did you know i was a teen model?
when i was fourteen i got sent to an agency and they sent me to a photographer who caked my pretty little face in makeup and said things like “smile with your eyes”. I had to walk with my face upturned flirtily to the ceiling and pretend to be buckling the thin strap of my high heels.
the best four of these photographs went onto a comp card, with my name and measurements, that sat in a folder on the wall of the modeling agency with all the other young girls.
and one day I was entered in one of those mall fashion shows where you pin a number to your front and walk down a runway while two dozen international agencies watch, and if they like you, they’d write down your number and call it out at the end.
it felt weird, like an auction, a cattle show.
An agency in Milan called my number “110” and so I went to what is called a “go-see” where you meet the agency face to face and they look you up and down and decide if you’re worthy. they liked my 90 lb frame, but I was too short. Only 5’6” and the minimum for international modeling is 5’8”. And, most importantly, my proportions were off. My legs were too long and torso was too short, my shoulders were askew.
so no Milan.
then I went in a hair show, which is when renowned hairdressers use you as a mannequin to display their haircutting prowess. I had “virgin hair” so they decided to dye it. I ended up with a beautifully shaped bob, streaked in very fine lines of silver, purple, burgundy and auburn, with an underside of dark brown. It was an interesting look. The day of the show they curled my hair into an afro, and we were given black unitards to wear. The hairdresser laughed at us when we asked to use a bathroom to change, told us that if we ever wanted to be real models we would have to get used to being seen naked by strangers. We used the bathroom anyway.
So we wore black unitards and coloured tutus and boas, all different. My tutu was red and my boa a dark purple. And we strutted down the runway and it was all very fun.
Then there were the classes, classes on how to walk, how to pose, how to have interesting facial expressions. In the walking class you are in a long room with mirrors on all sides, and you put on five inch heels and you walk slowly, swinging your legs one after the other onto an imaginary line, or just over it. You let your hips roll as you walk and you are supposed to look cold, but not haughty. You are supposed to remember that you are not the star of the show, the clothes you are modeling are.
of course nothing came of it, except that now I know what I look like with an afro. and I can walk a room like I am wearing thousands of dollars of haute couture, I look cold but accessible, like with the right clothes, you could be me.