway by a legitimate agency and have their lawyer advocate their terms. Or simply outline their preferences to their agent to avoid interviewing or accepting such jobs. Nurturing self-esteem of each individual influences our communities like an ever-widening ripple in the water.
Innate limitations exist within each of us to protect us from danger and keep the collective consciousness on the right track towards evolution (www.free-meditation.ca). Inner growth is the real success and the toolbox we need to cope with life’s challenges. These are not the limits associated with consumerism. If we compare ourselves to celebrities or our neighbor, we will never be satisfied. If marketing creates the need for us to have a Prada purse, then it continues to create new materialistic needs that have us shopping insatiably. These wise boundaries actually create a freedom to navigate through the muddy, marketing manipulations that are targeted to destroy our happiness. It is a protective parameter that maintains balance and inner peace.
What is free-thinking about spoon fed propaganda about how to judge, how to think, how to criticize? Is it not divisive to “judge” models, to find faults in them physically and have nice girls pitted against each other and encouraged to war with words? I have a friend who was offered a show and asked to be a bitch to young girls trying to model and she simply refused to do it. Not only has it been done, it is not the message she wanted to convey. She really wanted to be the role of a nurturing mentor. She fulfils her desire to mentor with her co-ownership of an agency and writing.
To paraphrase Maria Shriver on the Oprah show, it is the parent’s job (or mentor) to build up the self esteem of children as much as possible because society will do what they can to chip away at it. So let’s be the society that protects each other with the built in caring chip we have for a sibling or a child. Let’s recognize that the quality of innocence we are trying to defend may be hidden in an adult frame of any age. If we can’t have that angle reflected in the media right now, then let’s at least express another point of view that is rooted in common sense. Fully clothed, we can build on that little voice inside of us that has the right to go with our gut and stand up to this kind of media oppression. Today’s role models can influence the self-esteem of others by celebrating those that collectively put our own self respect back on the front burner, where it belongs.