My modeling career was anything but typical. I wasn’t plucked out of a mall or grocery store; I wasn’t even discovered. I didn’t just “fall” into the industry by chance, either, although I was a serious nerd who never thought she belonged with the fashion industry’s elite. I pushed my way into the business, desperate for love and acceptance, because quite frankly, I didn’t receive a lot of it at home. When I did start modeling as a teen and later in my early twenties, it wasn’t “exciting”, although I often fantasized that I was a glamorous supermodel because it lifted my low self-esteem. At some point, I did reach a pretty high level in my career, and I paid a high price for it, as I talk about in my soon-to-be-released memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. I was more familiar with abuse, poor body image, and distorted ideals of love than confidence and beauty, which all pushed me to look for acceptance in places where I could never find it. The modeling industry was one of those places, and it proved to be an illusionary world, one where I felt that I had to remain high, drunk, or starved in order to exist in it.
Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is raw and graphic, but I did not write that way to expose anyone, as I think that most people are intelligent enough to understand what really goes on in that industry, sadly. I wrote about my experiences such as heavy drug use, rape, eating disorders, psychosis, depression, and so forth, because I believe that these are things that many young people are dealing with on a daily basis, and there is little support in the industry for them. And with no health benefits, where does this leave them? The industry can benefit from positive change and we need awareness.
When I modeled with one of the best agencies in the world in Miami, I had been suffering from bulimia for over fifteen years already. I was constantly told to lose weight, criticized for my body and asked to get plastic surgery.
In 2012, I had developed anorexia nervosa, and I made the decision to stop modeling after my mother died. Although I was vomiting blood, my hair was falling out, and my fingernails were a permanent purple, I couldn’t tell that I was sick, and those in the industry pushed me to work more and more. I thought that I was beautiful even though, clinically, I was severely underweight and should have been in an inpatient treatment center.
Yes, every individual is responsible for his or her mental health, however, as a society we must understand that there is a time when an individual is unaware that they are suffering. In the modeling business, many young people have maladaptive behaviors such as eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder, and they don’t even know it. Anorexia nervosa, for example, has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, more than substance abuse, more than schizophrenia, and the latest findings suggest that 40% of models have an eating disorder. So, if the professionals in the fashion business are also not educated about mental health, how can they also recognize that there is a problem? Combine that lack of education with the models exposure to drugs, parties, and constantly being away from home; there is a serious need for mental health education in the modeling industry. I hope that the raw nature of my book will serve as an introduction to educating those in the business and the public as well. I do not hold back as to what I really experienced during those periods of my life.
No, the business did not cause my mental health issues such as: depression, psychosis, eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, drug use, alcohol abuse, etc. However, the wild, unregulated business definitely triggered my obsessions and impulsive nature. I think the industry can be a wonderful place and can benefit everyone involved if we can all come together and make positive changes. This starts with education.
If you are someone you know is struggling, please reach out. You can find a variety of recovery resources on my website: http://nikkidubose.com/resources/
About the author:
Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate. Her debut memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, is due out this fall in the U.S. and in 2017 in France with Editions du Rocher. Nikki recently worked alongside Assemblymember Marc Levine on California Assembly Bill 2539, which addressed the need for workplace protections and health standards in the modeling industry. She gives talks regularly on her recovery at universities and treatment centers. Her advocacy work and recovery story have been profiled on CBS Los Angeles, People, Vogue UK, Esquire, India Times, Inquisitr, and many others. She writes extensively on mental health, political issues, and exposes the truth about the modeling industry on The Huffington Post, the National Eating Disorders Association, Eating Disorder Hope, Clinical Recovery Institute, and Recovery Warriors. She also recently contributed as an expert reviewer for Harvard University’s STRIPED program (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), helping craft their student lesson and their teaching lesson for this new semester, which focuses on modeling and eating disorders.
For further information, to request a review copy, or to set up an interview or appearance by Nikki DuBose, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or 805.807.9027.
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