I check in with the front desk, the showroom buzzing from beyond a swinging white door, people talking in foreign languages, flicking through unending racks of clothing, taking pictures of bored models standing 7-feet tall and weighing no more than 110 pounds.
“Hi, I’m here working for [Blank],” I say.
It feels nice to say it. I AM WORKING FOR [BLANK BLANK BLANK], I want to scream. I HAVE BEEN MODELING FOR A DECADE AND I AM FINALLY WORKING FOR [BLANK].
“Just a minute,” the woman says, seeming confused, which actually makes me a nervous. Maybe I’ve had this wrong all along. Maybe, just as I suspected, I am not special enough to do e-commerce for an expensive department store. This is a similar kind of logic to one a pretty girl develops who has been dumped often enough that she has scaled back her perception of self-worth, left scraping the proverbial barrel, freaking out about that the 19-year-old barista who doesn’t speak English WHO WON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH HER EITHER!
Not that I’ve been there before.
She comes back, followed by a sales rep. “Oh! It’s you,” she says. “I was so confused.” The front desk assistant assumed I was one of the buyers, not a model. I probably look ten years older than 14, which makes me ten years too old.
We walk through the doors and I am assaulted with that all-too-familiar frenzy, thankful to not be a part of it. Someone tells me to have a seat, grab something to eat, have a coffee. I sit on the sidelines, espresso in hand, surveying the scene like an All Star Player on the injury bench.
This is how it always works in modeling: the easiest, most pleasant jobs pay the most. Fuck off, supermodels. You and your fruit plates you won’t touch and your business class seats to the Dominican Republic can all go to hell.
The showroom girls drag their pointed heels across the cement floor, lamely turning for buyers requesting photographs. I recognize the look in their face – that deadened, I-fucking-hate-life face.
“They’re making 1,200 Euros a day,” Becky says, “I don’t know what they’re complaining about.”
I know what they’re complaining about: Paris agencies take 70-percent of everything they make, they’re spending a couple grand to live in a shitty models’ apartment with bunk beds crammed into small rooms like prison cells, their feet are flared and pink and likely undergoing permanent damage that will show up some fifty years from now.
But no one cares about that. No one cares unless you know, unless you’ve sat at the edge of a bathtub with your face against the tiled wall, soaking your feet in Epsom salts and praying for a swift and sudden death. “Psh,” Becky says. “Come on.”
Becky is the leggy and long-limbed assistant to someone but I don’t know whom. She runs around with strides too long for her frantic pace. There is something cartoonish about her, a character of a girl living in New York, working in the fashion industry, getting drunk at parties and running late to work. I have come to love Becky for what she is.
I am lead to the model’s area, a stuffy, subtropical holding cell where everyone sits around naked or changes into clothes, bitching in foreign accents when they don’t have anything else to do. Most of the models are Russian. Most of the dressers are from Italy.
It’s late in the afternoon and most of the appointments are already done. The girls are splayed out half-naked on the beige sofas with an end-of-day listlessness. My outfits are there for me, hung one at a time, twenty-five in all. Becky is steaming shirts with some shitty handheld European thing that only serves to soften the hard-edged wrinkles, not rid the fabric of them completely. All night, I put on cold, damp garments, thankful that they are numerable, that there is already an end in sight even though we are just beginning. For the first time, I am the one with the better job, unlike the showroom girls who have to look forward to seven more days of a never-ending deluge of pants and shirts and jumpsuits with skintight sleeves and broken zippers.
They glare at me with an understandable jealousy.
Becky asks me about the guy from LA. “Are you still dating him?” she asks, and I have to think back to who she is talking about because even calling what we were doing “dating” seems generous. There should be a word that exists somewhere between dating and not dating, a word that accurately encompasses semi-meaningless sex and a few free meals.
It comes to me from the depths of some buried place, having selectively blacked out the memory of him.
“Oh, that one? That ship sailed a loooonnggg time ago…like in a blazing, horrible inferno.”
“Yeah,” Becky says, “I’m not dating the French guy anymore, either.” She squats on the sofa, holding the steamer against a poplin button-up. “Ugh! Fuck this thing.” And throws it on the sofa, leading me out the door to stand against a white wall and pose like a person without problems, a girl without baggage. A pretty little thing that looks nice in clothes.
Photo courtesy of Fashion Lover