o there I was, a rebellious teenager from Texas with a starstricking smile, bright green eyes, and an ambitious attitude that was unstoppable.
The image of this earth shattering young woman with such an optimistic outlook on life will forever embrace and represent a very ambitious princess that was ready to rule New York City.
From a very young age, I always knew that I was meant to rule the streets of New York City. Watching from afar in Texas, I would always gawk over these super cosmic Victoria’s Secret models, actresses, artists, and other celebrities who “seemed” to be living the dream.
Fast forward ten or so years, to my first meeting with a “big shot” modeling agent that promised me the world. He used to say things like“...your eyes are so amazing, your cheekbones are nothing like I’ve ever seen before, you are one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen...”, are only a fraction of the things that I used to hear, but I’ll keep it PG for now.
Fast forward a few more years to when I finally mustered up the confidence to leave my family and move to New York City by myself with this amazing, glamorized life promised to me. But come to realize the life promised to me was not the life I encountered.
The actual modeling industry was more along the lines of ...“Your hips are too big... your hips are too small...you need to lose weight…..your boobs are too small….your boobs are too big….. your thighs are too small....you need to gain here....but lose here…..” I am simultaneously too curvy to be a straight size model and too skinny to be a curve model. Imagine being a sixteen-seventeen year old girl who hasn’t even reached the pinnacle of puberty yet being told everything about her is not enough.
I would be told by my agency the reason I wasn’t booking anything or working was because my body was not perfect enough or liked by my agency’s clients. To pay my bills, I was having to work various jobs in restaurants and/or bars that I absolutely hated. Some of them I quit on the first day or within the first week, and I was even fired from one. There were times when I couldn’t pay my rent and I would ask myself, is this really worth it? I was kicked out of one of my old apartments by my so-called “best friend” at the time and roommate because I couldn’t pay the rent on time.
The problems would only start to worsen as I continued my journey in New York City. I would get messages or be on set with well known and respected photographers who would ask me things that were obviously sketchy. One offered to fly me out and shoot with him, but I had to stay at his house with him. If I did not agree to stay with him, I would have to fly myself out and pay him to shoot me. Another photographer invited me to his hotel at two in the morning to “shoot” some new merchandise he had received. Yet another time, I was doing a semi-nude photoshoot and wearing nude undergarments so I wouldn’t be completely naked on set. The photographer asked me to take off the nude undergarments because he didn’t feel like editing it out.
Of course, me being the girl who says what’s on her mind, I would tell them that these things were inappropriate and unprofessional. I never heard from any of them after that.
Despite all of these struggles, I still believed in myself and knew that I was meant to achieve great things, I just could not even fathom the thought of failure. I had not come all this way just to give up when things got tough. I couldn’t give up not only for myself, but because I wanted to inspire others. And this is still my philosophy to this day.
The road to self acceptance when you’re being told that you’re not good enough almost every single day from people you look up to, is not easy. I stopped comparing myself to every other model because I am not every other model. I am unique, and I am proud that no one else is like me. My power lies in the fact that I am not like everyone else. I am healthy and perfect the way that I am.
Some of Laney's beautiful images
MUA: Stephanie Perez - @lovehatemisfit
Photos by: Kimberley Gordon - @wedreamoficecream
Say hi to Laney on insta @laneydegrassse