Well... Today was awkward lol! I was almost half a foot taller than most ppl at the GO SEE (the fashion world term for auditioning) the only one wearing cologne, and definitely the only one who still had armpit hair o.o
My hair was slicked back greasily like Trinity from the Matrix, and instead of the skin tight black clothing others had clinging to their body- I was wearing a pink striped men's collared shirt. WHY?!
8 out of 10 girls there were long haired, Caucasian, blonde with legs so skinny that my biceps could give them a run for their money. One of my thighs was practically a waist for most. They would flicker smiles at each other half heartedly and then sit rigidly over their iPhones. Their 6inch stilettos were sharp enough to gouge the foot of a mugger should they need to. I glanced nervously in my shoulder bag where my 3" heels seemed to glare at me.
The process was simple. Stand in front of a white wall, get some shots taken. The walk your BEST WALK 20 feet one way and back.
Walking sounds simple but it's not. First of all, imagine you are 6'2. Just tripping flat footed is enough to cause a concussion. Now add at LEAST 3 inches... Suddenly you're 6'5 and it's instant death. Now, not only are you way up there but you are on your tip toes with only practically a pencil nub to support your ankles. When they ask you to move, you have to let your legs carry you pencilnub heel to tiptoe. Your hips swaying side to side with every step, and if done right, your legs should walk so crossed and straight ahead that if a string were on the ground you would be Able to follow it all the way down without leaving it with either foot. Now do that in front of 30 people.... 26 of which can do it perfectly. 3 of whom are literally judging you on it.
Anyways, It took a moment to get the butterflies out needless to say.
The past few days I'd known that walking would be a challenge. But I also knew that like any sport, it's something you can mechanically learn and own. So I had purchased some cheap heels (in case I broke them by walking wrong) and downloaded a lot of popular female empowerment songs.
The snow made it unsafe to practice with open toed shoes... So I had to figure out a different strategy to create an artificial runway. I would go work out at Planet Fitness for five hours daily, then one day realized in the locker room there was a long 40' walkway lined with toilets and shower stalls.... With a full length mirror at either end. I would take the heels and in only underwear and a bra, strut from one end to the other, listening to jams on my phone for inspiration. The first few times were disastrous.... I looked like a newborn calf.... My legs were jelly and even standing still was impossible. Walking looked drunk at best.... Maybe even as if Id been poisoned. It took hours of blistering attempts to walk a straight confident line... And thousands of awkward looks from late night exercisers. But after several several SEVERAL strolls, I was finally able to at least walk back and forth in between mirrors (and the occasional naked showerer) and say to the reflection... "Ha! You'll get this yet!"
As I slipped on the heels in the GO SEE room I could feel the girls on either side of me staring at my feet. They were up manicured, not tanned, and definitely made for supporting a 6'2 person. I tucked my pink socks back into my boots and sat back, watching each girl haughtily do their photos. Then click down the walk, posing AT&T he end for an invisible audience.
Someone called my name. I stood up abruptly and almost skewered the girls foot next to mine with my baby heels. The photographer stared at me wide eyed, his eyes travelled to my chest swiftly then he cleared his throat. Silently he adjusted his tripod upwards. He said very little except to hold the paper in front of my face like a mug shot. Then to slouch a bit so I fit into the frame. Then after a few clicks, he furrowed his brow and pointed me to EdwRd Kim.... The main casting director for the GO SEE. Ed was a young KoreAn man with a modern styled tshirt, glasses, and the healthy glow of someone who used face moisturizer. His eyes were kind but his posture was practical. He asked my name.... I told him "Rain.... Like from the sky!" He smiled at that. He asked me where I was from, what shows have I been in, and how tall I was. I answered each one with enthusiasm.... Knowing my personality was at this point my biggest selling factor besides my androgyny.
Then he asked me to walk. I nodded as if I'd done it a thousand times.
I teetered into a beginning pose, then strolled down to the end. Instead of stopping and posing, I spun around on one heel with the action of a bad bake trick and posed in his direction. Then powered back towards him. I could tell I walked like I had something in between my legs on the way back, my feet were shoulderwidth apart instead of foot in front of foot. But instead of smiling, I just pretended that I meant to walk that way.
When I got to the end he said "Good. Very confident... Like the Stature of Liberty... If she could walk." I flashed a smile. Then he said "but I hope that unless you are DRESSED like Lady Liberty.... You don't walk like that. At all. Ever. Again." I laughed and thanked him for his time then rushed out into the frigid Polar Vortex of the outside world.
I had one hour to get back to the Major Model headquarters for a Fashion Week evaluation. Ugh. This included potentially shots in lingerie (of which I only had boxers and a bra), a study of my portfolio, and then.... A critique of my walk. Again. Same day.
I didnt want to mess it up twice so I ran into a hotel and practiced in the bathroom. An older lady said "Young man just because you're ashamed to be walking in heels in the men's bathroom doesn't mean you have to do it in the women's either." I pulled up my shirt and flashed her. She walked out wide eyed.
Two trains and half a bagel later I found myself in the headquarter lobby, chock full of gorgeous women, all with those skinny legs, and dazzling eyes. There were a few odd ones out- a girl with Pink hair, a girl with crazy eyebrows, and a sassy model from Korea who was using trail mix as a social device to mingle with other models. I sat quietly. At first everyone stared at me... Wondering why I was there perhaps with my portfolio in my hands. But then an I house Agent named James suggested I be in heels alreAdy. The minute I put those on, people because even more confused. Finally one girl approached me and asked what I was doing there.
I explained to her that I was an andro model and showed her my portfolio. She laughed and called over some other models, who all took a look. They all giggled and said they thought I was a male model. I laughed back and said "well at least you knew I was a model." That seemed to break the ice, and slowly I was able to ease in socially with each of them. One girl said to me "you know, I normally keep to myself during these things. But, since you aren't really competition for MY market- I feel a little safer sitting next to you. May I?"
Finally, after combing through people alphabetically, they finally called me in. I was able to walk into the room on the heels just fine. I was introduced to a runway coach with intense but smiling eyes by my handler Domonick. "She's a... Project we are working on... Um she needs some work. A lot of work." He asked me to take off my shirt and walk for them. I nervously mentioned I had just learned to walk in heels that week and went to the starting point. I strolled towards them, my ankles rolling slightly, the bottoms of the heels slipping on the faux wood flooring. I walked like a man. I could feel it.
When I got to the end, the runway coach shook her head and took a deep breath in. "Yeah girl you need help. Ok, go back to the beginning. You need to let your legs carry you... Not your body. You need to be more confident in the way you step."
I returned to the spot and tried again. I want even finished before she shook her head. I laughed nervously. "Don't smile. Never smile halfway down the runway!" She gave me a demonstration of how she wanted me to walk. Then had me go back to the beginning. This time they called the president Katia in to watch as well. No pressure right?
They gestured me to come at them. This time I put my shoulders back and had my feet take me forward. The runway coach grimaced a bit but shook her head up and down slightly "that was a little better." Katia nodded "that was a little better from the last time I had you walk".
"Now walk for us as a man."
I took of my heels and dashed to the starting point. Then took off to the end powerfully. Everyone studied me approvingly. The runway coach smiled "well there you go."
I thanked them and stood there nervously. Domonick looked me up and down. "Look Rain, you have a great personality and a look but that can only get you so far. At some point, you have to also be a great model too." For some reason those words stung a little. I said "well, I'll definitely practice, for sure-" he noodled and cut me off "and another thing, models don't talk often. They are cool people, like you are a cool person, but when they are going on a call... They say yes- no- that's it. They are quiet. People want to look at a model not hear them." I laughed, "yeah, I definitely saw that today at the casting call-"
The runway coach interrupted me this time, "see? That's an example of a time when you should just say. Yes. Okay. End of story. Not go on and on."
I blinked. "Ok."
The runway coach looked at me. "Katia is going to set us up with a date together to work on a few things."
I gave her a thumbs up "ok."
She looked at me quizzically "it's not impossible."
"I'm a quick learner, I promise."
"I can see that. Let's hope it's quick enough."
And with that I was sent out into the street again. I didn't feel angry or upset. I felt frustrated. All my life I'd never fit in with any crowd really.. Especially the femme one. It feels so weird... So fucking weird to have been able to master this male side of me that I am not even biologically connected to. It feels embarrassing to be so disconnected from the energy that surrounds the female form which I AM biologically connected to.
I am a woman. I was born a woman. I love being a woman. But... The way woman is defined by marketable modeling and commercial standards... It makes me feel alien to myself. Are these 36Ds and a vagina all I have to prove that I'm a lady to all these designers?
These next few weeks will be truly an exploration of that side of myself that I've never really been introduced to. Another light and being that has not had permission to expose itself. The one that is vulnerable, soft, seductive...sultry. The one that we claim is feminine. How I will discover this side, I don't know. All I can be sure of is that I have never felt so much pressure to be a woman as I do now. And though I've been one all my life, I'm beginning to realize that perhaps I've never truly been one at all.... By our standard definition.
I will conquer FEMMEness.... And then I will turn it on its head and redefine it for the world to see. Because no one should ever feel this disconnected from their own identity ever again.
I will be Lady Liberty.