Blaring lights pierce her eyes while the soft murmur of the crowd echoes in her ears. In spite of the burden of nerves and expectations on her shoulders, she keeps a straight back and maintains an aura of confidence. Eyes and cameras follow her every move as senior Samantha Clark struts down the runway in nothing more than lacy swimwear.
Starting at the age of 13, Clark took modeling classes to aid her in pursuing a ballet career. By understanding how to look and pose under the nose of cameras, she would be better equipped to take on the challenge of being a ballerina.
“The first thing I learned was probably how to smile properly, and I basically learned that [my smiled looked] best when I didn’t [show] any of my teeth,” Clark said. “Then, I learned the basic catwalk. Being a classically trained dancer, my body was [very] awkward.”
As she got older, Clark’s modeling agency introduced her to new job opportunities ranging from advertising at a night market to walking down a runway in Las Vegas. Not only did these jobs generate an income, they also provided Clark a chance to build and develop her confidence. However, behind the glitz and glam, it also opened her up to the reality of how harsh the modelling world is.
“In a way, that was the beginning of learning what it felt to be objectified; to be looked at not only as a 15-year-old girl named Sam Clark, but as a genuine ‘product,’” Clark said. “This is also a world in which your weight and look is so highly moderated. I can’t even begin to explain how many photo shoots I’ve done where I worried that my face looked uneven or I looked too fat.”
Despite the extremities of modelling, the enthralling experiences it offers have pushed Clark to reconsider ballet as a profession. Upon taking up acting and singing in her sophomore year, the prospect of being a ballerina seemed less and less appealing.
“I just thought it was my only life path because I hadn’t really been exposed to much, so I sort of gave up my dream to be a ballerina,” Clark said. “It was kind of heartbreaking because I loved ballet a lot, but I was getting injured in ballet and it took up a lot of my time, so it was best for me to say goodbye to that chapter of my life.”
For Clark, the profession she pursues in the future matters little as long as she is able to flourish in her passion.