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It took seven years to build a pocket of peace in the middle of Manhattan.
“You are a product of your environment.” We hear that phrase all the time, but maybe we don’t think to appreciate how deeply true it is. If we did, we might pay more attention to the environments we choose to occupy! “What’s she on about?” you’re wondering. Well, I recently bumped into an old acquaintance from my first days of living in New York and starting out my modeling career, and it got me thinking back to that time. New York was such a big culture shock for me in all different sorts of ways, and it seems pretty clear in hindsight that the conditions were perfect for me to go off the rails a bit.
I was 21 and far —like halfway across the world far - from home. I grew up on a farm outside Brisbane, Australia, so it’s putting it mildly to say that arriving to NYC represented a change of pace. What’s more, I didn’t know a soul when I got here so you can imagine the sort of crowd I fell in with. I went to all the clubs, I danced on all the tables, I spent so many late nights in smoky living rooms with young models and old, rich men. It feels gross now and, here’s the funny thing, it even felt gross at the time. I remember certain moments in the middle of some sort of bender where I'd pull up short and think to myself “What exactly are you doing here? This isn’t you and this isn’t the way you like to feel.” But at that age, without the experience and skills to create healthy environments for myself, I had completely given in to the pull of the New York nightlife.
It got to a point where my lifestyle was starting to affect my job and the way people perceived me in the industry, and one day after a particularly hungover shoot, my agent let me have it. It was honestly the best thing that could have happened to me, and it was the start of me discovering New York on my own terms, and not the terms that were “expected” of young models who are new to the city. Now seven years on, I think my friend group is a strong reflection of the person I am, and the person I want to be. I’m happy to be shaped by them, because they’re a continuous source of challenge and growth. Plus when the occasion calls for it we can still let loose with the best of them :)
So it’s true that we’re all products of our environment, but it’s equally true that we have the power to surround ourselves with people and spaces that inspire and nurture us. Even in a jungle like New York, with some hard work and the benefit of some life experience, it can be done!