Growing up in the 1990’s, I was a teenager facing all the issues teenage girls have. My hormones were going crazy, my body was changing and I wanted to be liked by boys. The 1990’s were also the era of the supermodels. Names like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and later Kate Moss were rocking the Fashion scene. They would appear on the covers of all magazines and were in the highest demand by designers and advertisers. They were super stars in their own right. Absolutely stunning, super successful and powerful. It looked like they were goddesses from some Greek Mythology tale. There was an entire magazine dedicated to them called “Elle Top Model” which would picture their lifestyle, their habits, their workout routines and their love stories. Every girl dreamed to be like them and that dream seemed so unreachable.
One day at school one of my friends gave me the “Top Model” magazine. Back home I started leafing through the pages of it, looking at all the gorgeous pictures and reading about their successful lives. It looked like they were living in a perfect dream world. I was a pretty girl. I played different sports and my body was in good shape. I also had good taste and Style and I was satisfied with myself, until the friend who gave me the magazine told me, “if you want to be successful and have people like you, you must be a supermodel”.
There was a big mirror in my mom’s room. One night I stood in front of it and started observing my reflection. I was far away from being like those supermodels. I didn’t have their body shape (duh… I was only thirteen). I didn’t have their body language and sex appeal. I didn’t use makeup and I had none of their fancy designer clothes. That day I spent over an hour in front of the mirror, comparing my features to the ones of the supermodels. The comment of my school friend kept echoing in my head. Did I really have to resemble a supermodel to be liked by people? Why couldn’t people like me just the way I was? I started asking myself if I should change my physical appearance, my clothes, put on makeup. I kept looking at my image in the mirror and started criticizing every part of me that was different from the look of the supermodels: my legs, my breast, my face, my hair and I ended up feeling overwhelmed, sad and frustrated.
What kind of dialogue do you have with yourself when you stand in front of the mirror? I think that nowadays too often when we are in front of the mirror, we spend time pointing out our flaws and the things we hate about ourselves rather than the things we love. There’s a billion dollars industry out there that is bombarding us with daily images of stereotyped beauty, making us believe that to be loved and appreciated we must be perfect. In the 1990s the media pushing the idea of perfection were coming from fashion magazines. Now it’s the internet and Social Media.
So, let me tell you what I have learned from the behind the scenes of the Fashion world. Number one, the vast majority of the images you see on magazines, billboards, advertisements, commercials, the internet and social medias are made up to create an illusion or to seduce you to buy a product. There are many things and people that go into creating a campaign. On top of weeks of work, it takes a whole team of people such as such as makeup artists, hairdressers, stylists, professional photographers. Not to mention lighting, graphic design and extensive time on photo retouch. Seriously, nobody gets out of bed looking as perfect as those models after all this work on their pictures.
Number 2. When you look at billboards and magazines, it looks like models have the most incredible, rich, happy, successful and sexy lives. I have worked with models and actors for the last 20 years and trust me, behind the scenes It’s not always like that. A lot of models are either depressed, insecure or feel awful about themselves and their lives. Why? Because their job is to compete with their own selves on a daily basis. The industry requests them to embody the idea of perfection and many of them end up being haunted by it. They are afraid of eating too much and fall threat to becoming anorexic or bulimic. They’re pressured to have a perfectly fit body, therefore, they stress it to the max, working out for endless hours. They are unhappy with one or most of their features and end up spending incredible amounts of money on plastic surgery and other treatments to improve them. Their worst enemy is judgment and their biggest fear is rejection. They set for themselves the rule that appearing is more important than Being and they end up feeling exhausted and empty.
The night I was standing in front of the mirror and criticizing myself, my mom caught me. She understood what was going on so she made me sit on her lap and told me: “Not all that glitters is gold. You are beautiful and smart just as you are. The real gold is who you are and if you make it shine from the inside, it will shine on the outside as well”. In Italy, there’s a saying that goes “every cockroach is beautiful in the eyes of his mother”. I wasn’t sure by then if she’d say that only because she loved me or because she really saw beauty in me, but with time I understood she was absolutely right. To make sure that I really got it and it was ingrained in my mind and body, she created a game for me called “the mirror game”. In the morning while I was getting ready, she’d tell me to look at my reflection and find at least 5 things I loved about myself. It was weird in the beginning but after some time practicing it, my list became easier. I found myself saying, “I like my eyes because they’re dark and very expressive, I like my hands because they’re long and slim, I like my smile because it makes people smile, I like my style because it’s different than others”. The more things I would list, the more things I would find. The more things I would find, the more I would love myself. The more I would love myself, the more confidence I gained. The more confidence I gained, the more others would like and appreciate me for who I am.
The mirror game was an extremely powerful tool for me as a teenager and it still is up to this day, especially when I need a boost of Self Confidence and I like myself, just the way I am.
’Til the next one!