Thursday, April 23, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
But I digress. I was with The Bad Boyfriend. He didn’t trust me further than he could throw me, he thought all women were horrible sluts and that my wearing anything remotely flattering was a direct offense towards him.
Why I put up with this, deserves a whole different blog and probably a couple of years of therapy, but suffice it to say that he was three years older than my naïve romantic self, and he had also charmed my family into thinking that we were a normal, blissfully happy teenage couple.
I got another call from the agency. There was a fashion show casting and they were looking for really young, fresh faces. I took down the details, already perplexed.
I knew Bad Boy wouldn't like this one bit. Me, up on a ramp for the whole world to see in whatever outfit the casting director saw fit? He’d rather shut me in a closet and throw away the key. In a rare streak of rebellion I thought "Sod it, this is my life!" and arranged with my parents to take me to the casting.
I remember exactly what I wore that day. At the modelling course we’d been told that you should wear a short skirt and high heels to show castings so that the client can see your legs and your walk. My sisters were only to keen to help me find just the right look and pretty soon I was stepping out in a tight black and white striped miniskirt, a fitted denim waistcoat over a shrunken black tee and sky-high cork sole wedges. All these trendy, tiny items came from my precocious thirteen year old stepsister’s closet. I smeared on my lucky charm Vixen lipstick, added lashings of mascara and off we went.
The show I was casting for was the gala event of the Fair Lady Young Designer of the Year competition. Fair Lady sounds remarkably uncool doesn’t it? Yet it’s one of the handful of local woman’s magazines, along with Cosmopolitan, Elle and Glamour that we get here and therefore entirely respectable. I joined a long queue of tall, gangly girls on the 11th floor of the infamously ugly skyscraper hosting Media24.
One by one, we each had to walk the length of the room while an angry little lady with villainous red hair styled in a severe bob scowled at us and called out instructions. When it was my turn, I tried my best to imitate what I perceived to be a model walk. A step or two into the endless walk of shame, I knew I was failing, quite badly.
“No no no no no!” exclaimed the angry little lady. “What are you doing? Why are you walking like a horse? Take off those ridiculous shoes, stop trying so hard and just walk. Pretend you’re walking down the street with your friends, no weird model walks please!”
So I did that, thinking to myself, this is complete bullshit. I just wanted to carry right on walking when I made it to the back of the room, leave the ugly empty boardroom with the tall pretty staring girls and the angry little lady far behind me. But then she said “Great, thank you, that’s all I ever wanted. Please wait over here.” I watched in awe as the angry little lady broke a smile and gestured me over to the side of the room where five other girls, who could obviously also walk normally, sat waiting.
We sat in silence while the casting director observed and scowled and instructed. We cringed with shared embarrassment whenever someone was summarily dismissed, smiled shy welcoming smiles when someone was miraculously motioned over to our side. After a while I thought I could tell when she’d make someone stay. It seemed that she preferred the more natural, slightly offbeat girls to the gorgeous sexpots in full makeup and Wonderbras.
A pretty girl with strawberry blonde hair and gorgeous freckles came up and pouted all along the walkway. When the lady instructed her to stop pouting, she went bright red and couldn’t suppress a nervous smile. The smile revealed that she was wearing metal braces - the only reason she was ‘pouting’ was to keep her secret under wraps. We all looked expectantly at the lady, fearing her wrath. Instead she broke into another delighted smile and even laughed out loud.
“That’s just wonderful! How sweet! Now do your walk again but let me see those braces, don’t hide them away behind that silly pout!”
My mouth dropped open in disbelief.
By the end of the casting, about an hour later, there were twelve girls left. We were all tall, skinny and young but that was where the similarities ended. We were black or brown or white or yellow or pink; exotic, expressive and overconfident or plain, fine featured and shy plus everything in between.
We were models.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The really funny thing about the Fancy Bra Flyer is that I was still excited to find it in the mailbox one morning. I obviously have no pride? I don’t know if any of the kids in my school ever saw it, no-one ever said anything, so apart from this blog of course, I guess I got away with it.
And the money? I earned a whopping $40 for my twenty minutes of smiling in an ugly bra. Maybe the true worth of the paycheck is more understandable when you know that at the time I was also working as a check-out girl at our local supermarket, where I earned R3 (30 US cents) per hour. Hey, three hours of work and I could afford one Fancy Bra! With my Pep pay I could buy fifty.
That first taste of fortune and fame was not repeated anytime soon though. Before I knew it, I was in my final year of high school and thoughts of modeling were far from my mind as I had a new boyfriend.
A Bad Boyfriend.
A jealous, possessive, manipulative, criminally insecure boy who'd estranged me from my friends and kept us couped up at home when we should've been out and about having the time of our young lives. Apart from the fact that we weren’t allowed to go out and socialize, this bad boyfriend also prescribed what I wore.
This will become increasingly absurd when I tell you that I clearly wasn’t an overconfident, alluring seventeen-year-old running around in revealing outfits. If anything, I was a bit of a mousy do-gooder heavily under the influence of grunge. So when I say he prescribed my wardrobe, it means he criticized the provocative fit of my faded baggy jeans and moaned that my oversized Nirvana t-shirts were too revealing. Seriously!
To further illustrate my truly unfeminine, unflattering personal style at the time, this anecdote. In SA we wear uniforms to school. On the odd Spring- or Sportsday we are allowed to wear our own clothes. While most girls would use this opportunity to dress up in pretty, flirty little sundresses, I would uhm, not.
One particular Spring day, each senior class had to choose a representative for the school beauty pageant. On this occasion, I wore beige knee-length baggy shorts with an oversized black t-shirt, several old-silver necklaces and my 8hole black Doc Maartens. They were my prized possession and the only shoes I wore, ever. Obviously my class was a bunch of subversive indie kids as they voted me and my Docs into the pageant!
Not your average beauty pageant attire:
I went to the interview round, feeling mighty uncomfortable amongst the pretty, sweet girls in their sundresses, but what could I do? Besides, I was immensely flattered by my class’ vote of confidence. Despite the courage to do the modeling course and strut my stuff in the Fancy Bra, I didn’t actually feel like a pretty girl. I just figured I’m tall and skinny and that’s enough. Unbelievably I made it to the finals of the Miss High School Pageant and I WISH I had pictures. I wore a floor length, chocolate brown crushed velvet sheath with long fluted sleeves, my Vixen lips and straightened hair parted severely down the middle. I must’ve looked like a vampire next to the pretty ones in their pastel ball gowns!
I went to the interview round, feeling mighty uncomfortable amongst the pretty, sweet girls in their sundresses, but what could I do? Besides, I was immensely flattered by my class’ vote of confidence. Despite the courage to do the modeling course and strut my stuff in the Fancy Bra, I didn’t actually feel like a pretty girl. I just figured I’m tall and skinny and that’s enough.
Unbelievably I made it to the finals of the Miss High School Pageant and I WISH I had pictures. I wore a floor length, chocolate brown crushed velvet sheath with long fluted sleeves, my Vixen lips and straightened hair parted severely down the middle. I must’ve looked like a vampire next to the pretty ones in their pastel ball gowns!
Sunday, April 5, 2009
My mom and I arrived at a dark, cold and dingy warehouse studio in the city, where I was immediately shooed into a dressing room. I had to remove several layers of clothing, it was the middle of winter, and I was mortified to be in my underwear in front of the none-too-friendly stylist. I wondered what I would be wearing and hoped it would be something really cool and trendy.
Thus I learned my very first lessons in modelling:
Ask questions before the shoot: you're allowed to know what you're getting yourself into.
Be ready for anything: including underwear/swimwear, extreme temperatures, embarrassment.
It's certainly not all glamour all the time: in fact, mostly it's not.
You're not the star of the show on set: you're just the product.
Pay your dues: you have to start somewhere, most likely not at the top.
Please vote in my poll on the right, how much do you think I got paid for this beauteous work of art called the Fancy Bra Flyer?