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Models on the Frontlines

April 14, 2020
Aurelie Lacombe

Model Aurelie Lacombe swaps her high heels for a nurse's uniform and joins the frontline battle against coronavirus

When she was younger, Aurelie Lacombe aspired to become a model working in Paris. With discipline and dedication to the craft, she made it happen. But, before she became a full-time model, Aurelie studied nursing in the South of France. Now, in the midst of COVID19, Aurelie finds herself donning her nurseʼs uniform once more. In her own words, Aurlie tells us about what it’s like to be working on the frontline and how her return to nursing is impacting her modeling career.


"I studied nursing in the south of France. While studying, I did photo shoots with amateur photographers and worked with a small agency. From time to time, I went to Paris for jobs. As soon as I graduated, I moved to Paris to try to make a living as a model. It was tough in the beginning so I also worked as a nurse covering shifts. 


Even though I loved nursing you have to be available for modeling all of the time.  I ended up only going to the hospital occasionally on weekends to keep my skills sharp. 


Even before the coronavirus in France, the hospital was in trouble-not enough staff in the emergency room, a lot of beds closed. There were many strikes because the medical staff worked in poor conditions without enough equipment and bad pay.


I was still working as a model when the crisis started. When the coronavirus arrived, we weren't ready. It was important for me to go back to work and help the other nurses. I didn't think it was honest to stay at home and get unemployment when I have a nursing degree and can help. Since March 15, the beginning of the confinement in France, I’ve been working in a hospital or in home care in old people's homes almost every day.


At the beginning of the crisis when I started working at the hospital there were not many cases. Then a few days later there were more and more COVID19 patients. The emergency department was saturated. The hospital was divided into two parts; one for patients with coronavirus symptoms and one part for other emergencies. Luckily we had FFP2 masks to protect us and compassionate managers, which is not always the case. To save on supplies, some have said that surgical masks are enough or that if a patient sneezes germs fall on the floor. They take us for fools.


A lot of caregivers are now infected because we don't have enough FFP2 masks. There is almost no room left in resuscitation and almost no more drugs to sedate and treat the patients for intubation   


I feel such sadness for all the families we see in mourning. I hope they will soon find a treatment or a vaccine. 


There is also joy in all this. Everyday there people recover and leave the hospital. A lot of businesses, like restaurants, are mobilizing to bring us better quality meals and support to the hospital.


Because I sometimes work nights, my lifestyle has totally changed. I used to have more time to take care of myself. It's the basis of the modeling profession: exercise, eat well, take care of your skin. Now it's complicated because I work a lot in the hospital-the meals there are not very healthy and I hardly exercise because I'm so tired. I wear a mask all the time, it damages my skin. I get rashes and pimples. 


I see all the models on Instagram who have time to exercise and home cook healthy meals. I know I have to get ready for modeling again too, but I find it hard to juggle. I'm not very good at self-discipline.  I eat a lot to keep me going and cheer me up. I indulge myself. 


I live with my boyfriend who stays at home. He's not a medical professional, he's a model and comedian. We have a kind of protocol. Every time I come to the apartment,  he opens the door and I take off my clothes without touching anything. I put them in a bag and go straight to the shower. I don't take any risks. I'm lucky, my bathroom is at the entrance of the apartment. Then, I put on my indoor clothes and disinfect my phone.


A lot of people didn't realize what's going on and took it lightly. This is a historic crisis. We will still be talking about it in 100 years, it will be etched in history of the world.


To help, it is important to follow the instructions given by the government, to avoid going to play football everyday or going to get fresh bread every morning or going to the store just to buy a pack of beer. It is not vital. Go shopping once a week at the most. Stock up then.


One positive thing about this crisis is that the medical services are at last being more valued. We may see improvements in our working conditions and an increase in our salaries. 

The salaries for nurses in France are some of the lowest in the world. I really hope that at the end of this crisis we will find a France more united than ever."




Stay home. Stay safe. Support our health heroes in this crisis. And above all else, do not lose hope!


Aurelie Combe is a model based in Paris, France. She, along with Ubooker model Marine Herault, are currently fighting this crisis on the frontlines in Paris.

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