“Janice Alida: From Nada to Prada” on The Style Con

Screen-shot-2014-03-10-at-11.34.46-AMThe following is an excerpt from my piece “Janice Alida: From Nada to Prada” as seen on The Style Con:

Canadian model Janice Alida arrived on the scene in 2011 with a solemn stare and a serious pout, the type of face that reminds me of someone’s sad suburban wife, waiting at home for a dude who never answers his phone when he’s on “work trips.” (Alida is, in fact, married, and though I don’t know the details, let’s just assume happily.) Porcelain skinned and blue eyed, Janice was rocking that monochromatic, dishwater look my LA agency gamely stripped me of ten years ago because they didn’t know what they were doing. “Go brunette,” they demanded. “You’ll look more editorial” – which would have been great if I were actually living in a city where you could book Vogue shoots. The type of modeling gigs you get in LA are more along the lines of dancing around a beach in a pink latex bikini singing “Don’t you want a Fanta? Fanta?” Think cheesy. Think lucrative. Think anti-fashion bullshit.*

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Show Ponies

They shuttle us to the middle of beautiful nowhere to walk in front of rich people wearing nice shoes and eating family-sized gobs of buffalo mozzarella.  The property is an estate from a bygone age when the wealthy owned grotesque amounts of land like British royalty, gardens and horse stables, brick walls and ivy.  Through the trees is a house, sturdy and Georgian, with white-painted windowsills and dormer roofs.  Soon enough, it disappears and the shuttle drops us off at a big plastic tent, which is so often the case.

The models and generator equipment make unnatural sounds in utopia and I sit in the middle of a large piece of grass praying for the wind to take them all away.  Their chitchat and deepening wrinkles.  The wind doesn’t listen and instead blows the hair around my face like fading wheat.  I watch it take to the landscape invisibly: the blades of green bending with a rubbery pep, the trees groaning in unison.  It makes ripples in my watery coffee like the surface of a pond.

An effeminate man wearing rhinestone brocade and a chinstrap beard gathers us round like the dumb chickens we are and provides us with directions.  “It’s pretty straightforward,” he begins, following with instructions to simply walk all the way down the runway and back.  I want to correct him and say that it is entirely straightforward, but I say nothing.  “When you go out there,” he continues, “I want you to have a strong and pleasant coun…” The word I presume he is going for is countenance but he stops short, assuming that its meaning would be wasted on us.

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The Death of (Me while Wearing) Platform Shoes

I don’t own any platforms myself.  As I am nearly 6 feet tall, I find the extra three inches of wood/plastic/resin excessive and a sure fire way to terrify people.  Once, when walking down the streets of New York, a man who was most likely drunk screamed at me, “Damn, girl!  You big!  You part of the WNBA or something?”  I was wearing flats.

I am currently waiting to get my hair and makeup done after a solid hour of rehearsing for Versace.  Within that hour, I fell two times.  Ate shit.  Fell forward completely.  Red knees.  The works.  I am sitting on the floor because this clumsiness has now translated into outright nervousness that I am going to break something, including myself.  I just nearly knocked my iced coffee clean off the table.

Over the last few seasons these platforms have inched up exponentially.  Today being the pinnacle of my experience with shoes that could only be designed by men who only ever wear loafers and boat shoes.

In my time, I have walked in some pretty terrifying shoes.  There were the Prada slingbacks with stiff cotton booties whose aesthetic was quite peasant chic and could easily be appreciated from afar whilst not having to wear them.  In pictures, they were lovely.  The reality for the wearer, in this case me, was a lot of internal dialogue along the lines of “F$#k”, “S^#t” and “I hope I don’t f&%$#g eat s$#t.”  That show was held in a marble church with four dangerous stairs that threatened a life as a paraplegic.

The closest I have ever come to really face planting in show involved a pair of hot pink Alexander McQueen pumps.  They were in the style of Jessica Rabbit, meaning that their construction works only in cartoons with fake feet; your feet are crammed in as vertically as possible without actually being called ballet point shoes.  Which, believe it or not, I’ve actually seen someone walk down a runway in.

The aforementioned McQueen pumps were used in a charity show for Barney’s; if I were to publicly humiliate myself it was going to be pro-bono and if I were to break a leg, I didn’t have a union.  The show was held in an outdoor corridor with charming cobblestone avenues.  For the record, cobblestone and stilettos are a disastrous combination.  While walking the football-length makeshift runway, my thighs began to quiver on the last leg of my journey.  The quiver traveled down to my ankles, which began to knock towards each other furiously.  My arms went out in attempts to balance and in preparation for falling over completely.  The former effort won out and I breathed a sigh of relief until the entire wobbly leg process happened all over again three steps later.

Today’s been a really special day, though.  My last pair look like Hot Topic gothic shoes on acid.  Plastic silver studs strap around my feet and below me are 4 inches of rounded platform.  When viewed from the side, you notice that the top part of the shoe is actually separated from the bottom of the shoe.  I am essentially wearing two shoes stacked on top of each other.  The dress that I am wearing in the show is a giant, billowing see-through gown that I envision catching on the decorate shoe spikes that no one will even see and send me tumbling into the audience onto a plate of roasted hen and mashed potatoes.  During the rehearsal I am wearing my jeans and a blazer and I still eat shit.  This is a bad sign.

The first time is right before I exit the stage, leading finale – a responsibility I’d rather do without.  I’d like to be in the back, so that if I fall, I’m not holding anyone up.  I’m walking…walking…walking…and then I’m not anymore.  That’s the funny thing about falling.  Your brain is still too busy putting together the intricate mechanics of walking that you don’t even realized you’ve fallen until you’re on the ground.  It’s a bit like one of those wind up toys that ends up on its side and continues rotating its mechanical legs until the juice runs out.  I craw through the exit door on my knees, embarrassed and with a newly broken shoe on my foot.

Our producer thinks we should do the rehearsal again.  I am nervous because my legs are already shaking and horrified because my brain can’t control them at this point.  On the second round leading finale, just as I’ve turned the second corner, down I go again.  This time I am really horrified and completely frustrated.  I jump off the elevated runway and sit on the ground, tearing off these gigantic shoes with a mind of their own – plotting my demise with each step I take.  Should we kill her…now?  …Now?  …. Go! And I’m down again.

The representative from Versace is lovely and understanding and when she sees the broken strap she says that we need to change the shoes.  I feel badly because the new pair does not go with the gown.  I’m doubly afraid that I am now past the point of no return and no shoe will ensure a safe, fall-less trip down the runway.  At this moment my body is so used to not making it around without falling over that I believe the sense memory has been engrained into my body to an irreversible point.

After rehearsal I go into hair and makeup, where I wait for the three hours for the real show to start.  My hands sweat and I feel like vomiting.  This is what happens when you lose all faith in yourself: absolute terror.

Hours later and I am backstage, dressed in some tiny silk linen dress that won’t stop puckering at the hem.  I still feel like throwing up or even running – giving up entirely might be better than toppling over into an audience finishing their lunch and raising money for Lupus.  But the music starts and I am, regrettably, still here.

First look.  No fall.  Second look.  No fall.  Third look.  I put on the new shoes that I have not given a real test run.  There is carpet tape gluing my heel to the shoe, which only means that if I fall over the shoes will stay on my feet.  I wobble out onto the runway, looking like what I imagine to be a deer in the headlights attempting to not look like a deer in the headlights – stoic, eyes bulging, taking tiny Geisha-like steps.

I round the corner, still upright.  I exit.  Phew.  I am immediately lined up to lead finale and this will be the real test.  My legs are fatigued from the nervous shaking of the last four hours and they’re begging me not to go out there.  But I am pushed from behind with a “Jenny.  Go.”  I’m back on the runway, leading a long-legged group of other girls trying not to fall in their shoes.  I’m walking.  I’m walking.  I’m in the home stretch.  I’m at the exit door.  I make it.  Alive.  Standing.  With no broken bones.

Just another stupid, entirely self-involved day at the office.

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