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Global Citizen This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Society portrays fashion models in a negative light. The media screams that we are anorexic and irresponsible. However, traveling the world as a fashion model was one of the most formative ­experiences of my high school years.

In addition to the punctuality, responsibility, and work ethic instilled by any job, modeling fostered teamwork, openness to new ideas, and a sense of the world’s history and people. At age 15, I set off for Tokyo where I lived and worked for six weeks – alone. I had a photo shoot the day after I arrived, which left me one morning to master the grocery store, the subway, and the city.

Self-sufficiency came quickly, but communicating with Japanese photographers and stylists was a bit trickier. Shooting is a team effort: everyone has a job and you have to work together and respect each other. It’s a new team each day, too, so working relationships must be formed quickly and ­effectively. Consequently I am very good at, and ­enjoy, working with people I barely know and don’t even necessarily understand.

Battling to be less of an outsider, I reached out and ended up having some pretty interesting conversations. I was surrounded by people from a variety of backgrounds, both locals and models from all parts of the world.

I started to realize just how many ways there are to look at things. Did you know that in Japan, buildings are numbered by the order they were built? In France, unemployed people get free admission to museums. I talked to people about their country’s history, society, and government. What’s normal, and what’s outlandish? What do they consider beautiful? I especially enjoyed talking with people from other countries about their perceptions of the U.S. It can be very ­humbling.

I gained a lot from my downtime too. It takes guts to grab a map and head into an unknown city solo, but once you’re out there (and after you’ve gotten lost a few times and recovered) it’s a great incubator for thought.

I relished museums but also spent time simply walking and soaking things in. What better way to learn about different religions than to creep quietly around a Shinto temple trying not to commit some faux pas? Abroad, I began to appreciate art: paintings in London’s National Portrait Gallery, Australian aboriginal rock engravings. The development of cities – from Paris’s steady rise to fame to Sydney’s humble beginnings as a prison colony – fascinates me. Sometimes I didn’t know exactly what I was learning, but I could feel the gears turning in my head.

In later trips, I acted as a mentor to younger girls. With my strong knowledge of the area and culture, even more experienced models tended to follow me, and when someone had a question about the culture, I found I could often answer it.

I’ve lived and worked in four different cities and ­experienced being a member of each community. I work side by side with the locals, I shop at the grocery store, I visit the library. Modeling has not made me a starving ditz – it has made me a global citizen.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

ilove2read124 said...
Jul. 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm:
good, no, amazing job.nobody thinks of models being able to do that.people usually just think models are anorexic bimbos tht cnt perceive anything but the best angle and hoe many calories something has.but this shows that models, well, at least a few of them, can think, and they learn and teach.they live life, not just taking pictures of them in clothes, but experiencing life, maybe even better than some other people, and they learn even more about life and living it than others.good job =] i lo... (more »)
 
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lsdkfj said...
Dec. 16, 2008 at 9:35 am:
Impressive.
 
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LarsXI said...
Oct. 30, 2008 at 11:29 pm:
Wow. That's really interesting and fascinating.
 
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tweedle dee said...
Oct. 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm:
great article. however, my complaint is when the only models are skinny, unusually pretty young women. it really lowers girls morals when every model has the same qualities (mostly thin) that make people think they are pretty. girls who are not thin then beging to think that since all the pretty models are thin, that you can't be pretty if you aren't painfully thin. i've seen too many really beautiful people who think they're ugly because they arent as thin as models. i really love this article ... (more »)
 
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