By Natalia Zurowski
There'll be ups and downs in every model's career. You may book a huge cover or campaign, and get an awesome contract overseas. But that contract may not go well, you may get cancelled for a big job, or the plan you set out for yourself may not unfold as expected. As a result, you may become overwhelmed and start to feel down about yourself. In times like this, it's a normal reaction to start doubting your abilities and wanting to give up. It happens to everyone.
As cliché as it may sound, everything happens for a reason. Even though what you want to happen in your career isn't happening right away, it doesn't mean it never will. In life, there are certain lessons we must learn and experiences we must go through before we can achieve the success we want.
Although those times can be rough, perseverance, persistence, and patience are key. You need to persevere through the hard times and remain persistent in achieving your goals by continuing to work hard. Couple that with patience and everything will eventually come together for you. It always does.
Even during your lowest moments, you're not alone. What many models may not know is that some of the biggest names in the modelling industry have experienced rejection in one way or another. Great careers aren't smooth and don't happen overnight.
Hilary Rhoda's rise to becoming a top model wasn't a quick one. Rhoda had previously attempted breaking into the New York and Milan markets where she was greeted with little enthusiasm: "The designers pretty much rejected her outright. [She] viewed the experience as an opportunity to learn about the industry however, and when she met the same response in Milan she chalked that too up to experience" (Source: Modelresource).
She then went on to Paris where her luck took a turn for the better. She was hand-picked by Nicholas Ghesquière of Balenciaga to walk in his Spring/Summer 2006 show, instantly putting her into the limelight. Upon her return Stateside, "Whatever Ghesquière saw, almost immediately everyone else saw it too, and [the rest was] happily ever after" (Source: Modelresource).
Hilary Rhoda is now a spokesmodel for beauty giant, Estée Lauder (alongside Joan Smalls), has worked for Sports Illustrated, Victoria's Secret, and is a favourite amongst many clients including, Zac Posen, Balenciaga, Carolina Herrera, Elle, Harper's Bazaar and many more. With such an impressive mix of commercial and editorial bookings under her belt, Hilary has done it all!
The now-iconic Lara Stone, renowned for her voluptuous figure and gapped teeth, began her modeling career in Paris when she was 15 years old. For seven years "she held on, pushing through despite every sign suggesting she should abandon her dream and go back to the Netherlands" (Source: Just Luxe).
In 2006, (when she was 22) Stone switched to IMG and was soon much, much busier. She walked for Givenchy and that next year she became the face and muse of the brand where her career skyrocketed. "Stone was getting snatched up by designers left and right, booking runway shows, editorial spreads and international covers" (Source: Just Luxe). Ever since, Stone has grown to become an industry icon. She has worked with and booked campaigns for the top clients, including Calvin Klein, DKNY, Givenchy, Prada Fragrance, Tom Ford Beauty, as well as gracing the covers of Madame Figaro, Vogue Paris, i-D, Harper's Bazaar, etc. Stone was hired as spokesmodel for beauty giant L'Oreal, alongside fellow Dutch supermodel Doutzen Kroes, in the last year. If anyone deserves the tremendous amount of success she has had, it's Lara Stone.
From her early teens, Lindsey Wixson knew she wanted to be a model. She had contacted a small agency from her hometown in Kansas and received a less than enthusiastic response. Ever determined, Lindsey and her family moved to Los Angeles, California, where she signed with Vision Model Management.
In the start of her career, she was actually promoted as a commercial model despite becoming now renowned for working for high fashion clients like Miu Miu, Mulberry, Galliano, etc. After more development, Wixson went to New York and was rejected by every agency in the city (including IMG) except for Marilyn. "All the others she tried [...] rejected her saying her 'looks would not translate well on and off the runway.' The same year, at just 15 years old, Lindsey Wixson was selected by photographer Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia" (Source: Million Looks) Combined with a solo campaign for Miu Miu, Wixson was off to a great fresh start.
Shortly after it's inception, Lindsey joined the very prestigious The Society Management agency in New York. Today, she is once of the most recognizable models in the industry and can currently be seen as the face of Chanel's S/S 2014 campaign shot by Karl Lagerfeld. We think Karl would agree with us when we say that Lindsey Wixon's looks translate more than just fine on and off the runway!
From a young age, Smalls tried her hand at modelling by entering modelling competitions in her native Puerto Rice - none of which she won. "I was told I was too tall, too thin and too dark," (Source: Harper's Bazaar UK) she lamented.
At the age of 17, she went to models.com and wrote out a list of the top agencies in New York. Her father promised to pay for her trip to the city only if she promised to continue pursuing higher education. She agreed, and flew to New York. Once in the city, a scout had noticed her who had met her before at a modelling competition.
The scout "was impressed with her look, [but] advised her that if she wanted to be a model she first had to get her front teeth fixed first — which were crooked — and then re-apply" (Source: Arogundade). Smalls went back to Puerto Rico, got her teeth fixed, finished her psychology degree, and at 19 was back off to New York.
In 2007, she signed with Elite Model Management but remained a frustrated catalogue model until she signed with IMG in 2009. From there, Ivan Bart, Vice President of IMG, told her to start wearing heels and dresses to castings as opposed to her usual tomboyish look. Things started to look up and she was sent off to Paris that same year for the shows.
Once in Paris, Smalls struggled, with many clients and even bookers telling her that they had already booked one black model for a show and didn't need any more. In an interview with Derek Blasberg for Harper's Bazaar UK, she spoke of her early frustrations, "I remember calling my dad after a tough time in Paris when I was going to casting after casting where they wouldn’t even look at my book. I was sitting on a bench on the Champs-Elysées, and starting to cry."
That is until her big break finally came. "Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci (now a close friend and diehard fan) booked her exclusively for his haute couture show in 2010. Campaigns for Gucci, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli, Lacoste and Chanel followed. Looking back to that Givenchy catwalk, Smalls says she knew that her life was about to change. ‘I was like, This is my time. This is my moment to shine'" (Source: Harper's Bazaar UK).
Her willingness to push herself further, fight adversity, as well as having proper management behind her, greatly determined her success. We can't describe Smalls any better than Derek Blasberg who put it best: "She's still shining" (Source: Harper's Bazaar UK).
One of the most classically beautiful faces of the industry, Bianca Balti, was rejected from nearly every agency in Milan, including Elite. When meeting with agents from Elite, they told her she would never make it as a model because she was "too average and common" looking. Less than one year later, she was scouted in a supermarket by top scout, Bruno Paulette (current Director at Brave Models in Milan) and was promptly "booked for the cover of L'Officiel which was shot by Alexi Lubomirski" (Source: IFDB). Since then, Bianca has worked with the industry's best including Victoria's Secret, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Cavalli, Blumarine, and many more. If she is too average and common looking we're just going to go hide in our closets because with a face like that, Bianca was born to be a supermodel.
Tyra Banks journey to the top is the definition of a success story. When she was getting into modelling, Tyra went in to meet with six different agencies in Los Angeles, California and was turned away by them all. Finally on the seventh attempt, she got signed to L.A. Models. After about a year without much success (apart from catalogue work), Tyra switched to Elite Model Management. From there, Tyra's career took off in Europe. She "booked an unprecedented 25 shows and did advertising campaigns for Dolce & Gabanna, Yves Saint Laurent, and Ralph Lauren" (Source: TDB).
But as her body began to change, she was unable to fit into the clothes as designers in Milan began to comment on her size calling her "grosso" (translation: fat in Italian) and went back to the United States, where she instructed her agents to market her commercially. "I told my agency to call Victoria's Secret, and I told them to call Sports Illustrated [...] I said my body is changing, and seamstresses are calling me grosso in Italian, and I know what the hell that means. And I'm not about to starve" (Source: Supermodels.nl).
After returning to work in the US, Tyra booked the Victoria's Secret catalogue but wasn't hired again after the job due to her hair (Source: SFGate). She remained persistent and didn't take no for an answer. She called her agency and said, "Call them [Victoria's Secret] right now 'cause I know I got a booty... and I know it'll work for that catalogue." (Source: SFGate).
Immediately afterwards, Tyra got a second chance and became "the first African-American woman to pose on the cover of the Victoria's Secret catalogue (1996) [as well as] the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (with model Valeria Mazza) [and] GQ (February 1996)" (Source: People).
On top of all her successes in the modelling world, Tyra also became a successful business woman in her own right by creating world-renowned television show, Americas Next Top Model and her own talk show, The Tyra Show. When it comes to the modelling industry, it's safe to say that Tyra is definitely one of the top models of all time.
Other models who have overcome obstacles in their modelling career - believe it or not - include: Agyness Deyn, Bambi, Gisele Bundchen, Miranda Kerr, as well as many more.
The lesson to take away from these models stories is that although the road to success can be long and tiresome, it can happen. You never know what the universe has in store for you unless you keep going and trying your best each day.
You may argue that they're supermodels but once upon a time, they were just like you. They went to those castings, they faced plenty of scrutiny and rejection but they kept going and the success they craved, along with lady luck, came their way. Always remember to never give up something that you're passionate about. And if modelling happens to make you happy, then you better put in the work to get there and persevere, persist, and all the while be patient. You can do it, you're worth it.