I got a few comments the other day on a YouTube video that I posted.
The video was of our work week in NYC. Staying in a beautiful hotel on Roosevelt Island. Back-to-back photoshoots with amazing, inclusive brands. I was so proud editing the clips together to share with who wanted to see a sneak peak into our life. I loved that video and will cherish the memories that we are documenting forever.
here are some of the sweet comments on this video:
"Looks so fun! Your sister was so cute carrying Ab and holding Liam’s hand 🥺 Can’t wait to see the ads! Love you guys!" - Popsicle Ellie
"As always, thank you for sharing, you all are such a "model" family. <3" - T.C.
"Love your videos and have always thought you are such a great parent to all three kids, despite Abby having extra needs. I think the model shoots can lead to increased self-esteem, socialization, discipline and many perks. But how can you fit three kids, two dogs and one husband into all this!" - F.D.
and then there was this one..
It reads: "IMO putting children into modeling or show business can, and usually does, lead straight to the opposite of self esteem. The child becomes a commodity, to be used to make money. Rejection, and its frequency, can make no sense to the child. Fixation on physical appearance can lead to appearance obsession. Schedules are arranged around the company's convenience, never the child's. All of this is hazardous to the healthy, non disabled child. To subject a young child with physical and/or intellectual challenges to those hazards, who already feel different, for whom life is already difficult, just feels wrong. The "perks" can be fleeting. Those aren't. I know that ostensibly the point here is to illustrate "inclusion," but since the business is unhealthy for all children, who have no ability to consent to work or not, to refuse bodily scrutiny, and mandated diets, to want to have normal childhoods, etc, what is it inclusion into? There also is the situation with finances. It is said by experts that when a child is put to work, and this IS work, not just playing dressup, the parents' level of living increases while the child's' decreases. I thought the extremely rare photo display for Target at first couldn't be too harmful, but it seems now as though it is happening really frequently, with agents and managers, time away from the other children, and each time is a six hour round trip, besides the work and also mention of moving to New York. It worries me. The glamour of the business can be seductive for parents."
There are so many things that I want to directly address here.
For transparency, we are very new to this world and I do understand where some of this could be completely misunderstood from an outside perspective or even information made public from individuals who started as a child in the industry and grew up to tell stories of how it affected them later in life. All of my thoughts, opinions, and statements are from our personal experience and I am not speaking for anyone but our family. I am not in any way offended or upset by this assumption but I would love to open up about this a clarify a few things for you 💫
So let's break it down-
"IMO putting children into modeling or show business can, and usually does, lead straight to the opposite of self esteem."
For Abby, she has actually experienced the complete opposite of this. Abby has never felt more confident in herself than when she is on set with the kindest peers of all ethnicities, abilities, and backgrounds. She is surrounded by individuals who have a passion for showing a child's personality through a lens. She is so encouraged, accepted, and adored on each and every set she has had the opportunity to work on. She is so proud of herself and loving to herself for exactly who she is. Whether she's in her wheelchair or her crutches, she feels such a boost being in front of those cameras. She instantly lights up the room each and every time.
"The child becomes a commodity, to be used to make money."
Every penny that Abby has ever made from her modeling is immediately put into a trust fund that only she will ever have access to in the future. The state of New York requires that a portion of the income is directly deposited into her trust. We, as her parents, choose to deposit the full amount each and every time.
"Rejection, and its frequency, can make no sense to the child."
Here is the beautiful thing about having an agent/management team who is genuinely in this industry for the best of reasons- there is no rejection. Our agent handles all of the behind the scenes and we are notified in the case when we are put on hold and we do book a job. Abby is not involved in the casting process in most cases and when she is- we always go into each one grateful for the opportunity to even be considered. We are teaching Abby to not feel entitled with the roles that she may or may not receive. We only work with clients/brands/companies that genuinely care for Abby and love her for exactly who she is and what she brings to the table for them. We are not career-pursuing jobs for her. We are brought the jobs as they come and we choose which are the right fit for her. We have declined opportunities for this reason.
"Fixation on physical appearance can lead to appearance obsession."
I personally have spent a majority of my life battling and recovering from an eating disorder. I, more than anyone, would never lead Abby down a path where she would have this become her reality, too. In the parts of the industry today that we have had the absolute honor of being apart of, there is so much focus on inclusion and diversity. Her natural, physical appearance is what the clients love to capture.
"Schedules are arranged around the company's convenience, never the child's."
This is entirely untrue with the clients that we work with. When Abby arrives on set- she is greeted with meals, snacks, drinks, etc. Before she even begins to work, she is instructed to settle in. Meet with her friends. Eat and relax. Once she is ready, she begins with her first fitting. Abby has always been put first on every single set we have ever been on and she always has the time of her life each work day we have!
All of this is hazardous to the healthy, non disabled child. To subject a young child with physical and/or intellectual challenges to those hazards, who already feel different, for whom life is already difficult, just feels wrong.
First and foremost- as her mom, her biggest supporter, her loudest advocate, her best friend- I am fully aware of what her needs and wants are. She advocates for herself what she is capable of. Her life is not difficult. She wakes up in the morning, eats her breakfast, and gets ready for the day just like you do. She spends most of her time playing with her siblings, her friends. She goes horseback riding and swimming. She loves to read books and do her school work. Her life is not difficult. She does not feel different. Your outside perspective of her is nothing like her own perception of herself. Being able to be surrounded by amazing people, to get to participate in opportunities that so many dream of, to be able to walk into her favorite store and see her own face- none of these things are detrimental for her and they add such beautiful value to her life. She wouldn't be doing any of this if she did not want to be doing it.
The "perks" can be fleeting. Those aren't. I know that ostensibly the point here is to illustrate "inclusion," but since the business is unhealthy for all children, who have no ability to consent to work or not, to refuse bodily scrutiny, and mandated diets, to want to have normal childhoods, etc, what is it inclusion into?
One of those PERKS are the friendships that she is making with individuals from all over the world from all different backgrounds who come together because they always have something in common. The PERKS are that she will have a savings account waiting for her, to support her, in a society where the disabled community is very much set up to financially struggle. The PERKS are that she will have memories and photos to share of accomplishments that she has made over the years when she was just being a kid and having fun. Abby does have the ability to refuse. She does consent. She is 8 years old. It is documented in her medical records that she does not have a cognitive delay. There is no bodily scrutiny. There is no mandated diets. One of her last photoshoots included her enjoying a huge piece of 3-layer chocolate cake while watching a BrainPop educational video on an iPad while she got her photo taken. She absolutely does have a normal childhood. Modeling/working takes up approximately 2 days of her week for 2-4 hours of those days. Children in school settings sit at desks for much, much longer in much harsher and unsafe environments.
"There also is the situation with finances. It is said by experts that when a child is put to work, and this IS work, not just playing dressup, the parents' level of living increases while the child's' decreases."
As addressed above- Abby's income from modeling is 100% hers.
She IS working, YES. She is completely aware of this.
But that doesn't mean that working means that you are doing something that you dislike to do. Right now, as I am writing this, I am working and I LOVE IT. Abby LOVES what she does, too. For her, it is so exciting to get to travel. To get to eat all of her favorite foods and to try new things. To get to meet up with her friends that she sees at each shoot. To try on new clothing and sometimes even get to take it home. To get her nails painted the color that she gets to choose, to get her makeup done, to get her hair done. To stand in front of the camera and make jokes, laugh, smile, and play games like Simone Says. Abby is excited on the days she gets to go to work! She is not being tricked or coerced into cooperating. She is not being bribed to be here and to smile for a camera. She is thrilled and can't wait to go! Not only is everyone around her so kind and supportive of her, but there is even a specific individual on set with a specific role just to make her happy.
"I thought the extremely rare photo display for Target at first couldn't be too harmful, but it seems now as though it is happening really frequently, with agents and managers, time away from the other children, and each time is a six hour round trip, besides the work and also mention of moving to New York. It worries me. The glamour of the business can be seductive for parents."
Our agents and managers are absolutely amazing. They love Abby through and through. They could not be more supportive of every aspect of our life; personally and professionally. As far as time away from the other children... most parents work 40+ hours a week away from their children. Most children are in daycare for most of the day when they are younger and then school when they are a little older. I think we do a really fantastic job of balancing this beautiful life while being one of the most close-knit families that I know. The 3 hours one-way is time where Abby gets to watch her favorite TV shows, read her favorite books, play her favorite games, listen to her favorite music, eat her favorite snacks. The 3 hours the other way she gets to rest, nap, we get to talk about our favorite parts of the day. When we are home, we are often spending our days kayaking, playing outside, doing school or therapy, going on adventures, spending time with family so she actually really enjoys the time spent in the car doing her quiet activities.
It is puzzling that there can be concern of how long the drive is in the same sentence where moving closer to avoid the long drive is also frowned upon? Regardless, where we chose to live will always be in the best interest of our family and seems like an inappropriate thing to judge. Imagine someone else having an opinion of where YOU chose to live when there is a whole entire planet that we each get to choose from.
Lastly, the glamour of the business. I do think there is glamour here and I think our glamour and appeal is not what you may think..
The glamour for us is to live in a more inclusive and accepting world where Abby and individuals like her can find themselves more represented. Being a part of this incredible change is such an honor that Abby will grow up to be so proud of. Seeing photos of others looking up to her in stores and seeing themselves represented in her- that is the glamour for us. 🦽
The glamour for us is having the opportunity to travel and see more of the world. 🗺
The glamour for us is to spend more time together, as a family, than we ever thought we could. ♥️
The glamour for us is seeing our lovely, kind, resilient, brave, out-going girl feeling beautiful, confident, and inspiring the world around her- one smile at a time. 💫