The Next ToP Model…or UgLY DuCkLInG?

I must have had, as a little girl, the most overly-optimistic parents on the face of the earth. You know how all parents say their child is the most beautiful in the whole world? Well, with me…my silly parents (let me point out right here how wonderful my parents were when I was growing up. I just can’t stress enough how fantastic they were and how incredibly lucky my brother and I were..they were amazing parents, I don’t know what happened when my brother and I reached 18, but that’s for a separte blog post :-P) so anyhow….where were we? Oh yeah–so my silly parents actually believed I was that beautiful. Some may argue that I am…but many reading this blog, had they seen a picture of me, might think to themselves, “Holy mother of mary….that poor girl’s parents’ really believed her to be more than just average, mediocre, so-so, okay…”  My parents always told me that I was beautiful yet it was never something I thought about myself. I planned until I was age thirteen to be a Marine Biologist. I was very proud of that–every other girl friend of mine wanted to be a Nurse or a Teacher or an Actress or, sickeningly, a “Mommy” (I found that to be a horrible thought at a young age because to say I wanted to be a Mommy meant I was okay with and planned on actually having—-you know……the S…..E……X……word……and I definitely did NOT plan on that at any time in the near or distant or distant distant far away future. I never once as a child dreamed of one day having children.

I was never very athletic as a child and I didn’t like to do girlie things much either. I did have barbies but not very many. I was in Girl Scouts for several years and I did like that pretty well but my parents encouraged me to be involved in other activities as well–my brother played soccer and baseball and was quite good at it, and I think my Mom and Dad felt bad always cheering him on and there was nothing I did to be cheered on. I was okay with that. But my parents tried to get me involved in ballet (I went to two ballet lessons, and when they announced our ballet class would be performing a commercial, I no longer wanted to be involved), I did jazz dance (two or three classes and it was just lame and not very fun) and then, the most memorable thing of all was when I joined Sunshine Generation. Sunshine Generation was a dance company for girls ages 7-11/12 years old, we learned little song and dance routines which were real upbeat, cutesy and bubbly. I was the oldest girl in the group of five or six, but I do have to admit that I really enjoyed it, more than anything else I had tried. We wore these godawful dresses of bright, bright yellow and a rich tangerine orange. There was a white apron-like part on the front which tied in the back and had a big, ugly bow. We wore thick white tights and black tap shoes. I know my parents were very proud of me, and from a very young age and even still, despite not having a relationship with my mother and father presently, I placed very high value and importance on pleasing them and making them proud. The very last thing I did with Sunshine Generation, was perform at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds during the yearly County Fair. We were performing a couple of cute little dance numbers in front of a pretty large audience and I was very nervous about it, I have never liked being the center of attention. But in order to get to the stage where we would be performing, we had to walk through the fairgrounds, no going through the back–and I was so afraid someone would see me. My Mom had fixed my hair and it looked really sweet, but really girlie, and I didn’t want anyone to see me looking like a little girl, because I definitely looked about five years younger. I was a tall little girl so being the oldest and tallest, I felt incredibly awkward and out of place.

I’ve always felt out of place. I haven’t ever really fit in anywhere. There have been a few times in my life where I really, truly felt comfortable and my parents were always really good about trying to help me feel more relaxed in social situations. In an effort to encourage me to come out of my shell, my parents decided when I was thirteen years old that it might be helpful for me if I started going to modeling school–Mannequin Manor. They felt that since I was extremely shy, and I just did not like nor did I handle very well being around people I didn’t know–that it would benefit me greatly if I could learn to be more comfortable and confident in social situations. Even then I knew that my parents were trying to help and I too hoped it would work, but I was terrified…absolutely TERRIFIED. The classes were every Saturday for about four hours, and it was [I believe] a 16-week program which culminated with a very fancy, classy, and elegant fashion show–the kind of fashion shows the supermodels do, with several changes of clothes and walking down a real long catwalk. We were basically putting all of the things we had learned in the classes to use. We had to remember to make eye contact and have the right facial expressions, we had to do the specific walk, pause, pivot, and walk routine we learned, and we had to do it all with pure grace and confidence. I can’t even describe the level of fear I felt that night. I scoped out escape routes the minute we walked into the venue where the show was being held; I seriously considered going out one of the doors and hopping over the fence. The only problem was, I knew my parents were so excited to see me in that show. Even my brother was there and acted supportive. I knew it would be wrong of me to do that but I couldn’t have been more nervous or anxious about anything at that moment. I decided to suck it up and do the show.

I think that I was so nervous that I had to put myself on “auto-pilot” in order to make it through the event without passing out or worse, throwing up. I think it went well; after it was all over my parents made me feel like I was the most beautiful girl up there. For that one night I felt incredibly good about myself and I knew I had worked hard in the classes and it felt good to be the one on the receiving end of the cheering by my Mom and Dad.

I now I have my own daughter who is thirteen years old. She and I have been talking back and forth since I’ve been working on this post and she said she would like to “try it out” is how she put it. My daughter is a tomboy and doesn’t like boys yet (I’m very lucky and very thankful) and she is considering being a tiny bit more girlie than she is, she’s began wearing makeup, for example. Thankfully, though my daughter is shy at times, she has a heckuva lot more self-confidence than I did at that age. I honestly have no idea why I had such a problem with this growing up because my parents did every possible thing to make me feel pretty and good about myself. As long as parents have the same attitude as my parents and don’t overdo it on the modeling school, it is very beneficial for little girls to have a small amount of exposure to modeling. When I was in my 20s and thought back to this time in my life, I was appalled and felt I was being demeaned and that I was better than that. But now, being in my late 30s, I very much see the benefit for little girls, particularly shy ones, in getting involved in something like modeling. I get sickened by the way some of the mothers on shows like Toddlers & Tiaras behave–acting very competitive and childish with the other mothers. That is a horrible example to be setting for one’s daughter. But how my parents handled it, putting me in for all the right reasons, is exactly the way it should be and I highly recommend that little girls be given that opportunity.

I may not have become The Next Top Model, but I no longer see myself as the Ugly Duckling, and I realize the worth I have as a person. My self-confidence has grown incredibly over the last decade and I believe I have come into my own, finally…

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