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“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”
In March 2018, I posted a picture on Instagram. Little did I know that my action would start a chain of events that would inspire more people than I could possibly hope to reach and would cause me to find out even more fascinating details about the subjects of my post.
I believe that real life stories are way more interesting than fiction can ever be. They have the depth of full spectrum of human experience, from the darkness of sorrow to the height of pure joy. But the most beautiful thing about them in my opinion is their potential to cause a ripple effect of touching other people's lives. They have the ability to inspire, to give hope, to raise the awareness, possibly to even alter the course of someone’s life. Because of the authenticity of the events described people can relate and make sense of their own experiences. The resilience of human spirit is truly remarkable and to witness someone else’s incredible story is often the very trigger that is needed to push a person in the right direction or in the right state of mind.
Aside from my work related Instagram where I share my modelling pics and an occasional glimpse into my personal life, I have another page called “Mindful Models Official.” The original idea behind it was to highlight the issues we face as models, how it affects our mental health, and to support and empower each other—all of which is very topical in the current climate of mental health awareness, body positivity, #metoo movement, and other important issues being illuminated at last. Sharing images of inspirational examples of models AKA role models to show the world that the stereotypes of our industry don’t always apply naturally followed. Whether it’s models setting up charities, writing books, managing the bands or breaking stereotypes in other ways—I wanted people to know about them. The following of that page isn’t big at all but as the story below shows—it’s about quality not quantity.
I knew Remco Van Der Linden, originally from Netherlands, for a decade now through mutual friends. In the unpredictable world that is our industry where we are often not sure when the next job is coming, Remco seemed to be always busy with big budget jobs, I believe both because of his classical looks and very friendly and warm personality. One thing that always stood out for me the most though is the fact that he seemed to be a free spirit and cared little about society norms when it comes to acting one’s age. It’s something I resonate with and as a consequence like in other people. Breaking age related stereotypes does a lot of good for others as people often limit themselves by believing it’s too late for them to follow their passion. Being yourself without putting your identity in a box labelled with a number is a refreshing and liberating way to be and I can’t help but admire people who are leading by example. So when a couple of years ago I saw that suddenly Remco started to appear in advertising campaigns with his father, it immediately caught my attention. And once I started the above mentioned page—that was the reason I made a post about them, to break age related stereotypes in the industry. One of my followers happened to be a beautiful girl named Tanja Kok, also Dutch. We met a few years earlier while working for the same agency in London, but she has since returned to Amsterdam. Tanja is also a TV presenter and by the time I started my page, she was in the process of writing a book about the modelling industry called Help! Ik Ben Model so naturally we reconnected and found inspiration in each other.
The Post that Started a Chain Reaction
What happened next was clearly meant to be—being from the same country as Remco and his dad, Tanja reached out to them and interviewed them for her book. Co- creation at its best. Naturally I was pleased to connect two individuals on the same path of shifting the paradigm in the industry. But it didn’t stop there. Another day as Tanja was launching her book, she and Remco's dad called Aad were on Dutch television talking about diversity in the industry. Since I couldn’t understand the language, out of curiosity I started reading whatever was available online in English. And found out some kick ass information. Turns out, not only the modelling bit is a new thing in Aad’s life at the age of 70, but the bond with his son was also pretty much non-existent for the 30 years prior that. But the most extraordinary thing in my opinion and also the most inspirational one is the fact that finally after suffering in silence for three decades, Aad Van Der Linden regained his peace of mind.
Mental health is something that is finally getting much-needed exposure, as even ten years ago people knew very little about it. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to it but things are improving and more and more people realise that A) it’s more common than we think B) often it’s a natural reaction to emotional trauma not a “disorder” C) the more we learn about it and try to understand instead of judge/fear, the more people can be helped. Complex subject in itself and deserves more in-depth attention, but for the aims of this article, I will focus on the story of my friend's father.
Aad Van Der Linden and Tanja Kok on Dutch TV in November 2018
30 years ago, Aad was involved in a tragic car accident that resulted in a death of 17-year-old girl who was listening to music while cycling. He was not to blame for what happened but for obvious reasons, it led to major guilt and consequently depression. Back then therapy wasn't as easily accessible as it is today plus the old school conditioning for men states clearly that talking about one’s emotions is a sign of weakness. And so he kept it all in. I can't even begin to imagine what it was like—guilt is an extremely heavy and toxic emotion to deal with and it is not surprising that the relationship with his son took a backseat a result.
People who never experienced it wrongly believe that depression is a sign of weakness, but the truth is, it takes enormous strength to live with it and while women are wired to share their pain with others, men often do not allow themselves to do so because of double standards in our society. That could be one of the explanations as to why male suicide is at an all time high. And this is why it is so important that we talk about it. Negative emotions that are suppressed instead of being expressed through words, tears, screams, etc., will manifest themselves as physical ailments and this is exactly what happened with Aad. Psoriasis and kidney stones are just some of the things he struggled with as a result of trying to keep his pain inside.
Luckily the opportunity to talk finally presented itself when Remco asked his dad if he can have his old car as it would be more useful in his new Ibiza home, to which Aad agreed with one condition—that they drive it to Ibiza together. Remco agreed. And so during this road trip, father opened up to his son about the depth of his suffering. Remco, being open minded and informed about various healing modalities available these days, suggested his father to try therapy called EMDR, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. The therapy proved to be very effective in Aad's case and he was even able to visit that girl's grave after all this time.
Traveling to Ibiza to visit his son opened another door in Aad's new life. Having his dad on set of his Ibiza photoshoot, Remco asked the photographer to take a photo of them together in order to show it to their mum. But obviously it was also shown on his social media and noticed by multiple photographers, stylists and makeup artists. The rest is history. The father and son duo have since appeared in modelling campaigns all over the world and their newly found bond is captured by some very talented teams in our industry.
What makes this story truly incredible, though, is that Aad is very keen to help others who are struggling and in February he will return to Dutch TV to speak primarily about his healing journey and the effectiveness of EMDR therapy. Now this is my kind of "influencer."