I’ve been following Melissa Stetten’s blog for a while now. I think it’s the first of its kind. When have you ever heard a model being blunt and honest about the drawbacks of such a seemingly glamorous lifestyle? Do models have insecurities? The answer is yes. And Melissa doesn’t mind sharing them. She’s been modelling in New York and LA for a decade, whilst also concentrating on her own photography. Last month, she found Twitter fame when her funny live-tweets during a flight about the man next to her hit the national press. Melissa had outed the married and sober actor Brian Presley (also known as an actor from 90210) as a drunken flirt. Melissa’s daring attitude and honest conversation had me fixated and I needed to interview her to hear more.
Emma: You’ve described being a model as a ‘walking mannequin’ – have you always been cynical of the modelling industry?
Melissa: Not at all. Before I started modelling I was living in LA, trying to become a model, and LA is not the easiest place to do that. If you want be a real fashion model you need to live in New York, Paris or London. That’s where the heart of the fashion industry is. I dreamed of living in New York City and being a working model because it sounded so fabulous and amazing. I would think, if only I lived in New York I bet I could be successful and book jobs with Marc Jacobs or Diane Von Furstenberg, which I eventually did. Throughout my year and a half of working, my perception definitely became cynical, not because of the people, but because it just wasn’t exactly how I envisioned it to be. It’s tough, mentally and physically, and I saw a side to it that’s definitely off-putting.
Emma: Your relationship with the media this year has been an interesting one, experiencing a Twitter whirlwind having made the national press with your live tweeting about Brian Presley. What was your reaction to that?
Melissa: At first I was horrified. I felt really awful. It started off as me making fun of some random guy trying to talk to me on a plane, then turned into a huge controversy because he was a “married, sober, devout Christian.” Oops. I got a ton of calls from news and talk shows wanting to interview me, but there’s no appeal to being a media whore or using this experience to gain attention to myself, that’s just not me. On the plus side, it got a lot of people reading my blog Pretty Bored and I was contacted by agents and managers about writing a book and becoming a professional writer, which, currently, I’m definitely taking advantage of.
Emma: In a recent blog post, you talk about life as a model not being as glamorous as it’s often perceived to be. There must be good parts of the job?
Melissa: There are GREAT parts of the job. I get to wear amazing clothes and get my hair/makeup done all the time. Runway shows are my favorite because it’s basically a game of “How long can you walk in these eight inch heels before falling on your ass?” Also, getting paid to look pretty is definitely not a bad thing. As mind-numbing as it is, there are definitely worse things I could be doing to make a few thousand bucks. I’ve met some really great people modelling, and I got to experience New York from a different point of view than most people do. I’ve worked in showrooms for designers I absolutely love and respect. I’ve been in magazines and giant ads. The best part, for me, is calling my parents to tell them to pick up a magazine because I’m in. I’m like the celebrity of my family, it’s adorable.
Emma: And what do you dislike the most about your job?
MS: Where do I start? I’m old. Well, old for a model. I didn’t start modelling until I was 25, most girls are retired by then. I work and compete with 17 year-olds. It’s hard to have a conversation about Puck putting his fingers in the peanut butter jar on The Real World with someone who was born in the mid-’90s. I find it hard to relate to other models because I feel like I don’t fit the stereotype of a typical model. Models are supposed to be dumb and only eat lettuce, right? Well, some of them are, but I like to think of myself as an anomaly because I know how to read and write and hold a conversation about something more than make up and dresses. I’ve definitely met some great models, but for the most part they’re mostly very young and very shy. Working in showrooms during market is like the ‘office job’ of modelling. The rejection and judgement based on your looks is another painful but honest part of modelling. Sometimes you get looked at like “why are you at my casting?” and it hurts, it makes me feel inferior and ugly. I recently was at a casting where I had to wear lingerie in front of a table of 10 people staring at my body. It was really awful, I felt fat and awkward, it’s moments like that where I know that modelling isn’t something I should be doing for much longer.
Emma: People relate to you as you speak honestly about modelling and talk about the real-life issues of being a girl. Do you still have insecurities being a model?
Melissa: Insecure? Me? A model? Get outta town! I feel like I have more insecurities now than ever! If I see a zit on my face I freak out. I’m constantly watching what I eat and beating myself up if I eat a slice of pizza. (Side note: Motorino in the East Village is the best pizza on this planet!). Being insecure is one of the reasons I’m not too fond of the modelling world. I’m judged by my looks, not my personality. My knowledge of Radiohead b-sides and Seinfeld trivia aren’t going to book me jobs, my blue eyes are. If I eat too many carbs or drink alcohol the night before a casting, my skin looks bad, and bad skin is a model’s worst nightmare. I had really bad acne for 10 years, so I’m extra sensitive to how my skin looks. I drink more water than a kid on ecstasy at a rave.
Emma: What are your opinions on Photoshopping?
Melissa: I love Photoshop. I use it daily for my own photos. As far as Photoshopping model’s faces and bodies, I mean, it’s going to happen. It’s so widely accepted and normal now that I enjoy seeing photos of models who aren’t airbrushed or wearing makeup. Those photos are more beautiful to me than the ‘perfect’ Barbie face. On one hand it’s sad and disgusting that a Chanel model couldn’t possibly have a wrinkle or blemish, but on the other hand, youth and beauty is what this industry is based on and the most appealing way to show a dress is to put a hot teenager in it, right?
Emma. What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without?
Melissa: Twilight Zone on Netflix.
Emma: And finally…what would your words of advice be to girls (or guys) who would like to get into the modelling industry?
Melissa: DON’T DO IT! Okay, kidding, but honestly, if you think you have what it takes then don’t give up. Your face and body will be judged intensely, so be prepared for that. Don’t take it too seriously and try to get all the free clothes you can. Bring your heels in a bag to castings, there’s nothing worse than running around New York in stilettos. Oh, and drink a shit ton of water.