Few people know the demands of beauty more than fashion models.
The rejection. Being made to feel small. Not being in control of whether you have “it” or not. Being worried about being chosen. And then having to deal with it when you’re not.
But as Alexey reveals, at some point even models have to make the fearless choice of not giving a f*ck. Or risk being swallowed up whole, losing everything they love about themselves in the process.
Sometimes I wonder, “Why should you change yourself for anybody?” When I came out to my mom, I was scared because I didn’t know the outcome. But deep down I knew she was going to love me anyway. That’s the thing with me when it comes to guys. I used to change myself based on what I thought the guy would like. I would act super masculine. I would wear baggy pants because that’s what the guys I dated found attractive. But now I ask, “Why should I try to look good for someone else? Why can’t I just look good for my fucking self?”
For example, even having long hair. Everyone doesn’t like it. But I don’t care. It’s what I want. If you have something beautiful, I don’t think you should hide it, you should flaunt it. And you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed about finding beauty in yourself. We have to learn about loving to love ourselves because if we are worried about our imperfections, we’ll never get the confidence to find the person we are meant to.
I first came to the US as an exchange student. I stayed with an American family in Michigan. I was there for a couple of weeks. My dad was already in the US by then. After my exchange program, I moved to Miami to live with him. The plan was that everyone would follow. So, I moved when I was 16/17.
If you have something beautiful, I don’t think you should hide it, you should flaunt it. And you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed about finding beauty in yourself.
I went through a really tough time with my dad in Miami. There were a lot of personal things happening. But I was also struggling with being gay and moving to the US, and seeing how much more open people were when it came to being gay here.
Obviously, from not having any gay friends, I was very interested in exploring it. But it was hard because my dad was breathing down my neck: He wanted to know who was texting me and all that stuff. I ended up going on a date with this guy, fell in love with him, and we were in a relationship within three days.
My relationship was really horrible. He would always make me upset and sad. One of those times, we were going through the mall and were at Starbucks having coffee. I was 18 had long hair at the time. I was bawling my eyes out. And then this weird looking lady walked by and then she came back. She did that three times. At the time, It was me, my ex, and my best friend.
She finally walked up and apologized for interrupting me. I was still sniffling. She then asked if I modeled and told me that I had a really good look. She gave me her card told me that I should come to New York and she could help me find an agency there. That was the door that helped me escape the stressful living situation with my father and get to live the dream of going to New York City. I thought I would move here and become a supermodel like Natalia Vodianova.
When I first came to New York City–ten years ago–I lived in Bedstuy. It wasn’t as nice then as it is now. I lived on a local stop so it took forever to get to the city. I struggled a lot within the first year because it is all a test of whether you have it or not. The thing we fail to realize is that having “it” factor isn’t up to you. Modeling isn’t up to you. It’s not like something where the success fully depends on you.
Yes, you do have to be smart about your decisions, how you work a room, and being charming. But it’s also about what the industry decides in the moment, and if they want you or not. Despite what people think or the images they saw of me, I didn’t have major success in modeling. It was more of a struggle to book paying jobs or get booked for a show. I was always shorter than everyone at 5’11’’.
The first struggle I had was finding an agency. The other was going to castings. Another thing people don’t know is that especially when you’re just starting out, your self-esteem goes to trash. The first year I did it, my heart would jump out of my chest. I would feel like I’m having a panic attack, and I always hated that feeling. The other part I hated was that people got to play with your self-esteem and decide if you’re more beautiful than the other person. That never felt good.
If I could go back in time, I wish I could tell my younger self when I first started modeling not to give a fuck about what people said about my looks. Being in the industry probably wouldn’t have hurt me so much.
My first year, I was with CLICK Models. They flew me to NYC and signed me on the spot. Within my first year with them, I didn’t book anything. Within the first month, I ran out of my savings so I had to go to my agent and tell him I didn’t have anything. They set me up with an appointment at a hotel and that’s how I became a waiter.
Although I didn’t have the success I wanted, I did get a lot of amazing experiences, and modeling ultimately brought me to New York. It was fun while it lasted. For example, I lived in Malaysia for three months, one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
It was amazing to be in another country with an agency that treated you like a god and did everything for you. It was nice seeing myself in the magazines. But the whole struggle between deciding if I really wanted to go for it, quit everything else, and try to make it versus being tired of being broke, looked down upon, and dismissed at castings feeling worse and worse about myself, was the reason that ultimately made me quit.
If I could go back in time, I wish I could tell my younger self when I first started modeling not to give a fuck about what people said about my looks. Being in the industry probably wouldn’t have hurt me so much. But getting older and approaching 30 really makes you think about time and what you’re doing with it.
For example, when I was little, I always wanted to be older. I didn’t want to be young. I wanted to grow up and be independent. I wanted to smoke, drink, drive, and have sex. It felt like it took forever to get to 21. But now that I’m 30, I know it won’t be long before I’m 40 and then 50. So, I find myself wondering, “What have I done over the past 30 years? Am I happy? What needs to change? What needs to stay the same? I’m officially an adult now, no more just being 22.” Now, I find myself really starting to think about life and where I want it to take me from here.