A Model Writing Life: Interview with YA author Nicole Gabor @nngabor

Start from the beginning

During this time, I was really struggling with things that most almost-20-year-olds struggle with: What am I going to do with my life? Am I going to take the traditional path and get a "normal" job after college, or am I going to try to make it in fashion - a career with a very high failure rate that doesn't play by the ordinary rules of life. (Incidentally, I chose writing, which I think is the only other career that has a higher failure rate!! ;)

While I was modeling, I also met and fell in love with my husband who really inspired much of the love story in the book. He's an English teacher and he really helped to make the book better in so many ways - he helped me with the plot, story arc, pacing ... so many things. And since he's "in" the book, it didn't take much convincing to get him to read it and suggest ways to improve it! ;)

Q: How many of the events that happened in the book are based on true-life experiences?

A: Many of them were inspired by things that happened to me, or to my friends. And then some were just there to move the plot along. See below for more on that.

Q: Did you LOVE modeling? Was it as exciting and glamorous as it looks?

There were perks to being a model - free clothes, photo shoots, and bragging rights for family and friends - but it's nothing that I would recommend to my nieces or to any daughter of mine. For that to happen, a lot would have to change.

When I modeled in the late 1990s, things went on that would never be acceptable in any other profession. While other industries (like acting or teaching) had unions, labor laws, protection for minors, and other things that help secure a safe work environment, the fashion industry had literally none. It was a free-for-all. Girls as young as 13 were regularly sexually harassed, propositioned, threatened if they didn't take certain jobs that were lucrative, exposed to alcohol and drugs, forced to change in public, and - what we have all heard before - harshly criticized for their weight, leaving many with body image issues.

This is one reason why I wrote the book - to spread awareness and to give impressionable teenage girls an inside glimpse into the so-called "glamorous" life. I wanted teens think about their choices in life and question what they're willing to do for fame and success.

Although many of these shady practices still go on in the fashion industry today, it's beginning to change. There's a group called the Model Alliance that is lobbying for safe working conditions for models and doing some really amazing things. It's about time!

Q: After modeling, what did you do?

A: I quit modeling at 22 and began my career in journalism. I started in broadcast journalism and worked for the local CBS news stations in New York City and Philadelphia. But broadcasting seemed too much like modeling for me at the time (newscasters were referred to as the "talent" and often had the egos of super-models!) and I knew that I wanted to write, so I started searching for newspaper jobs. I began writing for trade magazines for physicians and sort of developed a "health" beat. I freelanced at local newspapers and health magazines (including Prevention and The Philadelphia Inquirer) and finally landed my dream job at KidsHealth.org, the web's #1 most-visited site for children's health: www.Kidshealth.org. I am the editor of the "Parents" section.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

A: From the time I was a little girl, I would write stories and make up characters in my head. My grandmother was an artist and she really inspired me. She gave me a lot of confidence and made me feel like I could do anything that I put my mind to. I always knew that I would do something in the arts. I loved to sing, act, dance, and write. English was my best subject in school, so I took the path of least resistance and majored in English/journalism at Rutgers College of Arts and Sciences. My dream would have been to become a classical singer (I am a soprano and had a voice scholarship in college), but my stage fright was so bad that I knew I wouldn't be able to handle that long-term. I choose writing because it was still a way to perform and practice an art form, but the creative process was very private so something that I could cultivate behind the scenes.

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