Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Inside the Modeling Industry

They like to discover you...
When you're still a teenager.
I've seen the scouts get excited before they go on a hunt.
Camera ready they get an entourage together and head out.

When I was 15 I was invited to a fitting.
The client was a prominent Indian man...
We were given his designs to change into in front of him while he lay on a feather bed in a five star hotel.
The most beautiful young women I grew up with in their thongs or see through shirts.

They took pictures of us and measured our thighs.
When I got home I didn't tell my mom what had gone on.
Then at sixteen I learned how to pose sexy with a local photographer.
I felt my popularity in school rise.

Every man wants to date a model.
Then I dreamed of New York and at 18 I decided it was now or never.
Madison and 34th, my own hotel room, alone in the city.
I bought new clothes, size zero, and went to an expensive salon.

Cabs to the biggest agencies: they all said, "You're not tall, you're not too small, you're not edgy, you're commercial, not a model at all."
Then at Cipriani in SoHo I caught someone's eye.
He walked me into an agency, polaroids, and less rejection made me want it all.

On to Toronto for development I could choose from Ford or Next.
Next was cut throat, Ford was mine.
Before long they shot me nude from the waist down in fishnets.
They asked if I was 18 first.

I walked around the city and ate yogen fruz for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I discovered the city under the city.
I mingled with other models, beautiful women.
My portfolio came along.

My progress seemed so slow.
I thought once you had an agency you shot to fame and covers.
Vexed, I realized just how hard and competitive it was.
My life was all about maintaining a certain appearance.

You never knew who was watching you around town.
My confidante constantly gave me advice.
Then I made my move and switched to Next.
Castings around the city, cold winter, hard frost.

I lived in a photographer's house in cabbage town near Michael Ondaatje.
I took the street car and the subway.
I learned how to read a map and get around.
They introduced me to a model in a Dolce and Gabbana campaign.

She gave me advice.
I heard she made 250,000 dollars a year.
So, I thought maybe I could too, eventually.
It took her about eight years to get to that point.

My boyfriend showed me magazines with his French ex-girlfriend Elodie.
Models are high strung, obsessed with what they do, status, they might blind you.
It's a constant competition.
3% of the population have the dimensions, the face.

Then it was off to Montréal.
Before long I moved there and lived in a model's apartment below my agent's house.
He told me, "I'd be sleeping with you right now if you didn't have a boyfriend."
Sometimes he came downstairs to talk and flirt with me after he went out drinking.

He went out of town, but I was allowed upstairs.
One day I opened a box in a closet.
It was full of polaroids of very young woman in their underwear.
I drank his Bailey's, and since I was poor, I stole his change and replaced the bottle.

Being a part of a modeling agency is kind of like working for the modeling FBI.
Once you get in deeper you don't get out unless you gain weight or make a bad mistake.
You only have so much time, age is one of the largest factors.
Position yourself and fire the detractors.

He once said, "How long will you commit to this?"
Then gave me the answer, "As long as it takes."
"As long as it takes," I parroted.
I recoiled at what I felt was in store.

I felt powerless, I had no money.
They were grooming me.
But it didn't feel right, it didn't feel good, to be traded and misunderstood.
So, I rejected their offers and I changed my mind.

I fled from the city, called the agency's owner, and told him what I thought.
"You're unprofessional and rude. I'm leaving this country," I ruined the mood.
He argued, pled that it wasn't true, and tried to convince me to stay.
I suppose they did have something in mind for me.

Perhaps the wheels were already set in motion.
In California, one day I called Ruby, a model I knew at Next.
She told me they took my polaroid down from the board.
Agencies don't just "lose" models I heard.

In Los Angeles I realized I was blacklisted and couldn't go to any sister agency.
So, I joined a boutique agency run by women.
They represented Cameron Diaz when she was young.
They cut off my hair and I starved myself, but it didn't last for long.

If modeling is an art form I prefer to work for free with people who let me be me.
And now fifteen years later when someone says I should get into modeling.
I kind of stop and stare.
And when I say I was with Ford, they look perplexed, and think of the car.

Models, photographers, stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, agents, clients, designers, and scouts make a team.
Photoshopped to death.
Placid poses in hot tubs and pools by the beach.
Framed by the seasons, a new style each week.

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