To an outsider, the life of a model might seem materialistic, luxurious, and extraordinary. After all, where do we see models aside from on stages, screens, or centrefolds? They travel the world and work for designers whose names most of us can’t pronounce. Not to mention, they fulfill society’s idea of perfection and get paid for it, so as a result, it’s hard for the everyday consumer to relate to the world’s most beautiful people. For that reason, they are often assumed to be something they’re not, leaving no room for personality and depth to their character. Of course, this is an unfortunate stereotype and certain untruth. Eager to disprove the myth about models, Metro Living Zine interviewed Rachel Sargeant, a Canadian model with experience abroad. She found her experience in New York and Milan (with Luxx Management) to be more than just a job; to Rachel, it was enriching, fascinating, and although it was not without it’s faults, fun.

“I loved living in a foreign country and having to figure out a new way of life,” said Rachel, about her time in Milan. “I picked up enough Italian to be able to grocery shop and order cappuccinos!”  While she was able to get along in Italy, and got used to it rather quickly, there were some parts of italian life that were difficult to adjust to. “There were a bunch of little things that separated it from Canada, which I both liked and disliked,” she explained. “For example, everyone there smokes, you have to buy a ticket ahead of time if you want to get on a bus, and the men absolutely do catcall you from the street. After a few weeks, I learned how to get around and where to shop, and then I started getting annoyed by obviously-visiting families with their backpacks and cameras, weaving through the crowd thinking,” she added. “Ugh, tourists!”

It’s clear to see that Rachel didn’t struggle too much with her assimilation in Milan. She adored it’s metro system, architecture, language, and of course, coffee. “It made me fall in love with Italy in a way I didn’t expect,” she admitted, “and the biggest job I booked was there, for a hair academy with L’Oreal. It was a really fun shoot with extreme hair and makeup; I had feathers glued to my eyebrows!” Her favourite shoot yet was there, too, working for a husband-and-wife photography team. “They turned me from an average Canadian redhead to a Vogue cover model!” she exclaimed. “I adore those pictures and they’re probably the best I’ve ever taken.”

So far, it seems like everything was peachy for Rachel and the other models living in Milan. They loved the city, the work, and the lifestyle. Yet, there’s one thing missing from the list: each other. While most of them got along swimmingly, including one Brazilian model who “became great friends” with Rachel and the other Canadian girls, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the group. 

“It was a really nice apartment with big windows and a huge bathroom, but with six girls crammed together, it was a bit stuffy at times,” explained Rachel. “I was lucky enough to go to Milan with three other girls from my agency, so right off the bat I knew someone there and we bonded over flight details and castings directions. It was great to have someone from home who already spoke your language and knew the customs you were used to. However,” she continued, “there was one other roommate we had that was one of the most difficult people I have ever encountered, so learning how to deal with that was a real life experience. I was expecting to not be best friends with at least one roommate, because I didn’t know who was already going and not everyone is instant friends, but this girl put my patience to the test.” Regardless, everyone managed to avoid taking their claws out, and the stay was still overwhelmingly positive. “You just have to pick your battles and decide if arguing is worth it,” she concluded.

“As for inside stories,” said Rachel, in response to my request for anecdotes, “at the time I went, the song ‘Lean On’ by DJ Snake was huge in Milan, so we’d hear it all the time. Some days, we would be in the apartment cooking dinner or hanging out in pyjamas, and one of us would randomly play the song; everyone would start dancing around like lunatics. Models are much weirder than we pretend to be!” 

So, there you have it; the life of a model isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! If Rachel had to describe it in a word, she would choose “challenging”, due to the pressure to “always be better, taller, thinner, more charming, and so on to book a job over someone else.” Rachel has already made a name for herself with her experience and brilliant red hair, but she still struggles with bias and disrespect in the industry.

“Modelling is long hours in high heels with little food and sometimes little respect, lots of unpaid work and pressure from your agency to lose weight or book more,” Rachel confessed. “I have faced the ‘dumb model’ stereotype before, with clients who think you can’t understand them when they talk about you (even if you’re standing right in front of them) or guys who want to take advantage of the fact you’re a pretty young thing that they can easily get drunk. I’m fairly lucky to not have met many people [like that], and the people I do meet who are disrespectful mostly ignore me because I’m just a clothes hanger to them.” To cope with this struggle, Rachel emphasizes her personality. “The way out of it is showing them that you’re human too; make jokes, ask about their day, talk about school or work or other interests. You have to shock people out of their mind frame; they can be so wrapped up in themselves that they forget you’re a person.”

What’s more, she points out that many models are educated people, too. “Most of the time, modelling is a side job, so a lot of us have full careers outside of the business. I know models who manage phone companies and have medical degrees, and I am hoping to go into publishing myself. It’s one of those things you have to paste a smile on and deal with, then hope to never see that person again. Mutual respect will get you farther in the industry than pretending to be bobble head for the sake of pay.” 

In summary, modelling isn’t as empty or as wondrous as it seems. Yet, for Rachel, it may very well be a prosperous, lifelong career. She loves her job, whether it’s at a fashion show or a photo shoot. She’s already worked in Cape Town, South Africa, and here in Vancouver, where she is signed with Leo Management. This year, she’ll walk the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week (as she has done for the past six seasons), and is planning on revisiting Milan as well as Japan or Korea in the future. On top of all of that, she’s finishing up her English degree and is looking into getting a novel published. “As well,” she added, to her mighty to-do list, “I plan on finishing reading my extremely tall stack of books I keep buying!” It’s plain to see that she doesn’t match up to the stereotype, and frankly, I doubt that anyone does. Who says that you can’t have both beauty and brains? Rachel Sergeant is observable proof that it’s absolutely possible.