What is the life of a high-fashion model? Is it all glam and fame and perfection? Are those celebrity models we idolize like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid really leading the amazing life that we perceive or is it a life of “fakes and… lies,” as top Australian Model Ajak Deng announced last year when she left the industry that she said she could no longer take? Or even one that is literally making its participants sick as a writer turned model Madison Schill asserted in a Glamour Magazine article, detailing, among other things, how her agent literally asked her if she “drank butter for water.”
In her new, both disturbing and inspiring memoir, Washed
Away: From Darkness To Light, former model, Nikki Dubose, who has appeared on the covers of and in editorials for all the biggies – Maxim, Glamour, Vogue, Vanity Fair and more, lends her voice to this debate. As the title suggests, she comes down on the side of all is not what it seems. Nikki shares the dark side of the quest for beauty and perfection that creates a very toxic environment for its participants.
Nikki’s moving narrative, detailing her life is at times painful to read. The trauma suffered by this amazing woman and role model is almost too much for the reader to bear. However, Nikki’s brutal honesty and open and engaging style, coupled with her incredible story, makes for a book that you won’t be able to put down.
Even before modeling, Nikki’s life was filled with challenges – eating disorders, addiction, abuse, domestic violence, a troubled relationship with her mother and more. Her mother set the stage for Nikki’s vicious cycle of eating disorders with a simple comment. As they watched Christy Turlington on TV and Nikki wondered aloud if she too could be a model someday, her mother replied, “There will always be someone prettier than you.” Add to this a troubled and violent home life filled with physical and mental abuse, and the stage is set for Nikki’s first binge eating disorder. (Reminder to choose your words wisely when your friend asks you, “Do I look fat in this?”).
Modeling only exacerbated Nikki’s feelings of inadequacy, and plastic surgery, obsessive behavior and unending dieting ensued. As Nikki makes clear, nothing was ever enough for the agents, bookers and the rest of the industry. On any given day, her boobs could be too big or too small, her arms too fat or too thin, her legs too thick and on and on. Layer on to this drinking, partying and the many who took advantage of these young models resulting in everything from questionable behavior all the way to sexual assault, and any reader can completely understand Nikki’s ensuing mental health issues. Yet, and most significantly for this reviewer, all of Nikki’s angst is hidden from the camera, revealing volumes about the divergence between what we see of high fashion models and the reality of their lives.
Nonetheless, this memoir is not one of despair and resignation. Rather, it speaks to hope, triumph and the resilience of the soul. Nikki is a survivor. Whether battling her own addictions or attempting to help her mother battle hers, Nikki displays unbelievable inner strength Her ability to make peace with the many challenges that she faced throughout her life and find the courage and confidence to share her story is truly inspiring and empowering.
This is a book you don’t want to miss. Nikki Dubose, we know you are Fit To Lead! Thank you for sharing your story.