The Dark Side of Modeling: Sex, BDD, and Self-Destruction

The director of my agency…was in his…mid-fifties, and I was in my early twenties. It was very clear that if I slept with him…I would book more jobs, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t work. I felt like, I felt like a whore.- Nikki DuBose

Former model turned author and activist, Nikki DuBose describes how she felt pressured to sleep with the director of her high profile agency to book prominent campaigns and magazines in the book trailer for her newly released, raw and inspiring memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.

The trailer, directed by Ole Schell (Picture Me), gives a glimpse into both the horrors and hopes of Washed Away, which details her recovery from a more than seventeen-year battle with severe mental health issues such as psychosis, clinical depression, PTSD from abuse, and the dark side of the modeling industry. Nikki also talks in the video about being raped by a photographer during a lunch which was set up by the director of her agency.

Spreading her message of healing, she recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network alongside Supermodel Emme on the TD Jakes Show to talk about her recovery from Body Dysmorphic Disorder and eating disorders, and how the pressure to “fit into” the modeling industry nearly killed her.  Nikki described the way she perceived herself when she battled BDD as a model:

“I looked in the mirror and I saw a monster, like a creature. I was locking myself in my house, I was binging and purging ten times a day, before and after castings. I was self-harming…because I hated the person that I saw…I just wanted to die.”

At the tender age of 16, Nikki started modeling at a “prestigious” school in her hometown, where she was fat shamed by her teacher, she explained to Bishop Jakes. She had already been dealing with bulimia for eight years, and by the time she began modeling professionally, her eating disorder was out-of-control. By twenty-six, her weight had plummeted to 90 pounds.

As Washed Away: From Darkness to Light uncovers, she was able to overcome her warped perception with God’s love, hard work, and help from professionals.

Nikki offered a message of hope and recovery to viewers, saying, “My worth and value is knowing that I’m God’s child, and really, that saved my life. That has helped to build the self-esteem because I had no self-esteem.”

“My worth and value is knowing that I’m God’s child, and really, that saved my life. That has helped to build the self-esteem because I had no self-esteem.”

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Nikki DuBose

Tara Nicole DuBose was born in 1985 in Charleston, South Carolina to Sandra Pierce and Wayne DuBose. Her mother was an artist and her father was a delivery salesman for local food companies. Sandra named her “Tara” after the fictional plantation in the film, Gone with the Wind, directed by Victor Fleming. Despite Sandra’s love for the name, she and Wayne often referred to Tara as “Nikki,” short for Nicole, and so the name stuck. After her parents divorced when Nikki was two, she and her younger brother were raised by their mother and stepfather. Her upbringing was filled with problems; Nikki suffered abuse of all kinds and was a witness to domestic violence. Her mother, Sandra, was afflicted with severe mental health conditions and drank heavily. As a result, Nikki suffered for over seventeen years from a wide range of mental health conditions. Nikki wrote her first short story in the third grade and was a staff writer for the Odyssey in her senior year of high school. Her mental health conditions, however, hindered her from writing for many periods of her life. Although the ability to write was taken from Nikki for many years, through the gift of recovery, writing is what helped Nikki to heal and gave her her voice back. Washed Away: From Darkness to Light explores her life from the ages of two to twenty-seven, and her recovery from the mental torments that threatened to kill her. Nikki currently lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys reading anything by Stephen King in her spare time. She is working on a poetry book about the Gullah culture, which heavily influenced her growing up.

  1. I look forward to reading your memoir, Nikki. As someone who struggled with eating disorders for many, many years, I understand how destructive they are to the mind and body, and applaud you for getting healthy.

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