I stared at them as I took back the IPad from their grip. They had just read an email sent to me by a student from Columbia University requesting a meeting to write an article for a thesis paper. "why whats wrong?"
"A student? Look darling, its cute. Really cute. I admire your bleeding heart, but seriously?"
I dont think I had blinked in two minutes. Maybe my left eyebrow had twitched--- it wanted to raise up quizzically but didnt have the muscle knowledge to do so. My silence apparently was equivalent to backhanding PR Advisor across the good side of their face.
They sighed. "Darling- students... they are good to interview with in the BEGINNING of your career. the very tippy toppy--- when no one knows who you are or what youve done... or what you will ever do. But, when you are where you are RIGHT NOW in your career it can be very... how do I say this-..."
They paced around for a second. I knew what they were going to say. But I wanted them to say it out loud.
"Its just, when you have your photos and words in magazines affiliated with Elle, W, Vogue, even that most recent piece you did with Nigel Barker---- and then you place those next to a thesis piece by a kid from some school- it really waters down your image."
I nod slowly "So what you are saying here, is that if I meet with this KID- its going to bring my image down..."
PR Advisor smiles. "Exactly darling. An image that I know you have worked more than hard to acquire."
"What image?" I ask shortly.
PR Advisors smile freezes midway as if unsure whether it should be a straight line or a curve on their lips. "The success you have achieved as a genderambiguous model-"
"And how will that shift by talking to a student?"
PR Advisor laughs as if I just asked for the punch line to a joke I already know the answer to. " Because, love- it says your time is cheap. And if your time is cheap, then you are cheap. If you are cheap then so is your image. If your image is cheap than so is your value. If you want to continue to be successful youve got to maintain that image."
I avoided eye contact with PR Advisor. I suppose my looking down leant a moment of satisfaction to them, as it was likely seen as a symbol of embarrassment. But what they didnt know was that is was a moment of collection- to avoid spewing a flat of words at them unfit for human ears.
I sat down in a swivel chair for a second. The rolly spinny motion they provide always entertains my more playful side and immediately quieted the death metal playing in my head.
"What does successful mean to you?" I ask them quietly as I swirl around creakily in the chair.
PR Advisor doesnt hesitate, "Well, I guess it means you are happily accomplished in whatever you love or are doing."
"So success means you are -DOING- what you want to be doing. Correct?"
"I suppose so, thats it. On an elevated level of course- like you are doing it and not starving-"
"If a person is starving but they are breathing, could you say that they are successfully breathing?"
"So they are successfully doing something."
"So what is it that you REALLY mean by successful?" I ask.
PR Advisor mutters "I meant able to make a profit, or a sustainable life off what you are doing."
"Thats better-" I swivel back around to them, IPad swiped on. I had just looked up the definition of success via Google. I handed it to them. "Your definition of success is accurate. But can you read the FIRST definition there please?"
"The accomplishment of an aim or purpose."
"And what is my aim or purpose?"
We stare at each other. I can already see they understand what Im about to say, but I say it anyway so its out in the air.
"My aim or purpose is to create a safe space to open a dialogue whenever I feel convicted about the various impedments we have in society that prevent us from being our true selves. I want to talk about gender, race, size, age, fashion, human rights, biases- whatever needs to shift in order to make it easier or assist for every individual possible to find solidity in themselves as themselves. Whatever that may be in its purest form."
PR advisor sighs. "I know darling, I know- this stuff is important to you. But in order to do those things on a more effective level you should be talking to more effective people than a student. You understand what I'm saying love?"
"No I don't. I understand your INTENTION but I dont understand what makes a student less important than a reporter from any premium magazine. My images maybe be exclusively published... but my words are for everyone. My message is for everyone. And that means I am not truly successful in what Im doing unless Im talking to everyone about these issues, about these convictions. In order to change the world, the world must hear and see the opportunity to change.
My work as a model or an actor may not be free, because it is my work. But my message- my words- ARE free once spoken. Dont mistake FREE for CHEAP. The monetary value of what I have to offer does not reflect the value I have to offer the world. What Im offering is a CONTRIBUTION to the dialogues that inspire SAFE space to work out change and social permissions. I am not looking to sell my advice or my thoughts for monetary profit- because I want people to know that I am thinking them, that they can think them, that they are not the only ones thinking them. I am not novel in my convictions. I am not the first person to believe the various things I believe in. Im am just more visible and more published in them than some. And because of that, its important to keep speaking. To everyone and anyone that will listen and speak with me. So that all of our voices can be equally heard by being equally understood. Student, senator, or steet dwelling. And perhaps in the future, the voice of reason which tells us to live our lives content within ourselves- will be equally lived.
I know this may sound foofy and hippy dippy to you. I know it isnt the image you are used to selling of a model. But Im not a model. Im me. A human being. Capable of of more than just posing and primping- capable of change. My aim or pupose in life is not to just look pretty, or to simply be a cool swanky genderbending storyline in some magazine. My aim or pupose is to demonstrate my truth with every fiber of my being by being truly me as loudly and as passionately as possible."
PR Advisor has sat down by tthis point and is tapping his finger. "It does sound hippy dippy... or like a college essay ugh-"
"So what? Its sounds like me. Thats that. Take it or leave it."
"Ok, ok I get it. Geez. Darling- you are going to give me a heart attack."
We both stared at each other- then laughed.
"So you are doing the interview with this kid?"
"With the STUDENT- YES. Definitely yes. You watch, he'll end up becoming the next Anderson Cooper- or Martha Stewart- or Oprah... we dont know the world is his oyster-"
"Aww shut up already!" PR Advisor grumbled playfully.