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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Real Women Real Stories Filming Project

The follow is written by Nikki DuBose.

My name is Nikki DuBose. I’m a former model, commercial actress and host turned author, speaker and mental health advocate, and for most of my life I remained silent. Silent about being physically abused as a child. Silent about being sexually victimized, having eating disorders, depression, body dysmorphic disorder, self-harming, and watching my mother drink herself to her actual death as a result of being a victim of domestic violence.

The things I talk about in Real Women Real Stories filming project are brief. Real Women Real Stories by Matan Uziel brings awareness to critical issues that millions of women face every day. As a result of many different factors, however, many of them will never come forward to get the help they need – they will remain silent, like I did for so long. I hope that because I shared a bit of my story through Real Women Real Stories, others will have the courage to use their voices, too. I won’t stay silent anymore.
During my career as a fashion and swimsuit model, I carried all of my mental health issues with me, and believed that I had no voice, no worth, no value. I landed in a career that oftentimes mirrored my childhood – it was psychologically damaging. Many of the agents, clients, casting directors and photographers would tell me that I was beautiful one minute, then put me down the next and tell me that I needed to lose inches and pounds in order to secure jobs. And I heard that nearly every day for years; after a while, it took a toll on my overall health. After struggling with bulimia nervosa I stopped eating altogether and developed anorexia nervosa in an effort to please my superiors, look "good enough" for the industry and earn as much money as I could.

Then there were the other looming issues that no one seemed to want to talk about – the pressure to sleep around in order to "boost" your public profile and get better bookings, and the sexual harassment that circled around. Some photographers were a bit creepy on shoots, but most were professional and I always felt in control. However, the unwanted advances came from the director of my agency. There was flirting, invites to "model dinners" which involved select models, the director, his friends and the owner of the agency, and then I was asked back to the director's house on multiple occasions. He had a girlfriend – also another model - and he was always booking her on long shoots far away. I always wondered if she knew about his ways.

At the time I felt pressured to do what I did, and to not use my voice. Now things are different because I've dealt with the issues from my childhood and know how to say "NO." However back then I was a people-pleaser and felt that I had to give in to pressures because I had no self-esteem. I was so used to being abused and letting others control me that I allowed those situations to continue. And letting others abuse me eventually got me into serious trouble.

All of this led to being drugged and raped. Raped by a photographer at a lunch that was organized by the director of my agency. Where did this rape occur? At the director's very own house in Miami. Later, when I confronted the director about what had happened, I was shot down and made to feel as though I was crazy.

Unfortunately, this is such a common occurrence: Victim is raped. Perpetrator gets away and walks around in society, unscathed. Society tends to blame or not believe the victim, therefore allowing the cycle of abuse to continue. And this attitude trickles into many areas – child abuse, sexual victimization, eating disorders, the modeling industry, rape, on and on. We, as a society have an issue with denial. Yes, it is true that victims must learn to use their voices and the importance of personal responsibility, however difficult. However, society must also take responsibility and learn that: No one deserves to be raped, no one deserves to be abused, even if someone is naked, drunk, that is not an invitation for another person to violate their personal space. We have a responsibility as a society and as individuals, to love one another.

In my upcoming memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, I detail my full story, and how I was able to recover from abuse, rape, eating disorders, the darker side of the modeling industry, and so much more. Be brave, be strong, use your voice.

Thank you for taking the time to read this fashion blog post about the dark side of fashion modeling.

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