Confessions of a Former Fat Kid: Why I'm Not Gonna Be a Supermodel
The prettiest girl in the class was there. She may even have been the prettiest girl in the school, I don't remember. Regardless, she was exceptionally pretty and perfect. She had blond hair and blue eyes and perfect skin and a perfect face and a perfect figure (as much as one can have a figure at age 11). I admired her from afar, wishing I could be even half of everything that she was.
During the party, we played the telephone game, where you sit in a circle and someone starts by whispering something silly into another person's ear, and then they whisper it to the next person, and what's supposed to happen is that the sentence changes to utter nonsense and everyone giggles and it's hilarious.
When we played, it was this girl - Anna - that started the telephone line. And when it got to me, and someone whispered in my ear "Jasmin is round and fat" I flushed with embarrassment and felt as though I wanted the ground to open and swallow me whole.
I was so upset that I stopped the game to ask Anna what her starting sentence had been. She said "Jasmin is round and fat." Everyone giggled gleefully like the cruel little assholes school children are so good at being, and I started to cry. I felt sick to my stomach both because of what she said and because my belly was indeed round and fat in that moment, because it was so full of cake.
My appearance was never been something I was happy with because I didn't feel I had a right to be. My mom looked like the human version of Barbie (people actually used to stop her on the street to tell her that). She was petite with blond hair and blue eyes. I grew up in the 80's and 90's when girl next door (North American girl next door aka - the human version of apple pie) was the only way you could be considered pretty - certainly not as a tall weird foreign child with an overbite and curly hair like me.
Society didn't make me feel pretty, and my father didn't help either. He was cruel in the way he spoke to me about my body; he body-shamed me from the time I was 11 to the time I was 37, when I finally put a stop to it. He constantly told me that my hips and butt were too big and that they stuck out, and that I needed to cover them up. (It is only now, at nearly 40-years old, that I am finally able to tuck in a shirt.)
I went on my first diet when I was 11. Before that birthday party and my father's words, I was a child; innocent and unselfconscious in my body. And then after - when I became aware of myself - all I knew was that according to the world, the way I physically presented was entirely unacceptable.
I've spent a lifetime hating my body, my hair, my face, my appearance, everything about who I was and what I looked like.
And then about a year ago, I stopped the self-rejection in the biggest way I knew how: I stopped dieting. I had been heading in that direction anyhow, because after 27 years of dieting, restricting, losing weight and then bingeing and inevitably gaining the weight back, I got so fed up with the battle that I just couldn't do it anymore. I thought I was going insane.
I also went through an extremely stressful half year at my former job where all I could do was focus on not losing my shit. I started losing weight because I was eating intuitively - I ate whatever I wanted when I was hungry. The funny thing is when nothing is off limits, and there's always a tomorrow where you can eat whatever food is in front of you (abundance mindset aka - not on a diet), then there's never a reason to eat all the things now (lack mindset aka - being on a diet.)
I got to a comfortable weight as dictated by my body. I maintain that weight without any effort, without any form of restriction, and by eating dessert every single day. Could I be thinner if I didn't eat dessert every single day? For sure. But I finally asked myself this past year: "When is it enough? How small do I have to be? Why does it feel as if my goal as a woman is to take up as little space as possible?"
In that time, I read a lot of stories of female bodybuilders and fitness competitors - what does it really take to maintain that physique? The stories aren't good, let me tell you. Sure there are women who seem to be born into this effortlessly perfect body (read: Brazilian Supermodels) but they're anomalies, they're exceptions to the rule of what it means to have a woman's body. The problem is that society has accepted this as a realistic and attainable goal - and while it can be attainable to a certain extent, considerable sacrifice is required. It does not happen by accident.
I make sacrifices that don't feel like sacrifices.
I do intense workouts because that feels good to me, I feel strong and powerful when I push myself physically - but I don't do that everyday because resting feels good too.
I eat healthy food, and specifically a lot of fresh vegetables because again - that feels good to me. But I also eat dessert daily and the occasional bowl of chips or handful of French Fries because again, that feels good to me too.
When we're not busy imposing these insane external rules on our body, then our body has the space to talk to us and tell us what it needs.
That for me has been the best thing about getting older: developing the ability to tune out the external, in order to tune into the internal.
I'm turning 40 this year and I can finally and honestly say that I am entirely comfortable in my own skin. I'm happy with myself; with both who I am as a person and with how I look.
I've made peace with my imperfections.
I have cellulite: it's just there, and it is what it is and I realize that it's normal. I no longer stare at it in the mirror, hating it, wishing it would go away. It's a part of me and I love me. So there.
I'm starting to get wrinkles and the odd gray hair. I stopped dying my hair a few years ago after about 20 years of unnecessarily dying it because I thought my natural hair colour was unacceptable. And now that I may "need" to dye it, I'm not certain that I want to.
I have a bunion on my left food that I've named Fred, after a particularly irritating and persistent ex-boyfriend. It's just there, kind of like he was, so I buy comfortable shoes to accomodate.
My thighs are large and always have been and always will be. They used to be big because of fat, and now they're big because of muscle, and I'm ok with that.
But when I look in the mirror now, I don't focus on any of those things. I look at my lovely smile and my happy eyes staring back at me.
What happened to me this past year? I fell in love with me.
And funny enough, in the process of learning to love & accept myself, the world has started to love and accept me too.
Because I just came back from Toronto where I met with three different modeling agencies.
How did this even come about?
One of my friends, Mr. New York, saw a recent picture of me. We were actually on the phone when he saw the photo and he exclaimed when he saw it. "Ok, you just need to stop what you're doing and go model. Quit your job, whatever, go be a model."
I brushed it off, but then I thought "What if? Why not?"
I'm trying to get better at listening to the Universe whispering to me. I've brushed off so many things in my life because I hear things like that comment, and push them aside. But I made a pact with God recently where I committed to throwing my hat in the ring every time I hear a whisper.
I tried modeling in my early twenties but the world of faces in the media looked different then. I was represented by an agency - at the exact same size and weight that I am now - as a plus-size model. (CRAZY.) Things never went anywhere. (I'm glad they didn't because at that age I wouldn't have been able to handle it if things had taken off.)
Anyhow, based on Mr. New York's comment, I submitted a few photos to about a dozen different agencies in Toronto. I didn't think anything of it, I only felt that the Universe had whispered and I had done my part and thrown my hat in the ring.
And then three of the agencies contacted me and asked to meet with me. Three. I expected zero. I got three.
So...I went to Toronto.
And of those three, two wanted to sign me.
I took the train to Toronto, and on the trip there, I thought to myself "Regardless of what happens, just having these appointments is a win."
I was heading to Toronto to meet with three different modeling agencies. I had a RIGHT to walk in there because I wasn't the fat kid anymore.
I knew before all of this, before getting on that train, that I wasn't the fat kid anymore because I'm finally at a point in my life where I FEEL beautiful.
Beauty is a feeling. Why didn't anyone tell me that?
Even after a sweaty workout, with my hair plastered to the sides of my face, with no makeup on, when I'm rushing through the grocery store, I still feel beautiful. I smile at people, talk to them, make eye contact. (You know what I think about when I do that? The Care Bears. Only instead of my heart radiating out of my belly, it radiates out of my eyes.)
I love myself. I accept myself. And through that love, I see myself differently. And I treat myself better.
And I feel like whatever is inside me is shining out because the world seems to be seeing it to.
One of the agencies I met with was very confident that they could get me work in commercials and Netflix movies, which was not what I expected to hear.
They said things that made sense to me. The market for 19-25 year-old models is saturated, but my age bracket is very lean. There just aren't many women my age trying to get into the business, and so both agencies were confident in the fact that they could get me work. (To be clear, there were no upfront fees with either agency, and each told me "We don't get paid unless you do, so we will not represent someone that we don't believe we can get work for.")
I was told I had a very unique look. Twenty years ago that was bad. Now it's good. The world is a funny place.
Now, all that being said, I've decided not to pursue this avenue. If I lived in Toronto, it would be a different story, but living in Ottawa makes it very unrealistic. Every time I would have to go to a casting call or audition, I would need to go out to Toronto and it's a five hour drive, or four hours by train. Often I wouldn't have more than 24-hours notice to make that happen. What does that translate to? It means that anyone truly trying to make a living at this needs to have a flexible work schedule and be sincerely committed to making it happen.
I had a friend who was living in Toronto, trying to make a go of acting and she lost the job she had at the time because she kept calling in sick to go to auditions.
If this had been my lifelong dream, and now someone was telling me that they could help me make it happen, I wouldn't hesitate in packing up my life, moving to Toronto and grinding until I succeeded. (And grinding is what it would take because it's not an easy business to be involved in.) But modelling or acting has never been a dream, and besides, I think that although I have a lovely face, my greatest asset is who I am: my thoughts, my heart, my spirit. The value I want to bring to the world is based on those things.
I have SEEN / FELT / TOUCHED my own highest value and it is not based on what I look like.
This experience was wonderful on so many levels.
I listened to a whisper from the Universe, acted on it, and the Universe opened a door. The fact that I am choosing not to walk through that door isn't the point, the point is that a door which - a few weeks ago I would never have imagined could open for me - did open.
I answered a question for myself about what I want based on what I don't want. Five years ago, if this opportunity had presented itself, I would have jumped on it. I would have come straight home and started packing my bags to move to Toronto. But that was five years ago.
I'm not that same person anymore. I have work experience and life experience which have both changed me and made me realize who I am.
My passion is using my voice and expressing myself, with the hopeful side effect being that I might inspire others.
I need a life that will support my ability to explore that, to give my heart to that, and not to be distracted by something that will interrupt or interfere with the solid foundation - the base - upon which my life and my actual dreams are built. Modeling and/or acting are not it. The amount of effort required in order for me to be properly successful at it would distract me from what I really want to do.
I've also spent my life actively working on not basing my value on my appearance, so to walk into an industry where that is most if not all of my value isn't right for me.
I will say one thing though - it is awfully nice to be asked. I feel like it's reflection of where I'm at in my life and with myself: I approve of myself and so the world approves of me too.
Making peace with my appearance has been the most liberating thing I've done. No longer tearing myself apart or waiting to be perfect in order to feel as though I deserve good things in my life. Looking at myself in the mirror knowing I'm doing the best that I can with what I have, and that that is enough.
I love and accept myself. That is my greatest accomplishment in my life thus far.
That pretty girl at the birthday party? I had admired her from afar, wishing I could be even half of everything that she was because I thought that what she was on the outside was a reflection of who she was on the inside.
But what 11-year old Jasmin didn't know is that this wasn't true. Although I may have been round and fat at that moment in time, I was never mean. I could never hurt someone on purpose like that, I could never be cruel.
My greatest asset is who I am: my thoughts, my heart, my spirit. The value I want to bring to the world is based on those things.
One day, I will have more wrinkles, more gray hair. But my heart and my spirit will remain beautiful forever.