Have you ever played the game Two Truths and a Lie? It’s often used as an ice breaker in group settings. The game is popular because it gives everyone a chance to share interesting facts about themselves with strangers in the room. The best part of the game is when people list outrageous details that are hard to believe, and then you find out they’re true! Well, I feel like my whole life is filled with enough “truths” to play that game perpetually. What can I say, I’ve lived a LIFE! As I reflect on the building blocks of Breegan Jane, so many amazing memories come flooding back. One in particular involved my time in child modeling. I had so many positive experiences and lessons during that period of my life that may shed a little light on perspectives I still hold today.
My Life in Child Modeling
I began modeling at age two, and I continued for many years after that. Even at that young age, I had a work permit! I was always under the very watchful eye of my mother. Modeling was work, but I learned so much from it. I’ll share more about that another day. One of the things I loved was saving the money I earned from modeling and purchasing toys for other children my age who were less fortunate. My parents were always passionate about philanthropy, and they instilled those values in me as well. I eventually saved enough money from my modeling career to open my own retail store at age 18! I guess you could say the message of hard work was never lost on me. Little did I know, that I would learn even more enduring lessons at that stage in life.
The Six-Foot Virtuoso
His physical presence was undeniable. He was in his late thirties or early forties, 6’5, thin, bald, and he wore clothing I’d never seen other men wear before. I can vividly remember meeting my stylist, Jay, on the set of a photoshoot when I was about four-and-a-half years old. The job of a stylist is very hands-on. There’s a lot of touching, repositioning of clothing, hair and props. So upon meeting him, Jay was fixing my clothing and interacting with me as we prepared for the shoot.
I can remember seeing mom’s face. I perceived that something about the interaction must have left her feeling a bit odd. Mom, my constant protector, wanted to know who this man of considerable stature was. Jay, who wore an oversized scarf while handling a little Breegan, felt like a strange choice of personnel. Years down the road, we would discover that he was the cousin of one of my parents’ long-term friends. Jay quickly became almost like an “honorary uncle” to me, and I loved him dearly. That day, mom and I learned the true meaning of never judging a book by its cover.
The Often Misunderstood Eccentrics
Jay was one of the very first creatives I was introduced to as a young child. As a model, I would interact with hair stylists, makeup artists, directors and photographers on a weekly basis. Most of them had a few things in common. They didn’t fit in. Many spoke a different language. They were artists, and they were misunderstood. These individuals were the “Jays” of the world: outsiders who seemed to never fit perfectly in any box. And yet, in my young eyes, these were the people that gained my utmost respect on the set. In my world, the artists with the funky glasses and jeans so ripped that he or she almost looked homeless, were the people you aspired to be! I didn’t know it then, but my opinion of what was “acceptable” was being formed in those relationships. I’m so glad it was this one.
The Power of Perception
Meeting Jay was equal parts serendipitous and educational. My initial interaction was ripe with foreign feelings. In that moment I could see that this man who was in my close personal space was unlike anyone I knew. He towered over me and sported clothing that, back in those days, would have raised eyebrows in a conservative atmosphere. Watching my mom’s immediate reaction go straight to “safeguard mode” signaled even more to me that something wasn’t quite…”normal” here. We could have chosen to let xenophobia take over, but getting close to Jay eliminated that as a possibility for us, thankfully.
I went on to work with Jay and his photographer in child modeling for over 13 years. He was excellent at his job, and if I told you his real name, you’d likely know his work very well. Jay and I worked on major campaigns for Vogue Bambini, Limited Too, Talbots and more. My sweet memories of him handing me giant cookies for shoots, tying and untying my laces, and moving my braids in just the right place are some of my most cherished.
Lessons From the Past
When I think of Jay, with all his talents, unique style and grand height, I see so many similarities with my oldest son, Kingsley. He’s tall for his age, happens to love sparkly things, and he’s definitely artistic in many ways. I’ve always leaned into wherever his personality and interests led, because I know we’re all finding our way through life step by step. My goal is to raise healthy, confident, kind children. I believe seeing and accepting our children for who they are is crucial for that. Having Jay in my life taught me so much. I was forced from a young age to recognize how the world might stereotype someone like Jay, while realizing that he existed inside my world in a completely different way. It was a lesson I learned at eight years old, the same age Kingsley is now.
I’ll always be grateful for people like Jay with stories like his. I admire their ability and determination to show up unapologetically as their true selves despite the misconceptions of others. Crossing paths with the Jays of this world like I did in my days of child modeling, should challenge our own preconceived notions of others and make us all better people. It certainly did for me.