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How the Pandemic Turned My Life Upside Down: My New Life as a 38 Year Old Model

All those degrees. All those jobs. All that training. Now I style clothes and pose for the camera. I actually did some modeling in the early 90s. I wish the pictures weren't buried in my parent's basement. My favorite was me in a classic 80s roller skating costume in some back alley in Houston. Now it's a combination of making Target fit my mold or making Tokyo fashion feel mainstream. Those are my niches, this is now my job.

Raise your hand if you’re a mom (or dad) who the pandemic forced you into being somewhat of a stay at home parent, a para-educator, a lunch lady, a therapist, the list goes on and on. Our kids needed so much more than we were equipped to handle and then there’s your paying job on top of that. Unless you’re like me and you had a thriving business or job that is now dead in the water. I had to pivot.

It started off with just keeping myself busy while Scarlett was in class. I started my blog, just to write about things that bring me joy and then I decided I should try and monetize it in some way. So I became an Amazon Affiliate, which was great during the holiday season when people were buying Christmas gifts. But when the over shopping to compensate for the crappy year ended that proved to be a non-existent income stream. I’ve always had an outfit of the day post on Instagram, but it was always a hobby. I got on and thought maybe I could monetize my outfits. My photographer has always been my kid, who’s now 9. Real quality stuff.

We set up this dressing/lounge/mom’s retreat in a spare bedroom (benefit of only having one child), which became the base of my operation. I even got myself a remote tripod with a light for when Scarlett isn’t available or in the mood to photograph me. Pro-tip, get extra remotes for when you or your 9 year old loses it. I of course have a big mirror for those selfies, but that isn’t sufficient for pictures for my blog. It’s a whole complex situation.

We’ll discuss the room another day and instead talk about how Scarlett completely embarrassed me by trying to explain my job to her class. To be clear she wasn’t even talking about me. Last week Scarlett brought her virtual class into the Salon des Chaussures. That is what we call my “base of operations”. It means shoe lounge in french. She wanted to show off Coco's new bed that she got as a promotional item after having been featured in some of my photos. Putting the dog in the picture makes my 9 year old more interested in taking my picture.

So here’s my kid, showing the dog laying in her bed in front of my shoe collection, and her teacher says what is it your mom does and she says she’s a blogger. I was kind of mortified. Lord knows she talks about her dad's job all the time and how she wants to be just like him, but I no longer have a successful business development consulting firm she can talk about. Thanks Covid. Not that she ever really understood what I did, but somehow this job seems frivolous and unimportant.

Yesterday my husband and I discussed how I made in a week what he makes in an hour. For the time being that’s fine. No business turns a profit in the first two months. Most don’t even turn a profit in the first year. In his mind the point is I am doing something that makes me happy and you know what they say: happy wife, happy life. But happiness is relative. I don’t know how much I loved my old job. Negotiating contracts, auditing expense reports, and all the failures we experienced despite turning a profit was stressful, I had big dreams about integrating virtual classes into our revenue stream. I didn’t have dreams of modeling bathing suits.

To be clear I am not an influencer. I have 600+ followers and average 75 views per blog post. I'm really just a model. People pay me to style and photograph myself in clothes. Usually non mainstream clothes. Sometimes it's just a shirt but sometimes it's bright orange leg warmers. Like I said my niche is Asian fashion trying to break into the US market. But I do love clothes and make up, and who doesn’t like getting free stuff?

Insert Picture Modeling Leg Warmers with Coco

Mid pandemic I was having dinner with my pod and I said we need to go somewhere with a hard floor. No more dining in the grass. I said find me a damn patio. Cat said why and I replied "I want to wear heels." She laughed but she knows me and found a place with a brick floor. What is there to do right now but smirk at my situation? I’m 38 years old, 170 lbs, but I get paid to model clothes. Mostly on Amazon, sometimes for small international boutiques. I am working hard at becoming a Target Affiliate so I make more than $0.85 cents every time someone buys a Target piece I wear.

But besides, the lack of big pay days, there is a drain on me with this job. I remember when Erin Heatherton told Victoria Secret she wasn’t losing any more weight to meet their ideal standard of beauty. It ended her career. Conversely, I get work for the opposite reason. I am not a 0, 2, or 4. I am an 8, 10, or 12. The companies I model for are looking for “real” women to show off their clothes. Runway models will continue to experience Erin Heatherton’s problems, but the rest of the industry is starting to recognize I am not going to buy something that looks good on Gigi Hadid. I believe strongly in being fit, eating healthy, for the sake of wanting to be around when my grand kids graduate college. But if I lose too much weight I’ll lose my job.

Job, lol, sounds silly even saying it. Why? Because I made about $100 last week, because Target hasn’t picked me up yet as an affiliate, because I only grow about 50 followers a month, because my hair isn’t perfect (I’m playing with extensions), and because I am highly educated to do other things. But the modeling is just what I am trying to do to cover my costs. Blogging is still bringing me a lot of joy. When I write something from the heart, like how Covid, destroyed my business and now I am struggling to get my Instagram followers, people read it and say, yes I identify with this. Ok probably not the bit about thinking you need hair extensions to be more successful at work, but there are a lot of other people out there whose life has been turned upside down by this pandemic. People who were going places or had reached that place they thought they needed to be.

I can’t go on about being embarrassed that I model leg warmers to try and survive my job loss and need to identify myself as something other than Scarlett’s lunch lady, without addressing how fortunate we are that I can even do this. I can’t say I feel pressure to be more successful with this job and not say that my job isn’t my identity. I can’t ignore how lucky we are that we can afford for me to stay home and do this so Scarlett can be home and safe. But mostly I can’t not say how blessed we are not to have lost anyone to this horrible virus.

This is a season in my life, this is how I am surviving the pandemic. I don't know if modeling will have a place in my life a year from now but it does now and that's ok. None of us really knows what will come next. I know that we have to stop judging ourselves for how messy our lives are. We can’t do our work perfectly and still make sure our kids turn in their homework. We can’t be all things to all people. We have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst and take it one day at a time. Scarlett is in fact named after Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. Her words ring so true right now, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

The jumpsuit is Julia Jordan.

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