“This is not the look I was going for.”
Towel in hand, the photographer is wiping up the dusty remnants of a weekend renovation spent dividing two windowless studios into three windowless studios. It looks like a stable for animals and something about the encroachment of space has made the task seem less humane. They’ve taken away the sofa in the corner and now everyone has to share the same music while we shoot ecommerce all day.
Czech model Bara Holotova has one of those faces that you don’t have to do anything to—there’s no need for much maintenance beyond maybe a smear of Chapstick and a flick of Maybelline. Her cheekbones do the talking. I mean, you could keep change in those gorgeous little hollows. Still fresh into her teens, Bara started off in 2007, a pretty little Lolita with a wicked pout and porcelain skin. If Anna Paquin, Behati Prinsloo, and Lara Stone had a baby (if only!), it would be Bara. And so our little supermodel/superactress hybrid has been doing the rounds for the last few years, switching up her hair like most people change their pants. Just because you don’t technically need to do anything with a face like that, doesn’t mean agencies aren’t going to want to bleach, chop, and shred your hair into the 8th dimension on the off chance you might finally book, you know, Prada.
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.*
The job is in a department store. When I get the call sheet I know it will involve rich people drinking cocktails and me standing on a wooden box wearing clothes I cannot afford. Yet. Clothes I cannot afford, yet. I tell myself I will one day be able to justify the purchase of Saint Laurent and Prada even though I have witnessed firsthand what a ridiculous thing said pursuit is. “Pretty clothes. Empty souls.” A friend once told me that.
The following is an excerpt from a piece seen on Lady Clever:
Over the last six years, I’ve done my fair share of complaining about modeling. The weird bones that have presented themselves on my feet because of shoes three sizes too small, the pinching and poking and general forfeiting of my person, the girls with putty brains and mouths filled with nothing: It’s all been annoying, and I’ve been pretty vocal about it. Comments like, “But you could do this forever!” have been met with a lot of eye rolling and “Dear God, no thank you.” I carried around a chip on my shoulder because I wanted to come off as something better than a model, a person not just complacent with being nice to look at–maybe. It’s hard to say how much of my outward disdain for the business is about genuine irritation or obligation to play the straight and narrow, work hard for a good life instead of having it being handed to you. Because over the last ten years, I’ve been handed plenty.
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.
The following is an excerpt from my piece “NYFW: A Guide for Creepy Pervs” as seen on The Style Con:
It’s New York Fashion Week casting season and you know what that means! Time to break up with that girl you’ve been dating! There’s no place quite like New York to live in the perpetual quest of the Bigger Better Deal, and no better time to capitalize on that dick-driven delusion quite like NYFW. Yes, this is a magical time in a magical place. On any given Sunday there is always someone richer, hotter, and younger than what you’ve currently got welded onto your ankle, chaffing your skin and annoying the shit out of you. NYFW, with its parade of 100-pound baby aliens, will make you regret every vaguely old, not entirely pretty chick you’ve liked over the last ten years, sending you weeping into your pillow at night over years of low standards. Love really is a beast of burden, especially when you’re trying to prove to all your dude friends that you’re the man in the Bang Department. That’s right. Bang Department.
The following is an excerpt from my piece “Gracie Van Gastel: From Nada to Prada” as seen on The Style Con:
In modeling, there are some girls who just start out getting it. Even in the most horribly lit,over-styled, makeup-caked test shoot taken in the bowels of some photo studio in the middle of anti-fashion hell, they manage to shine through against all odds, communicate their, I don’t know, model aura or something. I’ve seen these girls operate in real-time, and, say what you will about the talent required to model, it’s something to behold. These girls are the unicorns, the girls who, at ages as young as 14 years old, when most acne-riddled twerps are just freaking out about whether or not the shoes they wore to school were Popular Kid Approved, possess a transparency that took myself, as a model, over eight years to get, which, given the brevity of most modeling careers, is about seven years, eleven months, and thirteen days too long. But the unicorns… they’re the lucky ones. They’re like Harvard-bound dorks born understanding calculus. Only, you know, these are fashion babes destined for Vogue.
The following is an excerpt from my regular series “From Nada to Prada,” as seen on The Style Con:
When Chinese model Xiao Wen Ju first got her start in 2010, she arrived on the scene with the over-dyed, strawberry brown hair one might find on any frightfully ordinary lass in a domestic cell phone campaign. But to be booking that haute couture ish, you better be lookin’ extra-ordinary. Just a few months into the game, Xiao got the memo and quickly took her hair back to its dark, silky roots. Voila! A star is born.