Alice Gilbert's Model Guide To Happiness

Being happy in today’s world can be hard, but looking after your head space is important as a model. The travel and the work requires a lot of physical and emotional energy, so having a positive attitude is just part of the game. We sat down with Alice Gilbert to talk top model tips. Alice competed in Elite Model Look UK in 2012, when she was just 15. She worked with Elite to build her model book with test shoots while she finished school, and she went full time two years ago. Now living in Paris, she tells us how she makes the most of what life has to offer. 

Where are you from?

I grew up in Kent, so my family is 20 minutes from London. My friends are at university all over the country, so I have been to all these places in England to visit them. I have been to Birmingham quite a few times, because one of my best friends is there, to York, Exeter, Brighton. I was supposed to take a gap year before going to university, but it’s become very extended! I would like to go one day, but I haven’t figured out what I’d like to study. It’s so expensive now, and I don’t want to study something for the sake of it. I might even study in a different country now… we’ll see! With modelling instead, I feel like I have grown so much as a person living in different countries and doing all these amazing things that I wouldn’t have been able to do. It helps you realise what you have, to compare differences in cultures, having friends from all over the world, I wouldn’t have had that if I went straight to uni, so it’s been good for me. I am so lucky that I can now live in Paris, it’s great.

As a model, how do you stay positive?

A big part of it is my family who have always been very supportive with any issues I have ever had, and Elite are a big agency, they are like a family, they always take good care of you. It helps having my model friends in so many different countries but you’re all in the same boat, so you help each other. If other people don’t get what you’re going through, they do. And that’s the thing with Elite Model Look too, I met one of my best friends at the Elite Model Look bootcamp – Grace Anderson – we were both very confused and overwhelmed at first! But we’re both still modelling, and we still meet up, which is good. 

How do you stay motivated?

I think having your own projects on the side is very good for you. I’ve been styling, I’ve been assisting a few stylists and I did an internship at Dazed for four months last summer, in the fashion cupboard. I loved every second of it! It’s really good training! I have been assisting in Paris, it’s harder because it has to be someone English, but I love it. The two work well together – styling and modelling – when I meet people on model jobs, I can tell them I’m looking to get into it and they might recommend me to a friend, or work it. When English-speaking editors are in Paris, I work with them, like the Fashion Editor at Dazed. I think it’s good to find your thing that you want to do. I have friends that have started blogging – I think it’s good for your mind, you can talk about whatever you want, or make thing – I have a friend who has a business making beanies, for example. It’s something you did yourself, you have control over the finished product rather than being a part of the process. And you can shape your life in a direction you want it to go in. And the other thing is on set, I know how the models are feeling! If they’re cold, or need a robe, or want to look at their phone, because until you’ve been a model on set, you perhaps don’t get it. Most people are very caring, but it’s the small things, like having a little heat pack, I bring them with me. 

How do you deal with any criticism?

You can’t take everything too personally. You need a level headed perspective on everything, you have to work to your strengths and embrace what you have. It is something that you learn with time. When I was younger, you take things to heart and I’d get down about it, but you can’t because you have to remember that it’s not you, as a person, it’s a different vibe for one brand to another, they might want a blonde and you’re a brunette, so you have to detach who you are as a person from your work as a model. Sometimes you are staying in a model apartment, and one girl will get a job and another one doesn’t, so it can be hard to stay focused as it's easy t compare yourself to others. But no one is going to be the perfect model for every brand, so it’s more important to be happy with what you have and with what you’re offering. 

Did Elite Model Look UK help you?

For sure! I had no idea how to walk in heels at all, and there’s very much a technique, so you go back and forth until you get it. We had a shoot, and I’d never done one before, and I didn’t know how to pose with studio lighting, I remember that was a learning curve. I think it teaches you in a nice environment, not just throwing you onto set when you’re expected to know, when you’re young you don’t know. On a real set, there’s a lot of pressure - at Elite Model Look it was a nice, cosy environment. 

What was it like for you to compete in Elite Model Look?

I remember that we did a lot – a lot! – of walking training, I had never worn heels before because I was the tallest out of all of my friends, so when we went out, I was 15 so I had never really even been out that much, but if I did, I always wore flats, so we learned how to walk in heels. We had a nutritionist – which, at the time, I didn’t realise how important it was, but now I’m older, I do. I feel that you should never be on a diet, that doesn’t work, but you should have a good lifestyle, so you can have treats when you want, but you have a good foundation. She told us things that I didn’t do then because I was young, but I look back now and it was so useful. She had matcha, for example, the powdered green tea, which I had never heard of. It’s everywhere now, but it was totally new back then. Also we learned about buckwheat and quinoa, which I now use all the time. It was really cool! I feel like if I’m eating well, I have a lot more energy to get through the day, and I have a much more positive feeling. You don’t feel sluggish and tired. I really notice now that if I don’t eat well, I feel it more. Energy is really important for your physical and emotional energy as a model. You also need to take time for yourself, go home and see your friends and family, go on vacation if you need it.

What do you do in your time off if you want to recharge?

I love to see my friends when I’m home in England – we go and have tea somewhere, or some wine! My new year’s resolution is to read more. Since I left school, I had a year when I thought, “oh great, I don’t have to read!” But now I want to read more because I never do, when I have time at castings or whatever. Before, I was just scrolling through my phone or whatever, it was such a waste of time, but I want to make this year my productive year. When you read when you’re waiting, you’re less frustrated, because you’ve spent your time doing something useful, it’s good to have something to do. It’s my top model tip! Modelling is a job with a lot of waiting around, in airports, between looks, in hair and make-up, you need a lot of patience! I’ve found this amazing book, it's called “Everything I Know about Love” by Dolly Alderton, it’s a biography of her life, it’s so good! I am recommending it to everyone. I also listen to a podcast she does called High Low with Pandora Sykes. Podcasts are something I only recently discovered. I didn’t know they were free! This whole time it’s been here, all that time I was waiting at castings, I could have listened to them! 

Was it difficult to move to Paris?

No, not at all. I think the thing about Paris is that you need to find your spot, and have a group of friends, and everyone goes to the same places over and over. It’s so small compared to London, you can get everywhere in 10 minutes, you can walk everywhere, so I’m getting to know it better and better. I live in Strasbourg Saint Denis, it’s so fun – like the East London of Paris. My friends there are a real mix – I have a couple of model friends, some don’t work in fashion, some musicians, and I like meeting people from the place I’m in, because then you see the real city. They have shown me a lot!

Is it easier to stay positive when you’re in a new city, or is it more difficult?

I think it’s easier – you have a lot of intrigue, and you’re always finding new things and you’re waking up and thinking, “what can I do that’s different today, that I haven’t done yet?” And you’re speaking a different language. I feel very positive when I’m there for sure. And it’s so close to London, so I can come home if I miss it – it’s perfect really, the situation! I’m not sure how long I’ll live there because I might be asked to move for work at any time – but I don’t mind that! You have to be very free with that when you’re a model, but it’s good because I like to be spontaneous, I like to travel wherever, as long as I have a rough idea, I’m cool. I love to walk around, and I love to walk in Paris. If there’s a new place where I’m going to go, for coffee or whatever, I walk there and see what I can find. I love yoga too, but it’s something I miss – I’m trying to find a good studio in Paris that’s in English. I tried a French class and it was too hard! My French isn’t at that level yet! I did a bit of French at school, and I’ve forgotten it, so I’m trying hard to learn. I have the app Duolingo, which I use when I’m waiting as well. You have much more motivation to do it when you’re there, and it’s useful, it’s all around you and you can use it, compared to learning at school, when it’s not the same. When someone understands me, I’m like, “yes!”

Yoga must help a lot – is it your main form of exercise?

I also like Pilates. I’m not a runner because I hurt my knee a few years ago, and I prefer to look toned, and I feel with Pilates like I am working every muscle in my body. I have found a Pilates studio in Paris – and it’s in English! With yoga, you learn a lot with breathing, when you have a lot of stress, you can leave it outside and focus on the yoga for an hour. It helps with modelling – you know how to be more level headed, and the more do it the more flexible you are, which helps with photo shoots too! You can strike some strange poses! 

Did you always want to be a model?

I would never have considered it! The 15 year old shy me? Never – but I did it anyway! It was very quick, I was scouted just two weeks before the final, and a girl dropped out – I can’t remember why – but they needed someone, and they put me in, so I went in two weeks from being scouted to this intense bootcamp! I was too young to start working straightaway, so I did test shoots and had a slow build up, which was good for me. I had two years of doing my exams at school, and modelling at weekends, and then I went full time. I think I needed that because when I started, I had a good book, I knew how to do things and how castings worked, before I started travelling. I was completely different at 16 to when I was 19, you need to grow up. I’m glad I had that time at school with my friends as well. 

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