June 29, 2015

Why Fashion Models Should Do Improv

If you are a model I totally encourage you to take improv classes. I started at UCB late last year and I am in LOVE with it. Don't get me wrong, I was incredibly terrified at the beginning (and even sometimes now)… but the more comfortable I get with it, the more I enjoy it and appreciate it. Leaning into that fear has really paid off.

My improv 301 class at UCB Los Angeles (that's me, 2nd from the left).

I think a lot of that fear was actually a built up survival tactic. A way of being I had adopted over the years in order to keep myself "safe." The problem is, that "safety" of mine also robbed me of my childlike sense of adventure. I had grown fearful and timid over the years. I think it started back when I used to get made fun of a lot growing up, and then it got worse throughout my modeling career, from always feeling the need to please everyone on a very surface level. All of those negative experiences had made me crawl into a shell. It took me a long time (and more than a few breakdowns) to even realize that. I was so used to keeping up appearances I didn't even know I was sick in this way!

I think models sort of buy into these pressures of being perfect. I know I did. I think that's the reason why I see very few models in improv classes. Improv is all about taking risks and celebrating strange things and failing gloriously, and because that doesn't mesh with a models requirement to be "perfect," I think most models believe they shouldn't or can't be funny! Or even have a personality for blast's sake! It's a bummer because improv is fun and it is SO beneficial. It does so many good things for you.

I've become immensely more confident from doing improv. I am more comfortable around people I don't know, and striking up conversations. I worry a lot less about things that "might happen" in the future. I'm more used to being thrown curveballs, and I know I can handle whatever comes my way. In my improv 201 class show had to perform three scenes on my hands and knees as a cow. If I can make that work, I can make anything work! ;) Models can always use a boost in confidence like that. We're so used to being told what's wrong with us, being reduced to the status of an object, and being told "no." We need reminders of just how much we are capable of. Surviving an improv scene gives you that confidence boost. Confidence you may need the next time you have to wear a mega-funky full length gown down a long slick runway in five inch heels. Seriously.

I kind of think of improv as a moving meditation. It's sort of a practice in splitting your working mind and your quiet awareness, just like you do in meditation. If you don't understand the process of meditation, look into it. I'm making a pretty wide comparison (so please don't go complaining to your guru if you disagree), but in a way it's similar. In improv you have to do two things at once. You have to be in the moment talking, listening, and moving. And you also have to sort of watch yourself and the scenario from a higher perspective and strategize. Trust me, it's an amazing brain workout, and it centers you into the here and now.

Improv has also opened a lot of doors for me. It has created a lot of friendships. It has helped me meet so many creative amazing people here in LA. That alone - that sense of community, is worth a million bucks. Models generally travel a lot, or have relocated to a new city to find work, and it can get quite lonely. If you need friends, go to improv class! It attracts a lot of really fun people who generally don't take life too seriously.

I guess I just wanted to write this post to motivate you to try something new. I can remember feeling so pigeon-holed sometimes as a "model." That term feels so defining sometimes. Whatever it is, be it improv or synchronized swimming or whatever, do something to expand your idea of who you think you are. Your modeling career will fluctuate and change over time, so make sure you invest in yourself in other ways too. Conquering your fears is a great place to start. So whatever those fears are, go after them.


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