I recall once putting on Docker pants and a pair of topsider-styled shoes and feeling a bit too conservative. After all, I am a Village resident, not someone living in Greenwich, Connecticut. I asked a friend if my dress was too preppy. She replied, "I love preppy." This was rather surprising, coming from a young woman who was East Village edgy. I was intrigued.
At times, she would comment longingly on the light color of my skin. She would comment on the beauty of white women. Eventually I got to the bottom of it. She told me outright that she hated being Chinese and would love nothing better than to be a beautiful, white supermodel. Sad, really, because she really had no need whatsoever for that transformation other than the marketing of women. She was a New York City resident, intelligent, well-educated, had a great career, and was very popular, with a heart of gold and a great personality. And I knew a little about models.
I had subletted space for years to a fashion photographer and explained to her that being a model was not the promised land. I believed that she still would be unhappy as a model for many reasons. Who wants physical beauty to be his or her primary asset? You are so vulnerable and your beauty is a declining asset. Even when relatively young, the industry is looking for the next hot model. How will you feel at 30? There is lots of competition. Work and income will be very unreliable.
Also, models are hypercritical, particularly of themselves. Once in this business, any flaw takes on a surreal importance. I assured my friend that even if she was a model, she would soon see herself in as negative a light as before. But all of my reasoning fell on deaf ears. An anecdote well illustrates my thinking.
Living in New York City, you will see plenty of models everywhere. I imagine that this can be daunting and discouraging to many women, albeit a perpetual parade of eye-candy for others. My business is located at 520 Broadway in SoHo, where I have occupied the 3rd floor for 21 years. There has been a modeling agency on the 11th floor for many years, and I have had the pleasure of riding in the elevator with many male and female models.
One morning, I entered the elevator with a very beautiful, tall woman. She moved to the rear, furthest from the panel of buttons while I was closest. I hit three for myself and then asked, "Eleven?" She appeared quite surprised at my precognitive abilities and said, "Yes, thank you. How did you know that?" I told her that she was quite beautiful, obviously a model going to the 11th floor agency. She thanked me for the compliment and added, "I don't feel very beautiful this morning." "Ridiculous," I told her. She appeared thankful as I got off at the 3rd floor.
Better that your personal assets are based on your talents, skills, or knowledge, not physical beauty. However, with technology in such flux, and with global competition and international outsourcing, who knows where opportunity in the future may lie or what professions may become obsolete.
The traditional trades look more attractive than ever. I have often joked that perhaps becoming a plumber may offer the most secure employment - after all, the need for plumbing will never go away. Ironically, I now see plumbing on lists of the Best Jobs for the 21st Century.
Beauty fades. Customer service goes to India. But you can't outsource plumbing :)
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