What Every Young Girl Needs To Know, According To Supermodel Carre Otis

Carre Otis

If you know anything about the 1990s Supermodel era, then you have no doubt come across Carre Otis multiple times. The now 44 year old mother of two daughters has just written a tell-all article for Vogue Australia, lifting the lid on some long-held secrets and ugly truths she was exposed to during her modeling career.

She is the author of Beauty Disrupted, (also the name of her blog) released in 2011 which was her personal memoir and which exposed her former agent Gerald Marie as the guy who raped and sexually assaulted her in the past. Otis is also a board member of The Model Alliance, based out of New York and founded by fellow former model Sara Ziff. We LOVE what TMA are doing, protecting the rights of young models in the industry (because shockingly they have very few…). Carre is also an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association in the US.

So why are we telling you about the empowering things this beauty is doing? Because her strength comes from years of seeing a hideous side to the fashion industry which she personally experienced. She tells Vogue about how she purposely starved herself for close to 20 years just to stay in the game, and how she was the victim of multiple accounts of sexual abuse during her career.

Sure not every model experiences this, but it exists and it’s horrific that our daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins and best friends have experienced traumatic things like this just for the sake of a job.

The most prominent thing Carre suffered with was the guilt of lying to all her young fans who would ask her advice on dieting and staying thin. She tells Vogue how she constantly lied to these girls, when in fact the truth was she was forcing herself not to eat to stay thin. What a damaging mindset. It’s fantastic she is bravely speaking up about this nowadays and using her influence to tell young girls and models to not fall into the same destructive habits.

In her Vogue article, she decided to revisit those letters, and finally give them an honest answer in the hopes that the right message will be given out this time. In essence, an article on what she wished she actually said, as opposed to what she did.

When her fans asked what her exercise routine was, instead of telling the truth she would lie and cite a magazine workout routine which included jazzercise and weights. “But in reality, my big diet staple was four to six cups of black coffee per day, avoiding even a splash of skim milk since I was terrified of extra calories. And to stave off hunger, I went through a few packs of cigarettes daily.”

“One morning, I was sent to the emergency room with heart palpitations and an irregular heartbeat – a culmination of 20 years of starvation. Turns out I’d created three holes in my heart and I needed an emergency ablation surgery. In your letter you said you’d “die to look like [me]”. Well that’s almost what I did. What did it feel like to look like that, you ask? It felt, quite literally, like heartbreak.”

cosmopolitan-Carre Otis

When one asked how they could be as “cool” as Carre, she answered “During the majority of my “cool” photo shoots I was worrying that my boyfriend was cheating on me while simultaneously planning what foods I could eliminate from my diet to lose another five pounds…There I was, supposedly a successful model, but I didn’t know how to manage my professional identity, let alone my personal one.”

Many would ask about her amazing wardrobe and how they could get their hands on it. But the truth was very different to what people saw, as she explained it was all borrowed and that she could never actually afford the clothes in real life.

“If you got a peek into my closet, you’d quickly realise I didn’t have a clue about fashion. I was a hippie chick who bought clothes from flea markets. To this day, I don’t even know how to pronounce “haute couture”, let alone shop for it.”

“But be careful about comparing yourself to those models. Plenty of them are like me. They know nothing about the must-have seasonal trends. They are – like I was – paid to be a clothes-hanger.”

allure-1994-october-01 Carre Otis

Fans would enviously comment on her flawless skin and express how much they wish they could look like her. “My “flawless” skin was only flawless in pictures, thanks to a whole lot of air-brushing. If you saw my face in real life you’d have seen pimples, dry patches and rashes, all consequences of constant flying, dehydration, lack of nutrition, stress, cigarettes, heavy make-up and sleep deprivation.”

The most poignant response she posts in Vogue was when she was asked how one could attain her “glamorous” lifestyle, exposing what her life was really like:

“I never owned a yacht. Or a house even. In fact, some months I couldn’t pay the rent on my apartment. I got some great contracts that paid a lot but I spent money frivolously. Sometimes I wasn’t paid because the agency felt I owed them – debts from test shoots, portfolio expenses and hotel rooms.”

“I endured sexual harassment without realizing it didn’t have to be a job requirement. While there are plenty of models who can say they had mostly wonderful experiences, who thrived both inside and outside the industry, I know that many are still contending with the same obstacles I did – trying to meet impossible standards of perfection and accepting abusive power dynamics as “just part of the job”.

But her feature in Vogue wasn’t just about revisiting the horrific points of her career, but using it as a way to show young women where her self worth comes from today. And it has nothing to do with the way she looks.

“Today, thankfully, my happiness has nothing to do with my weight or feedback from others. And perfection of any kind is no longer the goal. The notion that perfection can be achieved is a lie we are told and a lie we tell ourselves. That’s the ugly truth.”

“I encourage people to view images of models through a realistic lens, to challenge those automatic assumptions about the internal world of a model based on her (heavily doctored) external appearance.”

Some powerful words which she hopes will make girls take a second look before glossing over the so-called glamorous details of fashion and beauty. Finding your self worth and maintaining your personal integrity and dignity should trump all else, and should never be compromised, no matter what opportunity or career lies ahead of you. Read Carre’s full feature here.

 

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