MODEL: MARIA LOKS
how did you get into modelling?
Aged 21, I was working for minimum wage in a court in Poland, and I really needed to buy a new computer. I hadn’t been to university and my job options were limited. I went to the Polish modelling agency. One agency told me I could play basketball, but I would never be a fashion model. Then I went to another agency which was interested. They made me get undressed into my underwear and photographed me. Then they measured me. It was stressful and scary, I felt vulnerable I can’t imagine being a teenager doing this. You have to stand naked in front of people who judge you on your size and shape. They claim to judge you on your character, but the process is so stressful, how can your character come out?
"When I lost weight, my life got much better. When I got smaller, I picked up work and had a good show season."
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE OF CASTING AND SHOOTS?
The first thing that happened was I was told all of the issues of my body, which I’d never even considered before. They told me I had very narrow and stiff shoulders, my eyebrows exist in the middle of my face, but not the sides, your hips are wider so you’re built like a pyramid which isn’t great. They you start comparing yourself to other models, and get more insecure. At one point I had a casting director ask me to do weighted arm exercises to broaden my shoulders.
I used to get really nervous, I wouldn’t sleep the night before castings and my hands would shake. Now, I don’t care so much. It is a full on experience. I still get stressed when they tell you to try things on, you know it is not going to fit, but they still make you squeeze into them. For example, you put trousers on which you can’t do up, and they say you have to come out and show the designer. Why can’t you just tell them they don’t fit. It is actually extremely humiliating. It is stressful when your self-worth is determined by your size. You never feel psychologically bad when you stand somewhere, and the clothes are too big and they have to pin them. However, when they try to put something on that won’t fit, that is when it gets incredibly embarrassing. The agency put pressure on you when you are casting for a big brand, so you are like “Oh my god! This is the chance of my lifetime, what if it doesn’t go well.” You really invest in it emotionally.
"I didn't have my period for two years."
HOW DID YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO YOUR BODY CHANGED WHEN YOU MOVED TO PARIS?
When I moved to Paris, I knew I was bigger and it wasn’t a good body shape to start with as a model. They tried to send me to some casting when I first arrived but I was too big. I was about eight kilos smaller than I am now, 171cm and I weighed fifty kilos at the time. They wanted me to be a size 34 (French size) - hips 86cm, when I managed to get to that point I was really, really underweight. The problem is that my body shape - my hips are a bit wider because my bones are, so I will be skinnier than average girls at that weight.
When I got smaller, I picked up work. I was very pragmatic about losing weight because I needed the work. At the beginning it’s hard because no one tells you how to do it. The agency says “Oh if you exercise more and eat healthy you will lose weight,” so I started but it didn’t work. I’m models are already naturally skinny, so to lose more weight you have to be more extreme, but they can’t tell you that. So I just started eating less, I would eat a lot of apples and a lot of pears. Actually, when I lost weight my life got much better. I was much more successful, I started making money and I was able to support myself. These things only happened because I lost the weight. After working for a few years now, I have made a conscious decision to stop dieting. I didn’t have my period for two years. As a model I feel to be able to deliver on a photoshoot you have to be able to create this really weird energy, you have to come across as engaging and enthusiastic, and you can cheat your brain.
"Someone thought I was skinny enough and my face was pretty. There is no work in that, other than not eating. Not eating is not something I am proud of."
The really weird part is that you’re not allowed to freely talk about the fact that you are on a diet. On photo shoots, when there is breakfast, you get some pastries and then they’ll be like “we’ll order pizza” for lunch and you will think, I am on a strict diet here. I cannot say outloud I am because they need to think I’m naturally that small because no one wants to work with someone with an eating disorder, or someone who has to diet to be this thin, they just want you to be born like this. You have to find a way to look like you are eating food, even though you aren’t eating it.
I had an argument with a photographer because he told me to eat something, and I had to say sorry, you wouldn’t be working with me if I was bigger so now don’t expect me to sit and eat seven slices of pizza. It doesn’t add up.