Interview with Model Rebecca Taylor Bratland
I had the incredible opportunity to sit down and interview my modeling coach, Rebecca Taylor Bratland, and delve into her remarkable journey in the world of fashion. As a seasoned model with a wealth of experience, Rebecca has not only navigated the intricacies of the fashion industry but has also made a significant impact. In this interview, we will explore her insights, experiences, and the valuable lessons she's learned along the way, shedding light on the dynamic and ever-evolving world of modeling and fashion.
Can you tell us about your journey as a fashion model and how you got started in the industry?
I originally came from a small farm town in Wisconsin called Random Lake. I think at that time the population was around 1,200. It is a beautiful town with lots of dairy farms and big red barns dotting the landscape. Growing up, I had never really experienced any big city living but watching television gave me the opportunity to imagine what it might be like. In high school,I would often go to the library to read the latest edition of Seventeen magazine. I was mesmerized by the fashion and the beautiful models and thought to myself someday I was going to be just like them. So with that thought, I planned. I went to the nearest big city—Milwaukee—and enrolled in modeling school. When I excitedly asked my teacher if she thought I could be a model, she looked away and pretended she didn’t hear me. Inside I knew she didn’t think I had a shot.
However, I was determined to find a way. Eventually a photographer spotted me and asked if I would be part of calendar he was shooting for the Schlitz Brewing Company. It was my first paying gig; others soon followed, and eventually an agent in Chicago signed me on.
Believe me, I had no idea what I was doing; it was always on the job training. New York—the biggest of the big leagues—was theinevitable next step. When I arrived in New York I signed with the Zoli modeling agency. It another difficult feat, but that was just the start because little did I know that back in those days,when you signed with the top agencies, they gave you a few weeks to prove yourself and if didn’t work out, you got dumped.
I needed to stand out from the crowed, which consisted of the most beautiful women in the world. How was I going to do that? I was never the prettiest or tallest, and no matter how much I starved myself, I always had some agent complaining about my weight. So, I cut off my long blonde hair to a pixie cut, stood up a little taller and learned how to angle my body in just the right way to make myself look thinner. And with that, my career began.
Congratulations on finishing your memoir! What inspired you to write it and what can readers except to learn from it?
2. Thank you! Yes, I have just completed the manuscript. It’scalled Chikara, which means “power” in Japanese. It is not published as of yet and currently I am shopping for a literary agent to represent it. Chikara is my story of survival and eventual escape from Tokyo, Japan and from the Yakuza(Japanese Mafia) who placed a hit on me. Readers will be givena glimpse of the inside world of an international model in the 1980’s. Most importantly, I want to shed a light on sex trafficking, suicide, and most importantly, give hope to the hopeless. An excerpt from my memoir can be found on my website, www.rebeccataylorbratland.com.
As someone who has been modeling for a long time, what advice would you give to aspiring models who are just starting out?
The advice I would give to inspiring models is to view yourself as a commodity. Look at models in ads who are your age range and have a similar look and try to emulate them.
Don’t oversexualize yourself, as that’s not going to sell productsand it turns clients off. An Instagram model is different than a commercial or fashion model. Remember, it’s not what you want to look like, it’s only about what the client wants and what will sell. You may want to look like Kim Kardashian, but that’s not going to book you a job. Your main goal is to be marketable,which may mean cutting your hair, changing your diet,exercising, covering up tattoos, removing colorful nails, wearingless makeup, or perhaps wearing more clothing. The bottom line? Don’t lead with your ego. If this business was easy,everyone would do it.
Can you share a particularly memorable experience you had while modeling that taught you something important?
A particular memorable modeling experience that taught me a great lesson happened recently during a shoot for a major magazine. It was a bridal scene and I was cast as the mother of the bride, which was a featured role. We were shooting at Beauty and Essex in Manhattan and it was a large cast. Little did I know that there was another model on set who wanted to take my spot, and every time we started shooting she jumped into my spot! I’m a professional and did not want to cause any drama, soI let her continue to do her thing even though she was literally jumping in front of me. In the end she was featured in the magazine and I was nowhere to be seen. From this, I learned to stand up for myself, and that you’re never too old to learn lessons in life.
How do you balance the demands of the fashion industry with your personal life and other interests?
My spirituality helps me balance the demands of the fashion industry with my personal life and other interests. I consider myself blessed to be given the opportunity to do what I do and whether I book the gig or not I am always grateful. Gratitude is the key to everything.
What are some common misconceptions about the modeling industry that you would like to clear up?
Some of the common misconceptions about the modeling industry that I would like to clear up.
a) It’s easy, all you have to do is stand there and look pretty. The fact is, it takes skill to learn how to angle your body and pose in front of the camera. Many times when you see a model smiling in a bathing suit, its actually being shot in the dead of winter andwinter clothing is being shot in the summer!
b) You get discovered and instantly become a superstar. While it may have happened to a handful of people in the past, that certainly isn’t commonplace. Once you sign with an agent—which is not an easy feat—you will face multiple rejections.When they start submitting you to castings, the ratio to booking a job is 19 to 1. So basically, it takes an average of 19 rejectionsbefore you book one job.
c) The industry is filled with sex and drugs, and photographers are always coming on to models. In my entire career, I have never had any photographer solicit me for sex. I’m not saying that it’s never happened to anyone, just that I’ve never witnessed it.
Can you talk about a time when you faced rejection or failure in your career, and how you overcame it?
I face rejection every day of my life, so it’s nothing new. I have just learned to view it as not rejection but redirection. There is always something to be learned from rejection. It just comes with the territory.
Can you share with us your experience as a modeling coach and what you learned from it?
Being a modeling coach has been very rewarding . I love to see people succeed. What it has taught me is that no matter where you are, your life, and at any age, if you are focused,determined, disciplined, and always open to learning andchange, you can succeed in life.
In your opinion, what qualities or skills are necessary for a model to be successful in the industry?
The qualities or skills I feel that a model needs to be successful are, most importantly, the ability to change and not get so attached to your current image of yourself. For instance,you may be asked to cut your hair or change your style of dress. Remember, a model is a commodity. You are selling an image,and if you are uptight about changing your look, there is always another model who will be eager to do it. Another important skill is resiliency. You will face a lot of rejection in this industry,so the challenge is to learn and grow from the rejection. Also, discipline, focus, determination, and fearlessness are important. It is almost like being an athlete. You have to consistently stay on top of your game. If your agent requests a self-tape for an audition, don’t wait until the last minute to do it. Whatever it is you lack, there are always many others who are ready to step in and take your place. In modeling, you are only as good as your last booking.
Lastly, what are your plans for the future in terms of your modeling career and other endeavors?
My plans for the future in terms of my modeling career and other endeavors are to continue my activism by shining a light and educating people on sex trafficking and suicide prevention. My hope is to always inspire and to lift others up. Of course, I will continue to model and act as long as they still want me. I’m available!