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From modeling to a green life

A new chapter for me and Organice Your Life®! Before you, you see Organice Your Life® 3.0. The past years I have worked hard to make this site better and more beautiful, with lots of positive inspiration, health & beauty tips, and background stories from top models, celebrities and experts. I am very proud of this new improved website as it also is symbolic to my transition in life.


The past 2 years I had a lot on my plate. In my private life a lot was falling apart, and I was trying to keep it all together and make it all work. I worked all of my spare time on or I was with people who supported Organice Your Life®. They say you need to experience a lot of failures before you reach success, and I can say that is true from experience. At the same time I still did some modeling and the traveling for that became physically harder and harder, and I was tired a lot and became sick a few times. Also, I did not enjoy modeling that much anymore, a profession I have been working in for almost 20 years.

And then Hurricane Sandy came. I was alone in NYC. My apartment was luckily only 7 days without power, and I was happy I could walk 60 block to a friend’s apartment where I could stay those 7 days. I just couldn’t believe a big strong city like NYC crumbled under such a storm. Why did it take so long, so many weeks for some people, to get their life back to normal? Or at least get electricity? I saw people in my neighborhood, unshaven and unwashed looking for water or some place to eat. Or I saw people with buckets of water they had to bring up 23 flights of stairs, to drink or cook with, or to flush their toilet. Downtown, without the traffic lights and no store or restaurant open, it felt like a spooky city. It was hard to be alone at such an event that had not only a physical impact on people’s lives, but also very much an emotional impact. I wasn’t the only one I found out later.

2 weeks after Sandy I started getting panic attacks. Out of nowhere. I would wake up in the middle of the night and had heart palpitations, felt dizzy and could not breathe. I have never experienced anything like it so I was that scared that I called 911. They said that it was probably a panic attack, but of course I refused to believe that. Me? A Panic attack? No way! They took me to the Emergency Room and there they checked me. They recommend a follow up. A week later, when I was with my girlfriends and OYL contributors & top models Valentina & Carolina and singer Antoniette at a birthday lunch for Carolina in NYC. I had another panic attack, and I wanted to leave as soon as possible. I did not know what was going on. The noise of the restaurant, the food, everything got to me much more intense than ever before and it seemed my body couldn’t process it properly. I couldn’t swallow the food, or breathe, which scared me. From that moment on I had a continuous feeling of anxiety, pain, headache and ringing ears every day and it did not get better. It was getting worse. I was deteriorating at a fast pace. No matter what I did, I could not control my body anymore. It wasn’t functioning properly anymore. With my last energy, and the help of calming medication (I normally NEVER take medication), I was able to get on a plane, and on a train, and I made it to my hometown of Eindhoven. I would stay there the following months, recovering what turned out to be a burnout after multiple hospital visits and checks. I had to start all over, and had to rethink everything that I built up the past 15 years of my life. From helping others to “organice” their lives, I needed to “organice” my own life..

The fashion industry has changed a lot since I started in the 90’s, and it has become more of a fast food fashion industry. When I started, I did not have a cell phone, and no one had. Job information was sent to us through the fax machine. I also had my father travel with me, and I had some amazing clients to work for like my work as an exclusive contract girl for Covergirl and Ralph Lauren. Shoots were relaxed and normal hours, and people had time to create art. You would shoot a Polaroid to get an idea of the look of the shot, but you would never know what the result would be. A photographer would uncover his magic when the film came back developed. These day’s everybody can be a photographer, with all the great digital cameras and Photoshop available. And trust me, that Photoshop is used a lot. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. (But it can be a great tool too. Now you can still work even if you have a pimple or a dimple. ) The introduction of internet has also given every girl and boy around the World the chance to show themselves to the top agencies and clients. Many models got discovered that way. But this also means that in my opinion the industry is saturated. There are too many models in the industry. A lot of model castings look more like a meat market. And there are no rules & regulations.

Also fashion shoots are not what they used to be. Fashion people have to get more done in less time, meaning more pictures in less days. Besides shooting pictures, almost every shoot has a video team present to film nowadays. That means models have to do double work, for photo and film in one day, which is usually unpaid. So besides looking good on set, you have to realize you can be filmed even off the set in make-up or while changing, sometimes even unannounced. It sometimes seems like a model has become an accessory instead of a human being. The working days have gone from normal hours to almost always (unpaid) overtime. I can talk about it for hours, but let’s just say that a lot of aspects of a fashion shoot is not like how I remember it 10, 15 years ago. I feel everyone at the shoot is working way past the limits these days, and that is not good for creativity and original pictures. But it has become part of the deal.

It seems like a dream job, but despite the glamorous image, modeling is a profession where at least 95% of models will never make a lot of money, and most will not have money left at the end of their career. But it is a way to have incredible experiences if done right. Unfortunately it is still a profession where models are put in disrespectful situations for instance at castings, or have to pose in a dangerous setting to get that one amazing picture. A profession where you become the face of products that are in real life either toxic, or are made in low wage countries. A profession where there is no Union, no protection, no healthcare, no rules, no regulations, no real support. Only if you are a successful top model, a good business woman and strong-willed, it can be a great life and you can make your dreams come true. I admit I am lucky in my life, and I have had a great time. I managed to save some money in the bank, that I am now using towards my dream: Organice Your Life®.

I am happy to see fellow models like Sarah Ziff starting a Union-like organization that is forcing the industry to follow rules and guidelines. A recent victory was the NY legislation that models need to be at least 18 years when working, and if they are younger, they need a chaperone, and tutors on location. A big improvement! But there is more to be done to improve this industry. It can happen if everyone who cares about this speaks up and helps to make a change. So I will do that too.

Recently, there have come up too many issues for myself that made me really dislike the profession, the art I used to love. I could not lie to myself anymore and keep putting me in that position where people judge me only for my looks, where other people decide what my body should look like. Modeling for products that are produced in a way I don’t want to be identified with. I also passed the magical age of 30 a while ago, and even though I still could keep modeling for years to come if I wanted to, I think that it was the perfect time to make a career switch.

So I officially retired from modeling. I told my agents Worldwide I won’t be available anymore for castings, go-sees and regular modeling jobs where I would be booked as “just a model”. I prefer other models take those jobs. There are many girls waiting in line who would be very happy. Instead, I want to focus 100% on my true passion: Organice Your Life®, helping people live a more organized, happier and healthier life. From now on, I will only work with people and companies that have good ethics, are not toxic, don’t suppress workers to make their product, and are not cruel to animals. That could be in the shape of lectures, campaigns, interviews, collaborations…anything is possible. I want people to book me because of who I am, my experiences and expertise. After all, I did not go to school for nothing I hope! So from now on I am a full-time Green Lifestyle Expert & Certified Health Counselor! First focus: my healthy recipes book :)

This decision to close one door, and opening another door, gave me a feeling of relieve, and made me very happy! I am just not interested in doing things “just for the money”. I had an amazing career, with lots of high-end campaigns, magazine spreads and also many (exclusive) contracts, but is time to move on. My future projects will make me feel more complete, while hopefully adding something to a Greener and Healthier World.
Some good news: I am doing much better now than 7 months ago! I still have some setbacks in my health, but overall it is better. But I will never be able to work as hard as I did the past 20 years. I have to put my health first, and that means less work,more focus, and more time to relax. My life has completely changed. I have to accept that I may have to live with physical issues for the rest of my life like a continuous ring in my ears (Tinnitus), painful joints in hands and feet, discomfort in organs, headaches and a chronic fatigue syndrome that may never go away. Time will tell. I will also not worry about my weight or body image anymore. I did gain weight back after I lost so much at the beginning of my burnout, so that is good too. I love my new body! You can expect to read an in-depth article by me on what a burnout really is here on this website soon.

Aside from the fact that going through a burnout is one of the hardest things I ever experienced, it also gave me great insights on what I want to do with my life. It also caused a great shift in my group of friends, and the true ones stayed and helped me a lot. It is like I was “Organicing my Relationships” all over again. Also… I fell in love with an amazing man: Dirk. Who supported me all the way, took care of me the best in my most difficult times. And now we have the best time together! We even adopted a dog together who was rescued from a squat house: bullterrier Vito. We are figuring out now where we want to live full-time, and maybe even start a family. Because the past 12 years I travelled the World, and spend the rest of my time between NYC and the Netherlands. It was not even bi-coastal living, it was bi-continental living! That is just too much, and not possible to sustain any longer. So I am putting my life on a diet too. Owning less stuff and working less hard does not mean you miss out on things: in fact, it will open me up to other, maybe even more interesting experiences. I love my life in NYC, and I love the Netherlands, but where will we end up? Time will tell again. I am now organicing my finances and my responsibilities, and lessen the burden it is for me. The past 10 years I grew a social life in 2 places, and tried to sustain 2 lives in 2 different places, and with that comes a lot of costs which forces you to work even more to pay for it. I don’t want to do that anymore. I need to choose, and focus. But now I have a partner next to me, and we are a team. That is what I have always been waiting for, to be a team player. Life is just better when you can share it. Not one big campaign or high-end magazine cover can beat my life now. Even if I am physically still not 100%, I feel happier than I have ever been!

Consume less live more

Good thing to keep in mind: even in the worst traumatic situations: good things can happen: A trauma or unfortunate situation can lead to happiness and chances!

I started Organice Your Life® years ago, because I wanted to share my experiences in life, through my OYL Circle of Five that I developed to help myself first. From being a top model and “living the dream” to studying to be a Certified Health Counselor, from having financial trouble with taxes because of bad financial advisors to losing my father at a young age and having fights in our family, from good to bad, I experienced it all. I feel that I am Organice Your Life®. I am not perfect, and I come across issues in my life too, but the Circle of Five gives me guidance every time and helps me focus on what’s important so I get the best out of life for me. Over and over again. And most of the time what makes me happy is either Green, organic, vintage or priceless. I can help people now not only because I studied for it, but because I have been through a lot myself: I speak from experience. I believe that sharing my story can also help other people live a life with less stress, more happiness & more fulfillment. It took me 15 years to get to what I know now.

I realized simplicity in every aspect of your life is key to live a long and peaceful happy life. A lot of people are overwhelmed with life, and it is because society and people expect too much of each person. There are standards of what is a failure and what is success. But the definition of success is for each person different. Everyone is unique and individual. With Organice Your Life®, it is about getting to know who you organically are, what your strengths are, and what you love in life. Don’t have society decide what is good for you or not. Follow your own passion, because no money or success will give the same feeling of happiness than the feeling of joy you feel when you make your own dreams come true. Remember, it is the little things in life that count, the best things in life are not for sale!

Now is a joyful moment. I am so excited to launch this new look of Organice Your Life®! I love every day working on this website. I read and watch and listen to lots of interesting stories and inspirational people. And I read and listen to you, our beloved readers. Because listening and being informed is key, especially when I want to make this site the best ever! I will keep writing original articles and filming videos with delicious recipes, beauty & health tips, and green ways to “Organice” your life.

I make this website with a lot of my dear (model & expert) friends, who also know a lot about healthy living and who share their stories of following their own passion, success and love in life. I want to thank them for always sharing amazing stories.

Most of all, I hope you enjoy this website as much as I like making it!

It is time to get Organiced®

Love, Lonneke


8 Responses to From modeling to a green life

  1. Carolines July 8, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    You go, woman! Love from Berlin, Lines

  2. sanjagl July 8, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Dear Lonneke,

    I wish you a lot of happiness in doing what you love the most – Organicing your life!

    xoxoxo, Sanja Gligorovic

  3. Angeleni July 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Hello beautiful Lonneke!!!!
    I wish you all the best!!!!

  4. nele90 July 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    dear lonneke, thank you so much for this brave and insightful story.
    to be honest myself, i frequently checked your website over the last months and got a bit ‘upset’ because of the lack of new posts on here. i feel really bad for doing so, after reading what you have been through.
    it is exactly like you described, not only in fashion, we are expecting everything to always function properly, perfectly and to get new input instantly or straight away if we desire so.
    even if to a much smaller extent, i can certainly relate to you criticising and questioning the modeling/fashion world, i have been part-time modeling for quite some time now and even though i wish i would be more successful (mainly in financial terms i guess), i often find myself asking myself what ‘ideal of beauty’ i am portraying or encouraging and how i can claim to be critical and ‘aware’ person and still advertise products like fur or disputably-produced clothes.
    it is hard to stand up for your own values and beliefs when your counterpart is basically the whole media industry talking in your ear.
    all this makes your decision even more admirable and i wish you all the best, and that you feel better soon. of course, i also very much look forward to read new posts on here and see oyl develop but as they say, good things come to those who wait ;)

    • Lonneke Engel July 15, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Thank you everyone, your support means a lot to me and I am ready to share everything I learned along the way with you! Love, Lonneke

  5. Amanda Childers July 16, 2013 at 12:26 am #

    You are such an inspiration! Coming across OYL over a year ago, you inspired me to start my own blog as well and again, from your personal story to follow my passions. I hope one day to run into you in NY! Best wishes on your journey. <3 x

  6. Lauren December 6, 2013 at 1:18 am #

    Hello Lonneke,

    thank you for your article. I was wondering if you have made a choice between NYC and The Netherlands? If so, how did you come to your decision? What thought processes did you and Dirk go through to decide? I ask because I am in a similar situation in which my partner and I are choosing where we would like to make a life together; Australia, or, the United Kingdom. It is very hard so was interested to know if you have any advice, as I can imagine it must have also been a difficult decision for you.

    Thank you!

    Love, Lauren x

    • Lonneke Engel December 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Lauren, we decided to take the time to decide what works the best, and go with the flow. We travel between both places for a little bit longer, while arranging things of our single life to a life together, and spending time in both places (thankfully our work makes us flexible). That we way both get a feeling what works the best for us and not make hasty decisions :). Which is better for me to to avoid stress and focus on my health and getting back to work. I hope you can also take the time to experience both places for a prolonged period of time so you both know what makes each of you the happiest and see what works best for both of you! Love, Lonneke

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