Kate Bowman

MODEL, NEW YORK CITY

"There’s no way to make that connection between fiction and reality. By that point you're just all anxiety, paranoia and self hatred. You then project that onto everyone else, thinking that that's how they really feel about you because you don't really like or care about yourself. "

TALKS ANXIETY, DEPRESSION & EATING DISORDERS

It never ceases to amaze me how beautifully open and courageous people have been in sharing their story and opening their hearts in light of helping others that could be experiencing similar realities. Kate is one of the most beautiful girls (inside and out) that I know and have the pleasure of calling my dear friend. I have met very few who can radiate such light with just a smile or a laugh and can captivate such feelings of warmth and genuinety as Kate does wherever she goes.

This conversation is one I wanted to mark as quite important as I think it's safe to say that many young women face mental health issues or disordered eating patterns with a lot of guilt and shame. Despite the fact that these physical and mental manifestations are so universally common, having being inundated with beauty ideals and pressures that only seem to keep escalating - we seem to still hide a lot in fear and shame. It has been nothing but refreshing to talk to Kate and feel comforted by her experiences - a reminder to make our health and our minds a number one priority and that even in the darkest times it's never too late to take responsibility. I hope this conversation can connect with more women and inspire us to not sit in the dark about things we should bring into the light. Every thought and feeling is universal and I hope Kate's story can also remind you we're not alone :)

 

I FIND MORNING RITUALS AND HOW PEOPLE START THEIR DAY SO INTERESTING. CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNINGS?

Every single day is totally different because I’m not at school right now and I’m on summer break. I don't really have a schedule since work is so up in the air and I never know if I’ll have a casting that day or have a job pull through. On a day where I have stuff to do I’ll wake up and walk to Cafe Grumpy and grab a coffee then walk to Seward park, grab an Acai bowl and sit down in this one section in the back that's all trees and wire chairs. It's so beautiful. I’ll usually bring a notebook or a book to read and stay off my phone. If you're sitting in that chair all you can see is trees and blue skies and it's the most grounding experience.

If I wake up and wait too long to leave my house or I spend too long laying in bed, this feeling of melancholy starts to creep in and I'll either just forget or can't bring myself to leave the house because I start to feel anxious. So either I'll have a beautiful park morning or completely freak out and not know how to be a human.

I don't own a coffee machine in my house for that reason because I find it encourages me to leave the house. I love going to my local coffee shop because it's like a neighborhood watering hole and you always see familiar people and it's comforting and nice to talk and know people care. I mean I don't go to an office and in the summer I don't have class everyday so it can sometimes start to feel like I'm standing on a stool or I'm on an island and it's just me and nobody else. I find as soon as I get that first nice human contact for the day, my day can immediately feel better.

 

IT IS SAID THAT INTROVERTS RECHARGE THEIR ENERGY BY SPENDING TIME ALONE BUT THEN AGAIN THERE'S THE HAZARDS OF SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME IN OUR OWN HEAD. IF I DON'T ACTIVELY SURROUND MYSELF WITH HEALTHY PEOPLE FROM TIME TO TIME, I FIND IT'S EASIER TO SLIP INTO THOUGHT PATTERNS THAT START TO DETERIORATE MY REALITY.

Yeah and deteriorate your self worth. I live and share a life at home with someone who has such a regular nine to five, and I go out to dinner and people are like what did you do today? And you hear, oh I went to ten meetings and we did these twenty things and redesigned this whole entire system of research then I read these ten New Yorker articles in my downtime and listened to all this cool music and I'm like, well my biggest accomplishment for the day was walking five blocks from my house and sitting in the park and reading a little bit and I didn't really talk to anybody and that's all totally okay. But then when it's day after day you have to hear all these other accomplishments - you start to ask yourself - what am I doing? 

I feel like it's also tricky because I can get down on myself for not doing enough but then I remember I'm a full time student and I don't have to have a regular job because modeling occupies enough of my time. I have this weird job that makes me enough money to pay my rent and pay for food which is such a blessing in itself but I can't help feeling two ways about it because I go through periods where I hate it so much. It can be fun when you get to get dressed up and earn a living but the lead up to that and waiting to get your paycheck can be so brutal. Going to ten castings and not booking anything and then going to another ten and not booking anything just so two months later you can finally book one job. 

WHAT ABOUT MODELING DO YOU NOT ENJOY?

With modeling it's weird. I feel fine about the way I look and I think I'm okay looking and there are times I feel really beautiful and sexy and of course times I feel like the ugliest person in the entire world to the point where I can't believe anyone could even look at me. Besides that point (which I think is normal), one of the things I find difficult is that because I have an agent constantly working with me - if I don't book a job for a month, in the back of my mind it can feel like a hundred people have decided that I'm not good enough or beautiful enough.

 

Sometimes I'll have a casting and I'll wake up and put on a stupid outfit and some high heels and look in the mirror, put on a little make up and it can feel really exhausting. Sometimes you can feel so tired of looking at yourself through the lens of strangers and strangers who sometimes happen to have these insane beauty ideals that I don't even care about and don't feel like I want to live up too. There are times I see my photo on the monitor and I feel horrified. It's all such an out-of-body experience because it's not really about the way I look to myself or my own standards but you're standing there and all you can think is - am I being a disappointment right now? Am I letting down my agency? Am I embarrassing this client? Sometimes it feels exhausting to think about traveling an hour by public transport to have a brand or designer tell me I'm not good enough. Sometimes it just doesn't feel worth it. 

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED OR OBSERVED ANY PRESSURES FOR GIRLS TO STAY THIN OR OF WHAT THE INDUSTRY HAS EXPECTED OF YOU?

I think I am so so lucky - I've kind of come up in a time where social media can play a big role in modeling with the help of Instagram and this whole scene happening downtown. I'm not 5’10 and 22 inches around the waist - I'm not a typical model size and I never expected to be one or ever really wanted to model but jobs came in and things snowballed pretty quickly. I think because of that I have always been able to be myself and say - well this is my body. I've always been naturally quite thin so I fit into most of the clothes and if I didn't I would be like well why did you bring them? Knowing that I'm not a model but that kid that maybe a brand wanted to photograph to make it look fresher or more New York and having my agency aware of that and the fact that I'm not six feet tall and going to typically walk shows. And it's all fine because that's not my role in this industry.

I went to casting once for a presentation and I tried on some of the clothes where all the pants were too big for me and the shirts didn't really fit me at all. They were all loose and I had to hold the pants around my waist to take the casting photos and as I was leaving I was thanking them and saying I hope this all works out trying to be as polite as possible and when I got to the elevator which was next door, I could hear everything that was being said. A full discussion about how I wasn't tall enough or I wasn't good enough and how I was too large for the samples. It was just so confusing to me because I know I'm not the tiniest girl in the world and it doesn't really concern me but it just blew my mind that even at a casting where none of the clothes fit me because they were way too big, I could still be called too fat or not good enough for the show.  

The weird thing about attending castings is that it's not just about looking presentable but looking like you can sell something or you can be a mould of this thing that someone else has made up for you. It's not like, oh I want to look beautiful or presentable because I'm going to a job interview but instead the whole time they're just picking you apart in their brains and that's just the way it is. They're going to be looking at you thinking, can you sell things or do you fit the brand and do they want to give you a bunch of money to put you on a billboard? So there's a ritual to getting ready for that and it's putting on a tight outfit so someone can see my body, putting on heels so my legs look a little bit longer or straightening and brushing my hair and putting on concealer.

This morning I woke up and I had weird curly hair and I wasn't wearing any make up and it felt so good and my skin felt so amazing. Then knowing I had a casting, I caught my reflection again as I was getting ready and my mind immediately went into a state of stress and paranoia. Like wow, look at my under eye bags they're too intense - my nose is too red, I have a tiny little zit should I cover that up? Should I straighten my hair or put it up, like what should I do? Rewiring my brain to see myself in the way that casting directors do is this impossible thing. I don't want to be the girl wearing a full face of make up and a blow out. I just want to be myself and I want to feel okay with that. Anytime I have to attend one of these things, I sometimes see myself on the monitor and I lose a lot of self love because I'm not looking beautiful for myself or feeling beautiful, I'm just trying to check boxes.

I THINK IT'S SAFE TO SAY THAT A LOT OF YOUNG WOMEN HAVE DEALT WITH DISORDERED EATING OR BODY DYSMORPHIA AT SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES AND FOR THOSE COMMENTS TO HAVE NO EFFECT ON YOU, IT'S ADMIRABLE THAT YOU SEEM TO HAVE THAT GROUNDED RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR BODY.

I'm lucky in that way but I've had an eating disorder, only it manifested in this different way. I was nineteen, it was my sophomore year of college and I moved upstate and moved into a dorm that I was so excited about because this college was my dream and I thought all the smartest, beautiful and most creative people went there. My dad drove me upstate with all of my things and dropped me off at my door and as soon I sat in my dorm bed for the first time, I realized I had made such a big mistake and it wasn't the place for me. I was there for two months and in that time I'd lost so much weight that none of my clothes were fitting me. I remember I would get so nervous and shaky and have these panic attacks every single day to the point where I would walk to class and just freeze at the door. My body was just shutting down and I wanted to leave but instead I adopted this innate paranoia that everyone was looking and talking about me. Asking what is she doing here? Or she doesn't deserve to be here or belong here - all to the point where I stopped eating for three days at a time. Food was always at the school cafeteria and I was petrified to go there and I didn't have a car to go to town and get food so I started going to the vending machines to get rice krispies, chips, cranberry juice and sugar which became my only sustenance for weeks at a time.

I CAN IMAGINE THOSE FOODS WOULD HAVE BEEN EVEN MORE TOXIC FOR YOU IN YOUR CURRENT PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE.

So toxic - those foods just fueled the anxiety because there was no nutritional value in any of it. Those foods and habits were just fueling the depression but it was so hard for me to get my head around and accept the fact that I'd developed an eating disorder because it was never about my body image or losing weight or what I aspired to look like or who I wanted to be. It was this intense anxiety that held me back from giving my body what it deserved because I had such lack of respect and love for myself. I was having such a hard time loving myself that I couldn't even feed myself. 

YOU SPOKE BRIEFLY ABOUT BEING BULLIED IN SCHOOL ABOUT THE WAY YOU LOOKED WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER. DO YOU THINK THOSE EXPERIENCES ALLOWED YOU TO FORM A FICTIONAL STORY IN YOUR MIND THAT EVERY SO OFTEN, IT ALLOWED YOU TO RELIVE SOME OF THAT TRAUMA AND ANXIETY IN YOUR HEAD WHEN IT CAME TO CERTAIN SOCIAL SITUATIONS?

Most definitely but when you're in it, there’s no way to make that connection between fiction and reality. By that point you're just all anxiety, paranoia and self hatred. You then project that onto everyone else, thinking that that's how they really feel about you and you lose the trust that anyone would like you or care about you because you don't really like or care about yourself. 

SO YOUR DISORDERED EATING WAS ALL RELATED TO THE STATE OF YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM? 

Totally and that was why it was so hard for me to look in the mirror and admit to myself that I had an eating disorder and get help for it. It was hard because it wasn't typical - my eating patterns weren't the way they were because I was trying to be thinner or fit into a standard size, it was more of mental health thing for me. It became a huge anxiety block and I just couldn't figure it out.

I HAD A FRIEND WHO DEVELOPED BULIMIA THROUGH A TIME SHE WAS DEALING WITH A LOT OF FAMILY TRAUMA. SHE BECAME SEVERELY BULIMIC AS A COPING MECHANISM AND BECAME OBSESSED WITH THE WAY IT MADE HER FEEL. IT BECAME A COPING MECHANISM FOR HER IN HER ENVIRONMENT AND IT MADE HER FEEL LIGHT THROUGH A HEAVY SITUATION. IT HELPED RID HERSELF OF THE EMOTIONAL GUILT AND THE SHAME SHE FELT IN HER BODY THROUGH PHYSICALLY PURGING. HOW DID YOUR EATING PATTERNS BECOME A COPING MECHANISM FOR YOU AND YOUR ENVIRONMENT?

It all definitely stemmed from a lack of control - living in a constant state of crisis. It never made me feel good or empowered, it was just a huge physical manifestation of my anxiety. I realized I was so powerless over it and I needed to step up and get a hold of it and start making it my number one priority. I focused on it every night for awhile where I would go to bed and write down three meals I could have in the morning. It was something I started making a real conscious effort to do.

I think that things are a lot easier to get help for once you can put a title on it because if you know what the disease is you can find a diagnosis for it. But if you're waking up everyday and feeling helpless and like a shell of a person then what do you do? I would look up eating disorders and only find cases and research on anorexia or bulimia and I would think, well I never made myself throw up and I wasn't starving myself on purpose or to gain control or to fit into a pair of jeans, but I still felt in crisis.

THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT EATING DISORDERS IS THAT IT CAN BE LOOKED AT AS A FEAR OR PHOBIA. YOU HAVE A PHOBIA OF SHARKS YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO SWIMMING. YOU HAVE A PHOBIA OF SPIDERS THEN YOU DON'T GO NEAR THEM. BUT A PHOBIA OF FOOD, A PHOBIA OF THE THING THAT'S A NECESSITY IN ORDER TO LIVE - IT'S A REALLY WEIRD PLACE TO BE. WHETHER IT'S AN OBSESSION OF FOOD OR A PHOBIA OF FOOD - WE NEED IT TO SURVIVE. THE FEAR OF SOMETHING THAT'S SUCH A NECESSITY TO YOUR SURVIVAL PLACES YOU IN A REALLY TRICKY PLACE IN SOCIETY.

And it's really hard to undo. You're relationship with food is your relationship with your existence and it feels like the only way to be normal is to wake up and make eggs like everyone else or go get a bagel on your way to work and get a salad at lunch then go out or cook vegetable at home for dinner. I felt really dehumanized in a way, because in my hardest moments I thought, wow I can't even feed myself and I'm that worthless that I can't even get food. Its such a marker of your place in life and it's just really hard to get your way out of it without help and being kind to yourself.

WHAT KIND OF HELP DID YOU GET?

I went to therapy and I went to my school nutritionist who helped me a lot and helped me work through it. We made eating journals and figured out what kinds of foods to keep in the house to prevent the spirals and help with meal preps. Little things like keeping a case of almonds near by just in case I shut down or always having eggs in the fridge because scrambled eggs are so easy and save so much time and is always something you could have for breakfast. 

I think the thing that I noticed and realized in achieving good mental health is that it's not just about keeping the physical in check. Like shopping, distracting ourselves and chasing to attain the beautiful, whether it's a bag or a shoe or something else. Reminding myself that looking beautiful is not what it's all about and having beautiful things is also not what it's about. Those can all be extra perks in life but really all of the work and what's really important is tending your mind. That's the only thing that will bring you joy and freedom. A huge part of my mental health journey has been finding ways to try and unlock myself from trauma and the waves of anxiety and depression. I was so out of touch with how I was acting and I've unlocked a lot through talking to people I trust like doctors and my community. There are places you can go to for anything you need and I think it's important to find a safe space with people you feel comfortable with and people who you trust aren't going to judge you. To say something out loud that's the deepest hardest part of yourself and have someone look you in the eye and say, me too and it's okay. What shapes me into the person I am today is realizing that we all are going through shit.

MY BEST FRIEND GRACIE ONCE SAID THAT ANY THOUGHT WE'VE HAD IN YOUR MINDS - THE ONES THAT ARE THE MOST DEPRECATING AND PAINFUL, OR ALIENATING AND CRAZY - HAS ALREADY BEEN THOUGHT BY A MILLION PEOPLE BEFORE US FROM A MILLION DIFFERENT PLACES. SHE TAUGHT ME THAT ALL THOUGHT IS UNIVERSAL. YOU COULD THINK YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO HAS HAD THIS STORY OR THIS VOICE IN YOUR HEAD THAT HAS FUELED PAIN OR ISOLATION, BUT IN TRUTH THERE HAVE BEEN MANY BEFORE YOU BECAUSE EVERY THOUGHT HAS BEEN THOUGHT BEFORE.

And mental health needs to be talked about way more even though barriers are being broken down every day it's still tough to figure out the how and when. 

THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT AND OVERCOME - IF YOU HAD TO LOOK BACK, WHAT CONSIDERABLE DIFFERENCE COULD YOU NOTICE?

I think Kate now - I just know myself better and know what makes me feel good. It's always the little things like going to the park or not looking at my phone first thing in the morning. The ritual of getting ready, like putting on moisturizer, brushing my hair or choosing an outfit. I put on a record or some music and I dance around my house. The concept of moving and dancing and being really silly with yourself even when your home alone, it makes me feel so good to move and smile and make myself laugh. Like putting on your favorite song and dancing while singing into your hairbrush, it's so stupid but it works. And making plans to exercise in the day where I'm in another place and I can totally forget about the way I look or things that make me feel down.

WHAT DOES BEAUTIFUL MEAN TO YOU?

I used to have such a different vision of it till I found it for myself. I thought my dream woman was so put together, she was this perfect girl with that perfect outfit who hung out with the coolest people and was always at the party and dating a tonne of people at once and living her best life but now I think my dream woman is someone I'm close to being for myself. We all have our days but I feel like my dream woman is when I haven't done my hair or when I haven't put on any make up. She's when I've had a full day of reading at the park and seeing my friends.

I think one of the most beautiful things is the type of dancing that is so hideous to look at that it's almost so beautiful. That dancing you see and you're like wow she's just doing it. She's sweating but she's smiling so big and she's with her friends and she's in the middle of the dance floor and that's my dream woman. That's my favorite thing, is to lose myself to music on the dance floor - it's when I feel the most free and the most beautiful because I can completely step outside of myself. And you know that laugh where you snort and you throw your head back and it's like this ugliest thing? Those things that are typically found as unattractive, people who are unapologetic and free. That's how I define beauty, it's freedom.

Words & Photos by Angel
Follow Our Journey
Our Monthly Newsletter
Monthly offering of a personal letter, new interviews, playlists & wellness resources.
Explore More
Copyright © 2020 Hello! Sun NYC All Rights Reserved