Diary of a Model by Lina Scheynius

I am 16 years old. I live in a small town in Sweden that nobody has ever heard of. School is easy and boring. I am not popular with the boys, and I don’t think I am attractive. That’s not completely true. When I look at myself in the mirror, I feel like there is something to my looks. But I am skinny, pale, shy, and awkward, and I don’t have boobs. I desperately need someone to tell me that I am beautiful.

Like so many girls, I dream about the modeling industry, this fairy tale where you make a fortune being flown around the world and celebrated for your beauty. One time a girl in my class tells me I can be a model. When she says it, I pretend I don’t care, but inside I am glowing.

I write a letter saying I am 16 years old, 175 centimeters tall, and weigh 51 kilograms, that my eyes are green and my hair is strawberry blonde but dyed brown. I balance a camera on a pile of books and try to pose like the models in the magazines. I send the letter and the pictures to the first modeling agency I find in the phone book, Avenue Models in Gothenburg, and hope for the best.

A week later, the phone rings. “Hi. This is Danilo from Avenue Models. I want you to come to the agency so we can meet in person.” I hang up terrified. What have I gotten myself into? Can I even trust this man?

The walls of Danilo’s office are filled with magazine covers of stunning women. I don’t look like them, do I? Danilo stares at me in a way I’m not used to. He wants me to come back when my hair returns to its normal color and meet an Italian agent he works with. If the agent likes me, I get to go to Italy.

I wash my hair obsessively for months.

Back at the agency, with strawberry blond hair, I am introduced to the Italian. He has piercing blue eyes and expensive clothes. He shakes my hand and takes my picture. Portrait, profile, and full body. A week later he invites me to spend my summer in Milan. I jump up and down when I get the news. This is one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me. Everything that I dreamt of and more is coming true.

The Milan agency will pay for my flight and accommodations. Danilo doesn’t explain much more to me and I don’t ask him anything either. I still haven’t been in front of a camera or been told what the deal is financially. I will be sent out into the world knowing nothing about the job or the industry. My parents don’t get any information from Danilo either. They do not understand this career choice and are worried about the whole thing. I tell them I am going no matter what and that I would never forgive them if they interfered.

I have kept a diary since I was a little girl. I write:

Danilo called again. I am going to Milan in less than two weeks. I am super nervous. He said four girls from the agency are going. Does this mean that I have been chosen? That they thought I was special? I feel like I have really high expectations on me. Maybe I can’t live up to them. He said I might share an apartment with the other girls. It will be fun. I just hope they are not super confident, stunning, and rude models.

I fly to Milan with two other girls. They are beautiful, tall, and blond. I am excited as we walk through the airport together. I imagine that everyone is looking at us, knowing we are models. I feel special.

Milan is hot, smoggy, and noisy. Our driver takes us too fast through what seems like complete chaos. Lots of people dressed in expensive clothes are on their way somewhere important.

At the agency, the three of us are greeted with a lot of cheek kisses. One by one, a woman takes us into a storage room. She tells me to pull my top up and my pants down. I feel uncomfortable half naked in front of her and try to cover myself up. She needs to measure me, she says, annoyed. Hips, waist, and bust. Most important are the hips, but I don’t know this yet. I also don’t know that you can squeeze your bum a little to make it appear smaller. The two beautiful girls I came with are told their hips are too wide. They will be sent back home to Sweden. This is my first lesson in how fickle this world is. I never see them again.

The agency moves me into an apartment with two older models named Jackie and Tenna. Jackie becomes my mentor, helping me make sense of this new job of mine. She tells me that most models hate Milan, but that it’s a good place to get pictures for your portfolio. Many girls start here just like me.

I am overwhelmed by the number of beautiful girls standing in line at the castings. There are a hundred or two hundred girls all trying to get the same job. When I reach the front of the line, the client is there behind a desk. I meet photographers, magazine editors, and designers. They are bored and rude. They look me up and down, ask me, “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” and “Where are you from?”, flick through my portfolio and tell me thank you. If I’m lucky, they ask me to show my profile or walk up and down or even try on an outfit. They speak Italian to each other as I stand there. I never understand a word, but one girl hear them saying she looks like a pig. I travel for an hour and wait in line for an hour and stand in front of the client for one minute, and then it’s time to rush over to the next casting. I go to five, six, seven castings a day. Nobody helps me find these places. The agency gives me addresses and tells me to get a metro card and work it out myself. 

It’s unclear to me what gets a model a job. Will the client find me more attractive or interesting looking than all the other girls? There is an idea floating around that personality is important. Will the client like the way I look and the way I am? It’s also unclear if there’s anything you can do to improve your chances. A lot of girls wear tight clothes and high heels, but who knows. Sometimes you go for weeks from casting to casting without getting a single job. Many girls try their best but never get work and are sent back home. Nobody treats you like a princess. You are hardly treated like a person.

In between the castings, I get a lot more attention. Men honk their horns. They shout “bella, bella” in the street. One man comes up to me and asks me to marry him. There are also those mysterious men hanging out at the agency who make small talk with me. They are well dressed and attractive. I hear they bring models to nightclubs and hand them endless free drinks in the VIP area. Jackie tells me to stay away from them, and I do.

My first experience in front of a camera is with a middle-aged man named Luca. The agency hires him to photograph me for my portfolio. As soon as I arrive at his studio, the transformation begins. The hairdresser pulls my hair as if I am a doll. The makeup artist applies a thick layer of white powder to my face and blackens my eyelashes with mascara. The stylist dresses me while everyone stands around chatting, in Italian. I am shy and a little lost, but excited about my chance to shine in front of the camera. I try to look as beautiful as I can, standing on my mark with the big lights hitting my face, but Luca doesn’t like it. He gives me short, harsh directions that I find hard to follow. Do this and do that. I hide my confusion and make my best effort to please him. He stops everything, tells me to sit down, stares into my eyes and asks, “Do you speak English?” I don’t know what to say. I speak English fluently. He takes a few more pictures. I go home and cry.

Nothing here is what I expected. The public has such a warped view on modeling. Jackie just told me that my independence will do me good in this industry. But I feel like I constantly have to conform and give in and follow directions. I am not expected to have a single thought or idea of my own. I am just supposed to do what I am told. Nothing is happening on my terms. I felt like I had to crawl for Luca. That is what I hate the most about this job. To always have to crawl for people.

The other models don’t seem happy either. Jackie is 25 and worried that her age is starting to show. She looks at herself in a magazine and tells me young girls don’t have cheekbones as sharp as hers. Nineteen-year-old Tenna is struggling to keep her weight down. She has a tape measure in a drawer next to her bed that she pulls out regularly. Both girls dehydrate themselves with water pills before shoots to look thinner. I am sad when they leave Milan. I am not used to this international fashion world where you meet people briefly and feel close to them and do not see them ever again. 

My new roommate arrives from the Czech Republic. Kristyna is 14 years old and brand-new to the industry like me. I adore her. She is lively and fun and smart. We stay up late at night and laugh about everything happening around us. We climb up to the roof of the building, dangle our legs over the side, and watch the city at night. We go to McDonald’s even though we know we shouldn’t. We dance in the rain on the street. We are two little kids without our parents in a big foreign city.

Our booker Roberto calls every night and tells us what castings we need to go to the next day. Roberto is loud and flamboyant. He shouts out in the agency, “Lina, you don’t need to go to that casting, it’s for lingerie and you don’t have any boobs.” I am insecure around Roberto. I want him to like me and am always happy when it seems like he does. But he clearly adores Kristyna. It makes me jealous. He takes her to castings on the back of his Vespa. He goes shopping with her and buys her short skirts to replace her baggy dresses.

At a casting a photographer tells me I am perfect for his next shoot. “See you soon,” he says as I walk out the door. Finally, a job! It will be a magazine editorial set on a boat. A couple of days later, I am still waiting impatiently for the phone call when Kristyna comes home. She tells me she just shot on a boat with this same photographer. She got the job instead of me. It hurts. I want to be happy for her, she is like a sister to me, but I am so envious. It was supposed to be my job. I wonder why they picked her instead of me. We don’t look anything like each other. She is taller and has dark hair, and she is so thin you can see her bones sticking out everywhere.

The fashion industry is sick. My whole life I have been unhappy with my body because I am too thin. The fashion world has completely twisted my image of myself. When I look at my arms now I feel fat. I know I need to get out of this industry if I don’t want it to get worse. I no longer want to gain weight. Fucking Roberto. He said to me that I wasn’t allowed to gain any weight. I am definitely not one of the skinniest girls at the agency (nor am I one of the fattest). I hate how these thoughts have entered my mind. It is sick when a thin person feels fat. Isn’t that the definition of an eating disorder?! I shouldn’t have to worry about these things. I’m a strong person and yet it was so easy to brainwash me. I did most of the job myself.

My first few times in front of the camera, I smile too much. The photographers tell me to stop. They tell me to “chin up” and to open my mouth. Some of them even say outright, “Look sexy,” which sort of means the same as chin up and open your mouth. I just turned 17. I haven’t actually had sex with anyone yet, I am unsure of the whole “looking sexy” thing, but at least I am old enough to have sex legally. Fourteen-year-old Kristyna comes home with more daring pictures. She sits on the floor in her underwear with her legs spread open, her hands between them, staring into the camera challengingly.

I am more and more homesick. When the summer comes to an end, I am happy to return home to school. Back in Gothenburg, Danilo is pleased that I have a portfolio full of great images and that I booked one job for a hair magazine.


Being back in Sweden is weird. I keep quiet about my life as model – I am afraid people will judge me. But it’s a hard thing to keep secret. People want to know and they want to talk. A boy in my class says a couple of mean things about my appearance. A few people criticize my choice from a political point of view. Why would I do something so degrading to women? I can’t defend myself and avoid that debate. Most of the people around me are just curious, though. They seem disappointed when I say that the whole thing really isn’t all that amazing. I wonder if they believe me or if they think there is something wrong with me because I don’t see how lucky I am.

My small town feels smaller. I am having a hard time focusing on my studies, they are even less important to me now than before. I miss meeting girls from all over the world. I even miss the job a little, too. I miss the feeling that anything can happen. Each casting is like a lottery ticket. If you win, you might get rich or famous or both. I dream of being on the cover of Vogue.

As soon as I am done with school, I am on a plane. I am 19 years old. For the following three years, I live out of a suitcase. The longest I stay in one city is a couple of months. As my “mother agent,” Danilo connects me with agencies in all the big fashion cities and takes a cut of the money I make. Soon I am represented in London, Milan, New York, Paris, and Tokyo and spend my time traveling between these markets. It’s exciting, but I miss the people who know me best and love me. It’s the early 2000s, there is no Skype, no iPhone, so keeping in touch is hard. I drift apart from my oldest friends. So much is happening to me that I can’t explain, and I can’t be around for the important things that are happening to them. I feel lonely and disconnected.

I stay in many different apartments with many different girls. The apartments are small, messy, and overpriced. The agencies own many of them but charge us rent anyway. They are usually crowded, and bunk beds are the norm. Having your own room is a luxury that almost never happens to me. Some of the girls drive me crazy. One girl fights with her boyfriend in loud Russian over the phone every single night. One girl steals half of the things in my suitcase when she leaves the city. I find laxatives and food supplements and low-fat yogurt in the kitchen. I find rules printed out and taped on the walls: No boys allowed. Work is on everyone’s mind all the time.

I also meet some of the most important friends of my life during these years. Even though we are competing with each other, there is a strong sense that we are in this together. Nobody outside the industry and not even the adults in the industry understand what we are going through. We have long conversations about how unhappy we are and how the rest of the world thinks we are lucky. We laugh about it too.

It takes a while, but I get used to my job. I get used to being stared at. I get used to being ordered around and poked at and having my hair pulled. (Telling the hairdressers to stop pulling rarely works and often makes matters worse.) I get used to a life with fast turns. One month things are going well and I get booked for three jobs in a week and the next month it seems like nobody will ever want me again. One minute I am told to pack my bags to fly to Australia for a shampoo ad, and ten minutes later they say they found someone else. I get used to negative comments about my appearance. My calves are too big and my hands too red. I get used to people complimenting me for my hair and my lips, and, to my surprise, my eyebrows. I get used to people saying I need to be more outgoing, more fun.

I was really hurt by something a photographer said today. He said he wants a girl who looks like me for a job but isn’t me. He asked me if I knew anyone who looked like me. The question is why. What is wrong with me? This job gives you a terrible lack of confidence. You would think it’d be the other way around. I am going to try to not think about this. At least he liked my appearance. I should be more positive. But I am not happy.

I bring my diary everywhere. It becomes my favorite way to vent. And I daydream a lot. I notice that a few models study during castings and shoots. Exploring interests outside modeling is a healthy thing to do, but most of us don’t do it. Even though I know my career won’t last long, I think very little about the future. I guess I might study something later or try acting but I keep procrastinating. People assume I have the best job ever, and apart from my parents, nobody asks me what else I want to do with my life.

The photo shoots are repetitive. Most are in a studio with the same backdrop. I learn which moves make the photographers happy, and i give them the same show over and over. I learn what I am supposed to do with my face – open my mouth and stare blankly or angrily into the camera. Unless I am told to do something different, I repeat that too.


I do some fashion shows. I like the adrenalin of performing in front of an audience. I try my luck during Fashion Week in the big fashion capitals, first of all New York. The agency trains me. One foot in front of the other, hips pushed forward, arms loose and head high. I do some stumbling up and down during the castings in heels that are too high. Nobody is excited about my walk or my looks. Sometimes I don’t even get to the walking stage and am sent away at the door. At a casting for Ralph Lauren I feel like my luck is finally turning. They take me aside and bring out a Polaroid camera. “We love your jeans!” they tell me and start photographing them. I am wearing my dad’s patched up Levi’s from the seventies. Not one designer in New York puts me on the catwalk.

I am writing this on the floor in a casting. I will be sitting here for at least another hour. I ask myself why. All this waiting for nothing. I lose so much energy when I work for nothing. I need to see results. I can’t give all this and get nothing in return. The girl in front of me just stood up so I should too, but the floor is more comfortable.

I am not making much money. When the money does come, it sometimes comes in large chunks, like from a slot machine, and it makes you believe that you can get rich this way. But if I average it out, I am making the same salary as a receptionist. The agencies take between 25% and 50% of my fee as far as I can understand their accounting. And they only advance the money for flights and accommodations, as well as the test shoots, the portfolio itself and the business cards with my image that I hand out at every casting. I have to pay it all back. Many jobs I do, like for the trendy magazines, do not pay at all. Magazines can still book whatever girl they want for free with the explanation that it’s good for her portfolio. Even Kate Moss isn’t getting paid to be on the cover of i-D magazine. The idea is that the better your portfolio is, the better your chances of booking advertising work, where the money is.

I figure out that I need a big-name photographer to love me and book me, and the rest will follow. I hear Steven Meisel can change a girl’s career overnight. A few times, I think I might be getting somewhere. One of my first jobs in London is with Elaine Constantine, whom my booker tells me is the best new photographer around. This is big news. There are ten girls on the set, I am in the background, but it doesn’t matter. My booker still calls up every client in London and tells them he has a new girl in town who just shot with Elaine Constantine. He gets me a meeting with British Vogue. He tells me to mention her name everywhere, and I do. He makes me feel important. The shoot is never published. The booker forgets the whole thing and treats me with less enthusiasm.

I book a job with another successful photographer – Rankin. It’s a disaster. The hairdresser wants to cut my fringe. I tell him he needs to check with my agent, hoping my agent will say no. My agent does not say no. Why would they say no to Rankin? I am not one of their extra-special models, better to please the photographer. My new fringe doesn’t just cover my forehead, it goes all the way to my ear and beyond. You can hardly see my face in the magazine. The fringe is the star. It takes me forever to grow it out again.

Some photographers appreciate me. Not the big ones, but still. In Paris, a photographer I will call Jacques takes pictures of me regularly. I love these sessions. It’s just the two of us. We shoot in parks. He’s got a bag of clothes that we pick simple outfits from. He asks for my opinions. I am not wearing any makeup. It’s revolutionary for me to get out of the studio and away from the big teams of people. With Jacques, it’s all about the photography. I am blown away when I see the results. It doesn’t matter that I am not stick thin or perfectly made up or photoshopped. To my eyes, these pictures are perfect.

I loved my job yesterday. I trusted the photographer completely. Felt like I was part of creating. Wow is all I can say about it right now.

One day Jacques and I take a train to Fontainebleau outside Paris. He wants to do nudes. It’s my first time completely naked in front of a camera. I know Jacques by now and feel comfortable. I don’t even feel self-conscious about my body. I lie on the rocks in mermaid-like poses while he takes beautiful pictures. It’s fun.

As we walk back through the forest, Jacques gets in my way and kisses me on the lips. I am in shock and ask him to stop. I know he has a wife and two kids. We never speak about it again and pretend as if it didn’t happen.


Another photographer has an interesting strategy to get me to take my clothes off. We are in a studio in his basement at night. He tells me I can wear my own clothes for the photographs, which makes me happy. He takes a couple of frames and asks me if I can take my top off. I do. A few frames later he asks me if I can pull my pants down. I follow all the directions until I am lying on his floor in a G-string. He wants me to pull that down too. I say I don’t want to. He scratches his head, confused, and asks me to pull it down and angle myself so that he can’t see my vagina, which I try to do. It feels weird.

I have many stories of men crossing the line with models. Like when a booker tells me he is aroused when he measures me in my underwear in the agency restroom. Or when a booker asks me if I like anal sex. Or when my friend Ida has her nipple pinched by a photographer with the excuse that he wants it to be hard in the photograph. But I am sure that I haven’t seen the worst of it. I am from Sweden, and Swedish girls are generally more respected than girls from poor countries. 

I don’t know when it happens, but at one point I am no longer naturally thin enough for high fashion. Everyone’s eyes have been on my weight from the day I entered the industry. In Japan they even give me a contract where I have to promise I will not get more than one centimeter larger around my hips. They measure me every week. Now I am 19 years old, my hips are approaching 90 centimeters, and I am nervous. According to the agencies, 93 centimeters is the maximum, but everyone knows that in high fashion you have to be under 90.


I see all the skinny models who get more work than me. And I think: I want to be that skinny, too. I want to be so thin that people think I am ill. I no longer want to feel bad when I look at myself in the mirror. I want to be stick thin again. Because that is the way I am supposed to be. I was always skinny. Now I am only thin. Thin in a good way. Some might say beautiful even. I am sick. Living with Kristyna has left traces in my self-destructive brain. I want to work as much as she does. I want to be seen. I am so confused. I actually just want to feel well.

I do not manage to stick to any diet for longer than a week. Instead, I stuff myself with junk food and loathe myself for doing so. My ass is getting bigger. I’m a failure. The big agencies no longer want me. My London agent sends me to Hamburg where the market is kinder. When the Hamburg agency measures my hips at 97 centimeters, they are unhappy with me too. They tell me I need to work on it.

I feel fat. And I feel ashamed about feeling fat. I cannot really talk to anyone outside the industry about it. I know they will tell me that I am sick. How could they possibly understand? My friends and family tell me that I look healthy, but I associate “looking healthy” with “looking fat.” Every night before I go to bed, I sum up what I have eaten during the day and congratulate or condemn myself.

Hungry. I have only eaten rice cakes, cottage cheese and watermelon. Need to lose some weight.

No adults from the industry ever talk to me about healthy eating. There is no personal trainer or nutritionist around. We do whatever we imagine might work. The adults in the industry turn a blind eye or even encourage it. I stay with girls who fill up on hot water or Diet Coke to not feel hungry. Laxatives and water pills are everywhere, and so are weird dieting suggestions from other models like eating only pineapple for two weeks. One girl I meet is on a two-apples-a-day diet. At 16 her career is over. She reached the height of it at 13. Now she doesn’t know what to do with herself.

I go for days drinking only vegetable juice. I get up on a scale every few hours, but nothing happens. It feels hopeless. I fall into old patterns and stuff myself with chocolates. Disgusted, I put my fingers down my throat for the first time and make sure I get rid of all the chocolate that way. Do I understand that I am ill? Yes and no. I would never say that I had an eating disorder, but maybe I had one. It was hard to know what was normal and what wasn’t. The fact that it was normal for an adult to tell a thin teenager to diet turned everything I knew about the world upside down. I was in a whole new world, and in this world staying a certain weight was the norm. Anorexia or bulimia are not words used within the industry. You stay thin at any price.

The bookers are the weight police. I remember a booker making a snide remark when I was eating ice cream at the agency during my first summer in Milan. One night, I find a pizza box under the bed in an apartment I am sharing with three models and a booker. The girls smuggled the pizza in when he wasn’t home and now they don’t want to get caught with the empty box. I get into a fight with a booker for wanting to use contraceptives. He says they will make me fat. But it’s not just the bookers. The requests are coming from clients at big companies who in turn produce what consumers supposedly want. At the end of the day nobody accepts responsibility. I can’t imagine I ever would have stuffed myself full of chocolate and run to the toilet to vomit afterwards if it wasn’t for the modeling industry. But who should I blame? At the time, I blamed myself.

I can’t do this anymore. I just made a half-hearted attempt to eat and stick my fingers down my throat. I am too tired to eat. Too tired to put my head in the toilet. Too tired to care. My throat hurts from where the fingers have been and my stomach is like a balloon.

What keeps me going? It’s as if modeling is a lover who only wants me sometimes, but just often enough for me not to give up hope. One day this lover will see me the way I deserve to be seen, I tell myself. I have stood in front of so many people. All the reactions I have received, good and bad, encourage me to continue. So much of my ambition comes from people who go from believing in me to giving up on me. I need to prove them wrong.

My boyfriend, who works as a graphic designer, tells me I am an intelligent girl and wasting my time. Why would I do something so stupid that makes me so unhappy? He points out that I have an unhealthy obsession with my appearance and that I can’t stop staring at myself in the mirror. We fight. I don’t want a boring office job like the one he has, I tell him. I am a model. I leave him in London and go to Paris.

My French booker compliments me on having lost some weight, but tells me another three centimeters will have to go. I can’t do it. Nothing is working. The French don’t like me and don’t book me. People are more rude to me in castings here than anywhere else in the world. No other agencies call. One part of me, the part that never loved the job and thought it was a sick and twisted industry, is relieved. But the little girl in me who wanted to be seen is broken.

I bring out my own camera. I take pictures of myself naked in the mirror. Pictures of my stomach that isn’t flat enough and my boobs that aren’t big enough. I take pictures of myself hanging over the toilet vomiting and of myself crying from all the anxiety. So much focus has been put on my appearance. It makes me want to photograph it, too. I know what I look like from every angle, what my best sides are, but most of all what my flaws are. I try to capture something more genuine than the work I have been part of creating. I try to capture the ugliness and show some beauty in it, or despite it.


I have been interested in photography ever since my dad gave me a camera for my tenth birthday. In school, I took some photography classes. With modeling being such a passive job, I have all the time in the world to silently study photographers at work. Is the photographer in a bad mood? What are the people on the set doing, and why? Why are we taking so many pictures that look the same? Why are they lighting me like this? Could I do this better myself? Yes, I think I could.

I make up with my boyfriend, go back to London, and move in with him. I eat healthy food at normal hours. Without trying too hard, I lose some of the weight I had put on by eating irregularly and unhealthily. My hips land just over 90 centimeters. I join a small commercial agency. Now I am working in that part of the industry where girls who will never get to the top accept their fate and make a living. I work a couple of times a week. Mainly hair jobs and look-books and smaller magazines. Nothing inspiring, but enough to pay my rent.

I am spending more time with people outside the industry. I am drawing and reading and taking classes in history. Sometimes I bring out my camera and take pictures of my boyfriend and me. The pictures are simple and intimate documents of our life. I fill a wall in my bedroom with all my photographs. A friend sees them and tells me they’re great. I dream about becoming a photographer.

Then my Vogue cover arrives. Russian Vogue. My booker says that Koto Bolofo, a regular Vogue photographer, wants to meet me. Another photographer had left a pile of portfolios at Koto’s lab. There was one picture that had caught his attention. I am thrilled to learn it was the black and white picture I had taken of myself in my bedroom and snuck into my portfolio. We shoot on a boat off the coast of Malta. I have the sun in my eyes and have a hard time keeping them open. Koto is impatient with me. I am relieved when he says that it’s over. When I see the result, I don’t know whether to be happy or sad. Yes, I am on the cover of Vogue, but I am with another girl and my face is round as a ball and my eyes are like two slits. It’s the worst picture I have ever seen of myself.


The Vogue job is the most prestigious of my career. I feel like I should give modeling another push, but I can’t.

Shall I sacrifice my life and happiness to be seen? For money? For hearing how damn beautiful I am? More beautiful than the beautiful. I don’t think I have it in me. But I am terrified. It’s now or never. And I am terrified of choosing never – and then regretting it. But what is there to regret, really?

I decide I no longer care enough to become a top model. Now that my ambitions are gone, the stress goes away too. I model for fast cash. It’s a job like any other. A monotonous job I know too well.

I have become more humble. Have a different view of myself and life. Do not have the same need to be seen. Russian Vogue was the most satisfying thing since I started out. I was so happy when I found out. But it’s not enough. Not enough to give me another view on modeling. I am no longer 19 and in need of stardom. I want to enjoy life and friends and food and nature and my boyfriend.

Spring, 2008. My photography is getting a lot of attention online. I am invited to be part of exhibitions. Something is about to happen, and I need to give it my full attention. I call up the agency and tell them I quit. They ask if I still want to be on their website to get direct bookings. I tell them no thanks. I am done.

I have no regrets. I am happy that I got to experience it and I am happy that I can tell this story. But I am absolutely happiest about it being over.

This article was originally published in German in Zeit Magazin.




  1. Thank you so much for writing this. You did an amazing job of throughly describing your experience and I hope many will read this and understand the truth that lies within this industry. Your journal almost mirrors my experience– completely–as a model, as well. Thank you again.


  2. Wow this is an incredible story about your journey through modelling, it’s also hard for non model girls to look at pictures in magazines of super skinny girls- it seems that nobody is really happy apart from the designers and magazines. Thank you for sharing x


  3. Thanks for the article! It’s excellent and describes the lives of countless girls to a scary precision.
    The sad thing is, when you are “one of them” you always feel like the next big job that will push you into stardom is just around the corner. So it seems ok to not eat properly, because of this illusion that you’re being fed (lol) by bookers and by fellow models. And all that misery and stress is supposed to go away when you get your picture in a magazine or get a chunk of cash. But in reality, you’re just another face in the crowd,made up and digitally altered to the extent that your own mother won’t recognise you. And the cash – a few shifts in a busy bar will probably give you more..
    I’m so glad that Lina has found a better calling in her life and has friends 🙂


  4. Your photographs that you took of yourself are absolutely beautiful. So much more beautiful than the ones from the magazines, because they show the beauty of real life and not a fantasy. Your sensitivity as a visual artist is very apparent. I’m sorry that your modeling experience was so painful and that you were exploited and abused in that way by the people in the industry. At the same time, that experience wasn’t wasted because it helped to feed your intuitive understanding of photography. I hope you continue taking pictures, whether in front of the camera or behind.

    Liked by 1 person

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