I landed my first magazine cover at 25, and it was an incredible feeling. I was on the cover of my university’s magazine for what I had accomplished over the past year: top GPA rankings and securing the most competitive job at MBA school, management consulting. No matter what room I walked into the baseline assumption was that I was smart. I left that world to become a model, and the baseline assumption was that I wasn’t.
Every day I battle the stereotypes associated with modeling: that I don’t possess a real skill set, that I wouldn’t have any interest in or understanding of complex topics, or that my experience in this world is privileged and narrow. Just to highlight a few of my most tongue-biting experiences; I have had someone try to explain to me the difference between a product and a service, been “spared” the explanation of someone’s complicated job in business, and been on sets where the client asked for everyone in the rooms opinion on the product's sustainability and branding, except mine.
Before I tell you why I took on this new career path, let me just say that models are some of the most cultured people that I have ever met, with some of the most detailed and sustainable life goals at very early ages.
So why did I join the pact? I lived in a world where I had achieved a lot, but by societal standards. By 25 I had a degree in finance, minor in chemistry, masters in business, and was starting a career in management consulting. What I didn’t have was passion, happiness, or a sense of personal fulfillment. The more I succeeded in this lane, the further I felt from where I was supposed to be. I never felt like I was achieving my own dreams, but instead helping to build someone else’s. I would read people’s inspirational stories about “taking risks” and “living your authentic life,” and be in awe of their expression of personal freedom. I didn't feel like where I was and what I was doing aligned with their stories, and I wasn't on a path that would take me to that life.
Then one day an opportunity presented itself. I was scouted by a modeling agency. The odds of achieving major success were stacked against me; my age, lack of experience, and just the mere thought of how much I would be losing if it didn’t work out. But what if it did? It was the hardest and scariest decision I have ever had to make. I would be walking away from everything I had worked for to walk into a world that I knew nothing about. I decided to take that risk, and my whole life changed.
For the first time in my life I look forward to Mondays, I am passionate about what I am building, and I feel like I am steering my life in a direction that I am genuinely excited about. Despite what you see on Instagram, the modeling life isn't just sunshine and rainbows. There is a huge lack of stability, it's time/age-sensitive, and I have had to adjust to the fact that, in the business, people ask for my measurements instead of my resume. But I get the opportunity to define myself as a brand, and challenge my creative capacity. Taking this leap has also pushed me to go after goals in other lanes. I am a partner in a tech start-up, an intern in political affairs for a non-profit, and gearing up to launch my own blog and business advisory column for young entrepreneurs. I have decided not to have limitations on what my future holds, because I certainly never saw myself "here," and now "here" is great!
So, if there is a voice inside of you telling you that “something isn’t right,” and you don’t feel excited about what you are doing, take it seriously, and be hopeful that change is possible. These are the main factors that pushed me to make the decision that changed my life, and I hope they can help you change yours.
1) You can love what you do, and you should: People always say don’t settle in relationships, but why would you treat your career any differently? Why would you treat your life any differently? It doesn’t matter how high up you are in a lane that you aren’t passionate about, if it's just a "job," you will never feel satisfied. Your dream career should be an extension of your life, which may mean you have to construct your own path, but don’t be afraid to do that!
2) Stop obsessing over age and made-up timelines: I spent so much time looking at life like a vertical hierarchy - equating job titles with happiness, and applying made up timelines to life goals. By 25 I should be here, and by 30 I should be there. The only thing that frame of mind led to was anxiety. I changed lives at 25, and Van Gogh didn’t start painting until 26! So whatever it is that you are thinking about, it’s not too late.
3) Don’t let money be the reason you are not pursuing something, or the only reason that you are: Saying bye to the small fortune that consulting would have provided and replacing it with a completely volatile modelling income was terrifying. Taking out a loan to pay back the signing bonus was downright painful, but I bet on myself, and because of that I have no choice but to dedicate everyday towards success.
4) Expect to have to make a leap at some point: Equip yourself with the tools you think you will need to succeed. Maybe that’s furthering your education, or maybe that’s receiving a stable salary for a few years to build a financial base, or maybe that’s simply brainstorming in your room. But if you’re not on the path that you want to be on, expect to have to make a leap at some point.
5) Leverage your current path and connect it to where you want to go to: Even if what you have done up to now seems completely unrelated, it’s what will make you unique on your next adventure. There are bound to be transferable skills that you've acquired that will make you valuable in other industries. Be creative! Don’t think of it as starting over, think of it as building the bridge, securing the foundation, and changing the stereotype.
Fear is the map pointing you in the direction you should be going. So be bold, be different, and go create the life you are truly passionate about!