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.