By Britney Wittes
On March 29th, 2022 I sat on a train in New York City heading to the model camp run by Coco Rocha. I was excited knowing I was going to have the opportunity to meet and train under her and meet other models that I could relate to in this, sometimes lonely, industry.
I was also very nervous. What if everything I have worked towards over the last 14 years wasn’t within my grasp? What if the box I was constantly put in, of being a lifestyle and commercial model, was all I could really achieve in this world? What if my feeling of being stuck would never go away? I was scared to hear the truth, but also knew I needed it.
I arrived at camp, got checked in by the wonderful team, and then sat waiting for my chat with Coco. I sat down in front of her, nervous and very aware of who was sitting in front of me, not because she was a celebrity, but she was someone who once was in my shoes and became successful.
I explained to her the box I felt that I was in. The face I have, the height that I am, and how I’ve done commercial and lifestyle modeling for so long that it’s the way my agents and casting directors see me. Her answer was simple, you’re not too short.
She then moved on, looking at my pictures to decide exactly what my look would entail for the photoshoot on the last day of camp. I sat there, a bit stunned at her answer and almost rejecting it. How could that be her answer? Doesn’t she know how frustrating this is? This is my career and I feel stumped, isn’t that what I’m here to learn how to fix? As she moved on to the next girl, I sat there dissecting those few words that felt so defining of who I was at that moment. I’m not too short, but am I not if everyone keeps saying no? I left our chat feeling unfulfilled and unsure of what the rest of the time at this camp would bring.
The next morning, we began with a posing class. It felt so invigorating to my soul, I always zone out and just let my body take me wherever it wants to go. Next was a runway class. It helped me gain confidence and learn what I do and don’t like about my walk. I was able to incorporate what she taught while having the chance to create the walk I love. After the second day I was feeling better about being a well-rounded model, but still a bit defeated that I had no idea how to show that to others, to get them to give me a chance.
Then Coco said something that finally made it click. Her comment was in response to playing with your own music, but it worked to connect the dots for me. She said, “Don’t ask, just do it.” It helped me to realize that not only was I waiting for someone to give me permission, but I was also going out of my way to make myself small and hope they would still give me a chance to prove them wrong.
No one has got anywhere in life by being small or waiting for permission. No one will ever believe in me as much as I believe in me, and if I can’t do that I will continue to be stuck.
Then she said someone had told her there are two things in this life we have to do, nothing else.
I realized it’s true. We choose to not speak up. We choose to do things different from how we want. No one makes us do things this way, and while it doesn’t always feel that way, at the end of the day we are making the choice to listen to others instead of ourselves.
I realized I had been choosing all of this – I had been choosing to hear setbacks and that was it. Now, instead I'll be thinking: “No. This is my career, that isn’t a good enough answer. I will find someone who will give me a yes.”
I have to fight for myself and be my own advocate. Sometimes it feels like an agency is bullying you or you don’t want to bother them, but at the end of the day they really do work for you, not the other way around. You should feel like there is great and open communication and that you are able to grow in the way that you want to.
– Photograph by: Matthew Priestley
On the last day of camp, we each had a photoshoot where we were tasked to play a character that we normally don’t to expand our portfolios. I was to play “Rock & roll but with a Thierry Mugler “Bees” twist.” I was nervous going outside of my comfort zone, but the second I got in front of the camera, my instincts took over, and I just let my body do what it needed to do – the same, trusted thing I always feel
When I saw the first photo, I almost cried. I had never thought of myself in the way I was portrayed in this photo. I have always been so hard on myself by also knowing how much more I have to give. Seeing that picture validated everything for me. It was one of the first times I truly felt like a model who could be taken seriously in this industry.
Attending Coco’s modeling camp was an experience I will never forget. The people I met, the things I learned, and the confidence to finally bet on myself is something I wouldn’t give up for anything. Leaving the camp
was a very difficult moment for me. I then had to face the question of, now what? Will I be able to continue with the agents I currently have? Will I want to move to a different market?
I’m not 100% sure what this all means now, but I do know I will no longer allow things to just happen. I will take control of my career and make sure my agents know I mean business.. This is my career and I want it to go as far as I can take itI have to be willing to hear those no’s but smart about the decisions that will shape my career. The sky's the limit!
Thank you Coco, James, and the rest of the team for all of the incredible information and showing me I had it in me all along – I just had to stop getting in my own way.