It was 2008 and I was living with my then-boyfriend in Los Angeles, sharing a ‘20s style duplex with hardwood floors and jalousie windows that leaked cold air during California winters. He was—and is—a photographer. We met on the set of a shoot I didn’t want to show up for on account of extreme sleep deprivation and general laziness. I remember the point when he reached over and pushed my chin towards the light in a certain way and I could tell, right then and there, that this was the person for me, at least for a time. No matter the duration, you meet people for reasons, and his was to push me towards another chapter of my life, which was out of a career modeling and into writing.
At that point, I had been a model for four years, the catalyst of which was a conversation with a music manager on an airplane between New York and Los Angeles. I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and doing calculus homework for a class I was barely passing when I told him I wanted to do A&R. “Don’t get on a sinking ship,” he told me, with wry post-Napster malaise, and then suggested I talk to his friend, an agent in Los Angeles.
And so, just like that, I started. I traveled, sat in makeup chairs, walked in runway shows, met weird people, met amazing people. In the beginning, it was great, but soon enough the novelty begins to wear off, like gold rings rubbing down to brass cores. You find yourself having the same conversations about what agency pays on time, who was dating who, what juice cleanse was someone was on. The constant sinusoidal flux of acceptance and rejection inherent to booking jobs begins to wear on you, too. You get a bit older, and more confident in who you are as a person. You want to start being you, not just someone’s vision of you… however beautiful that vision might be. You want your own voice.
Everything started with a blog—three-hundred-word anecdotal essays about getting sick on airplanes, having my wallet stolen, road trips in old mini vans. I was doing it for myself, mainly, until people began responding to the work, like someone had opened up my journal and deemed it passable for publishing. I kept going, even after the boyfriend who told me to write every day and I broke up. Especially after we broke up. I packed up my things and moved to New York. That’s when everything changed, like the world had expanded and I was placed in its center and handed a pen.
I found an apartment in Brooklyn with trees outside all the windows and white paint on the walls. I could ride my bike down to a pier along the East River and watch ancient
Polish fishermen drinking beers out of paper bags while they caught nothing. And I wrote about all of it—wrote about the boys and the heartbreak and the seasons changing. I wrote and wrote and wrote until finally people starting hiring me to write for them. I wrote so much I didn’t need to model anymore. I wrote until I became a writer.
Written by Jenny Bahn; Photos by Thomas Northcut.
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