2 Months in Milan
The story of how I ended up in Milan is pretty crazy. I started modelling with my mother agency (GEMINI) in February 2018, and by May I was headed to Milan on an international contract with BOOM. What?! I had expressed interest in doing an international contract because I wanted to travel again, but I never expected for it to happen so quickly, let alone for it to happen in Milan! I'll be honest; I'm not very knowledgeable about the fashion industry, but I do know that Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world. I was shocked to hear that they wanted me, and figured I should give it a try since this seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I flew to Zurich from Toronto, then took the train to Milan. I had a large suitcase, my huge travel backpack, and a carry-on since I had no clue what clothing or shoes I would need. I arrived at the agency with all my things feeling sweaty, jet-lagged, and nervous. Not only was this my first international contract, but I was also only three months deep in the world of modelling, so you could say I had no idea what to expect. The people at the agency were friendly and welcoming, although I was acutely aware of my jet-lagged appearance. They took my measurements, appeared pleased, and then mentioned that I may need to cut my hair. I had to try hard to fight back tears because I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and so not ready to talk about cutting my hair. Thankfully I got past the moment, gathered my keys, and wrangled my things to the nearby model apartment.
Cue horror movie music. As I mentioned, I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn't this. Looking back now, it really wasn't that bad. But I like things clean and cozy, and this place was neither. Since models are constantly coming and going and many of them are young, I think the main issue was that no one had taken the initiative to clean. So me, being twenty-seven, decided to take one for the team. I scrubbed old spilt milk from the fridge and swept up giant hairballs from the floor. I washed dirty dishes that had been put back in the cupboard covered in food. Don't even get me started on the bathroom. Also, keep in mind I was still jet-lagged and hadn't had a proper sleep in over 24 hours. After I had cleaned things to my standards (and received a few odd looks from my roommates) I went to the grocery store and purchased some household essentials - sponges, dish cloths, soap, a cutting board, etc. I also picked up a few plants because they were cheap, and I knew they would help me feel more 'at home' in the space. When I finally collapsed into bed late that night, I cried...a lot. The tears were probably heavily related to my lack of sleep, but I was also questioning why I had decided to come and if it was the right choice. I'm twenty-seven years old and working on my Masters degree while sleeping in bunkbeds in a model apartment. What was I thinking?
In the next few days things started to get better, and I returned to my optimistic self. The apartment certainly wasn't fancy, but we had a nice big window and there was plenty of space for me to do yoga. My four roommates were friendly, and no one was out partying ever single night. We had decent wifi (a lot of other places didn't) so I could still work from home, and I was in Milan after all! During the first weekend I eagerly explored the city, reminding myself that I was on an adventure.
Then the first week of castings came. Basically every evening I received an email from the agency listing the location and time for all my castings the next day. Most were during a specific window of time, so it was my responsibility to plan out my day accordingly. At first this was pretty exciting; I felt like I was doing something productive and was eager to get my first job. But halfway through the week I began to feel disheartened again - I went to several castings where they didn't keep my composite card, which means they weren't even considering me. I also spoke with a bunch of girls who said they had been in Milan for weeks without booking a single job, so I returned to wondering why I made the decision to come here.
By the end of that first week, I was seriously debating packing up and leaving. I work really hard to promote self-love and acceptance when I teach yoga, and I felt that I was in an atmosphere where those things has no importance. I spent all day standing in front of clients waiting for them to decide if I was good enough, and that wears on you after awhile. Having someone judge you solely by your physical appearance really messes with your head, especially when you know that you have so much more to offer. Every day I felt unbelievably stressed about the blemishes on my face, what my hair looked like, and whether or not my outfit was 'cool' - all things I haven't really cared about in years. I was also witness to countless unhealthy and restrictive eating habits, which made me feel so deeply uncomfortable because I had to refrain from giving helpful advice. The whole concept of sharing a meal with other people was immediately removed from my life, which is something that is usually so important to me. I try fill my life with positive people, but in this situation I was constantly surrounded by women who were competing for the same job, and there was no sense of support or even kindness.
After talking with several of my friends back home I decided that it would be best to stay in Milan and finish my contract, but I knew something needed to change. One of my roommates and I (Sofia) decided to move out of the model apartment and into another place we found through Facebook. We would still be sharing our new place with two other people, but there would be more space, an oven, and distance from the negative environment that was beginning to affect my well-being. I'm so glad I found Sofia through all of this though - she has been my 'someone' to talk to, and she enjoys breakfast almost as much as I do.
After we moved things really started to look up. I did five Trade for Print photoshoots in June (click here to see more), read a lot of books, and visited my friends in Switzerland. I got into a solid daily routine again - which is something I really need to keep me happy - and my dissertation was coming along nicely. I was still going to castings almost every day, but I realized that my look (and also my height - 5'9) was not ideal for jobs in Milan, and that was fine. I am happy with who I am and how I look, and if I don't appeal to certain clients then that's just the way it is. Some castings were still a little frustrating, like the one that told me I was too skinny or the one where I waited in line for almost an hour and then was told they were only looking for girls with black hair. But there were so many other positive things happening, so it became easier to just let the negative things go. Sofia and I explored the surrounding cities of Como, Bergamo, and Genoa, and it was nice to get out of the big city even just for the day. I also spent a day in Venice (read this post), two days Rome, and at the end of June I travelled to Spain for five days.
Despite a very rocky start, Milan was beneficial for me in a lot of ways:
I finally launched my blog!
I worked on my dissertation at my own pace.
I met a few wonderful (and stunning) women.
I investigated my professional goals and dreams.
I explored Italy and ate a lot of amazing food.
I added a lot of new photos to my portfolio.
I expanded my network.
I spent meaningful time alone.
I am grateful for the opportunity I was given in Milan; I learned more about the industry, re-established my interests, and I'm eager to pursue opportunities in other parts of the world. Thank-you to BOOM for taking a chance on me, and to my mother agency GEMINI for continuing to support me as I figure out my next step. Although modelling in Milan wasn't a great professional success for me, I enjoyed spending my summer in Italy, and will look back on this experience as a stepping stone to my next chapter.
Thoughts or questions? Comment below!