From the age of 7, I started taking ballet lessons after having to choose between pursuing my passion for swimming (which I competed nationally for) or taking up dance lessons. After 2 years, my dance teacher put me up for an audition with The Royal School of Ballet, which took place in London. There were over 1,000 applicants and approximately 10% obtain a place. Every year, all dancers in the programme have to audition again for the following year, as your place isn’t guaranteed. After gaining a place, I soon came to realise that the ballet lifestyle is very restrictive, and I decided I wanted to take my career in a different direction. There were a lot of things that were off limits such as ski holidays with my school, birthday parties and general things kids normally do that may have resulted in an injury and most of my time was spent in class training.
One of the best highlights of my time at The Royal School of Ballet was dancing on the stage at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Darcy Bussell is one of the many famous ballerina’s who has graced this stage many ballerina’s dream of giving their best and most world-renowned career performances here.
During my childhood, I would always take the magazines my mum bought and look through the fashion pages seeing who the models were, and what agency they were represented by. A lot of them were with Elite. Elite Model Management is one of the most prestigious and well-known agencies, having over 36 offices worldwide and started the careers of supermodels such as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and one of my favourites, a Victoria’s Secret model, Alessandra Ambrosio.
When I first applied for an internship at Elite I was rejected and kept applying every 6 months and was continuously rejected. It was disappointing, but this was something I really wanted, and I knew I could achieve it. This mind set of not giving up and persevering, even when things get hard was something I learned from being part of The Royal School of Ballet. You couldn’t quit just because of a setback. You had to try that move in the routine over and over again until you got it right.
I knew that there were probably a lot of people applying for the same opportunity that I was trying for. Therefore, I had to make sure I stood out. This meant taking up internships at other agencies, and PR companies, to gain experience from not just a model agency but different areas of the industry. I was also very fortunate to get these experiences in New York. Whilst on vacation I shadowed a friend who works at Victoria’s Secret HQ.
At that time, getting an opportunity in London or New York seemed so big and out of reach. That in itself was enough to motivate me to want to move from Devon to somewhere with more opportunities.
Finally after much perseverance, at age 16, I got invited for an interview for an internship with Elite in London! As I walked into Elite for my interview, I was petrified. I had done internships at other companies, but this was my moment with the one agency I had aspired to work for. I kept saying to myself ‘don’t screw this up, you have one shot.’ I was taken into the photography room to be interviewed by Fred (who became my mentor when I was interning) and within 20 minutes, I was asked to start that July, after I’d finished my school year. I was so excited, I wanted to start immediately, but I also knew this meant I had some time to get prepared, find a place to live, and learn the London Underground map!
If you’ve ever been to Devon (Plymouth to be exact), you’ll know it’s a small ‘City’ where everyone seems to know, or know of, each other. It was a big culture shock moving to London at just 17 years old, and something I had to adapt to quickly. I found it very hard to settle initially. London is an exciting city but can initially be a very lonely pIace. I was used to being by the sea, knowing our neighbours and having a close group of friends, none of which I had up here. It took me a good 3 years or so to find my feet.
During my internship, I did every task (big or small) to the best of my ability. Something I learned early on was to listen very carefully to what was going on around me. What I mean by this is if my Directors said they wanted a coffee or something needed doing, I would offer to do it before they even asked me. Always be one step ahead. Other things were to always be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave.
Eventually after much hard work, I was promoted to the Bookings Desk. Being a booker, is a 24/7 job. You have models in all different parts of the world and in different time zones. With social media now, if a client or model wants to contact you, they will reach you one way or another.
A typical day for me begins with a workout, which usually ends at around 6:30am, then I head to the office. Everyday is different and until I get to the office I don’t know what the day has in store for me. However, every day I am in contact with clients, sending them packages of the models for their shoots and talking to the models to get them to last minute castings, or checking their availability for an upcoming job.
There have been many highlights in my career so far, but these are some that stand out for me.
In 2013 I went to see the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show live, when it came to London I met, and sat down to talk with my favourite model Adriana Lima. The first fashion show I went to was Topshop in 2013 when Kendall Jenner and Anna Wintour sat in front of us. It was also the first time I got to go backstage at a show. I was in awe of it all.
I’m a strong believer in ‘if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it.’ To me, it is all about the mind-set. If you have not been given the opportunity to show what you are capable of, learn everything you can about whatever it is, and about how the people who are in the position you want to be in got there, so when your time comes you will be more prepared than anyone else in the room.
I love reading self-help books, and watching YouTube videos on people like Will Smith, and speakers like Les Brown.
These are two amazing books I strongly recommend you read.
The Slight Edge – It is more business focused and explains how to change your day to day habits giving you more effective and powerful long term results
Relentless – This is more aimed to an athletes’ way of thinking, but I can relate to this, with my background. After reading this, my mind set changed completely and for the better.
Follow Calais on Instagram @calais11goord