The fashion industry presents dream world of glamour. Extremely slim girls do the catwalk with tantalizing poses that send the heartbeat of fashion lovers racing. Competition in the fashion business for market-share is very stiff and the majority of the fashion models starve to keep their figures in order to stay in business. Philine von Wilcke, a successful part-time model and final-year medical student talks about how she became a model, her ambitions and goals for the future.
Sarahmagazine: You are earning good money as a model. But your professional goal is to become a medical doctor. Why?

Philine: I did quite well in my final high school examination, which gave me the chance to study whichever subject I was interested in at a German University. I was interested in different professional fields; journalism, law, business management, marine biology, research, veterinary medicine and human medicine. I wanted to have a profession that would make me financially independent as a woman. Though, I could feel my natural affinity to research, I was undecided and contemplated working for a year in one of the fields as an intern to help me in my decision.

My parents noticed my difficulties in deciding which profession to go for and indirectly helped me out. They made it clear that working a year before starting my studies at the University is not a good option. My father talked me out of journalism. He was a high-profile journalist with the Leipziger Volkszeitung, a respectable newspaper in Germany. According to him, journalism could be a fulfilling profession but there are other political facets of journalism that could be frustrating. Journalists are often under the pressure to write what the society is expecting to read rather than what the journalists actually want to write. He was in the business and knew what he was talking about. I heed his advice and dropped journalism. Through discussion with a friend of mine who was studying law, I realized that to study law would not be the right decision for me. The contents of the courses seem to be boring and not compliant with my expectations. I discarded law. My idea of becoming a marine biologist was associated with my interest in dolphins; as a teenager I found dolphins really cool. As part of my high school program, I did an internship with a veterinary consultancy, which gave me an insight of the profession. Generally speaking, I like animals but I do not like cats. As a veterinarian I should be able to offer medical services to all sorts of animals. I dropped the idea of studying veterinary medicine.

Comparing human medicine to business management, I saw the possibility in helping others as a medical professional. I love to help. I believe that one has a good feeling at the end of a working day to know that one has contributed to helping others or saving a life. Inputs from my mother also brought other advantages and opportunities of the medical profession to light; with business management, I could start my own business after working for a while. But every business start-up has its own risk. As a medical doctor, I could specialize in an area I am interested in and have my own consultancy. Eventually, the inputs from my parents and information from other sources provided clarity and helped me in deciding which profession I should pursue. I finally decided to study human medicine at the University of Leipzig in Germany. Studying medicine has not been easy for me. In fact, the work load was sometimes so overwhelming that I was totally exhausted. But I am very happy with my decision to study human medicine. I am now in my final year and my expectations have so far been fulfilled.

Sarahmagazine: Were science subjects your favourite subjects in the high school?

Philine: Biology was my favourite subject which I selected as a major with additional advance courses. I was not exceptionally good in physics, chemistry and mathematics but I made the necessary grades. I also had English and French in the school and as a medical student, I took courses in Latin as well as Greek. But I am not a language genius. I have lost my French vocabulary but hope to have a good command of English through further courses and practice. I believe that knowledge of English language is a prerequisite to compete in the international professional job market. I have chosen to do part of my internship as a medical doctor in a hospital in Dubai. Hopefully, I would be able to practice and improve my spoken English.

Sarahmagazine: Apart from your interest in biology, did you have a favourite pet?

Philine: I am fond of horses and I love to ride horses. I started riding horses at the age of nine and it is just wonderful. The feeling I have when riding is really amazing. I would like to own at least one horse. However, it is quite expensive to care for a horse and maintain a stable. It is even more expensive if one has the ambition to participate in competitions relating to horse riding. This is one of the reasons why I would do whatever it takes to achieve my professional goals and earn enough money to afford a house and space for my horse amongst others.

Sarahmagazine: You decided to study in Leipzig. Did you grow-up in Leipzig?

Philine: I grew-up in Halle, a city in the German federal state Sachsen-Anhalt. But since I was born in 1981, the whole of my family usually spend the vacation in a small village called Wredenhagen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, one of the 16 federal states in Germany. I grew up to know the area very well. The area offers forest with typical German wildlife. My parents love the village and wanted to have a property there. Four years ago, they realized their dream by building a house of their own in the village. I have a lot of nice memories in connection with the place and my family. My parents made sure that my two sisters and I were busy with recreational activities such as playing music instrument, riding horses or doing ballet or gymnastics with lots of fun. Unfortunately, my father passed away recently. It is a very sad incident for all members of the family and I am still fighting to overcome the shock. As grown-ups, my sisters and I now live in different cities, but my parents’ house in Wredenhagen is still a meeting place for the whole family.

Sarahmagazine: You seem to have a loving upbringing. Would you say that your childhood was all beauty, happiness and fun?

Philine: My father was very strict and orderly. My mother was not as strict as my father but very orderly. My father did not tolerate poor performance in school assignments or examinations. As punishment for poor performance, I was banned from going out to meet friends. My two sisters and I were only allowed to have female friends and naturally no late-evening outgoings were allowed. My room must be kept in order and clean. If this was not the case, there was trouble. We were drilled to behave well within and outside the family circle. Etiquette and table manners were extremely important for my father and we had to follow the rules; no talking during dinner, eat decently and many other rules. For my taste, the rules were over emphasized and exaggerated. They got on my nerves and sometimes, the situation was unbearable. However, I tried to understand him and relate his strictness to the nature of his job and his high position in the media company.

Sarahmagazine: As a teenager, did you contemplate moving out of your parents’ house and living by yourself?

Philine: Yes. I decided to have my own apartment when I started studying and the stress of travelling long distances to attend lectures was getting too much. I sometimes had to wake up as early as four o’clock in the morning. But this was not the only reason. I was also having problems with father due to his strict rules. The burden of coping with my father’s stringent regulations and the demanding work as a medical student was having negative effect on me. I started loosing weight. It got to the extreme that I had a feeling I could be blown away by the wind. I rented an apartment in Leipzig and moved away from home.

Sarahmagazine: when did you start modeling?

Philine: I started modeling when I was still living in Halle. It was coincidental. I did not plan to be a model. I was approached by a design student to model her collections in a public show for the jury of her design school. The collection was her diploma work. At first, I did not want to do the show. I was 16 years old, very slim, not sure of myself and even perceived myself as not beautiful. But the design student was able to convince me. She told me that I had the required height and figure for a model. Moreover, she offered me her support and I eventually agreed to model her collection. The presentation was successful, she got her diploma as a designer and thereafter organized other shows in which I was engaged as a model. I saw the possibility of earning good money and decided to work for other companies in the fashion and advertising business. Through private contacts, I started receiving offers to do promotions, catwalks at trade fairs and fashion galas. I later contacted an agency in Leipzig for professional information and was advised to provide a sedcard with my details. The sedcard was expensive to produce but I was lucky to be offered a contract that paid for all my expenses as soon as it was ready. The acknowledgements I was receiving from the public gave me self-assurance and I was enjoying the shows. I registered with different agencies and organizations in Leipzig and neighbouring cities for exposure and more contracts. The job offers started flowing in.

Sarahmagazine: You started modeling without any form of conventional training as a model. Did you ever think of taking a course in modeling?

Philine: No. A friend told me she paid over one thousand Euro for a course on how to catwalk. I find it expensive and would never pay such an amount for a course in the modeling field. I am lucky that I am naturally slim. I do not have to do a lot of sport or follow a diet plan in order to stay slim. It is my gene. I thank my parents for that. I also began practicing rhythmical sport gymnastics as a child and was practicing for many years. This has a positive effect on the way I walk naturally. For the catwalk, I noticed carefully the way other professional models do it and I learned from them. In the beginning I made my mistakes but most of the girls were very friendly and ready to help. Other very useful sources I learned from include fashion show choreographers and fashion show programs on the TV. I also tried to develop my own style using a mirror to control and assess my movements.

Sarahmagazine: You are earning very well as a model. Have you thought of making modeling your full-time job?

Philine: The idea is tempting. However, my father thought me not to depend on my good looks but on my intelligence. I decided to study medicine and I am proud that I have been able to pass all my examinations despite the additional burden of working as a model. I had very stressful periods but I was happy to learn. Being a medical student as well as a model does not create positive impression by all fellow students. Some students assume that I am arrogant because I am earning a lot of money with my looks. I did not let some of the negative attitudes bother me and with time, those students that get to know me better realize that I am just a normal student and not arrogant.

No, modelling as a full-time career is not an option for me. In some years from now, I would be older and my good looks might be gone. I want a profession that I can practice till I am very old and earn enough money for a good living. Like my parents, I want to be able to afford a house of my own and have a comfortable lifestyle. I know some older models that are not earning enough money to make a living and are forced to accept awkward jobs or look for a rich man to marry.

It is a pity that some teenagers decide to abandon school for modelling career. I would advice every teenage model to model part-time while undergoing training in another professional field. It is true that I had a great time as a model and met a lot of interesting people. I have taken part in sensational fashion shows, which is my main area of modeling. There are beautiful pictures of me that capture beautiful moments that I will always remember. But I know that my engagements as a model would only be a period in my life. In the future, I hope to show my children the pictures and tell them interesting stories from my experience as a model.

Sarahmagazine: You are in your final year as a medical student. In Germany there are general complaints that medical doctors do not take enough time to explain issues or communicate adequately with their patients. Are you a good communicator?

Philine: I work part-time as an intern in a private clinic that specializes in plastic surgery. At the clinic, I deal with patients from diverse educational and professional backgrounds. These are people with different characters. I am aware of the problems that could arise from lack of patience, usage of medical/professional terminologies in explanations and wrong approach in communication. I take my time to discuss issues with the patients while asserting my professional skill. I get along well not only with the patients but with people generally. Even the most difficult characters commend my way of approach and lucid explanations. Privately, I am out-going. I like to meet people and make contacts. Communication is my strength.

Sarahmagazine: How would you describe your first experience in dealing with corpse as a medical student?

Philine: I am very interested in medical research, particularly in surgery and the functionalities of human organs. I have always been very inquisitive about corpses and very excited each time I am in the pathology class dealing with corpses. My first experience was fascinating. I could feel my interest for research being aroused. I wanted to know what really caused the death. The pathology class is so enthralling that I considered specializing in the area. The only disturbing aspect in dealing with corpses is the odour. The odour sticks to ones hair and clothing even after washing. I could see myself working in the field until the day somebody tells me, “Hey, you smell like a corpse”. I also considered being a surgeon. But being a surgeon could be extremely stressful especially for a woman. For a surgeon, operating five hours non-stop in standing position is not unusual. This is a skill that not everyone has. It is not easy to keep all the hygienic sterility rules demanded in operating theatre while standing for many hours. I experienced how difficult it is to keep standing in the same position during surgical operations classes. I have not taken any decision yet relating to my field of specialization. I want to specialize in a field that I would be working happily even at my 60th birthday. The medical field is broad and there are diverse career options which I can choose from. I am starting my final internship in February 2007; I would be working first in Switzerland and later in Dubai. The new experience I am going to gain would help in my decision for an area of specialization.

Sarahmagazine: You would be doing part of your internship at a hospital in Dubai. Why in Dubai?

Philine: I would have loved to study in a foreign country but could not due to financial reasons. As compensation, I planned to do my internship in a foreign country. I applied to hospitals as well as medical institutes in Switzerland and was successful. Dubai was coincidental. I never planned going to Dubai. My step grandfather has a friend in Dubai who helped to contact an international hospital in Dubai on my behalf. I was offered a four-month internship position and I gratefully accepted it.

Sarahmagazine: There have been discussions about the wages of medical doctors in Germany. Are you of the opinion that medical doctors are poorly paid in Germany?

Philine: Yes. In Germany, the government finances the University education. A medical student is the most expensive student for the government in Germany due to the expensive medical equipments and training materials. A medical student needs at least six years to complete the general medical studies, which is very demanding. At the end of medical training, a fresh medical doctor earns 1700 Euro after tax. This is a poor wage for a professional that deals with complex and critical situations and sometime has only a few minutes to take a decision. The situation forces medical doctors to look for lucrative jobs in foreign countries or undergo additional specialization training. Taking into consideration the military service male students have to complete, most male fresh medical doctors are over 30 years of age before they start earning money. It is sad to see well qualified medical doctors saying goodbye to Germany because of the unattractive condition.

Sarahmagazine: On the other side there are relatively wealthy medical doctors that own or work in private clinics taking care of rich people. What is your opinion about private clinics?

Philine: I do not think that it is right to separate medical services into classes of rich and poor. Unfortunately the social system creates such a situation. The private clinics provide extra or exclusive medical services for those who can afford the services financially. I work in a private clinic but my medical insurance is for general public medical care. My experience has been positive with the public medical services. I pay a small extra amount for specific medical examinations, which I deem necessary. People spend a lot of money on clothing, cars and other lifestyle articles but refuse to spend money on medical care. This is absurd. Health is the most important asset to have. People realize this fact only when they get seriously ill.

Sarahmagazine: In the fashion shows, very slim underweight models do the catwalk. Is it ethically and medically correct to advocate extreme slimness for fashion models?

Philine: The demand for extremely slim models by the fashion industry is ethically and medically incorrect. Some models have to starve in order to keep their figures and remain in business. Some fashion agencies talk of size 0 or German size 33 when referring to models they want to book for fashion shows. I am lucky to still be receiving offers with my German size 34/35 for dresses. The agency that is responsible for my bookings lay emphasis on my catwalk and charisma. There are now private initiates within the fashion world that are fighting against the extreme demands of the fashion industry. They are advocating for healthy models with normal weight. In my case, I was very slim as a child and as a teenager, I sometimes cried because of the jokes my school mates made relating to my extremely slim stature. Today, I am happy with my figure and I will not starve myself to remain slim.

Sarahmagazine: You have been successful as a part-time model and you are about to complete your medical studies successfully as well. What is your dream for the future?

Philine: I hope to have a very good and financially rewarding job in a medical field of my choice. I do not have to be very rich but I want to be able to afford a nice home and at least a horse. I would like to have my own family with children, have enough time for my family and vocational activities. I have mostly been lucky but I have also experienced setbacks and despair. My father just passed away. I am broken-hearted but I try to overcome my despair and think positively. I believe it is necessary to look positively into the future despite distress. With determination and positive attitude, I am convinced that a set goal would be achieved. I am determined and believe inmyself. Through hard work, I will certainly achieve my goals. End
Philine’s figure:
Height: 1.77m ; 88-66-89; Dress: German size 34/36; Shoe: German size 40
Sarahmagazine 2006


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