Written by Katie Maryschuk
Kristin Anton’s younger brother, Thomas, might have articulated it best.
“Not to quote Drake or anything, but clearly modelling was not God’s plan.”
While Kristin’s team was fighting its way to the national championship tournament last season and eventually earning a U SPORTS bronze medal, she was venturing down a different path. Instead of sitting courtside wearing kneepads and her blue and white Spartans jersey, the now third-year middle was donning heels and high-end fashion apparel, as she embraced the start of a career in modelling.
Understand something before diving into the depths of her story: modelling came first. While volleyball was part of her high school life – it was something she naturally stepped into, with the influence of her younger and older brothers – the significance of modelling was clearer in her mind.
It all started at the age of 14. Anton, who grew up in Prince George, B.C., travelled with her mom, Gayle, to the Lower Mainland for modelling shoots. Through these long trips back and forth between the big lights and her hometown in Northern B.C., Anton, who graduated from Cedars Christian School, fell in love with the art and process of modelling.
So, after her first two seasons with the Spartans, in which she was part of TWU’s first-ever national title-winning team, in 2015, and a U SPORTS silver medal-winning side the following year, the 6-foot-3 Anton made the choice to walk away from volleyball to test the modelling waters.
“I needed to know if it was something I could do,” she says.
So, by the summer of 2016, her life path took a turn and, with that, her entire training regime changed. Instead of hours in the weight room, she spent her days running, losing the physical gains she had worked for two years to build while at TWU. The days started to revolve around one goal: making the industry standard for size and weight. A 25-inch waist was the trophy she sought. Getting down to the size and earning a ticket to Milan, which is the ideal destination for high-end fashion, was the path to her “championship.”
“I’ve always been a pretty hard working person, so I thought, ‘I’m just going to have to work hard to be this weight,’” Anton says. “I didn’t think of it as unhealthy at all in the beginning. I just thought that I had been an athlete my whole life and I knew how to work out and exercise.”
By the end of summer of 2016, Anton was working in Vancouver. The first step of her goal was complete. It started well, but by November, when the fashion season typically slows down, work became scarce.
The dream and the goal started to morph into something else, something that wasn’t good.
Thomas, who is two years younger than Kristin, 22, but remains one of her best friends, noticed it and, held concern for his sister.
“I didn’t want to bring it up because I knew it was such a sensitive topic for her,” says Thomas, who came to TWU in the fall of 2017 after spending two years at Columbia Bible College playing with the men’s volleyball team. “This was her dream and it wasn’t (quite) working out.”
Weeks turned into months and Kristin couldn’t get down to the industry-required size. December started, and Anton’s agency in Vancouver lost touch with prospects in Milan.
“At that point she was just trying to get down to a certain measurement and she was eating rabbit food,” Thomas says. “Here I was, crushing a Big Mac beside her, and it was so hard because all she wanted was to be able to eat and be normal. She’s already a slim figure, so it became a dangerous thing.”
The realities of making a specific size, the pressure and the standards all quickly became something she no longer wanted to strive for. Combined with consecutive “no’s,” lack of work and the agency losing communication with Milan, the answer to the modelling question she once had – the curiosity of a modelling possibility – became clear.
“It just kind of hit me one day,” she says. “I couldn’t work for it anymore. It was a wake-up call.”
The all-consuming lifestyle of working towards a weight and her desire to travel was eating away at her, both physically and mentally.
“[Making a size] is a big deal and I wish it wasn’t,” she says. “That’s my biggest problem with the modelling scene. It’s intense. For me, getting to that size was my ticket to travel. It was hard because that’s what it came down to, and I felt that all I had to offer was an appearance for a career. There’s just no value in that.”
In the end, coming up short of “the standard” was a decision.
“In my mind, (initially), it was achievable,” she says. “When it didn’t happen…I don’t think it was unattainable. It was (just) something that wasn’t meant to be. Something stopped me from making that happen.”
Once the realities hit home, it became obvious it was time to come back.
In a seemingly simple transition, Anton signed up for courses right away and was back at TWU by the spring of 2017. But coming back was not. The hardest part wasn’t being away or even reintegrating; it was simply being present and not playing on the team she loved so much.
“I got to watch them continue (doing) what I was once a part of,” she says. “It’s so strange to be sitting in the crowd, sitting across from your team.”
Watching from the sidelines as the Spartans went on to capture a bronze medal at the 2017 national championship tournament, Anton couldn’t help but recall where she was a year before. By the end of her second year, she had finished third in the conference in blocks, with 1.23 per set, which was just 0.02 behind then third-year middle Katie Devaney. At that point, in the spring of 2016, Anton had been at an all-time high in her volleyball career.
To come back was like starting over – trying to rediscover the form she had found before abruptly leaving. When Kristin requested to come back to the roster, Spartans coach Ryan Hofer turned to the team to see what they thought.
“I’ve always been on the mindset that a team has a say for who is in this program...” Hofer says. “Whether I’m bringing in a recruit or it’s someone present, I want to get a little bit of feedback from my team. I find my girls are really smart (and) I’ve learned to trust their judgements. I find they’re smarter than I am in that case.”
Anton started to practice a couple times each week with the team over the spring semester, getting her foot back in the door.
“Then, when it was all okay with the girls, they decided that I could rejoin the team again in the fall,” Anton says.
If anything, this decision stood as a testament to the community present within the team – something Thomas immediately saw as a stark contrast to the modelling world.
“I feel like that might’ve been a little bit of a lonely universe at first, especially stepping out from a community-based place to one that’s very self-focused and all about self-image” he says. “To walk away from it was a big step, so to walk back into it with welcoming arms was nice.”
As Thomas expresses, modelling simply was not God’s plan for that season of Kristin’s life. Back with the Spartans, she was feeling fulfilled and she headed into the 2017-18 year knowing she had been given two amazing opportunities to work at something she loved.
“God gave me two incredible opportunities to explore,” she says. “When he closed the door on modelling, I knew coming back was the right choice because of the abilities He has given me in volleyball and the community that was willing to have me back.”
Hofer echoes this sentiment. “I believe if she has those two passions and one of them doesn’t come to fruition, then let’s go after the other one.
“As of right now, I feel she is ahead of where she was when she left.”
In the second to last game of the 2017-18 regular season, Anton posted a career-high 12 kills along with nine blocks in the Spartans five-set win over Thompson Rivers University. A welcomed re-addition to the Spartans, Anton finished the year third on the team in both kills per set (1.66) and blocks per set (1.14).
“She has worked exceptionally hard,” says Hofer. “Kristin works hard every day, works hard in the weight room, (and) has a good attitude. She portrays things in a positive light (and) communicates well with me.”
For now, her focus will remain on school and volleyball. As for modelling, that’s off the table for the time being.
Despite closing that chapter, she still hopes there might be a way to return in a different capacity.
For Anton, it’s not about the standard, but rather the creative process which she describes as the heartbeat of her love for modelling. Her wonder and excitement remains.
But, at this moment, God’s plan has her at Trinity Western.