It's been four years since my first ever photoshoot and to say I've learned a lot along the way would be an understatement. Yeah, I've taught myself the technical side and I've gotten so much more comfortable with meeting new people, but one unexpected thing I've learned is that everyone has insecurities & it's okay. It's comforting to me. You may be thinking, "Okay, Cath, it took you getting behind a camera to realize that?" and the answer is yes. Instagram and social media, in general, make everyone come across as confident and secure in the way they look but it's a lie. While I do believe we're all getting more real and honest about our flaws, it's so easy to see strangers on the internet and believe they have it all together. Towards the beginning of my career, I thought every model I'd work with had their shit together and loved the way they looked. I mean, why else would they willingly get in front of a camera? I quickly learned that is not the case. Being a model or artist in general, it doesn't mean we always love what we put out there but we're doing it for bigger reasons. There's so much more to it than just posting a photo on Instagram to get likes then going about our days. With my photography, I've always wanted to make every single person I shoot with feel beautiful and unstoppable because there have been more days than I can count where I felt the complete opposite. I never want my work to represent only one type of beauty (*cough* looking at you, male photographers who only shoot thin, naked white women) because EVERYONE deserves to see themselves highlighted positively. How different would the world be if we could open magazines and see ourselves in the people who filled the pages? I've had people become hesitant in shooting with me because they're not sure if they can look as good as the models I post on my IG. It makes me sad because the same people you wish you could look like are sitting there wishing they could change the way they looked. This is why I find comfort in knowing that even the most gorgeous people in the world still don't love every single thing about themselves. It forces me to remember that instead of trying to look like them, I need to work on accepting and focusing on the things I do love about myself. As someone who is 5'2" and plus-sized, I've shot with models who make comments about their long, lean legs looking awkward in photos and after the initial 'what the fuck are you talking about?' runs through my head, I remember that so many of these insecurities are based on shitty comments people have said to us in the past or things we've seen on social media. No one's insecurities are invalid or should be brushed aside because they all stem from real experiences. During my recent shoot with model and blogger, Rooney Miranda, we started talking about the industry, social media, and mental health. Photography will always be a form of self-care for me because whether it's just getting me out of my apartment when that's the last thing I want to do, talking with someone I've never met before or creating work I'm proud of, it forces me to get out of my head. Keep reading to get a glimpse into Rooney's journey with modeling, self-esteem and mental health.
What's your main goal with modeling?
RM: I’d like to inspire someone - anyone! I always thought fashion was for influential people, like designers, celebrities, professional models, etc. and in order to be a part of that world you had to BE someone. Diversity and representation is important in the fashion industry (for everyone) because historically it hasn’t and still doesn’t embrace people of color or anyone who doesn’t fit into a certain beauty “standard.” My hope is that when people look at my Instagram or my blog they’re able to connect with me on a human level, which is the most important thing - enjoying my pictures is just a plus!
What advice would you give to someone else who wants to start modeling but they're not quite sure how to begin?
RM: JUST START. I literally spent years procrastinating - years! I was so worried about what other people would think and if they’d even like my content. At some point I realized the only thing holding me back was ME. This goes for anyone, and not specifically about modeling, but if you want to do something… do it. Put your heart, positive energy, and creativity into whatever interests you. Don’t let other people discourage your or talk you out of pursuing your dreams. Rejection is a part of life; no one is immune to scrutiny and not everyone is going to be supportive of your endeavors, but what other people think is irrelevant. When you do things for yourself, that’s when the magic happens! Stay true to yourself and the rest will fall into place.
How did you get into modeling and how long have you been doing it?
RM: A little backstory… when I was 16 my mom enrolled me in this local Modeling Academy to help me build my confidence and self-esteem. I didn’t get any jobs after completing the class, haha, but it was still something I wanted to do, I just didn’t know how. It wasn’t until I joined Instagram in 2011 that I was introduced to the blogging world. I was so inspired by the women (and men) who were “regular” people with no modeling experience documenting their everyday outfits. After years of procrastinating I finally started my blog in January 2018, so I’ve been on this journey for about 2 years! Even though I spend a bit of time in front of the camera I don’t identify as or consider myself a model. When I think of models I think of Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista, you know? The women who were the “it girls” of the 90s. I’m just over here, like, “this is what I’m doing and I’m really enjoying it! Wanna get tacos later?” So, yes… technically I am “modeling” and I suppose that’s the only way to describe it, but for me it’s really just about feeling inspired, connecting with other people, and having the ability to express myself through my blog. You can’t tell from my pictures but I’m quite goofy in real life, so that’s how I’ll always view myself.
People tend to think of modeling as superficial and especially in the age of social media, it can seem like we only create images to post on Instagram. However, during our shoot, you mentioned modeling is a form of escapism for you. I'd love to hear more about that.
RM: I’m right-brain dominant so I’ve always been a creative person, dreamed lofty dreams, and appreciated the abstract/fantasy part of life. Modeling is a form of escapism for me because when I have a shoot I’m not worrying about anything else. It’s this happy, creative, undisturbed bubble of time where I’m not stressing about work, bills, what I need from the grocery store, or why a guy hasn’t texted me back, haha. I’m just focusing on posing, expressing, and bringing something to life. After a shoot I’m always so excited to get the pictures back because it’s the first time I’m seeing what the photographer saw, you know? It’s a magical thing. As for social media, Instagram has the ability to open our world up to things we’ve never thought about or seen before (a squid escaping from a jar while underwater? Liiike… #shook) and be a place of inspiration, but it can also be a place of toxicity. I used to be so fixated on analyzing posting times and trying to crack the ever-changing, always infuriating Instagram Algorithm. This is embarrassing to admit, but I’ve actually woken up at 2 AM to post a picture. Yikes! It just goes to show how much influence social media can have over your life, but only if you let it. There’s always going to be pressure to keep content interesting, which isn’t always easy, but when I share something it’s because I’m really happy with what I’m putting out there. The creative process can’t be forced, you know? Sometimes not having 100 ideas swirling around or shoots lined up is for the best, because it gives you time to reset. I find that inspiration is a lot like love, because it always finds you when you aren’t looking for it.
While this industry can be extremely brutal to our self-esteem, personally, shooting with people of all backgrounds & features, it constantly reminds me that we all have our own insecurities whether other people can see them or not. How do you keep it from negatively affecting your mental health?
RM: It’s incredibly hard to not compare yourself to other people, but like you said everyone is different, so that’s important to keep in mind. Also, the things that make you different are special and something to be treasured. I didn’t realized that until I was older. One of my favorite quotes is by Oscar Wilde, and he really said it best: “Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” As we know, social media has a way of portraying life as always being perfect - a highlight reel, but it’s just an illusion. I’ll be scrolling through Instagram thinking “this person has a house, this person just got engaged, this person has an amazing job!” etc. All of those things may be true, but other people’s success and blessings are specific to them, as are mine. We’re all on a different journey and timeline, so comparing yourself to others only does more harm that good. I have to remind myself that even though I’m not living the same life as someone else, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a great life. I do, and I need to appreciate every moment of it. A few years ago, long before launching my blog, I took a 2 year break from Facebook and Instagram. I just wasn’t interested in being online, so sometimes unplugging for a while is necessary. Also, therapy is a really great outlet and has been incredibly beneficial for me. I went into it with an open mind but not really knowing what to expect. My goal is to be a more evolved version of myself and someone I’M proud of. Our mental health is equally important as our physical and emotional well-being, so it’s really important to listen to yourself, how you feel, and not neglect things even if it’s uncomfortable or hard to deal with.
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
RM: I have a few things…
- Trust the process
- Trust your intuition
- Stay true to yourself
- Keep your heart open
- Everything is temporary
I’ve learned that things aren’t always going to go exactly how I planned… and that’s OK, because something better is usually on its way. I’ve learned to accept advice from others but to always listen to my intuition (it never leads me astray). I’ve learned to stand up for myself and be strong in my convictions. I’ve learned to protect my heart, but not close it off entirely. I’ve learned that sadness, doubt, and uncertainty are a part of life, but so is rising above, staying on track despite obstacles, and that circumstances are always changing ♥