Rebekah Eva Westberry, 22, International Event Management student
Why/How did you start modeling?
I joined my agency when they approached me through a mutual contact and decided to sign with them a few months after forming a relationship of trust with my agent. I began modeling as a way to enter the entertainment/ media industry because when I was younger I wanted to eventually be a TV/ events host.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced working as a model?
The biggest challenge has definitely been accustoming myself to the blunt criticism you often receive on the job. Unfortunately, in many cases – depending on the team you’re working with on a shoot – models are commonly treated as products, with little regard to the way that comments might make the model feel. I will never forget a shoot I did when I was 16 where the hairdresser told me I was balding and the photographer shouted for me to change positions because I looked fat. Despite this, I have also met many inspiring creatives and made good friends and connections through this job.
Is there discrimination in the industry?
I can only speak for commercial modeling as I don’t do high fashion, but there is definitely discrimination in terms of appearance (such as weight and height). I have also noticed discrimination regarding race or racial appearance. Coming from Singapore, I have only been exposed to the Asian market, but I’ve realised that most casting calls consist of descriptions relating to ethnicity such as “Pan Asian model” and “Eurasian model”. Although this benefitted me, as I am Eurasian, it is definitely unfair that someone could be rejected from a job because they aren’t or don’t look mixed.
What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
When I was first starting out, I quickly realised how easily I allowed the opinion of others to affect how I felt about myself. Over time I have grown a thicker skin which has been useful for work and for life generally.
What is the most positive thing you have taken? Are there any life lessons you can think about?
In an industry revolving around appearance, it’s so easy to convince yourself that this is all that matters. Ironically, my main takeaway from modeling has been that, above anything else, a great personality and treating others with kindness and respect triumphs over a beautiful appearance every single time.
What would you say to another student (young person) that wants to pursue this? What advice would you give?
I would say that modeling is not as glamorous as what it appears to be, especially when you’re not a Gigi or Kendall! A lot of 5am call times and 13h work days are involved. I’d also emphasize the importance of having an agent that truly has your best interests in mind. Many young girls and boys are exploited in this industry for not knowing better; even one inappropriate picture or video can affect your future prospects. Lastly, rejection is a big part of the job, not everyone is going to like you, but that’s only normal. I think I’ve mainly made modeling come across as nothing but negative, but of course the job has many upsides too! On top of the excitement of an ever-changing work day, the job gives you amazing opportunities to travel and meet new people; it’s very unpredictable and definitely not boring!
Does it impact your student life? How do you balance student life and work?
I only work in the summer, Christmas and Easter breaks so it doesn’t interfere with my uni work/ life.
Do other students treat you differently because of your profession?
Definitely not, although my friends find it hilarious and send screenshots when they see an ad that I did.
Do you absolutely love the fact that you got involved in the industry? Do you have any regrets?
I definitely don’t have any regrets about joining this industry, because it has opened doors for me in media, entertainment and even marketing and advertising, which was my initial goal when I started. On top of that it has helped me become more mature and taught me what being professional in the workplace really means.
Text by Elpida Komianou
All photos provided by Rebekah Eva Westberry.
Special thanks to Rebekah for your participation.