We had a rehearsal for the Fair Lady show, which is a highly irregular occurrence. As a rule, when you are cast in a fashion show, you might have to attend a fitting or two prior to the event, but any choreography is quickly explained in the few hours before the show, when the models are all at the venue anyway, having their hair and make up done. You see, time is money and show producers don’t want to pay for any more of the models’ time than is absolutely necessary.
So it was a blessing that for my very first show, we did actually get to rehearse the routine to the music that would play on the day. I guess they’d decided to work with rather inexperienced fresh faces to suit the ‘Young Designer’ theme and wanted to give us some much needed confidence. Being inexperienced, we were also still cheap.
The second bit of luck was that we were doing the entire show barefoot and that the show director, Lucilla Booyzen (previously known as the angry little redhead lady), really wanted us to walk super normal and naturally. I remember being at the rehearsal, strolling down the ramp to “No, no, no, you don’t love me this I know now…” and Lucilla saying “You’re really feeling the music, wonderful.” This a mere ten minutes after she scolded me for standing with my arms crossed in front of me… Apparently a no, no, no while listening to Lucilla talk!
The day of the show finally arrived, and while my Bad Boyfriend was not exactly thrilled about it, he hadn’t given me too much grief. I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning, but obviously had to keep my cool and act terribly blasé as soon as I joined the other girls at the venue.
When I found the rail with my name and outfits on it, my blood chilled. The first number was a simple white linen sheath, with a tribal tattoo print in places. It had slits on both sides, coming right up to my hipbones. The linen was sheer, which meant quite completely see-through under spotlights. On my upper arm, I had to wear miniature deer horns, tied on with leather cords.
I can’t recall my second outfit to save my life, I must’ve suppressed it so deep down that the memory will never ever resurface, but I know for a fact that it was even more revealing than the first.
The final number was a nun’s habit by comparison, a tiny a-line miniskirt and a cropped knit top with long bell sleeves. A woven basket went on my back with leather straps, silk flowers artfully arranged to peek out through the top of the basket.
Which reminds me, I should explain something about Young Designer competitions. Popular themes for Young Designer Competitions include Innovation by Technical Design, Recycle/Reuse/Resurrect Nature, the Future of Fashion, Wearable Art, Culture Clash and Form vs. Function.
The grand finale fashion show then exhibits the design student finalists whose work really grabbed the judges’ attention. Inevitably, the students interpret the themes by creating the strangest, most uncomfortable, and usually nude-est attire to display their creative genius. Look, I know everyone has to start somewhere and tries real hard to be original, but what’s with all the nudity?
Anyway, once again I knew there was no turning back and I fervently wished the rest of the show over. There was a lot of press, including TV cameras, backstage and I nervously ducked and dodged my way to the stage, to prevent my poor Grandmother catching her half naked granddaughter on the nation’s favourite magazine show.
I can’t remember if the other girls were as shocked as I was by our lack of clothing, I think it was made much worse for me by the fear of some picture or snippet coming into my Bad Boyfriend’s view. Every unpleasant thing he’d ever said about me would be validated; I felt like I was compromising my morals to be in a silly fashion show. I only prayed that he would never know, and swore to myself that this debut would also be the finale in my glorious modeling career.
Mostly, ramp modeling isn’t rocket science. You walk down the ramp, turn and walk back out, but it’s amazing how complicated it can feel once you step out under the lights and observe a thousand or so faces intently watching your every move. When all that’s between your privacy and two thousand intense eyes is a little floss of flesh coloured G-string and a sheer linen sheath, mortification takes on a whole new meaning.