Rachel Hilbert - Prevailing Through the Highs and Lows
Rachel Hilbert is an American fashion supermodel and actress. Rachel became a house-hold name with her work as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, walking multiple Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and representing the brand as the face of Pink. Rachel has also graced the covers of Maria Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan, L’Officiel, Maxim, and Playboy.
Hilbert grew up in Webster, NY, a suburb of Rochester. Rachel fueled her competitive drive at an early age as a high school skier and dancer. Hilbert says that “from when I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a Rockette. I was always the one dancing and entertaining at family gatherings and friend’s birthday parties.” Her striking looks and outgoing personality, along with her athletically gifted long and lengthy frame drew the attention of family friends and outsiders, who advocated she pursue a career in modeling.
“When I turned 15, my mother drove me the 5.5-hour trip to New York City, where I auditioned for various modeling agencies. My reception was well received. So well received in fact, that modeling jobs began interfering with my academics. Balancing school and work consumed my life. It was difficult at an early age to find the right school/work balance. Thankfully, my local school board was supportive of me attending classes remotely while providing the flexibility of coming in early and staying late. I knew early on that modeling was something I enjoyed and came naturally. That drove me more than the financial incentive. Instead of quitting school, I decided to work extra hard and double my efforts to graduate early.
My efforts paid off as I graduated high school at 17 and was able to move to New York City and focus 100% on my modeling career. The increased focus led to increased exposure, allowing me to land my first contract with Victoria Secret at 18. I was in shock. It happened so quickly. I felt extremely lucky and grateful. But at the same time, it was overwhelming.
The contract with Victoria’s Secret had made me a Victoria Secret “Angel”. The title required greater responsibilities than other runway models for the brand. “Angels” were obliged to appear in marketing campaigns, talk shows, major runway shows, and the annual televised fashion show. What had started out as a budding modeling career had catapulted to national stardom almost instantaneously. With privilege came success and expectations. With expectations came anxiety.
Unbeknownst to many, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression from an early age. Growing up and figuring out how to manage these mental obstacles were a challenge. My highs in public were disguised by bouts darkness in private. Having been thrust into the spotlight at such a young age contributed to both highs and lows of my mental illness. As my public persona of happiness flourished, my struggles behind closed doors became more deafening. It was extremely difficult for me to talk openly about it at the time because there is this stigma. How could someone that was given “everything” be depressed? No one wants to hear that. It haunted me for so long.
I sought therapy for my struggles. Hearing similar stories from others opening up about depression also helped me realize I was not alone. The more I spoke about it, the better I felt. But similar to an alcoholic falling off a wagon, there is no simple cure for mental illness, only methods that help cope with it. It’s a hardship I still deal with to this day.
My five-year reign as a Victoria Secret Angel has afforded me a platform to advocate for mental illness awareness. I have been very open about my struggles and bring them to the forefront with my followers and my reach. I intend to use my voice to help provide positive resources and reinforcement to others struggling with mental illness. My goal is to create an open and honest conversation about this issue. Similar to others coping with the global pandemic, there have been some tough times. Without the help I received early in my career, I don’t know how I would have dealt with it all. It made me realize that there is a way out and I hope to use my experience and influence to shine a more prevalent light on it.
Along with continuing my modeling career, I have begun to transition into acting, having taken advantage of my free time during quarantine to take acting classes.”