Proud2Bme | Lights, Camera...Reality

Lights, Camera...Reality

By Chelsea Freeborn--Diamond in the rough: "One whose unrefined external appearance or ungraceful behaviors belies a good or gentle character and untapped potential.'' I was a diamond in the rough, thrown at a young age into a world of well-polished and unrealistic "diamonds."

Being gifted with what some call the "genetic lotto," my world became forever changed from just three simple words…."What about her?"

I was a social outcast for most of my middle school years, and my life was quickly catapulted into the mature modeling industry. I modeled from the time I was eleven, but was placed with a top agency in New York City when I was in high school, which gave me my first eye-opening experience to the raw, unapologetic ideals for models in the "Big Apple.'' This experience also opened my eyes to a different type of raging partying atmosphere.

Starting as an under-age model, my mom had to stay with me for a week for contract reasons. But once she left, I finally felt like I was FREEEEEEE! I was living in a model apartment with five glorious beauties. I was now surrounded by the "cool" women I'd always wanted to associate with. Being a fresh new face to New York, some of the older girls took me under their wing. Growing up I had an older sister, but because of family dramas, we never truly got close.

So I watched, I copied, I partied, like these "sisters." I never truly had anyone too look up to before. They accepted me; they thought I was beautiful. I was finally getting the outside validation that I was always seeking. Following these new trends, I quickly became wrapped into the scene. I was unaccountable for castings and jobs due to my nightlife behavior.

I remember witnessing one of the beautiful young girls I lived with come home from a long day of castings crying her eyes out. I asked her what was wrong and she said the agency was on the verge of dropping her. The agency told her that her hips were too big to work. I was utterly shocked! I then watched her grueling process of trying to again achieve "the perfect" measurements. It went from restriction to counting to many other self-harmful ways to lose those inches. It was to no avail. She was unable to please the agency with her hip size; so she was immediately asked to leave the apartment and was left to fend for herself.

I couldn’t understand how the agency didn't care about her whereabouts. I just kept thinking, "Where would she go?" This experience began the process of my internal wonder, and I started to ask myself, "Wait, how big are my hips?" Was I eating too much? Slowly the self-talk began to creep in. It began to sound so normal, so innocent. It was a reality check for me, seeing how cut and dry modeling was. Soon I also started to notice the other models’ food behavior and their "tricks." Almost every girl around me was engaging in some form of self-destructive behavior. Sadly, even my closest friend living there was bulimic. And a top girl with a huge beauty contract was a serious drug addict. Truth be told, the agency wouldn't drop her because of the cash she brought in; they only scolded her or wondered where the hell she was from time to time.

I was still so young and naive. All this behavior truly didn't sink in. It only left a memorable scar. Thankfully there were a few exceptions. Two girls I lived with DID stand out from the rest. They were healthy and active and didn't belittle themselves with the industry ideals. They became top names in the modeling world as well as positive mentors to look up to. Unfortunately, without real knowledge on how to achieve this healthy lifestyle, lots of us fall short.

After a long battle with my own addictions and eating disorders, I mentor women and young girls coming into the industry about staying aware and hosting a positive self-image. I am who I am today and I am comfortable in my skin. I still work in the industry. I mean I grew up in the modeling world. But I WILL tell you I'm no longer the reckless little girl I once was. I'm no longer slowly dying or deteriorating my body and soul. I'm happy to classify myself as an outspoken, self-aware, and spiritual recovering woman for change who is happy to stand for the right for anyone to feel comfortable in their body no matter their weight, height, or "beauty." Starting with a new life motto: WE ARE ALL PERFECT AND EXCELLENT IN OUR OWN WAY. To those still hurting or learning while reading this, I tell you that recovery has changed my life. Don't let your fear get in your way. You can recover. To this day, I still travel all over the world and am respected in my industry for standing up for myself. I'm truly proud to be in recovery and growing. I freely share my experience, strength, and hope with all who are in need. I'm no longer burdened by others’ approval of me. No longer stuck in this idea that I'm never enough. I'm gratefully happy and content with how full and filling my daily life is on the road from "perfection to progress," knowing I will NEVER HAVE TO FEEL THE WAY I DID AGAIN. Love and Light to you all. Please remember that we are all perfect and excellent in our own way. Just take the time to find the perfect that lays within YOU.

This post is the first in a series of personal essays Chelsea has written for Proud2Bme. Stay tuned for more of her insights on the fashion industry and health.

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.