That Time I Was a Model–for a Moment
The last time our crew of newly recruited models had gathered in the warmth of the brick-walled room tucked away in a converted warehouse we’d been following our agent Giles up and down a hallway, prancing and swaying our hips to Right Said Fred’s song ‘I’m too sexy’: “I’m a model, you know what I mean, and I do my little turn on the catwalk.”
We lunged and stomped, lunged and stomped, single file and hoping we looked confident as the song played over, and over, and over. Nine to fivers wrapping up their workday in the surrounding offices watched us with a mixture of amusement and pity as they slipped past on their way out the door. A couple of older men slowed to look us up and down: “This is the way to end a workday.” We kept stalking. Heal first, pop the hip, lift the chin. If it doesn’t hurt you’re not doing it right. Pound the floor. Don’t smile. You are a clothes hanger, nobody wants to see your personality.
A Place I didn’t Stand Out
The invitation to model had felt like an affirmation. Finally, a place where I didn’t stand out. A place where my height and weight—hip bones jutting through my pants, collar bones protruding beneath my shirts—were constantly praised. Look at her legs. Her arms are elegant. Like a cross between Twiggy and Cindy. But watch you don’t gain weight in your stomach. And keep that space between your thighs. They wanted me to go to Japan immediately. “Your look is big there right now.”
The photographer who shot my portfolio was Japanese Canadian; he talked me through shots as though speaking to a just-corralled horse that might leap over the fence at any moment: “Good, nice, keep moving, don’t hold the pose, I’ll let you know if I want you to pause.” He liked the ones where I wore nothing but an oversize cashmere vest and my underwear the best. So did Giles. He’d dressed me first in biker boots, skinny black pants, and a men’s button-up shirt, then a pleated school-girl mini with a white t-shirt, and a purple blouse laced with silver.
How do You do ‘Sexy’?
I’d been practicing my faces and poses in the mirror for days but hadn’t tried a single thing that said ‘sexy’—sexy was for older women, women with boobs and hips and big hair–so when Giles dressed me in nothing but a vest and pressed me back out beneath the glare of the lights I froze.
The other models weren’t watching me; they were busy texting or reading, flipping through magazines, filing their nails. Giles was praising the make-up artist who’d layered my eyelids with a fawn-coloured brown and dusted my cheeks a carnation pink. But down the hall I heard footsteps coming closer. I stretched the vest down to my hips, dismayed that as I did the neckline pulled down and there was my bra.
The footsteps passed by. Beyond the room through the multi-pane windows the sky was closing in as evening arrived and the photographer was watching his light begin to fade. “Don’t pull it down so far. Look up at the camera.” Click. In that photo, I look terrified.
I think I was terrified nearly the entire time I was a so-called ‘model.’ There’s a difference between the “this is wrong for you” nervous, angsty energy and the excited-nervous energy that comes when we take a leap and do something we feel called to, something our essential self is lit up by. When we’re leaping into love, deep beneath it all there’s a sense of peace. A knowing that this is true, a relief that we’re finally honoring what’s right.
At 14, I was ready to push through the “no” I was getting from my essential self. But my essential self wouldn’t let up; the “this is wrong for you” sensation never stopped. Until, finally, I did. I took my portfolio and left, tucked it away in a drawer, and felt the sense of relief we feel when we stop trying to be something we’re not.
Ah. Peace. Here I am.
The LibreFree Project
More and more I’m seeing how being free from stress, overwhelm, guilt, insecurities and shame is less about adding on and more about letting go. Freedom is state of mind, a place of peace, and a way of being.
We exist in that place as the deepest truth of who we are–and we can get there by telling our story, by unshackling ourselves from any guilt, shame, or judgement. By telling our story, we free ourselves. And invite others to do the same.
Click to tweet: @lindsey_lewis: by telling our story, we free ourselves. #librefreeproject
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An intention, a reminder, an inspiration for the week ahead. Beginnings are sacred. Seeds carry the source of everything that comes next. How are you starting your week?
I could never possibly go for him. He’s too gorgeous, too tall, too dark and handsome.
That’s what I was thinking.
Even though the facilitator told us to choose the horse that we felt first drawn to, the one we noticed when we first arrived. Good gawd he was a gorgeous horse. A great big beauty of a beast, taller than all the rest and standing there like a stallion. I was in awe. And intimidated.
Standing on their Ground
We’d all arrived at Epona Rise Retreat Centre to experience what it was like to hang out with a herd in an environment as close to their natural one as it could possibly be. There were about fifteen of them, a few side by side, others on their own, one standing looking straight at us. We crossed the creek and entered the middle of their field, horses all around.
Many scientists say horses shouldn’t exist; they just don’t seem to have the natural defense system needed to have been around for as long as they have–longer than people. But horses have a wide and keen sense of their surroundings; they knew we were there before we even saw them.
We were in their space, not the other way around.
Learning how to Be
Before we approached a horse, we had to learn how to do it in a way that communicated we weren’t a predator, that we were already a friend, not a foe. That meant no beeline for their head, no rapid march right up to where they were standing–that’s what a cougar does when it’s going for the jugular. If we did that, they’d be gone.
So we were shown how to amble, how to arc our bodies, how to get just close enough that if they wanted to they could lift their head to meet our outstretched hand, but no closer than that. The final decision about whether or not we’d interact was theirs. If they lifted their head, we’d pat them a bit, and then walk away. If they didn’t? We’d walk away then, too.
Of course we were all dying to have them like us. They were beautiful.
My Magic Moment
I opted out of trying for the big dark gelding. I went for a small brown horse instead.
I arced, I ambled, I took my time. And then I reached out my hand. He lifted his head, took a sniff, and went back to eating. That was it. Ah, no big deal.
“Look at this,” the co-facilitator was smiling.
The big dark gelding was making his way straight for me. He stopped and looked at me. I looked at him. He was giant.
“Go ahead,” she said.
And then I was offering my hand, he was lifting his head, I was running my hand down the side of his neck, up to his back, around his ears, and I was crying. I don’t know why, I wasn’t expecting it.
But something happens when a great big beauty of a beast like that chooses you. There’s a heart-tugging humbling, a “who me?” kind of reaction that breaks down barriers and dissolves division.
He was so tall I had to almost fully extend my arm to reach up to scratch the top of his back. He loved it. Ears drawn back to listen, eyes watching. I was nervous. But when I softened my muscles and dropped out of my head, I relaxed. And he did, too. He was huge, so much stronger than me, way more powerful in terms of muscle and strength. But I was impacting his state by altering mine.
I closed my eyes, felt what I was feeling, and then what he was. “Now notice the area around you,” she said.
“I think he’s noticing that there are people over there.” I opened my eyes, the gelding and I both looked, and a man walked out from behind a building in the next farm over.
Later in the afternoon, when our group stood up from our circle to say goodbye to each other and leave the field, Rudy walked over. He touched my hand with his nose, snuffled my palm a bit, and then walked away. Like we were buddies, now.
I’d signed up for the workshop to test myself. To see if I could sustain the power of presence, a sense of peace and groundedness, while facing up to something I’d never done before. In all honesty, I think I managed to do it about twenty percent of the time; it was a whole new practice.
The Power of Presence
But in the moment when I dropped away from the whirl of thoughts and into a sense of steadiness the gelding did too. And I was reminded once again that what we experience within us is what we experience around us. And of our own innate power to shift things.
In the summer of 1993 over 4,000 people agreed to meditate every day for six weeks in Washington, DC. At that time Washington was known as a hotbed of increasing violent crime. The Transcendental Meditation group organizing the event predicted a 20% decrease in the amount of crime as a result of the people meditating. The chief of police said it would take twenty inches of snow to decrease the amount of crime that much that summer. He was wrong. The crime rate declined by 23% during the study. And the police department became co-facilitators of the experiement.
Experiment with energy shifts. If you notice the people around you are upset or in turmoil, or just tense, relax. Soften your muscles, take deep breaths, feel your feet on the ground. Think of something that helps you feel peaceful. And then just see, if you sustain it, what happens around you. This is the power of peace.