Modeling, Terror, and Pumpkins

In an interview at the model management office, I was asked why I might consider modeling “professionally”. The answer for me was simple, I want to be part of creative projects and creative processes. I look forward the most to a “construction project” of visual strategies, scenes, and images, and to be an instrument for other artists. Of course, what that might mean in actual practice, I am not really sure, but I thought I’m old and open enough to the adventures or misadventures that modeling might bring.

And on the day of my first development photo shoot, I found myself among young girls and boys, possibly half my age, with a third of my body weight, and with twice my leg length. :) "There must be a reason why we measure ourselves certain ways", I pondered. For example, why do we care so much about the waistline and not the thumb size? :P

Using Darwinian lens in trying to make sense of all this measuring, it could be true that an “attractive” physique possibly increases your chances for sexual selection and your chances of passing on your genes to the next generation. How the fashion industry and the popular culture are translating that, I do not know…. But at the very least, an “attractive” physique could signify better health, better predisposition in life, and better chances of delivering a healthy offspring who would then continue on reproducing.

But apart from those biological aspects, “attractiveness” is indeed socially constructed. We assign social values to certain physical and mythical “x-factor” features which reflect our biases and notions e.g.:

  1. political histories e.g. post-colonial Philippines’ obsession on “mestizos” and descendants of victorious colonialists, etc.

  2. desirable incomes and social stature e.g. well-bred, well-heeled, well-educated, well-mannered, well-off etc.

  3. religious and cultural norms e.g. fairness and purity, austerity and discipline, relatable-ness and friendliness, marketability and sexiness, Orientalism and the exotic pliant brown woman etc.

Having accounted all that, I was then left to look at myself, to evaluate my body and my social identity. It helps that I have accepted realities about my age, height, body type, my ethnicity etc. And so I think I could "handle it", in case I fall into brutal self-pity and anorexia. I have learned to celebrate diversity and to look for unique beauties in each person. Does being pretty, popular, sexy, marketable etc. define me as a better or worse human being? NOPE.

Besides, are we ever going to be pretty, nice, young, fresh, popular enough anyway?

My father recently shared an article about humanity’s discontent, non-satiety, and our struggles to create meanings in our life…

Terror Management Theory suggests that all these material and I suppose social obsessions on life ‘achievements’, are strategies to cope with the idea and the consciousness of our finite-ness, our death, and our nothingness. Yes, we are all going to die and become nothing. Hello, Nietzsche. And thus, we are a bunch of immensely terrified breathing mammals, scrambling around to make sense of the world we were born in, and to make some kind of “good” of what has been insufferably handed to us: life as it is. Well hello, Sartre.

And so I guess with this new found curiosity and motivation to be creative, I could make good use of whatever time I have got (left). I have lived through 34 years of life, I probably have another 34 years to go. I might as well have a blast on the Second half.

In our Calgary home’s patch, an aggressive pumpkin is overtaking all other vegetables. Having been bruised by at least two (2) hailstorms, it is demonstrating amazing level of persistence. Perhaps, it senses that the summer growing season is almost over and thus, it has to maximize the dwindling summer sunlight every day and grow leaves the size of Frisbees. I swear, this gourd could have made it to the Rio Olympics!

However, it is not the aggression and the ferociousness that I find motivating about this plant. Models can take so much inspiration from the humble pumpkin. For the flowering and the fruiting takes months to accomplish, it gathers so much energy only to offer meaty rewards to whoever or whatever is patient enough to bite (or bake) through the tough flesh. That is generosity. It has toughened itself up for months to be ready for morbid carvings… That is elegance. It has prepared itself to host and play with light in a lantern... And that is grace. Right there.

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