From an editor to a model: living a double life

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With its outstanding shows on ‘Valentine’s Week’, DUCFS 2024 is finally over – and so is my outlet for living a life I resonate with yet still find odd at times. It is true that we change lives: having raised £230k for CALM this year, the funds will go to two extra helpline seats and hopefully help many people at the point of desperation. However, apart from its extraordinary impact on charities, DUCFS changes lives of those who are involved in it. I myself experienced this in the most bewildering way.

Life has a funny way of working

I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that the purpose of life is to ‘get to know oneself’. As any international student will know, you live the life of a racehorse to beat everyone to the finish line and get a one-way ticket to some western country. This means that the whole ‘getting to know oneself ’ concept needs to be rushed, much like anything else. Unsurprisingly, you do get to know yourself, just not a wholly genuine version.

For me, this meant being an academic weapon and mastering the art of written word. In other words, anything that didn’t align with my degree or presumed career path (which, funnily enough, changed drastically) was wasteful. I focused on writing and getting my work published internationally, not really exploring anything else. This is why at first glance, DUCFS seemed a fun yet just as much ridiculous thing to do. Life, however, has a funny way of working.

My journey with DUCFS lasted two years – two drastically different experiences as it was a process of transition.

It was my second year, and I saw a bunch of friends practising their catwalk for the last day of auditions. I made a few silly (and admittedly belittling) jokes, later adding that it’d be funny if I auditioned. I thought I was noticeably sarcastic, but my friend didn’t care – I was dragged to the auditions the next day. I was dumbstruck at the comically long acceptance email I received later that week.

Leading up to the show, I was battling mixed feelings and the appealing option of quitting. I didn’t feel like I belonged and kept comparing the experience of being a Palatinate editor to being a DUCFS model. However, little by little I was starting to enjoy it all – the outfits, rehearsals, individual fundraisers, and even box steps… This of course wasn’t factored in – I wasn’t supposed to enjoy it. And so, the more I enjoyed it, the more I resisted. However, right after doing my first ever walk on stage, I was irreversibly changed.

DUCFS to me was a second chance at shaking off prejudiced ideas and embarking on a spiritual journey in the comfort of having a real family

All it took was a brief moment of euphoria, and suddenly I realised that I mistook myself for the person that I am. All the preconceptions about DUCFS and who I had to be were replaced with an unbiased, perceptive outlook that finally made me recognise that it is possible to have a multi- layered depth of character. DUCFS was over, yet I insatiably wanted more of it: more of the new me.

Once again modelling for DUCFS this year, I promised myself to make the most of it. No longer doubting myself and struggling through made-up obstacles. I was vocal, active, and truly myself. Instead of picking one or the other, I prided in being an editor and a model.

All it took was a brief moment of euphoria, and suddenly I realised that I mistook myself for the person that I am

Forcing myself out of that safe space made it possible to meet with the new me – or rather, the real me. The me that likes to put herself out there in the most extravagant way, not just in words but in extraordinarily peculiar outfits. And so, I promised myself to get out of my comfort zone once more, this time doing a stage kiss with a stranger in front of a thousand people for two days. As frightening and intimidating as it was, it only strengthened my self-confidence and ability to own the stage. It was simply another way of connecting with the new me and widening my horizons.

So, what really is DUCFS? Beneath its glamour and professionalism DUCFS to me was a second chance at shaking off prejudiced ideas and embarking on a spiritual journey in the comfort of having a real family to support me along the way. At the end of the day, nobody knows what they are doing, and that’s the beauty of it all. If you have the faintest idea of auditioning, do it. You won’t regret it.

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