When I first met Rebekah Peschel a few years ago, she was a shy and beautiful young woman with dreams in her eyes.
She was just one of many aspiring models working hard to fulfill her goals as an actress and model. Imagine my joy when, as browsing the internet, I saw her beautiful smile as the face of Belle Avenue, a boutique and online fashion company offering trendy plus size clothing in sizes 14-24.
For those models that find themselves working hard but are no longer sure if modeling is really in their future, this interview is for you.
[Maddy] Tell me a little about yourself. Where were you born and raised?
[Rebekah] I’m an actress, model and singer who “moonlights” as a professional bartender at a local upscale restaurant. I was born in New Jersey, where my father and his family still live. I was raised by my mother in many different places: Chicago, Missouri, and Pennsylvania to name a few. I never went to the same school for more than 2 years until I went to high school. After high school I took myself to New York City to pursue my dream of acting, and graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
[Maddy] How did you feel about your body as you were growing up?
[Rebekah] Well, people tell me I’m the oldest kid they know, so I’ll say it’s still a struggle. I can remember sitting in preschool and thinking how huge my thighs were. Preschool!?!? I was always trying a different diet and I even went through a phase where I barely ate… yeah… so not healthy! Even now in my adult years, (and with the help of my fiancé,) I have to remind myself to eat, let alone to make healthy eating choices. In hindsight, looking back on my childhood years, I really wasn’t as unhealthy as I thought I looked.
[Maddy] What factors do you feel contributed to your positive body image?
[Rebekah] My momma has always been my biggest fan. Growing up, she helped me choose clothes that made me look and feel beautiful. Becoming a model has greatly improved how I see myself. As I have built my portfolio, my perception of my body has become more and more realistic. I see great shots of myself and it’s a lot easier to be objective about it—like it gives me a few more feet of perspective that gets warped in that the close-up “mirror-shot” we all see every day.
[Maddy] How did you get started in the modeling industry?
[Rebekah] I was going on countless musical theater auditions and bombing them. Due to my insecurities about my body, I apparently lost all sense of my talent! I would go into work, (at a restaurant of course,) all sad and dejected and the bartender, Warren, always said to keep my chin up and to check into plus size modeling. I went to the Venus Divas and Plus Models forums to get agency information and I submitted myself to The Lyons Group. I started working with them on the usual comp card and book, which led me to my first booking which was a great job with Self magazine on The Today Show!
[Maddy] How did you go about finding the right agency for you?
[Rebekah] Well, to be honest, I am still looking. I am thankful to the agencies with whom I currently free-lance, but I have been very disciplined about building my portfolio, always reaching for the next level. I have had a lot of great meetings and several times have felt “this close” to being “repped” by one of the big houses. I have learned the hard way that this is an incredibly cold and fickle industry, and I really need to guard myself from taking things personally.
[Maddy] Who are your favorite models in the industry today?
[Rebekah] I love the looks of Kelsey Olsen, Nicole Lebris, and Kailee O’Sullivan, to name a few. Sarah Ramirez is one actor I love to watch. She gives me inspiration to keep pursuing that avenue.
[Maddy] How do you feel about today’s fashion for plus size women?
[Rebekah] If you have the finances, and the patience to search, you can dress beautifully. It is frustrating to be a well-rounded curvy girl and not be able to go to a traditional mall and shop for quality pieces. I am all too familiar with the debate over availability versus quality. If you want style and well made, you need to pay more.
Lets face it, most girls want a versatile wardrobe… “cute and casual” one night and “diva glam” the next. For a curvy girl to have that, she has to search: boutiques, specialty shops etc… Her options aren’t as easily available as they are to the err… umm… shall we say, “less well-rounded.”
With that said, I love how, in the last decade, there are so many more designer options to choose from in the fashion world. I love the sophisticated freshness in the designs of Elena Miro. (Now if I could just win the lottery!)
[Maddy] Where do you like to shop?
[Rebekah] Well, I have just discovered Anthropologie. *Sigh* So cute! Generally, my shopping haunts are American Eagle and H&M. Other than those two stand-bys, I am a shop-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. If I see what I like and it fits, I buy it.
[Maddy] We have seen you modeling for Sydney’s Closet and as the face of Belle Avenue… Congratulations!
[Rebekah] Thank you! They were both great companies to work for. Daniel at Belle took great care of me and went out of his way to make sure I was comfortable and secure during numerous wardrobe changes in his car. Phyllis and her staff at Sydney’s Closet were lovely and courteous, making sure I was as well taken care of during a grueling day of shooting. It’s fun to be surfing the web and come across an ad with my face on it.
[Maddy] Tell me about your career changing from aspiring model to “working” model.
[Rebekah] Well, I started out very meek, very shy, and pretty much clueless to what I was doing. But I took all of that and turned it into knowledge of what NOT to do, which then led me to feeling more confident. Confidence is the key. We all have the talent to do whatever we choose, but when we focus our energy and shut out that “little voice” in our head that constantly criticizes and questions what we’re doing, everything else follows.
[Maddy] What is your advice to aspiring models?
[Rebekah] They always say its 2% talent and 98% luck. I say that it is talent, patience, persistence and discipline and that we make our own luck every day… so be positive, do something to further your career every day, and always be on the lookout for ideas and inspiration for the next shoot. I have had many set backs and many lessons learned where I felt humiliated, but after about an hour I get back up and keep moving forward. Sometimes I surprise myself with my resilience, but I am in this too long to give up now.