How it was like being a model in the 90’s

Interview with Jenneke Tesselaar the true icon of the 90's

How it was like being a model in the 90’s – Interview with Jenneke Tesselaar
July 22, 2017 Greta

Amsterdam-born Jenneke Tesselaar – today a succesful violinist – did not know that she in her teenage years would be discovered by one of the leading model agencies and spend the next 4 years of her life appearing on the covers of international magazines, presenting in Roberto Cavalli and Paul Smith showrooms and catwalking several high standard fashion shows. UPTOSTYLE managed to get a meeting with her during a trip to the Netherlands and it did not only turn into an interesting interview, but a really pleasant time revealing her open and charming personality. We talked to a violinist full of power, and cheerfulness. Jenneke shared her memories and opinions about her story in a way that made us feel like we had also been there during the modelling years, and now we get to share her story of being a model in the 90’s with you.

You were 19 when they discovered you as a model. A  tall, pretty and slim girl with the best aptness that were expected in the modeling industry, but you never dreamed about becoming a model. Why?

Actually I always prepared myself to be a violinist and in my teen years I was always consumed practicing all the time. That was what I always wanted to do.

You were discovered as  model. What is the story?

During an afternoon stroll in Amsterdam a photographer stopped me on the street and invited me into the agency he was working for to take some photos of me. After the testshoot the make-up-artist who also was  part of the team took these pictures in her book. A photographer (Ray Christian) at Elite also saw these photos, and he liked them. So then they contacted me to come work for them. That was my way into Elite and they became my motheragency.

What was your first significant work?

It was a few editorial pages in a Belgian glossy magazine. At the same time I also had a shoot for a Dutch health magazine (Body&Beauty). It was a makeup and a cover story, and I remember I really enjoyed working with the team.

Today the agencies expect the models to keep the 80-60-90 standard sizes. Moreover, we often read stories about models, just like the latest from the british model Charli Howard, who was “too big” according to her agency and they cancelled her jobs until she lost weight. What were the expectations of models in your time?

We also needed to be skinny but not like “minus-zero” as today models are expected to be. I think the industry has definitely changed in that way. They obviously asked me to keep my measures, but compared to the present models I surely would have been too fat for them (laughing). I never felt pressure to lose weight. Moreover, I remember, in Milan we were eating lots of chocolate and frosties, you now, a whole box in a night, together with some of the other models. I was never forced to change.

In your opinion, why are these standards present now?

Because this is the Zeitgeist. You know for instance the women of the 50’s were more voluptuous, they wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe. But the ideals are changing all the time. Even in the model industry there are also different types, for instance, I was good for “the German market standards”, I was blonde and tall – the type they wanted.

So you travelled a lot to the West. Have you had the chance to work out of Europe too?

I could have had to. At the end of 1995, when I tried to have less model work and rather focusing on the practice for the exam to get back into the conservatory, I got a job in Milan. During a shooting my phone rang, it was my agent. They asked me to come to the office immediately, because John Casablancas (founder of the Elite Model Management in 1972) was there and he wanted to meet me. I rushed there and was met by more than 20 other models who were waiting in the agency and wanted to show their book to John Casablancas. I just arrived there and could go straight into the office, because he wanted to see expressly me. This time he offered me to travel to NYC to work there for Elite but I  had already decided that I wanted to get into the music conservatory of Utrecht. That was the only thing I was interested in. So I never went to New York, because I got accepted into the conservatory.

Do you have any regrets?

No, I don’t regret it at all, because I am a violinist. That is what I am. Regarding the modeling, I just accidentaly became one and I never saw it like my end destination, the violin was always the thing I wanted to do.

What were the good and not so good things about being a model?

Of course I was really keen on travelling, it was just very nice to have the possibility to fly and visit new places and moreover get paid for it. When you are alone in a hotel, it can be a bit weird but also exciting. Most of the time I met really good people during the shootings and had a lot of fun with them but sometimes not so much. During my first months I did not have any problems with being away at all, but after a few months of living in Milan I started to miss my family and Holland, but I never got properly homesick. The least good things were, well, once I had a shooting where I noticed they did not really like me, and that wasn’t so nice. But I do not really remember other bad things, modelling was kind of a hobby for me so I did not take it as seriously as the violin, and mabybe that is why I do not have too much grievance.

Who were the idols in that time whom all the girls wanted to resemble?

Models who are still famous today, like Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Helena Christensen. Some of them are still modeling. My personal favorite was Christy Turlington. But for example Lara Stone has become more popular nowadays,  but not in that time, despite she started then too.

What are the biggest differences between then and now in the fashion industry?

The social media coverage and probably also the amount of Photoshop use. Due to these factors there is more pressure on having the perfect figure, as if the magazines were not enough. In the 90’s there were no smartphones and therefore no selfies, no “instagram models”, and no Facebook where people could promote themselves. Nowadays everyone wants to be famous and wants to be seen, cause this is the zeitgeist. If it makes you happy, do it, but there are many researches that show that several young girls have problems because of the social media, and the more time they spend with trying to look pefect in the selfies and online, the less they feel confident themselves. When I was in these ages, I did not feel pushed or any other pressure on me by an external something. It is sad, that this generation believes that the fame sometimes depends on the numbers of likes and not on real values and talents.

Can you suggest something to the youngsters who are trying to make their dreams come true?

Well, the most important thing is that you in general have to enjoy what you are doing and have fun, cause if you put too much pressure on yourself, it can easily bring you down. Do your best and do not compare yourself to others! These are cliches, but they have always been true. Be yourself, do what you like the most and do not let other people mess with your mind, trying to tell you what to do or make you feel bad about yourself. No one has the right to do that. Only you know what feels good for you. It is true for everything that you do in life.

Written by Zsófi Bodnár

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