Guest Author: Nata Sarafinchan
I can and
I can and I will.
I can and I will.
Ever since I can remember my life has always been:
“Hey guys! Everybody’s hangin' out/going dancing/gathering/studying/fill in the blank!”...
And then there’s me, Nata. “Hi.”
LEFT OUT AGAIN.
I don’t come from a family of risk takers.
So naturally a wide-eyed, charismatic dreamer like me never really fit in to the “common” mold of things. Everyone would be doing things one way and then there would be, well, me. I still find myself in these situations every once in a while, but by now I’ve learned that it’s actually totally okay to be different.
Growing up on the other hand, I had zero sense of my identity. As an oddball who was confused as to why I never really fit in, those feelings were a mean friend to link arms with back then – until I learned that I could use my “difference” as an advantage.
I was in China a few months ago for modeling work. I was in a car full of five Russian girls speaking loudly over each other, two Chinese men in the front quietly chatting between the seats, and can you guess who stuck out? … Nata. Dear ol' American, English speaking Me. Ha! – Shocker, right?
In other words, I instantly noticed the major difference in this car full of foreigners and thought to myself, “Of course this would happen.” Even amongst all of the crazy things that eventually came to make sense in my crazy world, I never really knew how much of an impact the rough patches of my life were going to have in the years to come – when I grew up and decisions really started affecting the course of my life.
I want to share how my experience of coming from a broken home and being an outsider all my life changed with a single decision and a new perspective. And how that decision inspired me to chase a dream that has challenged me, grown me, and taken me to places I’d only dreamed of.
For those of you who have had a rough past, or who have ever felt like an outsider, I hope that you can find inspiration in my story to chase your dream, to surround yourself with life-giving people, and to decide to have a determined “never-quit” mindset.
Let’s start from the beginning.
My immediate family is rather large. I fall into slot six of seven kids connected to the same wounded set of parents. – My big fat European fam-bam!
Like many others out there, “family time” and the notion of “love” was never a phone call away. Mom was an emotional wreck. Dad had his own agenda. They really hated each other to say the least.
After the first couple of us rug-rats came, you could imagine how these two broken humans probably got tired of taking care of so many little beings running around the house while “trying” to work on their relationship for the betterment of everyone. Obviously, the closest thing to giving up on raising their own children was the (seemingly) better option: to opt-out completely. Chaos was adopted, instability reigned, and the result was a severed family holding on by a thread.
"Ohana" (family) is a foreign language we still don’t know how to speak.
“Family" surely wasn’t natural for us, and it most definitely hasn’t come easily. You know trust, security, a safe haven, heartfelt moments, vulnerability, all the things a normal kid wishes for in a home? We weren’t shown any example of those to follow behind closed doors, so automatically my siblings and I learned to fend for ourselves as best we could.
A "Fight or Flight" Lifestyle
I have experienced a lot of different kinds of abuse that has haunted me ever since I can remember.
Being afraid of the dark ‘til my late teen years didn’t help much with the endless nights of being dreadfully restless – caused by mild trauma from years prior that loved to dance over my thoughts like it was the ball of the century! RUDE. I would have nights where I would stay awake for hours because closing my eyes in my dark shadowy cave of a room felt like complete torture.
You know those times when your imagination seems most alive and your brain wanders far and wide and you literally don’t know how to turn it off? That was me for the longest time. An escape from reality.
I have felt and seen heartbreak and pain, sobbing tears and deep sorrow, brokenness and great defeat.
Parents in and out of the house. Sibling’s living their older teen-filled life. No one asking where I was when I would spend the night at my friends’ place for weeks on end. (Mind you I was still in elementary school at this point in time).
No one really cared. Stability was my enemy.
Can you relate? Sadly, I know. Its almost as if deep down inside, the core of my being was slowly rotting away as a result of all the darkness surrounding me. Most of the time I hardly knew it was sucking the life away from me moment by moment. No running, no hiding. I felt that not even all the prayers in the world could save my heart from the pit it had been swimming in all those years; but I would walk with my chin high and a smile on my face and give myself a pep talk that “everything’s going to be alright.” Of course I’d never believe it, but what else could I do?
It’s safe to say my childhood was less than ideal or glamorous.
Hope. There’s always hope.
We’ll call them "Angels".
I am eternally grateful for the numerous mentors, pastors, friends, and even strangers who have believed in me and who have pushed me to thrive past my situation since the start of my career. I have to give credit to those who have loved me at my worst, who have challenged me to be my “best” – those who have "seen it all” (if you know what I mean.)
The magic word is Love.
Love makes the world go round, people. If it weren’t for the unconditional love I received over and over again from my new surroundings, I don’t know where I would be.
"What do you mean by 'new surroundings', Nata?”, you ask. Good question, here’s what I mean:
I believe that if you study the people you hang out with, the people you do life with, the friends in your close circle, your homies, your ride-or-die-heart-and-souls, you’ll quickly notice how your behavior mirrors those who you’re constantly around. – Does that make sense?
We as humans tend to gravitate toward others who like the same music, taste of food, type of clothing, even lifestyle – and we roll with them. And because we are completely and totally in charge of how we live our lives, a lot of people choose to stroll down a destructive path of relationships full of addiction and emptiness that never gets filled. Chasing high after high only to be let down nearly every time. It’s an alluring trap if you ask me.
This lifestyle was never for me.
As in, I never wanted to be “that guy” getting smashed at a party every single weekend. That never looked fun to me. It looked destructive, sad, and empty. I always felt in my heart that there had to be something else, something MORE. Most of the people around me indulged in that scene though, and so again, there was me on the outside.
I’m not saying I’m perfect because I chose not to do these things; because believe me, I’m far from it and I know that. I’m only speaking from my point of view because that’s the only place I can come from.
Several years ago my pastor described relationships in a way that hit home:
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
Wow. What a simple phrase. In my head, looking at my friends, that future was a no-brainer: Destruction, Addiction, Negativity, Lies, Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Pain, Laziness, Fakeness, Jealousy, being Shallow, you name it and it was there. If this statement was true, then staying the same meant that all of these issues and a sack of potato chips would slowly creep into my lifestyle and become a part of me.
(Side note: if you’re ever around someone who thinks they know everything, run like the plague! They won’t grow themselves and they won’t grow you. – There’s always room for improvement. Always room to grow and get better, bigger, faster, stronger in any aspect of your life. Stretch your wings!)
Thankfully I had an escape plan:
If I could surround myself with people who were grace-filled, fun, hard-working, intentional, wiser than myself (which isn’t hard to be), all-in-or-nothin’ kind of friends, I would be inspired to live out an adventurous life like they were.
I was at a crossroads:
- I had a choice to continue to live the life I had experienced in the past; as if the pain of emotional, physical and spiritual abuse defined and controlled me like a little puppet on strings. – I had the choice to be a victim in the scenario. After all, given my family history, that choice would be completely valid; some of my siblings struggle with the victim mentality to this day.
- On the other hand, there was a similar ultimatum, but of the opposite nature: I could choose to start from scratch, right where I was. Forgive and forget. Hold on to hope. Drop the old and walk right into a new freedom that I always knew was tangible, but had always felt like a major stretch to fully grasp. – I hadn’t seen these choices lived out in my life before, but why not give it a try now?
Either way, I knew I needed a better future; a successful, prosperous, hope-filled one. If it were up to me I would do whatever it took to have that. Not only for me, but for the family I would have one day in the near or distant future. I strive so that one day, if I’m lucky enough to have them, my kids won’t lack life’s fundamentals like I did.
This was my choice:
I could have stayed a victim and let my surroundings suck me down into a miserable life; but I chose to press on to a hope I knew was waiting for me – a promise if you will.
I had a dream staring me in the face:
To become a model but never waver in my character, to be the best version of myself, and to use that platform to share value and hope with others who don't know it exists.
It was a BIG dream, and there was a world of regret behind it if I didn’t take the leap of faith to pursue my life with intention and grace.
Notice how I mentioned grace?
Grace is a “must-have” because I am a perfectionist.
I love things to be 100% or not at all, 99% of the time (I am also human). Which means I make mistakes and I must allow myself room to learn from them. It’s a process. I continue to remind myself its “progress, not perfection”.
It hasn't always been my dream to be a model.
Honestly, it sort of just happened slowly-but-surely after years of being scouted time and time again in the city malls. I began doing little shoots here and there every once in a while and I soon realized I quite liked it, but for myself. Like, no one had to tell me what to do or where to go, when to be at what place for their benefit. I just found my outlet and that was that.
I find it sort of humorous that as a young girl, I was incredibly insecure about my height and long dangly limbs, but the one thing I hated most was the one thing that the industry actually preferred.
I've finally found where I belong:
right along with the rest of your average crowd of tall, awkward, long-legged, beautifully-derpy-faced girl-next-door girls.
I love the art of modeling. I love the newness of it. Every shoot is different, every make up artist, stylist and photographer is different and we all bring such a creative talent to the table to create an amazing product.
I saw so much opportunity in the idea of becoming a professional model. There was a chance for me to travel the world, which was basically number one on my bucket list, it provided a way I could express myself through fashion and clothing and really just be my weird gangly self. I not only get paid to learn what it takes to be a great model in the industry, I get a chance to meet so many new, incredible people on a weekly basis. – Some of which are life changing experiences.
Fashion is ever changing, always evolving and ready for the next best thing. I love the hype of a new trend coming and going away just as fast. I love the creativity that each individual designer brings to the runway. I love that in everything, you get to see a mild reflection of the creative minds behind each piece.
I knew in my heart, once I said "yes" to signing with an agency, I was all in and nothing was going to stop me.
So here I am on this crazy ride, living out a dream life, pursuing something that has become a deep, deep passion of mine. I enjoy every moment, the good, the bad, and the crazy. It's a constant learning process behind the scenes but that's just it, I'm learning, and pushing for more and going from better to best.
I believe in dreams and that it’s possible for anyone to pursue them.
Living out this far-fetched dream has been one of the most rewarding areas in my life thus far. I can’t tell you how many times I see people settle for what’s easy or realistic or convenient. It hurts me to my core when I see people dreading their jobs and just WISH they could be doing something else worthwhile. – I have been there, and it sucks!
Pursuing my career with modeling has not been an easy breezy walk in the park;
I had to take some pretty big risks when starting out. Not only did I have to quit my “real job” to make time for all the opportunities that modeling would bring, but I also had to convince myself that doing this was even possible in the first place. I would constantly remind myself whenever I doubted the process:
“If you fail, then at least you know you tried; but if you succeed, wasn’t the risk worth it all?”
I love love love what I do, but it wasn’t handed to me. I have sacrificed even the closest things to me in order to trek toward this vision. I’ve had to work hard for what I have – and I still have quite a ways to go! I am determined to see this through.
Modeling is a continuous learning experience:
“Do this more.” and “Do that less.”, “This is a real friend." and “This person is using me.” – It’s a life of comparison, whether its subconscious or not, especially amongst the newer gals in the industry.
I’m not saying this process of constant improving is all unhealthy though, because we are always trying to improve: our body, our walk, our pose, our sets of digitals, our habits, our clients, etc. – These are all simply requirements of the field.
How each model chooses to reflect on the feedback of others or the “model lifestyle", I would say, is a reflection of them as an individual, not of the model community as a whole. We each choose our own path and beliefs.
One thing I’ve learned to remember is that you should NEVER take it personal.
The fashion industry is a world full of rejection, so you could imagine how much of it models, such as myself, face on a weekly basis. You must have thick skin in this industry or you won’t make it!
Clients are searching for a specific look, so if you’re a brunette and they need a bleach blonde "beach gal", you clearly don’t meet the requirements for what they want. – You have to keep the mindset that it’s not you who is being rejected, it’s just not what they’re looking for. That is all.
"Continue on to your next casting, pretty lady!"
I am perpetually asked how it is "being a model”.
“Isn’t it great?”, "You’re so cool!”, "I wish I were you!”, the list goes on. I know that it’s an envied profession. Us humans always idolize things that seem “larger than life".
Let me offer some healthy perspective:
When I’m asked about the details, I try to be honest. “It’s not all glitz and glam,” I say. It may be for the Victoria’s Secret supermodels (or so it seems), but for the gals who haven’t "made it" yet, it’s a ton of work. – And I mean a TON.
Victoria’s Secret (VS) models appear to have the most envied lifestyle.
It’s perfect, right?
I mean, don’t you dream of running around on the sunniest beaches around the world, sipping water straight from the coconut itself, laying on the softest sand, soaking in all the vitamin D your body can take while getting photographed by some of the best photographers in the world?
My point is: yes, that all looks glamorous, but have you ever stopped to think about the reality behind the glamor?
Some women can be so bitter toward models.
They scoff at their perfect bodies on the screen, in the teenie-weenie all-sorts-of-colored bikinis; but they never think about how many hours those girls worked in the gym, sweating their life away, just to have the right body to look great in a piece of lingerie, or sweat pants, or whatever – stuff that the criticizing women end up buying anyway so they can look like the models they resent. It’s all about perspective.
I applaud the VS Angels – majorly.
Can you imagine yourself walking down a runway in the highest of heels, wearing costumes strapped to your entire body, in front of the entire world?! Picture it: A graceful walk, a smile from ear to ear, knowing millions of people are watching. – No pressure. – It’s a BIG deal.
Those girls get their butts kicked to stay in shape, to work hard for what they have; and they are still so thankful and humble, even when they are constantly being judged by outsiders who don’t quite understand the industry.
Even at the pinnacle of ones model career, these Angels still strive to be better, stronger etc. Sound familiar?
I hope you get the point:
Even the best of the best work hard to either stay on top or to get even better. – Modeling is a job.
True To Self.
Now, I may not be a VS model. I may not look, talk, or act like a “girly-girl”.
But I’m so thankful I don’t have to, because if you’ve ever met me, you’d know I’m a riot.
I’m kind of a tom-boy. I’m weird, goofy, wild and passionate about life and living it fully. I’m usually the person who goes and dances with strangers on the street to make everyone smile even at my pride’s expense. – Don’t turn on a good tune in a restaurant or you’ll be embarrassed you came with me!
I didn’t go to college because I never felt the need to. When I decided I wanted to explore modeling full-force as a profession, I had no heart for staying in school longer than I needed to. I went straight into the business with the mindset of,
“If I fail, I will fail hard and at least I’ll know it wasn’t for me”,
and I planned to continue with the next best thing in front of me. Thankfully, I have yet to hit that wall.
Being in this industry has taught me a lot about people, and even more about myself, honestly.
Although I’ve been on the outside much of my life, I’ve learned that the people I surround myself with influence where I go. – I bring this same belief into my career as a model:
Leaving behind the negative influences and drawing upon the energy of life-giving people.
Some women judge, hate, gossip and ridicule beyond belief! Yet, a fair amount of others love, encourage, challenge and cheer you on. Sometimes it’s hard not to be affected by both sides of the spectrum though.
I realized quickly that people are going to have an opinion no matter what – go figure. But I decided early in the game that others were never going to have the power to dictate where my future was going. I’m in control of who offends me, and negativity is not going to win in my battle to victory.
So cliché, but its true:
Haters are going to hate. And you just gotta keep movin’ past the evil comments.
For some of us our outlet is music, for others it’s art and creating things through their fingertips or visually on a screen... for me, it’s modeling.
It’s my art. Its my dance. Its my breath of life in a way. I’m blessed to be able to have the opportunity to travel (one of my biggest dreams). I have had the pleasure of building the gift of friendship in places around the world I would never have guessed I would ever go! Like ever. To name some: a few places in China, Thailand, LA, and NYC for cryin’ out loud!
I think about my life and there are so many facets where I could kick myself for not being up to my standard of expectations.
I am quick to see where I need improvement instead of being content with where I am in the now. However, I read this excerpt once that said:
“Come as you are.”
It didn’t read, "as you’re not", or "as you wish to be", but "as you ARE”. Meaning: WHO you are right now is valid. – What a concept. Talk about freedom! – Right here and now. I want that.
The moment I committed to becoming the best version of me, I wanted to continue to be the wild, quirky, not-your-average cookie-cutter gal that I was born to be – whether people were inspired to pursue their own journey in life alongside me or not. No matter what I face, I never want to change the confident, determined, go-getting mindset that has been established within me.
I am a work in progress – we all are.
And because of this, I will always challenge others to make their dreams a reality, because that’s what we’re designed to do.
Where passion meets talent:
That’s the sweet spot, and it’s the most fulfilling road to travel on. There’s something so special that happens when you get to see what you’re truly made of.
Why not take advantage of every passing day from start to finish? Why not live your life to its fullest extent?
I always ask myself:
“Would you rather not go for it?”
The truth is, I SO would rather.
I would rather do something out of the ordinary that could change my life, than be paralyzed and limited by my fears.
Whether its fear of others, fear of rejection, or even fear of failure, I would rather choose to be vulnerable and share my story, if it meant that someone would be impacted by it. I would rather spend my life chasing a vision that gives me and those around me the utmost gratification, versus chasing the wind or being completely complacent where I stand.
Where I’m going will be so much more rewarding than where I’ve been.
The journey hasn't always been rainbows and butterflies, it’s been pretty rough. It’s still rough at times.
But if there's one thing that keeps me going, it’s keeping my mindset positive, partnered with the love and encouragement of the people I’ve surrounded myself with. This is the sphere I choose to live in.
POWER IN WORDS
Wanna know my secret? Here it is:
I believe in the power of words.
They have the capacity to make or break anything that stands in their way. They are little balls of energy that are released from the tip of our tongues out into the world.
Call me weird but I guess you could say that I talk to myself.
When I wake up in the morning, I get ready and tell myself the words I need to hear to get by for just one more day. Affirmation. Some days are harder than others so my conversations with myself differ.
I remind myself of who I am and what I’m made of. I remind myself of my true identity and I write down a list of the truth about me and read it aloud. Normally it’ll just be on a shaggy piece of paper propped up on my dresser so I see it often.
A huge part of what I’m doing is speaking life into my future, about things that are yet to come.
It’s not weird or creepy, it’s called believing for the best. If we have the power to build or destroy our lives through our words and decisions, I will always choose to build and re-build again. I’ll press on for a hope I know is real, and a dream that is completely possible.
Are you ready to say "I Can & I Will" to your dream or business, but feel like you're unqualified or uncertain of how to get there?
Do you keep hitting a wall over and over when trying to pursue your passion and break into your next new pursuit?
It can be frustrating to know there's a problem, but not know how to dig it up so that you can move forward. Maybe you need a little help overcoming internal obstacles, dismantling fear, and learning from experienced creatives and entrepreneurs from all different industries.
Consider my book, STEP 0: Featuring an exclusive Masterclass by Nata Sarafinchan on "Breaking Into a Brand New Industry" where she shares from her experience getting started in modeling, overcoming rejection, using your unique purpose to fuel you.
I'm a pretty simple gal, really. I love the sun, vanilla ice cream and pizza. I also love people and am passionate about others discovering their personal worth and finding the value in chasing big dreams. I work professionally as a model, but I am adamant about that title not defining who I am – instead, modeling is just something I do.
I am silly and usually out-going. I try to notice the little details in life and appreciate every moment of it. My desire is to push people toward their destiny and work to bring even the slightest light of hope to the world, no matter what that may look like. My goal is to do what I love and do it well and bring others along-side on my journey.