The Mother of a Model


I have two high school girls, 14 and 15.  I used to love reading People and fashion magazines, but when my girls were young I stopped buying them. I just didn’t want them exposed to those type of images while they were growing up.

I’ve ended up with a few magazines over the years (my husband always puts them in my stocking at Christmas time), but I hadn’t spent any money on them, until recently.  Now, one of my favorite things is going through one with my family, which I did just this morning.

My older daughter got a modeling contract a year ago, when she was just 14.  She was approached by a fashion photographer at a grocery store, sitting outside with her sister and our dogs while I was inside shopping.  We live in LA and she had been scouted several other times throughout her childhood, but my husband and I had always said no.

Not only did we feel there is no reason for a child to have to work at such a young age, especially in the modeling industry, but we also both have full time careers without an ounce of stage parenting in us.

When Chloe got scouted on this day, however, it was the first time she had a full understanding of what was happening, and she wanted to do it.

Images From Chloe’s Very First Photo Shoot

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Out of that chance meeting, and after much debate between her, myself and my husband, she ended up with two contract offers; one with a big, well known agency in New York, and one with a small boutique agency in Los Angeles.  After much research, we decided to accept the offer from the small agency in LA called Nous.  We signed the contract, and although we have run into a mishap or two, we have had no regrets.

On her very first test shoot for her portfolio, the young female photographer came to our house and ended up running around with her in the neighborhood taking pictures.  I was at work, and my husband was supervising.  When he saw that there wasn’t really any inappropriate clothing and they were mostly using Chloe’s wardrobe, he stopped paying attention.

A few days later Chloe’s portfolio showed up on Nous’ website.  One picture had her wearing a t-shirt with huge boldface writing that said “Harlot” across it.  I didn’t like it and Chloe and I talked about the meaning of the word.   She decided she didn’t like it either.

So we called the agency to tell them and they said that was a brand they worked with, which is why the photographer had brought it.  They said if we preferred it not be used, they would take care of it.  Five minutes later we looked at Chloe’s portfolio again, and the word harlot had been photoshopped out.

The photographer had also photoshopped several pictures of Chloe’s face.  They were photoshopped to the point she was almost unrecognizable. But Chloe’s agency, thankfully, didn’t post any of these images to Chloe’s portfolio on their website.

Heavily Photoshopped Pictures

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When you go on an unpaid test shoot for your portfolio, on a casting call, or on a paid job for a client, you always get what’s called a call sheet. The call sheet has all the details of the shoot, a contact name and number, the name of the client you are shooting for, the amount you will be paid, and sometimes what’s called a “mood board” that’s sort of like a digital collage of what they want the final photos to feel like.

In the beginning, Chloe and I researched this information together in depth.  We’ve said no to shoots based on the mood board, and no to a magazine editorial after flipping through the magazine on line and realizing the whole tone of the magazine was too mature for Chloe’s image.

Now Chloe does this research on her own.  She communicates with her bookers directly and says yes or no to shoots depending on her school and social schedule, as well as on whether or not the shoot or the brand is appropriate for her.

What’s appropriate for her always feels like a moving target to me, because she is a growing girl, and there is a big difference in my mind between what is appropriate and 14 and what is appropriate at 16…and eventually what may be appropriate at 18.

My husband, Chloe and I have an agreement that there are no bikini or underwear pictures.  As a psychotherapist, I in no way want to contribute to the child porn industry, and I have a huge problem with young girls used in the modeling world as sexual objects.

But One of Chloe’s Early Shoots, Which Ended Up Being Published,

Was This Image.

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The call sheet just said bring nude or white bras, including strapless bras, and there was no mood board.  Call sheets often include requests regarding underwear, as they don’t want bra straps hanging out of from underneath clothing, so we didn’t think much of it.

When we got there the photographer showed us a slew of other photos she had already taken for the series, all the females in only bras.  I told the photographer Chloe was too young at 14 for this look.  She pulled up a photo of a girl in bra and said, “This girl is only 14, but look how beautiful the photo is.  It’s a raw beauty shot…it doesn’t have a sexual tone to it.”

I said we weren’t comfortable with that, and we went back and forth on what to do.  Chloe really wanted to do the shoot, so we finally agreed Chloe could be photographed from the top of her bandeau up, and the photographer agreed to crop the photos that way.  When we saw the final photo, we were partly excited, because we thought it was a beautiful shot, but we were also partly angry because the photographer hadn’t followed through on her part of the agreement.

This photo definitely looked like a young girl posing in her underwear.

Once a photo is taken, it is owned by everyone but the model.  The photographer or brand owns the picture.  For test shoots, the photos usually go to the agency directly, not to the model.  Chloe has taken thousands of photos she has never seen.

Sometimes the photographer sends her a few shots, or they post them on their social media sites.  Or, if the photographer has a laptop set up, they’ll let her take some pictures of the computer screen of the best shots.

Early on we asked the agency for the photos from a test shoot, and they said they don’t release them.  They don’t want bad pictures of the model circulating about on line.  They only release the absolute best of the photos to protect the models image. Even to the model herself.

We learned quite early on to be careful about what pictures are taken.  When we flip through magazines, we discuss how an outfit could look modest, but the way the model moves or poses can make it look much more risque.

You don’t own any of the pictures or have control over them once the picture is taken, but we have learned that you do own your image, and can work with the agency to craft it.

We called the agency regarding this nude bra shot and they were great. (They should be great over issues like this.  They work for you, not vice versa.)  They explained that any time Chloe is uncomfortable, just call the agency immediately.  “Chloe is a minor and we’ll take care of it.  You don’t even have to talk to them about it if you don’t want to.  We’ll do it for you.”

My mom was on a paid shoot with Chloe once for the brand Vera Bradley while I was at work.  I started getting texts from my mom in a bit of a panic, as they wanted Chloe in a white bikini.  Chloe quickly asked, however, if that was all she would be wearing, or was there some kind of cover up.  They handed her a rash guard to wear.

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My mom texted me this photo and I said that was fine.  Discussions had already taken place with both Chloe and the agency regarding the fact that bikini’s aren’t allowed, but that photos of her being active in a one piece were fine.

The agency had also informed us that on paid shoots like this, the wardrobe department always has several options.  Chloe knew it was OK to mention that a look wouldn’t work for her, and to call the agency if there was a problem.

Chloe had been a swimmer on the Rose Bowl swim team for years, and now swims and plays water polo for her high school team.  To me, this was a very age appropriate outfit, and she and I both had no problem with it.  (I actually adore how comfortable she is with her body.  I never was at her age, and I had the exact same body).

Chloe just recently did her favorite photo shoot ever, an unpaid test shoot for her portfolio.  The first photo shoot she ever ended up at all by herself.

Photos She Took With Her Phone From the Photographer’s Laptop.

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She absolutely loved the photos.   She harnessed the feeling of a fairy…a mermaid.  She had a great time with the female team; a photographer, a nail artist, a hair stylist and a makeup artist.  She felt beautiful and loved the results. I loved the photos as well, but had some hesitancy about the last two.

They seemed more adult to me than the others.  I talked with my husband about them, whether or not we should talk with the agency if they decided to use them in her portfolio.

We don’t want to draw certain clients to her with the photos in her portfolio.  Ultimately we decided to leave it alone, however. Although these two photos could be interpreted as somewhat more sexual than others, they had absolutely nothing to do with sex.  They were about girls having fun playing with makeup, and sparkles and hair.  About feeling beautiful and letting that beauty exude out of you.  It would be really sad to send Chloe a message other than that.

The moving target keeps moving, and my husband and I keep finding ways to move with it.

I have religious friends, feminist friends, and male friends, many of whom have voiced their disagreement with my choice to let my daughter pursue this career.    I absolutely understand why.  There have been awful outcomes for some that have pursued it.  Even some of the most famous models out there, including Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss, have voiced terrible regrets they have.  And I don’t want my daughter to ever end up in a situation at work that causes her regret.

But as the mother of a unique individual named Chloe, and as a psychotherapist who has worked with many people who have lived a life full of regrets because they didn’t pursue what they loved due to pressure from others, I felt I had no other choice but to let her pursue it.

And pursue it while she was still young and in our home, so we could help her navigate through the difficulty of it.

It has been enlightening to find out that in today’s world you can create whatever type of career you want in this field.  Each shoot and experience is entirely different.  In the shoot mentioned above, we naively felt tricked into a photo of Chloe wearing a bra by a young, pregnant, female photographer.

But in this shoot, the team was incredibly respectful of Chloe, and female models in general.  They said they don’t like to do shoots with sparse clothing on young girls.  “Totally inappropriate,” the male photographer and young male stylist told me. They were so excited to tell me and Chloe they had brought a pop up tent for her to change in.  “We hate it when models are treated poorly.  They should always have somewhere proper to change.”

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That tent got dragged all over downtown Los Angeles.  And faster than a speeding bullet, Chloe was able to change into the many different outfits.

I Love The Badass Attitude That Ended Up In Her Pictures As A Result

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In another shoot there was no place to change.  The other model just whipped off her clothes on the street down to her G-string in front of the team of 8 males.  Chloe, however, walked over to company’s van and climbed in to change.  (I’ve got to buy her one of the popup tents to bring with her on shoots.)

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I loved talking with this other model.  She had been modeling for a while, but had recently moved to Los Angeles to attend a university here. She talked at length to Chloe about the importance of going to college.

There are actually many good role models in the modeling industry.  Coco Rocha is one.  She is very particular about her image and the kinds of photos she will do.  She was outraged over a photo where she was fully covered that the magazine photo shopped to look like she was almost nude.  You can read more about her and how she has worked to craft her career here.

Karlie Kloss is another one of the biggest models out there right now, and I admire her tremendously.  She is attending NYU to get a degree in computer coding and has started a scholarship fund for girls called Kode with Karlie.  

My daughter follows her on Instagram, and she is always doing amazing things.  You can find out more about Kode with Karlie here.

It fills me with joy to know that the three photos Chloe has gotten the most response from on social media…on her own, her agency’s and the photographers’ sites, are photos where she looks most like herself, a natural, strong, confident, young woman doing what she loves.

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I don’t know what the future has in store for her.  Only time will tell.  This morning while flipping through the Vogue I got for Christmas with my family, we all looked through the magazine and talked about brands whose campaigns we loved…and brands whose campaigns we didn’t and why.

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I asked Chloe if she thought she would ever do a campaign like this.  She looked at it and thought about it for a while.  She responded, “I don’t have the body of a lingerie model…and I really don’t like these stripy things.  Too sexy.”  I responded, “Even though she is pretty covered, that is a really sexy shot.  I would personally never take a shot like this if I were a model.  But I won’t judge you at all if you ever decide to.”

My husband and Chloe’s sister both yelled out at the same time, “I will!”  And we all laughed.

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A true dame lives out her bliss to it’s fullest,

and honors others who are doing the same. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Mother of a Model

  1. Larry Langlois says:

    Very interesting stuff. I’m very proud of Cloe not because she is doing well with her modeling, but because she is a good and accomplished human being. I don/t hear as much about Sydney, but I’m also very proud of her and for the same reasons.

  2. karaleelbechtol says:

    I should write about Sid more. She is also an amazing human. With her black belt, she jokes about being Chloe’s body guard if she ever gets asked to strip down to her underwear again on set. I don’t think of it as a joke at all. She would have done a better a job of handling the issue of the bra picture above than I did. I think I don’t write about her as much because I don’t struggle with her as much as mother. Being the mother of a child with a modeling career is complicated on many levels. I find my self thinking about how to navigate it a lot, so it does come up in my writing often. I did write about her here http://damselindepression.com/following/ You’ve inspired me to write an article about balancing the attention I give to the both of them, however. Thank you!

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