Anne Hambuda

Since moving to Cape Town last year, I have been in a few advertisements. I have modelled clothes for a big brand and I have also been in a television commercial for life insurance. It has been an eye-opening experience for me and has also helped me greatly with my self-confidence.

It has not been an easy thing, though. Being 29 and trying something new feels an awful lot like I’m getting up on a stage and stripping naked in front of a crowd of ogling eyes. Worse than that, going to countless castings and having people judge and dissect you sparks a feeling I can’t quite put into words, but I’ll try.

How it starts is that my agent will text me and ask if I am available on certain days for casting, wardrobe and shooting. I will say yes, and then they will respond with a location and time for the first part of the process.

There is usually a studio somewhere in the city I must get to, where a panel of people will ask me some questions, take a picture of me and then expect me to perform some short sequence to demonstrate my acting, miming and modelling abilities, to determine whether or not I am the right person for the shoot.

They see tonnes of people at a time, so I am sure for them my time there is a mere drop in the ocean. But for me, it is the longest 10 minutes of my life. I often feel like an animal in a zoo and humans are walking by, judging me.

What brings me comfort is that the modelling field in Cape Town is a lot more diverse than I ever could have imagined, but that’s because there are an array of products and services that need to be advertised.

Not everybody needs the tall, slim modelesque girl for their campaigns. Some marketing agencies go out of their way to find people who look like the kind you would see on the street or in your local grocery store.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I am not conventionally beautiful, it’s just that I’m shorter and curvier than what I previously thought I needed to be to thrive in such an industry. Plus, they actually encourage you to tone down some stuff. Like, I’m not allowed to have long fake nails, or lash extensions and they don’t give me very heavy make-up for photos. The aim is to look natural and approachable. Something I think I pull off well.

When I first got here, more than one person asked me if I was a model. I thought they must be trolling me, right? Not actually. When I walk into castings I see all kinds of people.

Short people, fat people, people with tattoos, differently abled people, you name it. Outside of catwalk modelling, there are all kinds of people you can find.

But even though this helps me feel more comfortable and like I actually fit in, the process itself can be so emotionally burdensome.

Entering a room of 20 other people also hoping to be chosen for two or three spots can be daunting. Going to five unsuccessful castings in a row can be damn near soul crushing. On top of being financially taxing.

Not only that, but once you are actually in front of the casting directors, you have to put on your biggest smile, do a little dance and hope they remember you and like you enough to cast you.

A lot of it comes down to how prepared you are for the audition and how right you are for the part, but honestly, a big chunk of it is chance.

You really just have to be the face they were looking for that day, because if it is meant to happen, it will.

I think venturing into this world was a good thing for me, because so far I have learnt a lot about perseverance and patience. I know that whatever is meant to come my way will, and what isn’t, won’t.

Even the castings that don’t turn out to be successful serve as a learning experience for me for the next time, and the time after that.

The jobs I have been booked for so far have also been so positive for me. Not only do I now have another stream of income, I also have a reason to force myself to be an extrovert.

If it were up to me, I would never do anything outside of my comfort zone, I would not take chances and I would not try out something as scary as being photographed professionally.

I mean, I just recently became comfortable with using social media without filters, and even then, I only post content in which I am fully in control of the lighting and camera angles.

Now I actually let other people film me, without me being able to look at the pictures or videos before they are published.

I don’t know about you, but to me that is absolutely absurd. When did I get so brave?

– Anne Hambuda is a writer, social commentator and poet.
Follow her online or email her for more.

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