In proper “Model On The Run Away” form, I thought it was only fitting to describe my life as a model…on the move. I find myself in constant motion – be it running to last-minute castings with a bag full of makeup and heels, or flying 40,000 feet above the ground on the way to my next destination.
It’s not an easy life, though. Changing countries every three months, being informed of a job the night before with no time to prep, lugging two large suitcases from one end of Milan to the other…it’s hardly as glamorous as one might think.
But being a model has taught me to tackle life’s little roadblocks, to appreciate the changes that come along with such a hectic lifestyle. And along the way, I’ve realized a few things.
DO: Plan like a pessimist, live like an optimist
My mom once told me, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” I balked at her complete lack of sanguinity – then I started traveling and realized that this piece of advice was attributable to my life more than ever.
But I learned it the hard way, as most of us do. I assumed that everything would be as simple as it is back home, in Minnesota, where everyone speaks English and the light-rail system is a breeze to navigate. When you’re living internationally, most things do not come easily. From traveling to shoots, every city is different. Every job is different.
I can give you millions of horror stories where I was totally unprepared and found myself in a bad situation. There was the time I waited for months to buy a SIM card in Singapore because I thought I could rely on the city WiFi. I arrived home that day and found out I had missed my job. Or when I failed to keep a watchful eye on my taxi driver in Bangkok, only to find out 30 minutes later that he was driving me all around town. Or that time I overstayed my visa in Europe and had to leave the country immediately. Goodbye, Milan Fashion Week.
DON’T: Forget that your passport is a gift, not a right
Don’t leave your passport in your room if your roommate wants cheap revenge. You might be stuck in Turkey for a lot longer than you expected.
This happened to a friend, mind you. But the moral of the story is that you need to start thinking of your passport as a super rare scarlet emerald. Don’t go around flaunting that thing, bragging that you’re from America and you can get into 53 countries without a visa (I don’t know, I just made that up.) It’s grounds for someone to take that tiny little book and rip it apart.
On that note, whenever (and wherever) you are traveling – international, domestic, to the next city, even – make sure to carry that special little book with you. Sometimes hotels need it, even some buses in Europe. It’s not only for flying.
DO: Make yourself uncomfortable
When I first began modeling, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I was traveling to all these exotic countries and yet, not on vacation. In Singapore, my first country, all I wanted to do was wander around and check out the local culture – the Botanical Gardens, Sentosa Bay, hawker stands in Maxwell Road. I spent my free days visiting the local museums and learning about Singaporean heritage and art; in the nights I would walk along Orchard Road and window shop amidst all the beautiful things I could not afford.
After a few weeks in a country, I would start to get too comfortable – it’s the “I live here, now” phenomenon. I detached from the local culture and began to completely focus on work…until I started to realize that the main reason I decided to model internationally was so that I could immerse myself in local cultures. And while you won’t find me at an art museum every weekend, you will find me exploring when I have the time, taking advantage of the gift of living internationally.
DON’T: Stick to what you know
And by that I mean, don’t just hang around with your flat mates or other models. I say this because I was in that situation for a while. It was nice to be around people who had similar interests, girls to commiserate with when I was feeling beaten down…but alas, misery loves company. And sometimes models aren’t the happiest of clams.
Some of my favorite times in each country have been spent with locals – from Singaporeans to Indians to Italians. They can teach you how to order food from a Chinese menu, show you around the infinite sois in Bangkok, and even take you home for a 5-course Italian dinner – family style, of course. By befriending the locals, you open up an entire world of opportunity! It sounds so cheesy, I know, but why do you think sites like FreeBNB work so well? It’s because experiencing a city through the eyes of a local is like seeing your own city for the very first time!
DO: Your research
Ever heard of the six degrees of separation? In the international modeling community it’s more like two or three, making this vast expanse of people feel more like a family.
And for that reason, I encourage models to do their research. There are many things that can go wrong when you live and work abroad – you need to make sure the agency is trustworthy, that they will pay you on time, provide you with adequate housing and proper jobs. It’s no secret that the fashion industry can be exploitive. It’s naïve to believe otherwise.
Like any person who is preparing to travel to a new country, ask opinions of those who have been there – but remember not to take one opinion or story as the absolute truth. Everyone has his or her own story or experience, so try thinking of all these pieces of information as little puzzle pieces. But only you can provide the missing links.
DON’T: Forget where you started
Oftentimes, I would set my sights on shooting for high-end designers, brands, and photographers, only to be ignored or politely turned down at castings. How could I be so bold? My portfolio was not there yet. I was not there yet. So I learned – I learned to appreciate the hustle, to appreciate the small designers and photographer apprentices’ that were also trying to climb their way to the top.
Months ago I was attending a festival in Mumbai and I happened upon a stall selling local designs. It was a relatively unknown brand, but the clothes were grungy, totally my style. There was one jacket in particular I really wanted…light green, camo, baggy. So I approached the designer and he gave me the jacket in hopes that I would promote his line – weeks later I received a package in the mail with pieces from their latest collection.
The beauty is in the journey, so appreciate the hustle.
About The Blogger
Meghan is a Mumbai-based model/writer with a penchant for satire and a soft spot for local cuisine. Preferably something spicy. When she’s not hitting the streets on the way to her next casting, you can find her sniffing out Mumbai’s most promising eateries and music venues.