My heart dropped.
The engine of my family's car revved in the exhausting summer heatwave. The crisp air conditioning ricocheted through my eardrum, sending chills down my spine. Butterflies erupted through my stomach, almost causing my early morning breakfast to greet my lips again. An absolute mess, I embarked on the treacherous journey to Malibu. My head spun and my eyes grew dizzy as the California sun reflected off the car windows. I had no idea what to expect during my meeting with Cynthia Kirchner, a Victoria’s Secret model.
For as long as I could remember, I have always aspired to be a model. Growing up with a young mom, my love for fashion bloomed at an early age. Her youthfulness allowed her to stay on trend while staying true to her style. She always incorporated extraordinary pieces into her wardrobe that strangers gawked over. My mom taught me to express myself through my fashion which allowed me to admire the intricate art forms of clothing, photography, and body movement. As a child, I often drooled at the remarkably iconic fashion finds in the storefronts as I window shopped with my mom. I often saw images of my head blown up on magazines or storefronts in my dreams. I was determined to be in front of the camera or strut down the runway.
As a young sponge, family, friends, and strangers told me that I could model. I held these comments tightly in the back of my head. The idea of modeling had consumed my mind, yet, at times it felt unattainable. That all changed when I moved to Los Angeles for the first time. A woman approached my mom and I as a Disney Channel scout. She wanted me to come to the studio and get digitals to potentially model for the iconic brand or be a part of a TV show. Unfortunately, I let my nerves get the best of me as I turned down the opportunity.
Reminiscing on past moments, I often regret turning down that once in a lifetime opportunity. My dreams were right in front of me, yet I let nerves and fear of the unknown get the best of me. Now, I use this as a learning experience to listen to myself, regardless of other people’s opinions.
Nevertheless, staying true to these values became difficult throughout middle school. I was often teased by my best friends about my appearance. Constant shouts echoed the halls and whispers pricked my ears as rumors spread about me, leaving toxic imprints all over my brain. I was told that I looked like a “Distorted baby giraffe”, and many greeted me with “Hey Gumby, how’s the weather up there?”. Despite growing up with constant comments of my daddy long leg or string bean appearance, I eventually disregarded these comments and used them to motivate a future career in fashion. I rarely gave into the cruel intentions of others. Before the jealous comments brewed, I loved being tall; even as the negative remarks began to fester, I remained unphased because I realized it wasn’t worth my energy. I used their malicious intentions as fuel to love myself and stay confident. Strutting down the halls of various schools during my preteen years pushed my nose in the air. I realized the world was my runway. I constantly threw together extravagant outfits and tried to imitate looks I saw from designers like Marc Jacobs, Prada, and Alexander Wang. I refused to acknowledge my peers when they mentioned that my fashion was over the top or flamboyant. I developed my own sense of style as fashion became a way of expressing myself and my love for the industry. As time progressed, however, I became more pressed and anxious to model and find an agency.
When I originally arranged a meeting with Kirchner during the summer of 2019, I sought advice. The idea of agencies, model houses, and the fashion industry were complete foreign territory to me. Growing up on social media, I constantly encountered a diluted modeling world with influencers and “Instagram models”. I was desperate for Kirchner’s quick guidance to kickstart the future career I longed for.
A question I often asked myself was, “What is a model?” It became impossible for me to pinpoint the true definition of the word.
I stepped out of the car with trembling knees into the coffee shop where we were meeting. The hottest day of the year approached and I was as pink and sweaty as a pig. Nervously sipping on my cold brew and tapping my boot against the echoed concrete floor, I noticed Kirchner stroll inside. Almost unrecognizable, she came without makeup and in her sweats with natural hair; nonetheless, the view was breathtaking. In that moment, time stood still. The atrocious groaning noise of the grinding coffee beans shut off in my mind as I focused all of my attention on her. As soon as she laid eyes on me, she produced an angelic grin. The gut wrenching anxiety of sharing my new passion with her slowly faded as the conversation began to unwind. Kirchner immediately told me that my height was great and that I looked taller than her! She also mentioned that it was important for a model to have a feature that stands out; For Kirchner, it was her cheekbones. She told me that I had a unique look and that my eyebrows were outstanding. A breath of fresh air overcame me when she kindly shared these ideas along with other industry tips. Although the joys of modeling often consumed the conversation, Kirchner felt pressed to give me honest advice. Horror stories of foreign model houses, toxic drink spikes, and harsh comments flooded Kirchner’s memories while she told me that the industry wasn’t as glamorous as the media portrayed it. Modeling is a real job that requires willpower and hard work. She asked if I was ready to embark on a new journey of self and world discovery. Without skipping a beat, I enthusiastically told her that I was determined. To my surprise, she decided to text her agency, Nous Model Management, and let them know that she found a fresh model, me. Kirchner proceeded to send them my photos and, within a short time, they agreed to meet with me in two hours. I was at a loss for words and hungry to begin. All I could mumble was “thank you” as my eyes glossed over and a ridiculous smirk overcame my face. I couldn’t fathom the momentum of Los Angeles or how fortunate I was that they scheduled a meeting immediately.
As we sped down Ventura Highway, hoping to make it to West Hollywood during the lunch rush, I stared at myself in the sun visor mirror. My brain could not process the opportunity at hand; I could not blow this. My mom and I had arrived at the agencies after what felt like the most excruciating journey. We walked up the never ending staircase and, immediately, I was happily greeted. The agents had all said that I was super cute and quickly asked me to take off my shoes for measurements. They were thrilled to meet me. I didn’t expect anything else to happen until they asked to take my digitals.
How was this all happening so quickly?
I was living in a dream. We walked down a narrow hall into a brightly lit room. The photographer turned on Little Dragon and quickly gave me direction to take simple headshots. I had a blast. I was just grateful to even get the chance to meet this reputable management company. As I stepped back into their offices, my mom was conversing with the agents. They asked if we could wait in the area to meet Kenya Knight, the owner of the agency. My stomach dropped to my feet.
Was this real life?
Photo by Wes Klain
Everything seemed to be falling into place. My mom and I decided to ease our nerves by walking around West Hollywood as we tried to find something to occupy our minds while we waited. We walked in circles for an hour and finally headed back to the office in time to meet with Knight.
Walking into the agency for a second time, Knight measured me again and checked my height. After a brief pause, she proceeded to explain the modeling world to me. She struck down the hard truth. Modeling wouldn’t be easy; I would have to work long lonely hours and be open to rejection. She explained how it would affect my schooling but could be incredibly rewarding if I was truly passionate. I explained that I was ready to take these steps and her eyes widened. She seemed satisfied with my answer.
In order for me to sign with the agency, I had to complete a few test shoots for a potential book to show to their clients. They had booked three shoots for me to go on in a less than a 48 hour period. I felt sick to my stomach. A new chapter in my story was unfolding faster than I was able to read it.
Photo by Margaret Kimura
I found out that my first shoot would be at the Malibu Pier for lifestyle photos. I had no idea what to expect; nonetheless, my supportive family drove me to the pier bright and early to fulfill my dreams. I arrived with a fresh face and bags upon bags of outfits and shoes to choose from. I was unfamiliar with the posing, and the angles, and the way that my face looked.
Although I looked like a complete amateur, I felt like this was what I was supposed to be doing. As the Malibu wind caressed my hair and salty air kissed my cheeks, I beamed. I had never felt more excited to see how the photos would turn out. A new Myrkia had emerged from inside of me as I became the most confident and joyful version of myself. The photographer, who had shot for many models and worked with Brandy Melville, encouraged and cheered me on. I was able to have conversations in between takes on my passions and I gathered new tips from him as we snapped away. More people trickled onto the beach but I wasn’t embarrassed. As violent waves crashed into the stone wall that divided the Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean, our morning shoot came to a close. Even though I was extremely tired, I was ecstatic to share this new love of modeling with my family. As I plopped into the sand and began to sunbathe, I poured out every detail of the photo shoot to my parents. They were excited to see me so intrigued while unnecessarily spewing information about the experience. I couldn’t stop talking. As we rode towards the city on the PCH, my hair blew in a light breeze and I dreamt of my future in the modeling world.
It was everything I ever wanted.
Photo by Jairo Melara
The agency told me that they were pleased with how the shoot went while I traveled off to the next. This time, makeup artists and clothes would be there for me to test in. I sneakily looked up the photographer on Instagram and my fears skyrocketed. This photographer had shot many celebrities and had a large following. I could not believe that I was taking photos for her. As always, my mom assured me that this was an exciting opportunity that I don’t need to fear. I was unsure if I was intimidated or if I was ready to go to her studio. Upon arrival at the studio, I was greeted by the friendliest woman that I had ever met. She was elated when she saw me for the first time. After we talked about my love for veganism and film, she told me that I would go far in the modeling world. A bond formed between us as we grew more comfortable with each other. She told me that I could dominate the industry and that I had the perfect look. Instantly, I was blown away by her encouragement.
Once the makeup artist arrived, we began to get ready. Lights, fans, and cameras bombarded the scene as upbeat tunes flooded the room. I was no longer stressed or worn out from the previous shoot. The makeup artist created legendary looks that embodied my personality and emphasized my greatest features. I felt invincible staring in the mirror thinking to myself, “You’ve got this”. After the looks and outfits were picked, we took beauty shots. The time that I unashamedly spent practicing the night before in my room paid off because I began to understand the composition of my face. I moved as if I knew what I was doing and eventually, I did. We shot in the studio and ventured out into the heated city to take a plethora of editorials with numerous makeup looks and outfits. The moment the camera shutter clicked, a force came over me. My gut instinct was telling me exactly what to execute. The hours ticked by in a blur and after a full day shoot, we finished. At the end of the day the photographer made sure to stay in contact with me because she wanted to shoot more in the future. Building connections early on allowed me to receive great advice.
Photo by Margaret Kimura
My eyes glistened as I rode to meet my parents from the Uber ride. LA rush hour traffic at 7 was hectic, so I had time to reflect off of my journey. I called my mom in tears of joy as I listed every detail of the day. She was so relieved to hear that the experience was everything that I had ever hoped for. Exhausted, I realized I needed to find more looks for my early shoot the next morning.
I hopped inside a second Uber and rushed to The Americana, my locally famous outdoor mall, to find possible outfits to take with me. I had no idea what I was doing and constantly FaceTimed and texted my mom from the dressing room. Randomly throwing together pieces, I went back and forth between stores until I scrapped outfits together in two hours. I was hunting for the perfect looks to get photos for the next day.
Waking up early for my next shoot with a smile on my face, I proceeded with my favorite morning routine. I went for a run around my neighborhood in Los Feliz and then came home to shower and prep. My family had left for the day to go to the beach, so before my shoot, I pranced down the street to get a cold brew from one of my favorite cafés. The light LA air flooded my lungs and the sun beat down on my tanned skin, immediate happiness erupted from me. I felt so grateful for these past few days and I was ready to meet the next photographer. Making my way to the Art District of Los Angeles, I chugged my coffee and stared at the cityline. The world felt like it was at my fingertips. Arriving absurdly early, I lugged three large bags of clothing, makeup, and accessories to the studio. My unusually weak noodle arms dragged the excessive amount of items up the stairs because the elevators were being used for a film. Once the agony stopped, I finally reached the studio. The bright and white room with large Brooklyn-style windows overlooked the intricate Los Angeles skyline. I was shocked by the naturally beautiful lighting and stared at the space in awe. The photographer proceeded to help me put together looks and work on my makeup. Once the backdrops and lights were set up, we worked hard to capture the best images. The angles and poses were more difficult for me, but I eventually got the hang of it. As the session continued, we climbed to the roof with a 360 degree view of the ocean and the city. I was literally on top of the world, dominating all of the past obstacles that slowed me down. I could see endless possibilities. We finally captured amazing stills after experimenting on the studio’s roof to take editorial and fitness photos. As the photographer scrolled through his memory card, I was blown away by the photos and by myself.
The most rewarding aspect of these shots was their ability to boost my spirits and confidence. I felt powerful before these shoots but after working with others and collaborating to create beautiful images, I grew even more empowered. I didn’t know what the agency would say about the photos or if they liked them, but I didn’t care. I was proud of the chances I took.
Photo by Jairo Melara
After a couple of days of impatiently waiting on the beach of Malibu, I was bombarded with emails of photos from each shoot and messages from the agency and photographers. I instantly jumped off of the hot sand once they mentioned that they would love to sign me.
How had they already wanted to sign after a couple of days?
The news overjoyed me. Carefully proceeding, my family signed my contract. I was now a member of a major Los Angeles modeling agency. They represent various well known models that I look up to; however, this time, I was one of them.
Everyone in my family and all of my friends were supportive of my journey. Since I have been signed, I have gone on other shoots and met incredible photographers, crews, makeup artists, and stylists. My realm of contact grows with every photo shoot as my foot pushes the door of modeling further open.
As new opportunities arise while expanding from my mother agency and booking jobs, I become more thankful for the risks that I took. Endless love and support from my mom pushed me to stick with my passions and follow through with my goals.
Even though the industry is commonly criticized by those who don’t understand it, the modeling world is extraordinary. I have connected with other models and get to share my experiences with others. My love for modeling has stretched to an infinite degree as I get to embark on my journey.