From international model to worst dressed at the Brownlow.
How I learned to love imperfection.
Guest post by Cassie Lane.
I was a very odd looking kid. Everybody says that, I know. They chuckle at faded photos of missing front teeth, spike-fringed mullets and freckled noses. But, unlike them, I wasn’t ugly in a cute way. When people protest this diagnosis, I show them my childhood photo. Their eyes dart, they clear their throat, shuffle awkwardly and then anxiously try to change the subject.
Not only did I look like a young Nick Nolte’s evil twin, I suffered from social anxiety. Any hope I had of convincing people to see past my aesthetic shortcomings was stymied when my nervous stutter would precipitate a bout of shouting random words that were in no way related to the conversation, not unlike a short-circuiting robot.
I come from a broken home and both my parents worked long hours so I was mostly left to my own devises. Books and television were my beloved guardians from which I learnt that a woman’s power irrefutably resided in her beauty. Prancing around the lounge room, I incarnated She-RA Princess of Power, flicking my blonde mane and pointing my perky breasts as I battled monsters with my bejewelled sword. Then I’d pass a reflective surface and catch a glimpse of the bowl-haired, flat-chested girl with a colander atop her head, brandishing a toilet brush. Illusion shattered, I’d slouch and shuffle to my bedroom. Those hideous beasts I was fighting had nothing on the crippling force of my own reflection.
At night I prayed to a God of whom I knew little, asking him to have mercy on my soul and please grant me a giant pair of boobs. Miraculously, a few years later my prayers were answered. When I outgrew a double-D bra I started to worry that God had a morbid sense of humour and my breasts would keep growing until I couldn’t stand up without toppling onto my face and would thus be cursed to wear a backpack filled with weights for the rest of my life.
During puberty I also grew into my gangly body. Suddenly boys were looking at me, older boys, the most important species in the whole wide world! For the first time in my life I felt seen; I felt powerful.
If I had a time machine, I’d travel back in time, grab that Nick Nolte lookalike by the shoulders, look her square in her eye and say, ‘Whatever you do don’t change for anyone, because you’re just right exactly as you are.’
Shortly after this, I was scouted by a modelling agency. As a little girl I thought being celebrated as a sexual object was the ultimate form of power. And so, my wish once again made manifest, I was offered a highly coveted career – a veritable dream for many girls – the sole mission of which was to turn me into an object – yay!
When you are reduced to a thing to be seen, your body becomes your central focus, your thoughts become secondary, and you lose your agency. For the next ten years I modelled around the world and became increasingly self-objectified.
Once I’d quit modelling, it took me many years to find my voice again: to dissect and discard the damaging messages I’d internalised and that I’d never been taught to question.
As it was for me, today many forms of sexism are invisible and often internalised by women. When I started to tell others about my story, I realised that although my tale is unique, the challenges I faced are, sadly, all too common. It became clear to me that the only hope we had of eradicating these hidden issues, was through identifying and exposing them. This was why I chose to tell my story.
They say memoir writing can be cathartic. I never realised just how much this was so until I wrote mine.
They say memoir writing can be cathartic. I never realised just how much this was so until I wrote mine. I carried a lot of shame from my younger years because I felt as though I had failed at being a girl. Looking back, I feel a deep sadness for that younger me who wasn’t able to love herself because of all the ways society told her she was flawed.
If I had a time machine, I’d travel back in time, grab that Nick Nolte lookalike by the shoulders, look her square in her eye and say, ‘Whatever you do don’t change for anyone, because you’re just right exactly as you are.’ And just before I got back into my machine I’d look back and whisper, ‘One more thing… bet every cent you own on the Bulldogs to win the 2016 Grand Final.’
How to Dress a Dummy
Cassie Lane had a quintessentially Australian, dysfunctional, single-parent upbringing.
They loved each other, but in a stealing-Christmas-trees-together kind of way. For as long as she remembers she wanted to be somebody else. Miraculously, aged 16, her prayers were answered and she got boobs. Great boobs! And a body that would make Hugh Hefner blush. She went from awkward, gawky bogan to international model, jet-setting around the world and hanging out with A-listers in LA. But the dream turns into a nightmare; and when she resists the exploitation of the industry the is shunned. Cassie’s health suffers and her life spirals...