At times, I wished the story was, "It was so great. I was booked for meetings with five different agencies and every single one of them said yes and they fought to represent me. I finally chose one and the next day I booked a high paying job. I've booked jobs every day since and I am having the time of my life!"
My reality is quite the contrary.
But, sitting on this side of my story, still more story to come, I'm thankful for the story that has already been written.
Two and a half years ago, at The City Church in Beverly Hills, it was my first time attending the service. I walked into the Montage Hotel, not knowing anyone, but excited to meet the community I had been hearing was being built in my city while still a student at UCLA. Not more than 10 steps into the ballroom, a man stood in front of me with no words, just staring at me. He was standing with one of the models he represented (who is now one of the top American Female models) and they both agreed that I had a very unique look to me. I had no idea where they were trying to go with the conversation, but I was flattered to have been greeted with a great compliment from Jim and Taylor. Church was about to begin and Jim simply handed me his business card and said, "I would love to chat with you about modeling. You have an amazing look."
I called that man back a week later, booked a meeting at his office, and just a few weeks later, I signed a contract having Jim Jordan, one of the top fashion photographers and talents managers, be my manager.
I never truly thought about a career in modeling, but I had been told for many years that "I had a look that shouldn't be ignored." At the time I signed, I was still finishing my Bachelors degree in Psychology at UCLA, completing my final season as the Team Manager for UCLA Gymnastics and balancing a very busy schedule. I would lie if I ever said it was the best time to take on a career in modeling.
For the past 2 years, I went into agencies here and there to try to get signed by an agent that would represent me in multiple markets around the country. None of them wanted to sign me - or in the words of the industry, "they passed on me." I attended about 15 meetings the past few years, and those words of rejection didn't get any easier to swallow. Since the day that I signed with White Cross Management, I have only had one paying job, but their efforts were focused on helping me get represented by agencies around the country to get people to start working for me in different markets around the world. In fact, I was signed with Directions USA (based out of North Carolina) and No Ties Management (based out of San Diego) because of the efforts of White Cross and my manager, Jim Jordan.
It's no question that I have been very busy the past two years, but the first contract I signed was always in my head as an opportunity I was not fully pursuing. For being an "all-or-nothing" sort of guy, this never sat well. I want to give everything I have to everything I do, but due to other passions I was pursuing, I could not go all-in with modeling.
May of this year, 2016, I had many voices around me asking how modeling was going.
It wasn't going at all.
My focus was entirely in my passionate pursuit of encouraging kids fighting cancer around the world to NEGU (Never Ever Give Up) with my career at the Jessie Rees Foundation. Flying around the country, sitting bedside with kiddos of all ages, opening Jessie's JoyJars and brightening their days as best as I could. The passion I have for this cause is very true, but I couldn't ignore the consistent moments that brought modeling back into my path.
On a Monday morning at the end of May, I got on my knees and asked Jesus to help me see exactly where I should go in this next chapter of my life. Whether it was to continue working as a Childhood Cancer Advocate full-time, or maybe even to go back and see what modeling could bring, I was opening to seeing what God was writing next in the story he is writing for my life.
Two hours after that prayer, a notification popped up on my phone that my manager had posted a photo of me on Instagram.
One day later, my agent in North Carolina reached out to me for the first time for a potential booking.
Two days later, my agent in San Diego e-mailed me and started a conversation with me again.
God answered my prayer through social media and feeling known for the first time in the industry.
I had to respond to the nudge.
Two weeks later, I made a change at work, allowing me to still be a part of a cause I so dearly love, but allowing me the flexibility to pursue my career in modeling. I then called my manager and told him that I was ready to get going again, and I started thinking more and more into the space of pursuing this career as best as I could. In fact, I immediately booked a flight to Seattle, to shoot with one of the top social media/blogging photographers, and met with a brand consultant to start me off on the right foot. I took about 3 weeks to really get my mind, body and spirit in the right place before I called my manager and told him that I was ready to meet with agents again. When that time came, Jim and I decided to start in New York City.
I flew to NYC back at the end of July. It was a whirlwind trip: met with 6 different agencies around the city, saw a broadway show and consulted a good friend for advice within the industry. My dream was to leave NYC, signed by an agency there to jumpstart my career. I felt really great about how all of the meetings went. In fact, on one of the meetings, I was chosen as the only person from an open casting to come back and actually chat with the men's board because they loved my look. My emotions created expectations and it was just a waiting game to hear back from all of my meetings. The excitement was building and I even started to research apartments in the city. Then the news came back.
All 6 agencies said, "we are going to pass."
Suddenly, I faced that rejection feeling all over again.
Was I hearing God right? Am I really supposed to pursue going into this industry? Is this rejection a STOP sign that I should respond to? If no one within the industry is accepting me, what value are the voices around me who don't have any pull to getting me work? Im lost.
These were the non-filtered thoughts I was having.
"Cory you can't give up. You can't waste the gift you have. Don't let these moments stop you from going after what God has paved for you."
These were the words of the encouragers surrounding me.
I chose to listen to the positive and encouraging words and began the grind. I deliberately chose to spend the next two weeks leaning as hard as I possibly could into every avenue, conversation, idea and glimpse of opportunity that I could. I had booked out lunches and dinners every day with people that I wanted to chat with. Many of these people were friends that had offered to help me in the past, but I never took them up on it. But goodness, why didn't I take advantage of that conversation from the beginning? These conversations led to connecting e-mails. These connecting e-mails led to further conversations. The grind left me believing in myself more than ever, but there were still no meetings lined up to actually help me break into the industry and start booking work. The grind continued.
Thursday morning rolled around, opened my eyes at 9:15am. Noticed an e-mail notification on my phone from my manager.
"Cory - LA Models wants to meet you at 11am today. Let me know if you can make it." - JJ
Uhhh... this was the opportunity I had been grinding for. Reply: "I'll be there at 11am. Thanks!" I leaped out of bed, into the shower, did some magic on my hair and was on the road as fast as I possibly could. Traffic was inevitable between Orange County and Los Angeles, but I just prayed I would make it there on time. I did. Well, 3 mins late. But here's the end of the story.
11:03am - Arrive to meeting at LA Models on Sunset Blvd.
11:17am - Drive home after LA Models meeting.
1:30pm - Phone call from JJ - "Congrats Cory! LA Models wants to represent you! They want to have you back in tomorrow morning to sign contracts."
phewwww. sigh of relief. big smile.
Wow. The grind paid off.
Now for some of you who may not be familiar with the industry, signing with an agency has no financial promise to it. This just means that there will now be a board of people focused on putting my face out to casting agents who can potentially book me for work. The grind still continues, but there are now more people believing in me and working for me within the modeling industry. Definitely a lot to be excited for.
That's where it all resides now. I am now signed with LA Models to their Men's Division, as well as continuing to be with Directions USA and No Ties Management. White Cross Management is my mother agency and I feel really great about the hearts that are helping me take the next steps in my career. I believe God has been amidst every step up to this point and I know he will continue to do so.
I can always see 20/20 when the joy comes on this side of discouragement. It was a rough road of discouragement, waiting, and searching for my purpose in the recent past. There is one thing I know for sure though - God revealed to me that learning patience and trust amongst a season of heartache is the shield against the discouragement and feeling a lack of value. This shield that I now have will not be forgotten and used as inspiration to hold strong in times that get rough. There are people surrounding me that consistently help me remember that God is running with me and is writing big things ahead of me.
"Cory, I honestly love that "no" is a part of your story." - John C.
When I got this text from an incredible voice of love and wisdom in my life, he was absolutely right and I couldn't agree more. I've learned so much through this season of "no", but I love that being teachable throughout my story, allows my Teacher to guide me every single day.
God is good all the time.
In every story there is a conflict and resolution, and I am confident that if you allow God into your conflicts, the resolution will give God glory. It has been an honor to feel God's hand in my work every single day and see God's glory shining through this resolution. I know I will face many more conflicts in my future, but my prayer would be to allow God's glory shine in each resolution.
Thank you all for following along with my story. It is a privilege to have all of your support and encouragement in my life. If you are reading this and have any questions or need any advice along your path into this industry, I would be happy to chat with you! Feel free to comment here or reach out to me on my direct e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The story is continuing to be written. I will trust God in the path he is paving and lean close to him through it all.