My modeling journey began in 2007, at the unusual starting point of age 38.
I was working for a Fortune 200 Telecommunications company as a sales consultant to large businesses. I had a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. The technical aspects of my job fulfilled my scientific and engineering personality. Meanwhile, dancing, which I had been drawn to since childhood, fulfilled the creative side of me—my other half. Expressing myself artistically through dance invigorated and energized me.
I had been taking Latin ballroom lessons and was diligently rehearsing a performance Paso Doble dance routine my partner—a traditional, proud, and elegant dance modeled after the drama and movement of the Spanish bullfight.
As we continued rehearsals I developed extreme foot pain- to the point where I had trouble walking. I finally booked an appointment with a podiatrist. The doctor diagnosed me with fractured sesamoid bones (which are tiny bones inside the balls of the feet) and swelling in all of the surrounding tendons.
His treatment plan: No dancing for six months to a year.
The doctor didn’t change his mind no matter how much I protested. I left his office feeling dejected and tremendously sad. I had lost my creative outlet. My job was very technical and mentally stimulating, but without dancing I didn’t have an artistic release, and it made me I feel stagnant and depressed.
I definitely needed a new one.
Embarking on a search for new fulfillment, I read inspirational self-help books, attended lectures, took personal development courses, explored online, searching for my next stimulating project. I was looking for something that felt right. Maybe start a new business, or learn to play the guitar, or join the paddling team at the beach…
Hanging the Star
One day I was sitting in an educational lecture staring out the window, not really paying attention, and a very clear and certain thought entered my mind, almost as if someone else had placed it there:
“I think I want to model now.”
Why this popped into my head at that moment is beyond me, but it felt surprisingly calm and certain. It was as if this new goal was a bright star I had hung in the night sky, and it was now shining brilliantly and beckoning me forwards. I just had to head towards it like a sailor following the North Star across the ocean.
But THIS goal? This goal made no sense. Yes I was 5’11 and fairly thin. But I was also 38 years old.
A loud argument inside my head ensued. The discussion was between my creative side, that part of me that came up with the idea, and the logical side, that part of me that felt the idea was ridiculous.
The voices went back and forth:Logical me: “”You can’t model. You are 38 years old!” Creative me: “Sure I can. I’m 5’11” tall. I’m the right height.” Logical me: “Models are 18 or 20 years old. It is too late for you to start modeling. You missed that opportunity 20 years ago.” Creative me: “I don’t have to be a supermodel. I can just try it for fun.” Logical me: “You can’t. It’s a dumb idea and it will never work.” Creative me: “I don’t care if it’s dumb. I want to try anyway.”
Smiling, I decided, what the heck? I would see what I could do with this idea… but under one condition:
I promised myself to simply enjoy whatever experience and adventure I could get out of modeling for as long as I wanted to pursue it. No pressure. No self-judgment.
And so, my new hobby was born.
The First Step
Referred by a friend, I contacted the Tri-Community Photography Program in Covina, CA and volunteered to model for a beginning fashion photography class. I turned up with some of my own clothes and happily posed away.
When I got the pictures back I laughed—I looked like a female version of Zoolander in most of the shots, trying so hard to be sexy and making funny faces the rest of the time. At this point, I certainly did NOT look like a model in most of the pictures,and I could have easily decided that this was a useless pursuit and that I should just give up and find something else to do.
But my decision to model was based upon focusing on the positive and enjoying the process, so I looked for what I had done well.
There were 4 exceptions. Out of 50 images there was one that looked like an acting headshot, a couple which looked like catalog shots, and a black and white shot that looked edgy and cool. Those pictures gave me just enough of a glimmer of hope that I might be able to get better at it.
The class photographers seemed to like me well enough. I told everyone I was 26 and nobody questioned it. since I had enjoyed the experience, I decided to keep going.
The Development Process
I started a healthy diet so that I would be in shape for taking pictures, and for the first time in a long time I really had some motivation to stick to it. I whitened my teeth, got a haircut, and signed up for runway lessons with a local instructor. I set up profiles on social and photography networking sites like ModelMayhem where I could connect with photographers looking for models.
I volunteered for every photo shoot I could find. I used my business negotiation skills to get picked up for photo shoots that I normally wouldn’t be selected for. Slowly and surely I began developing a modeling portfolio with better and better images.
I worked hard and simply ignored the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be modeling at my age. It was just my hobby after all, so there was no pressure, but I approached it with the same passion that I had approached dance: with a zeal for performance and dedication for training, learning, and figuring out ways to improve.
Performing in front of the camera gave me a similar artistic high as dancing did. I was expressing and creating shapes with my face and body. And I also found a new enjoyment in collaboration with other artists, as modeling is truly a collaborative effort. As the model I was a walking, breathing, frame for the creations of the other artists working with me: the clothing designs, the makeup, the hair, the accessories. And to the photographer I was the lead actress in the picture, lending my individual look and personality to each frame.
That was the start of my journey as a fashion model.
I resisted the urge to judge or criticize myself. I allowed myself to be a beginner and learn with little expectation. I was doing this for my own pleasure, so I tried not to worry about the end goal. I was just going to do it because I discovered I really did love doing it.
And eventually my “hobby” became a bit more than a hobby, as do all things seem to do when people spend a lot of time with them. It has been an incredible, fun, and fulfilling journey.
In the end, it’s not about the end: fulfillment lies not in achieving a particular “gold star” moment but in doing something you care about passionately. The pursuit, the commitment—that’s what brings joy. Whether your passion is excelling at—or simply participating in—the visual arts, acting, singing, sports, or business strategy, chasing that dream brings fulfillment.
If you love singing, then sing. Sing in the church choir or at Karaoke bars. Take lessons. Push yourself. Don’t worry about becoming the next Beyoncé or Brittany Spears. Don’t worry that your time “has past” or that it is too late to try. Just sing because every note that you belt out makes you feel alive.
If you have always wanted to paint, go take a community painting class and knock yourself out. Paint paintings, and pottery, and greeting cards. Hang them up proudly in demonstration that you are not afraid to follow your passions.
If you always wanted to compete as a swimmer, go sign up for a local swim team, and don’t worry that you are not, nor never likely to be, Michael Phelps. Just put your swim cap on and get in there and push yourself, so that you go home exhausted and happy to tell your family that you just bested your own speed record.
Do what you love because you love it and it thrills you. In our achievement-based culture we can easily lose sight of the real point of following our dreams and passions: to realize ourselves, whoever that turns out to be, and to have a fun in pursuit along the way. Don’t worry too much about being good at it. Just do it simply because it makes you happy.
And then, as your hobby develops sit back and watch where it takes you, and you may be quite surprised at the result.
Enjoy your self-exploration and your journey. I know I sure am.Sincerely, Jacqueline Depaul