Young models all over the world are literally starving for attention. One military spouse refused to go down that unhealthy road.
Jewels was a 14-year-old tomboy, an athletic girl more interested in playing outside than looking in a mirror. Her parents thought a few modeling classes might make her “more ladylike,” and Jewels-now a 33-year-old Air Force wife-thought it might be fun.
It didn’t take long for the teachers at Barbizon and the modeling scouts who comb the Midwest seeking pretty girls to see her beauty and personality. Soon she was booking photo shoots and runway appearances for companies like Dove, David’s Bridal, J.C. Penney and others. Within three years, she was on the road-modeling jobs were giving Jewels her first glimpse of life outside her hometown in Oklahoma.
At one point, “I left with long brown hair and came home with a blonde bob and bangs,” she says. “My parents didn’t even recognize me.”
Jewels was a radiant size 8, healthy and fit. But in the twisted world of fashion modeling, that was becoming a problem. Lose weight, the experts told her, if you really want to be a successful model.
Most girls who saw Jewels in those days probably envied her beauty and her body. They probably criticized themselves for not looking more like her. But she was struggling with the pressure to be even thinner.
“They’re very critical when you go in for a ‘go-see.’ They say, ‘You’re too fat.’ Or ‘Your nose is too big.’ It’s so harsh,“ Jewels explains. “You’re young. You’ve got your agent saying, ‘You need to lose this much weight, so you get more bookings.’ I was in high school dealing with that. … It hurt.”
Taking a Stand
If aa glamorous modeling career meant unhealthy weight loss, she didn’t want it. Seeing her today, as a confident Air Force spouse, it’s no surprise that Jewels took a stand. But it must have been difficult for a young woman raised in a culture that rewards beauty and thinness, and encourages the pursuit of fame, to say no.
“My family was very thankful that I stopped,” she says, “because they saw how it was affecting me.” No longer modeling, Jewels channeled her love of beauty into work as a makeup artist for Clinique. Knowing how she had felt when agents and casting people criticized her, she was excited to help other women feel positive about their looks.
Finally, she was enjoying her own natural beauty. “As you get older,” she says, “you get more and more comfortable in your skin.” Healthier and happier, she also fell in love: “I married a wonderful man who loves me no matter what size I am.” That man happened to be in the military.
JOY AND HEARTBREAK
The next few years were wonderful and also difficult. She and her husband, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Hay, PCS’d to Adana, Turkey, and she loved living overseas. And she gave birth to their daughter Kendall in 2006.
But Jewels suffered a serious back injury, rupturing two discs and requiring a total of six surgeries. Steel rods were implanted in her back. She lived with chronic pain and a lack of mobility that made it difficult to get any exercise. At times, she was bedridden. She gained an unhealthy amount of weight.
It was only after the Hays PCS’d to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey that Jewels got her life back. Through the Exceptional Family Member Program, she found a fabulous doctor who was able to treat her back effectively. She’s now mostly pain-free and totally un-medicated.
Once she became able to exercise again, Jewels began walking regularly and also making healthier food choices. She’s now back to a healthy weight and feels great. But she’s clear about one thing: She isn’t “on a diet.”
“Every time I get on a diet, I lose weight and then gain it back. So I just maintain healthy portions and eat frequently throughout the day,” she says. “And I try not to eat heavy, starchy stuff after 5 p.m.” She also tries to pick snacks that “keep my energy up,” she says, like celery with peanut butter rather than “tons of junk food.”
If a military spouse can eat well and exercise regularly, Jewels says, “little by little, it makes you feel good” and helps you find your natural, healthy weight.
Last fall, Jewels decided to do a photo shoot just for fun. The photographer was impressed and suggested she pursue plus-size modeling in New York, which is only a 90-minute drive from her current installation.
A fellow spouse and photographer did a portfolio and submitted it to one of the top plus-size modeling agencies in the country, IPM Modeling. They began representing Jewels, and recently she moved on to yet another agency. When she spoke with Military Spouse for this story, she was waiting to hear about a runway fashion show gig for Macy’s and a job modeling plus-size swimsuits for a fashion show in Miami happening in July.
Her modeling career is now blossoming on her terms-at a healthy weight-without bowing to the pressure to be unrealistically thin. Jewels credits her husband and daughter, and also her extended military family, for supporting her in making this long-held dream come true. “Anything is possible,” she says. “Never give up on your dream, because one day, it just may happen.”