Realizing Your Own Beauty is the First Step to Self-Love
By Lucia Rossi
After getting dumped in a 5-year long relationship, you could say my self-esteem wasn’t exactly in a healthy place. I kept asking myself the question of why am I not good enough, what’s wrong with me, and how could anyone be with me. Then, I stopped blaming myself.
I decided that this low point was an opportunity to go above and beyond where I have been before and that from then on, I would take advantage of whatever adventures crossed my path. In this case, I did something I have never done before…modeling.
It’s funny how things work out and one thing leads to another if you’re open to it.
One of my hobbies and occupations is being a freelance makeup artist. My client (and friend) was a model who was participating in a professional spring-themed photoshoot in Central Park, NYC. As a makeup-artist, I never had a model as a client, so that challenge alone made the venture intriguing.
She wanted me to accompany her to the photoshoot after the initial makeup application to change looks with her outfits and to touch her up throughout the day. I had no objections. She told me they may ask me to model because this was a free event where everyone is just improving their skills and building their portfolios. Basically, it was for fun. I had some reservations considering I felt unloved, undeserving, and unappreciated.
I felt such anxiousness for what was to come, I didn’t know what to expect. We sat on a bench and waited for the photographers and other models to come. I talked to my client about the dangers of going to photoshoots, about how you travel alone, meet strangers, and have to pose for them. She assured me that she knows how to defend herself, how to identify risky or sketchy situations, and that it’s safe if you: bring a friend, meet in a very public area, check out the photographer’s work online and know that other models will be attending.
When the three photographers arrived, they were immediately friendly and grateful at our punctuality, considering many of the models bailed in the last minute. Soon after, two other models arrived who explained that it was their first time modeling and they were looking to build their portfolios. It was comforting to know they felt just as nervous and naïve as me in this unfamiliar territory (literally and figuratively, I’ve never been to that part of Central Park). The other models were naturally voluptuous and beautiful in their personal and diverse sense of style. Although this was new for them, I saw their confidence, comfortability, and natural talent from behind the camera.
As soon as the photographers saw me, they loved my hair. It always starts with my hair! They said I was beautiful and that I should double as a model, as well as a makeup artist, if I was up to it. I knew I had to do something I wouldn’t normally do in order to feel alive again, so I meekly said, “okay”. I knew even though taking pro photos in public may scare the shit out of me and make people stare, it would be good for me in the end because I would get to see what they see.
This photoshoot was in Central Park because the photographers wanted a natural spring theme, and the models would bring their own outfits to fit their personalities within that theme. There was a great variety in our styles, mine was cute and playful, my client’s was sexy and casual, one model’s was free flowing and romantic, and the other was classical and modern. Since I wasn’t planning on modeling, I only had the one outfit I was wearing, my client was nice enough to lend me one of her spare dresses.
I learned very quickly just how professional and serious these men were about photography and that lighting is EVERYTHING. The lighting, angles from the sun, and the many running and biking bystanders were issues for the photographers and they had to constantly maneuver and wait for the right moments in order to take a shot, as well as wait for me to make the right move and facial expression.
Whenever I did something they loved they would say, “Stop! Hold it right there! Don’t move! Stay just like that!” and I would do my best to stay still and to not blink, despite the sun in my eyes and bugs in the air.
Some photographers were more specific than others on what poses and expressions to do. One photographer told me to just do whatever felt natural, which for me was playing with my hair, observing those around me, and fidgeting with my sweater. Another photographer told me what to feel, he told me to look at the camera as though it was a person I was in love with, someone I longed for, which wasn’t too hard. Sometimes they told me to smile, but generally models don’t smile. They complimented me but didn’t touch a hair on my head. They told me I had great clear skin, big eyes, beautiful red hair, and I should’ve done modeling a long time ago, that it was natural with me. I believed them because they seemed genuinely happy and proud of the shots they took.
I told them I never thought I could because I thought the industry was too judgmental and harsh on women like me who weren’t stick thin and not six feet tall. They clarified that this is true for high-end fashion, but for more low-key art, websites, and advertisements, models with normal realistic beauty are widely accepted.
I also learned some modeling tips along the way, like always stand with your legs apart, keep your head up, don’t widen your eyes, keep your body tilted on an angle and not just facing forward to look more slender and curved, keep your lips slightly open and most of all, relax. This was especially difficult for me because I tend to be uptight, guarded and especially self-conscious.
Over the span of half a day, I got to know and understand the photographer’s passion as well as they got to understand mine. The photographers were frustrated and sick of the industries they’ve worked for years for because all they were asked to shoot was sexy pictures of women, unless hired for a special occasion. What they really cared about was the art of it, the freedom to create a theme of their choice, and finding beauty in types of women who are real, are themselves and are not manipulated. I really respected this.
I told them about my passion for makeup, writing, nerdiness and all things cosplay, which they were just as impressed by. That mutual respect made me more comfortable and relaxed during my shoot, as well as confident because I felt accepted and not judged. I realized that modeling is widely affected by those around you and not just on what you think of yourself.
It helped that the other models were friendly, approachable, and there to give each other a confidence boost. Even though I wasn’t their makeup artist, I gladly offered what little help I could in the last minute even if it was just sunscreen and lip gloss. We sincerely complimented each other and it ultimately helped in the shoots because the confidence showed.
It was also helpful that the photographers weren’t camera hogs. They constantly would hand me their huge cameras and let me scroll through the pictures they took so I could say what I thought and which ones I liked. When I saw the pictures with the right lighting, with the wind blowing, with a calm expression, in the right moment, I was in awe of myself. I would have to look again because I thought, “This is me? Couldn’t be. Must be someone else. I don’t look like that”, but that was me, and I did. I never felt more beautiful.
I liked that they actually cared about what I thought. Even when shooting, they would ask me, “What do you think would be good for this shot?” or “Do you have any ideas that you would like to try?” or “How do you want to change this?” This gave me opportunity to play with my own creativity and imagination in the moment, which was fun, exciting, and totally unexpected.
The truth is, modeling gets personal and is revealing no matter what you’re wearing. My favorite picture is when I am laying in the grass by the dandelions that match my dress with my hair circled on the ground and the sunlight hitting my face. Although it looks easy and natural, I was dealing with the sun glaring in my eyes, gnats flying in my face, laying upside down on the ground as people stared, having an artificial light flash, and a huge camera near my face. But it was all worth it.
I thought I would be uncomfortable with bystanders stopping and staring but I took it as a compliment, and understood their curiosity. I didn’t feel fear, in fact, I laughed when school boys stopped to take pictures with me because they thought I was famous.
I left the park with my client feeling proud, feeling like I gained some hope and self-worth that wasn’t there when I arrived, all because of some pictures. These pictures showed a moment of strength that I found, and no selfie could ever compare.
Categories: Livin' La Vida Lucia