My very first casting through Storm was a big one, and I didn’t even know it. I was instructed to go to the Table Bay Hotel in the V&A Waterfront for a show casting, wearing a short skirt and heels. I recall it was a Friday afternoon and I rushed out after class to change and chase into the city. Luckily by this time my brother had gone overseas, leaving his little blue Ford Laser in my slightly inexperienced hands!
I made it to the hotel in one piece, parked somewhere I wasn’t supposed to and hurried into the foyer. I was greeted by the sight of around eighty long-limbed girls, all wearing the short skirt-high heels-uniform, lined up outside a conference room, waiting to be seen. With a disappointed sigh I joined the back of the queue, this was going to take forever! An hour later only twenty girls had been in, come out and left and the crowd was getting restless.
I’d finally built up the courage to strike up a conversation with a slightly older girl whose face I recognized from magazines and the Storm model board, Louwina. She’d been modeling professionally since she was sixteen and had seen it all. She was the one who told me that this casting was for a VERSACE show to be held at NELSON MANDELA’S home and that all the SUPERMODELS would be there too! I listened attentively as she explained to a bunch of us newbie’s what a rare and amazing occurrence this was. Big international fashion houses never did shows in South Africa, and Naomi, Kate, Christy and Amber certainly didn’t put in regular appearances on our humble catwalks. I didn’t know whether to believe the outrageous things Louwina was telling us, but at least listening to her gush about it made the time go by.
A little flame of hope was also sparking to life inside my head. Imagine being on the catwalk with the likes of my favourite model at the time, Amber Valetta? I started building castles in the sky about being properly discovered, hand picked by Donatella Versace to star in the next Versace perfume campaign and the jet setting lifestyle my pal Amber and I would enjoy...
Look, I'm generally a sensible girl but when you feel like you get so close to these ephemeral, inspirational mirages of glamour and status, it's hard not to lose one's head just a little.
My beautiful reverie was shattered when someone of obvious authority appeared from behind the closed doors of the conference room. She was tall and blonde, dressed head to toe in black and looked severely harassed. At the sight of the slim hordes snaking through the foyer, she seemed even more upset. She went back into the room and came out with a shorter, darker version of herself. Together they started at the head of the queue, looking each girl over, then having a short, quiet conference before telling the model whether to stay or go. Instead of letting each model wait around before getting a chance to walk the ramp in front of the panel, only pre-selected ones would go through to the conference room. The rest were free to leave. On the one hand this seemed cruel and dismissive, on the other, it was going to save everyone a lot of time.
The ladies in black made their way down the queue in minutes. They knew exactly which type of model they were looking for and it seemed that there weren’t any of those at this casting! I think I saw two models being sent in to the actual casting, everyone else was summarily rejected. When Louwina got the boot just a couple of girls ahead of me, I knew I had no chance. She was taller, slimmer and infinitely more experienced. So when my turn came to stand defenseless before the judges, I saw their eyes glazing over in a definite negative, gave them my biggest smile and marched out the foyer door before they could utter their meaningless ‘thanks for coming’.
I slammed shut the door of my car, seething with humiliation and frustration, regretting the time and petrol wasted. It doesn’t matter how little you care for this business, how much you understand mentally that it’s nothing personal, it still stings like hell to be discarded so heartlessly. In time I would grow a thicker skin, I would waltz out of worse situations with a grin on my face thinking “Your loss, suckers!” but that first impulse of hurt and injured pride is still uncomfortably familiar after all these years.