[dropcap]B[/dropcap]eatrix Du Toit: “I never felt so naked and objectified in my life and all I can remember from that day was, what was lacking in my look and where I needed to consider improvement.”
One year ago, I got to know South African Boss model and self-employed interior architect Beatrix du Toit as a vibrant, spontaneous, animal loving person with her heart at the right place. I admire her vision on life and specifically modeling and feel connected to her because of what she has been through.
Today, I would like to share Beatrix’ letter about her 15 year modelling career and how it shaped her.
A happy, vibrant Beatrix (center) off duty, accompanied by two models that she housed
I must have written this letter about a 100 times over again only to delete it, have an inner little tug of war out fear of judgement of other models reading it and then plucking up the courage to start again because of the support I receive from girls whom know how the industry can mess with your head. So with my morning smoothie in hand (inspired by your blog) let me tell you about my 15 years as model and how it shaped me.
19 and asked to strip and stand on a table to be measured
Scouted at the age of 19, I had no idea what I was letting myself into and it took much convincing from the older guy wanting to give me his business card that he was not a pervert but indeed one of South Africa’s most respected modelling scouts. Living in Cape Town you are more or less aware of the modelling industry as every season the lights camera action is around every corner and street. I never thought I would be a model or even considered to be one as I am only 1,73 m tall and our dear “Cosmopolitan” has drilled it into our heads since teenage years, that only those above 1.75m and hips the size of a twelve year old will be considered , I reiterate considered for modelling. I soon learned as I stepped into my first agent how that lack of 2 cm will for the rest of my career place me in the B – grade category. Instead of briefing me on how the industry worked and what I needed to do to present myself, I was asked to strip stand on a table and measured. I never felt so naked and objectified in my life and all I can remember from that day was, what was lacking in my look and where I needed to consider improvement.
Shy, unsure, but beautiful girl
Luckily my first test photographer, Milan Cronje, saw something in me that he felt everyone should see. Being such a great photographer and special soul, he took the most gorgeous pics of a very shy, unsure but beautiful girl. I am eternally grateful to him as if it was not for his ability to show me that I can model, I would not have continued. Within two weeks I booked my first job and stunned the agency whom took me on as a “ trial model “. Soon my career took off and in my own goofy way of just sitting and watching and learning from other models I figured out how to actually do it, pretending and acting.
Beatrix says she was a shy, unsure girl, who, in her own goofy way, just sat, watched and learned from other models how to actually do ‘it’, pretended and acted.
“Models don’t eat” changed me for life
My little period of triumph however was short lived as the minute I started booking more and more jobs , other models took notice of the new comer and the competitiveness of the girls became nasty. The usual bad mouthing , belittling and snide remarks that I think so many of us experienced, soon brought me back down to reality: I am the 1,73 m girl and would be good as the side kick to the real model. Then there were the photographers and clients whom somehow forgot that at the end of the day the piece of flesh modelling their product is just another soul like them. I will never forget a catalogue shoot I was on with a German client , whom at lunch time when I went to join them at the table they all looked up and stared at me as if I was crazy. The photographer told me models don’t eat and clearly it explains why I have chipmunk cheeks. This was just one incident of many more, however it changed me for life and my control of eating and starving myself at times became mandatory.
There is more to life than your looks
Being 36 now, I wish I knew then what I know now. Attending castings turned out to be a nightmare as I was always the shortest there, whom do not travel every season to Europe as I was committed to my studies at the time. Thus I became so insecure at just being a local girl whom just did not make the cut to be an international. Back then I did not see how the other models rattle you with their small talk about their great careers etc to throw you off game. I now sit at castings and watch some of the girls still do it, intimidate each other in such a calculating way and just giggle to myself. There is more to life than your looks and ability to be recognised for it. We all age, and our bodies do too. In spite of all the plastic surgery, diets, hectic exercise regimes or eating disorders all you have left is yourself and you have to learn to live with it.
Beatrix likes to stare at goats too (sorry, insider joke 😉
I see my own beauty and love all my flaw
A 4 year break from the industry was much needed and I am glad that I did that and focused on myself. I went for therapy for a long time and did lots of workshops to finally see myself through my own eyes on not the eyes of the industry. When someone now comments on my breasts being too small or wanting to fix my nose or needing to lose weight, cut/color my hair, possibly consider botox . . . instead of shrinking and believing I am not beautiful, I smile and know now that I just don’t fit their perception of beauty but for others and myself I do.
Most importantly: I see my own beauty and love all my flaws and shortcomings once criticized for as that is exactly what makes me Beatrix.
I wish more girls would get support and learn to give support in an industry where you are treated only as a piece of flesh.
So Angela, this is my story of which I have given you the tip of the iceberg. My “ frugly” (a word I invented as it’s a combo of fat and freaking ugly) days still return but somehow they do not last as long anymore. Thank God for wisdom that does come with age.
Kind regards and much love,