Spoiler: it's not all Instagram fame & free clothes.
Maggie Petrova and I bonded over our teenage breakups and have been cheering each other on ever since. She is one of the kindest and most sincere people you could ever hope to meet. But she's also a powerhouse and, nowadays, a working model (!!!). And yet, her journey hasn't been without its struggles, and her resilience never fails to amaze me. Here is her amazing story. She may have just started her career, but the point is she started.
I grew up dreaming of being a model. So I was thrilled when, at 19, I signed up with a modelling agency in London who started to represent me on some small projects. But just a few months later, everything went wrong. I started suffering from a serious stomach infection, which lasted over 3 years and caused weight gain, acne, depression… the list goes on.
I was completely insecure and hated my appearance. At the same time, my parents weren’t supportive of modelling. They thought it wasn’t a serious career path and were in favour of education. In their own words, they thought modelling would "sidetrack me". So, due to their strong views and the fact that my agency at the time weren’t understanding of my health problems, I quit modelling all together and focused on university instead. In my mind, I was done with modelling for good.
Instead, I went to a business school to pursue a BSc in Business Management, and then onto an MSc in Marketing Strategy and Innovation at one of the best universities in the world. Honestly? The stress was beyond belief. Although I hated the numeric side of things, I was somewhat interested in marketing and advertising. So I did what was expected of me: I embarked on several internships and, as a result, I had a lot of support and approval from my parents. I felt calm that I was making everyone proud. My life was all planned out…
However, after ticking all of my parents’ boxes, passing all my classes and chasing elusive graduate schemes, I was unhappy. I applied to over 40 top companies, working my ass off and compiling killer cover letters, all while trying to make it through the day. But I was rejected, time and time again.
The funny thing is, while my peers seemed distraught by all of these rejections, I didn’t care in the slightest. Why? Because deep down I couldn’t see myself sitting in an office from 9-5 making other people richer. It just wasn’t me. As the year went by, and my life plan was going wrong, I needed to think fast.
It was after going to Barcelona for a weekend and being approached by photographers that I had a realisation: I could have a second chance at modelling. I mean, I had recovered from my stomach infection, had spent years taking great care of myself and my confidence was back. I looked and felt great. What could stop me? Why shouldn’t I give my dream another try?
I think that's the great thing about failure: once you've failed and got back up, you learn that sh*t happens and life goes on. You become bolder and braver.
So I contacted the head booker of my dream agency, Elite, and three days later I was at their head office signing a contract and taking polaroids. A lot of people wait to be “scouted” or for something to happen, but I decided to make it happen. Having failed once before, I knew I had nothing to lose. My past experiences empowered me.
I didn’t tell my parents until I’d finished my Masters degree. I wanted my conversation with them to be concrete - only then would they take me seriously.
But I'd be lying if I said it's been plain sailing from here.
You have to have thick skin if you want to make it far in the industry. You’re compared with other gorgeous, thin models on a DAILY basis, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the process of trying to emulate others. In order to stay true to yourself and gain the respect of others, you have to love and nourish your body and mind. I work out regularly, eat as healthily as I can, and work hard.
My career is in its earliest days, and yet I feel happier than ever. I wake up excited, and I have a constant feeling that, at least for now, this is what I should be doing. In many ways, I think now is all that matters. Looks will eventually fade, but I want to use the time I have to do everything I love while I can. My life has changed massively, and I love every bit of it. I wake up, workout, attend castings, and go to shoots. It’s a lot of travelling, waiting around, competition, and disappointments, but you know what? I’m completely okay with that, and I’m willing to work as hard as my body can manage to get to where I want to be.
I’ve set myself many goals for the future, but I try not to get ahead of myself. I’m typically a very anxious person, and I tend to live in the future, so my main goal is to just live in the present and enjoy the ‘now’ moment, while keeping a realistic eye on the future. Ideally, I’d like to go to New York and Los Angeles, where some of the best agencies are, and sign with Wilhemina, IMG or Ford. My aim is to travel as much as possible, meet talented people in the industry, and live the life that is true to myself.
I wish I could tell my younger self that it’s okay to not know what you want to do, or where you want to go. It’s okay. Take it step-by-step, day-by-day. You will figure it out. It may take some time, years for that matter, but it’s all a part of the process. And honestly? Nobody ever has it all figured out, anyway.
All good things take time, so trust the process. Spend your time surrounded by people who love and constantly support you, take good care of your mind, body, and soul, and, most importantly, listen to your inner voice. Don’t allow others to build your empire. Build it yourself. Of course, you can listen to the advice of your family and friends, because they love you and don’t want you to make any mistakes. But, at the end of the day, you only have one life, and you don’t get any time back. Stay focused, and stay true to whatever it means to be you.