A familiar brand of fruit-juice-sweetened, organic lollipops in with the Valentine’s Day section at Whole Foods triggered a painful recollection the other day. Valentine’s Day is a bad holiday for most people, but for me it’s reminiscent of my mom surprising us as kids with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and treats that we were allowed to eat for breakfast. This memory in the grocery store was something a bit more painful, sadly. Years ago, I had a box of those lollipops in a bowl on my coffee table. My manager at the time, stopped in one day and saw them. “Are you kidding me!?” he screamed. I was berated for not taking my career seriously and accused of being lazy and stupid. The dressing down went on for hours, in person and over the phone, despite my tears and on into the night. All over a bowl of lollipops.
I was younger and I didn’t know one way or the other about food back then. I was raised by a food critic; I knew how to eat well, not healthy. Organic seemed safe. Looking back, I wasn’t so far off, yet I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy a box in defiance the other day. The scars run deep. Anyway, you’re probably asking yourself why lollipops could possibly be such a big deal. The reality is, they aren’t.
Many people who would “represent” you as a model put their own interests first and spend more time trying to break your will than build your career. There was a time years ago when I would see every private criticism intended for my manager’s eyes only, but not a single paycheck. When I would be sharing an apartment with five other girls in the middle of winter and the only feedback I was getting was to lose weight along with reports of how well their other girls were doing. “You complain too much” was the reason for every problem. They assured me that they made dreams come true.
That isn’t to say that every complaint that crosses your mind needs airing. I dread oil based foundation; it always clogs my pores. Dirty makeup brushes can give me hives out of anxiety if they don’t give me hives from an allergic reaction. And then there’s the hair stylists with a can of hairspray and a fear of looking lazy, but not the slightest hesitation about suffocating me to death. These are rarely battles worth fighting. That said, the powerful lies aren’t the ones that are entirely false. A model needs to know how to get down to business despite the annoyances— and how to eat right. She also needs to know when to stand up for herself. If only we didn’t have to learn that lesson so young or at the cost of so much hardship.
Things are better now, of course. Work is good, if not fantastic. I know when to speak up. That, and my agency keeps a bowl of lollipops at the front desk.