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Ainsley McWha

November 9, 2010

Ainsley McWha
Next Canada's Ainsley McWha
Romona Keveza - LG Fashion Week S/S 2011
photo: Carlo Calope (www.carlocalope.com)

I'm back home in my Brooklyn apartment after a two-week stint in Toronto, where I was fortunate enough to take part in LG Fashion Week. Standing in line backstage for the Romona Keveza show that Thursday evening, sandwiched between high school girls, I got to thinking of just how far I've come in this crazy business of modelling. This proved much better than thinking about how my shoes were cutting holes into my ankles (I still have the souvenir scabs) or worrying about tripping over a dress that liked to creep up under my feet while walking and picturing myself falling flat on my face. Fortunately, this didn't happen.

Amidst the backstage pre-show mayhem, I realized how many of these girls would soon be finishing school and starting to model full-time on an international level. I went straight to New York from Nepean after graduating. Back then, there was not the sense of community and support that I see now within the Canadian modelling world. As I had little guidance when I was starting out, I thought that I would try to share some things that I've learned along the way that would have been helpful to know before embarking on my journey.

  • Eat, Sleep, Drink (water, that is!) These three things are a model's best friend. You will need them all to keep you going. It is next to impossible to deliver a good photo, deal with people at work or make it through a day of castings if you are tired, malnourished or dehydrated.

  • Keep the mind healthy. Once on the international scene, there are a plethora of new problems to deal with aside from simply booking jobs being away from home, the culture shock (possibly extreme depending on where you go), feeling lonely, and the pressure to maintain a certain figure. It can be very overwhelming at first, but it's all manageable. It is so important to learn how to deal with these issues in a healthy way. Clients can sense when a girl is uneasy or sad and probably won't pick them for the job.

  • The body will follow. I absolutely felt the pressure to be skinny at several points of my career. To be honest, once I stopped stressing about it (while maintaining healthy eating habits) my current body shape seemed to fall into place. Constantly thinking about it or starving yourself does not lead to permanent or positive results.

  • Explore. The industry is constantly fluctuating. Sometimes your schedule will be so packed it might feel like there isn't even time to breathe. Other times it will be so dead that you might start to wonder what you're doing. Use these down times to do something. Anything! Have a day off. Go discover something new. Don't feel comfortable doing it alone yet? Drag another girl along. One of the most amazing parts of modelling is the opportunity to live in cities that other people can only dream of visiting. Take advantage of this!

  • Get a hobby. Or two... Or five! Anything that you like doing that is separate from the modelling to keep you occupied and bring you happiness.

  • Do what you're asked but speak up if you're uncomfortable. As a model it's important to be agreeable and be able to follow directions, but not every girl has the same threshold for what they're willing to do in front of the camera. If somebody asks you to do something at a casting or a job that you're not comfortable with speak up! Better yet, inform your booker in advance what you are not willing to do and before going to a casting or job try to get as much information about it as possible. Many people like to argue about the questionable working conditions of models the only way things will change is if girls follow their own instincts and use their voices.

  • Be patient. Modelling is often about being part of a creative team. This might mean that a 9:00 a.m. call-time turns into a day of sitting around waiting for a first shot taken at 5:00 p.m. Everyone wants their contribution to be perfect set, lighting, hair, makeup, clothes etc. It can get frustrating at times but generally the end results are worth it beautiful images or a nice paycheque!

  • Don't compare. Each girl's modelling career is different Different looks, different markets, and different trajectories. You're never going to be anyone other than you. Learn to work with what you've got and don't worry about the other girls.

  • Feel lucky. As models, we are given so many opportunities based simply on appearances. It is easy to forget that how things are in the fashion industry may not be how things are in other facets of the world. FYI it is not 'normal' to get into clubs without waiting in line or to be given food, drinks or clothes for free. I appreciate the life that I have been given everyday knowing that ultimately I had nothing to do with my looks. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

  • Have fun! (But not too much!) Yes, this is a job and at times an extremely challenging one. But there is so much to be enjoyed. I swear bookers have spies out there and know if girls have been partying too much even though it probably shows on their faces. Learn how to be social while maintaining your professionalism.
The healthier and the happier you stay, the longer you can keep working. My career has even picked up the older I get! Entering a different age group simply means that a whole new set of jobs has opened up. Instead of stilettos and bangles, these days my accessories on set are a husband and kids.

I hope some of these tips will be found helpful. To the girls that will start travelling soon Good luck and stay safe!

Ainsley McWha is an Next Canada model, based in New York with Next Model Management.

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