“NYFW Casting #134,912” on Lady Clever

nyfw-1024x708The following is an excerpt from my piece “NYFW Casting #134,912” as seen on Lady Clever:

The girl standing outside can’t figure out how to work the intercom. I come in quickly, overriding her ineptitude for the sake of time, efficiency, and the fact it feels like 10 degrees in New York right now. Having easily seen the name of the client marked clearly on a button, I press with a gloved finger. Someone on the eighth floor lets us in, the door unlocking with a buzz. “You’re better at this than I am,” she says. Heaven help me.

Four tiny girls share a tiny elevator and disembark into a room already filled with so many models I force myself to not turn on my heel and leave immediately. After all, you can’t book work if don’t stick around. That’s part of the job. But fashion week castings are especially tedious, with lines not dissimilar to the ones you’ll find outside Apple before a product launch. Only the difference is that the people at the front of an iPhone 7 line, who have demonstrated patience and fortitude and motivation, will walk away with something. You could be the first one at a casting, wait for three hours, and still go home empty handed. Every casting is like a lottery ticket. Sometimes you win, most times you don’t.

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2 Illegit 2 Quit: Part II

The show is happening, apparently. I get an email from my booker confirming a fitting on Friday and a show on Saturday. Based off past experiences, I ask how much the rate is, prepared to drop out if it’s paying $20, per my expectations.

It’s not horrible.

I confirm.

Through a maze of absolutely appalling bridal gowns, I find the stage where the show will be. One hundred dresses, eighteen designers — some of whom are threatening to back out because there were only supposed to be ten. Now the show is oversaturated, complicated, and, as everyone is quickly starting to find out, run by an insane person.

“They don’t care,” I hear one complain, “they got the money already, didn’t they?”

I don’t like the feeling that I am a part of some sort of fashion scam, taking the hard-earned cash of small designers who probably can’t afford the expense to begin with. My second thought is that they’ll sue afterward, and I won’t be getting my money. Oh, well. One day out of my reasonably short life. Worse things have happened. Like that time I had to stand in a window on Rodeo Drive and model dresses for twelve hours while Japanese tourists took pictures and shopped for the holidays. The owner of the store wanted to wire Christmas lights through my hair (and plug them in). I declined.

Mr. Lunatic Producer is here, running around like a person who doesn’t know what he’s doing. His voice rasps when he calls out the names of all the models.

“How many girls we gawt?” he says, his mouth filled with giant chunks of teeth, hair swinging in front of his face. He looks like part of the road crew for Led Zeppelin.

I check myself into hair and makeup. Two women curl my hair from behind, talking and chatting and making jokes. They’re new.

Next is makeup, where I sit down in front of a woman who alternates between dragging her finger against the smudged surface of her Samsung Smartphone to check Facebook and dragging it against my closed eyelid. I want to express my general concern for my health and well being – maybe even mention how I don’t care so much for pink eye – but I say nothing, even as she double dips her mascara wand into its tube, collecting black gunk and the bacteria from a thousand eyeballs and jamming it next to my own. I’m shocked I haven’t gone blind yet.

“CAMMAN GIRLS!”

Mr. Lunatic rounds the corner, exasperated that half of us are in hair and makeup and half of us are waiting to rehearse. He’s got some “diamond shape” thing he needs to work out – meaning, it’s not working but he’s going to have us rehearse it for a whole hour we don’t have.

Twenty-five of us stand in a disorganized row, our hair and makeup in various stages of completion.

“HEY! HEY! YOU!”

Mr. Lunatic is looking in our direction. He could be screaming at one of three of us.

“Whattareyoulookingat?”

“Me?”

The girl in front of me points to her chest.

“YEAH, YOU. I’M RIGHT HERE. WHY ARE YOU LOOKING IN THE CORNER? YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOOK IN THE CORNER. LOOK IN FRONT OF YOU.”

Out of rubbernecking curiosity, I look in the corner myself. There’s nothing going on there; interns are organizing shoes.

As of this moment, we have not been instructed as to what the hell is going on; we’ve just been told to get near the entrance of the runway. For most of us, this directive has never been accompanied by the assumption that we are only to look in front of us, at the back of some girl’s head, military style.

Fascist.

“I got my eye on you, Mimi,” he says, a creepy smiling twisting into life on his face and then walking away.

“I’m not Mimi,” the girl whispers to us.

“Yeah, I know. I’m Mimi,” says another, annoyed she’s been sucked into this bullshit.

He returns, and for a long, confusing stretch of time he opens and closes his mouth and words come out.

“The first girl goes there and the second girl goes there and then the third and you only go when the fourth one comes out and then she moves to the left and you to the right and then you come back over on this side and exit and then she moves to the center and you stand there for three seconds. It’s like baseball. You girls every heard of baseball?”

My brain can’t handle this.

We run rehearsal for an hour. Nobody is getting it. He’s angry and yelling. A lot.

“GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! LISTEN TO THE MUSIC! LISTEN TO THE MUSIC!”

Yeah, buddy. I’m listening to it, and it fucking sucks. He goes on to tell us that this isn’t your normal bridal show; it’s a kick ass, rock-and-roll fashion show, as indicated by the use of Lady Gaga’s 2009 hit, “Paparazzi.”

I look around the line at the rest of the models. I’m sorry, I meant “models.” Out of 25, there are probably 5 that should actually be working. The rest of the girls have butts, boobs, and big arms – three fashion no-nos. Their bodies are soft like puddy, marred by an unprofessional doughiness. At least three of them look like cast members from Glee or Real Housewives.

The girl in front of me, an avian thing with bleached blonde hair and a prominent nose (one of the six who looks like a model), goes off on her theory about how there is no work for the in between girl. “You either size two or size ten, zat’s it,” she says. “If you a four, forget about it.”

That theory does not apply here. This show is like the United Nations of cup sizes and cellulite.

If I sound like a bitch, it’s because I’ve been subjected to the critical appraisal of others for the better part of ten years. Oh, Jenny! Did you eat cookies this weekend? Jenny, I hate to ask you this, but did you put on weight? Don’t worry; we’ll put this on someone smaller. In turn, I’ve become as harshly judgmental as the people who hire me. It’s a ruthless way of looking at the world, one measured by the surface and nothing else.

These standards do not apply to normal people; these standards only apply to models, who are paid to be abnormal. Abnormally beautiful, abnormally tall, abnormally thin. A bunch of Avatar-looking freaks.

“HEY! YOU!”

Lunatic Producer is back to model-specific screaming, having singled out the avian girl.

“LOOK AT ME. WHY ARE YOU LOOKING DOWN? DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?”

I’m pretty sure this all qualifies as harassment. Then again, we’re just a bunch of non-unionized idiots.

“Yes, I speak English, sir. And I’m not looking at you because there is a big light behind you and it burns my eyes when I look up.”

Score 1: Team Tall People.

I duck out of rehearsal to finish my makeup with Sticky Fingers. She works a brush filled with thick foundation over my face, filling in the skin like spackle. With a smaller one, I feel her painting between the inner corners of my eyes and down the side of my nose.

“So how long have you been modeling?”

Ugh. This conversation again.

“Ten years.”

“Do you love it?”

She mixes a lethal combination of pink and coral on the side of her hand and mashes it into my lips. I can do nothing more than making an unenthusiastic creaking noise with my mouth, something amounting to a combination of “Errrrrr” and “Meeehhhhh.” I can feel my impatience for modeling becoming a dangerous liability.

“Alright, you’re all set,” she says. I feel like I’m wearing one of those Nixon Halloween masks with the cutout eyes and a slit for a mouth. My pores aren’t breathing. I look the mirror. She’s contoured my face into a bronze bust of some Greek dude.

The rest of the evening goes by about as horribly as I would imagine. The show is by and large a total disaster. They’ve changed their minds so many times that no one knows what’s going on. Girls keep shouting “straight down” or “diamond” and half the time we end up on the runway looking like brainless, bug-eyed morons. It goes on for a whole hour. By the end of it, the room is cooking with high-powered lights and too many bodies.

The music ends and the people clap, tired and eager to get out of the room. I rush towards my heap of real-girl clothes, throwing on pants and shoes and running away, quick as I can, past more bad bridal gowns – a nightmare of cheap beads and bad satin.

Story of my life.

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Paris 1

My flight’s at 9:30.  Another redeye to Paris.  Another cheap subway ride to JFK.  Dusk rests and darkness sets in, the light from inside the Air Train reflecting images back at us, everyone sitting across from their own ghost, shadows clearly painted.  I stare at me, pale and excited in a subdued sort of way.  My fall coat, my leather boots.  So much winter possibility.

The fashion camp is here.  Wardrobe stylists talk to hair stylists who talk to bloggers who talk to makeup artists.

“Oh, hi!”

“Hey.”

“What’s up?”

They all know each other, this secret society of girls who look like boys and boys who wear designer zip-up hooded sweatshirts.  Skull and Bones, only less educated.  Skin and Bones, wrapped in an Alexander McQueen skull-print scarf.  People with articulated haircuts and clothing with a point of view: skintight army pants, Dior trench coats, Helmut Lang hobos.  Everyone’s already dying for their post-Atlantic cigarette and we haven’t even left yet.

I board the plane behind a man and a woman, though the woman is actually a man dressed up as a woman.  The first thing I notice is the ass, or lack thereof.  Jeans hug onto nothing while he moves with an exaggerated feminine sway to overcompensate for the curves he does not naturally possess.  Next, his hands – affected hands swooning with a false delicacy to thwart the likelihood you might see them for what they actually are: the hands of a boy.  He kisses his Dockers-wearing boyfriend and turns left towards Business Class, silky black hair trailing behind him, his Louis Vuitton bag hanging in the bent crux of his arm.  Straight Boy Man Candy makes his way with me towards steerage, a purple bottle of Milk Chug in hand.

My seat is near the back, row 20-something-whatever.  My knees cram up against the tray table in front of me, the cabin already uncomfortably cold.  The most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen walks down the aisle with his floppy hair and his nice jaw line, his brown coat and his black shirt.  If God were a director, he would sit next to me.  Instead, God is a comedian, and the boy walks past and sits down in the last row in the seat next to the bathroom.

The plane fills up and they close the doors.  We speed down the runway and Manhattan disappears.  I pop half of a Xanax I scored in the Dominican last week and listen to the engine roar against my left ear for seven hours while I “sleep,” crushed next to the window like a bent sardine.

I wake up with the inconvenient screaming need to pee and contemplate navigating my way across the laps of the two men trapping me in, their legs like indomitable tree trunks.  I stare longingly towards the open aisle for a good three minutes, plotting plans of escape as though they were mathematical equations, my brain fuzzy from blue pills and sleep deprivation.  I give up.  I poke the man in 29C.  Move.

Light rings around my closed window as they begin to serve some terrible continental breakfast of sugared yogurt and a yellow banana.  Everything tastes like recycled air.  I open my window shade as we approach the jagged coast of France.  Farms lay out like shattered glass, a mosaic of greens and browns, the patchwork quilt of an incompetent seamstress – little towns sewn into the places between, quaint hamlets filled with people speaking French.

The rural countryside gives way to the more closely compact suburbs and our wheels touch down.  Another flight that I survive.  Another week in Paris.

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