I sat seminervously in a barber chair that had been set down as an artistic installment for models to settle into as they waited to be seen by the designer. The room was surprisingly only scattered with a few people... It felt like perhaps this casting wasn't very popular.
The couple of models who were ahead of me were focused, tossing their hair about, and picking lint off their shirts. Except for HIM. He was leaning in a corner, his bleach blond hair accenting the furrow in his brow as he texted on his phone. His mouth was drawn in a thin line, and despite his fluorescent white clothing and sparkling teeth.... He seemed dark and broody. Very much like Malfoy from Harry Potter.
Perhaps he was having a bad day? But then again... If he was who I THOUGHT he was then based on what I'd seen thus far, perhaps this demeanor was just a part of who he was.
"Oh dear God I am SO drunk right right now! Sooooo drunk! Like you don't even know drunk!" A femme masculine voice giggles loudly.
It came from a stumbling male model, who's hair was not unlike Macaulay Culkin- nor was his boyish grin.... Which was plastered all over his face.
The designer, a young 6'4 man with Clark Kent-ish hair and a casual vintage tshirt smirks. "When are you NOT? Now I want you to put this ON and walk at least a straight line for me please."
The inebriated model flicks his wrists, "Ok... But I'm not promising anything!"
He sways in place as a jacket is fitted to him. Pants are tossed casually into his arm, he begins the acrobatic process of hopping into them one leg at a time.
For a minute I panic as it dawns on me that I might also have to try on the pants. O.O
I had been told by several models and my agency that castings require you to wear black tights or skinny jeans. A secret trick to looking as sleek as possible is to NOT wear underwear. And, ahem.... Well... I was flying freebird today.
As I frantically try to come up with solutions just in case- the intoxicated now dressed model wobbled over to the desk. (Let's call him McDrunkles). The designer nodded at him.
"Now give me your best walk."
McDrunkles takes a deep breath and like an automated machine starting up, his posture suddenly aligns, his feet move shoulder width apart, his eyes narrow, his lips purse, his shoulders flex back, his butt tucks in and he takes off powerfully down the invisible runway. Every step is solid and confident, not a single waver.... Not a single stumble. He poses at the end and veers back halting abruptly in front oft he designer.
"Wow.... I did NOT think you would be able to do that..."
McDrunkles bows and then tips over, catching himself on the table. He apologizes minutely.
The designer shakes his head in playful disgust. "Lucky for you, our dressing rooms are stocked full of imbibements so you'll be just fine if we cast you."
McDrunkles high fives him and then sways violently for a moment as if an earthquake were occurring. An intern leads him over to a swivel chair and shoves a mug of coffee into his hands.... To which he sips as he twirls his seat in circles.
Then HE... The guy who looked so familiar brushed by me. He strode up to the designer desk, shook hands, and put on one of the items. Then went straight into his walk.
He muscled forward, his shoulders crawling with his feet. His lips puckered into a parted semi duckface, his hands clenched, his boots thudding on the wooden floorboards. He pauses at the end and gives a sneer to an invisible audience, then returns. The designer thanks him, shakes his hand, and just like that he's done.
He grabs his bag and slides through the door swiftly. The person who's checking in models in the waiting area watches him go and shakes his head slightly.
I HAVE to know at this point or it's going to drive me crazy.
"Wow... That guy sure looked a lot like Chris from Americas Next Top Model huh?" I smile at the check in intern.
He laughs as if I've told a big joke. "Yeah haha hardly recognize him without the parrots on his shoulder right?"
"So... That WAS him?"
"Man hahaha you ARE killin ME! Hahah don't harp on the guy so badly, that show made him kind of antisocial. It's not his fault he's the way he is. You know, when people become known as celebrity villains.... Their lives change."
Omg so it was true. The bleach blond model I had been sitting next to was Chris Hernandez... Who was just barely only the previous season of Americas Next Top Model. He was the main villain and a top contender for prize. What was HE doing here?
Suddenly I saw a sign with a breakdown of models they were expecting to see and where they were known from. Television reality celebrities, top European models, even a few singers were on list. A bullet point of accolades came after each. There were only About 50 names on the board. On the bottom there was mine. I was the ONLY model without ANY credentials after their name. It said simply "muse".
The designer had his head down as I approached. He asked to see my book, and flipped through the photos half heartedly. The first four are male shots. Then... he gets to a femme photo. He finally looks up. He shakes my hand again. He looks at the girl next to him and grins.
"I am SO excited to have you here! SO excited! Omg yes wow, yeah now I remember, you look exactly like my muse. The person I designed all these clothes after. EXACTLY like her! Doesn't she? He? Um....."
"Oh, well wow yeah we have GOT to put you in THIS." He grabs a jacket.... And no pants. THANK GOD! "Walk for me?"
I go to the curtain in back, on my return, he practically squeals. "Yes... Yes..... Omg yes. Ok. Great thank you. Good. Um. You a re gonna need photos taken over theeeere."
I'm pulled aside by Phototakerlady and snapped some shots of. McDrunkles pats a seat next to him when I'm finished. "Come sit downnnn! Sit with meeee... Tell me alllll..."
I lean against the table and we chat about gender, alcohol intake during auditions (as in-- he does and I do not), and he pulls out a mini airport sized shot of tequila.... Advising me on how brilliantly wonderful they were for concealment and portion control. The designer jokes with us for a moment in between castings, and then pulls out my comp card. He takes out a sharpie and writes on it.
He holds it up for me to see. It says "YAAAAAAAAAAASSSSS!" He gives me a thumbs up.
Until my agency calls me and says I'm booked, I'm not going to celebrate. But I can't help but beam hopefully!
And then just like that I'm back out the door, on the subway, munching on the worst slice of pizza in my life... And headed to one more casting.
This one was different. I was actually very excited about it, but also unsure of what I was walking into. The designers were a duo who called their brand Eckhaus Latta. The NY TIMES Fashion Week Review says "Ekhaus Latta is a brand of virtually unwearable clothing... Yet popular."
The location is set on the fringes of China town.... Where little Italy nestles snugly two blocks away. A lot of angry shouting in the street in several different languages and dialects umbrellas me as I search for the entrance. Sandwiched in between a liquor market and a wonton restaurant, a man sits by a door as if guarding it. I nod at him, slink past, and dash up the stairs. The hallways are narrow and each floor has something different.... A dental office, a paper press, a pseudo kitchen thingy.... All th way to the 6th floor. I catch my breath and slide inside.
There are only two models at this location as well. A group of smiling young well dressed individuals sits in a cluster 10 feet from the door. One of them looks at me and smiles. He reminds me of the mischevious Peter Pan, and is wearing a tunic that perhaps inspires this thought. His highly androgynous face beams.
"Welcome in! We are going to need to see your book, comp card, and if you could take off your shirt and leave it over there-"
I realize they think I'm a man. A part of me debates stripping anyways.... Juuuuuust for the fun of it. But I decide to give them an option. "Are I you sure? I DO have 36Ds so.... I mean if you WANT. To see those-"
They all stare, laughter breaks out, they take my book and murmur as they flip through it. Kinds words, compliments, wows etc rise up. I blush madly. I haven't received so much positive feedback in one day before.
They ask my gender preference, I clarify that I'm a woman, born with breasts and that I just have a nice jawline. They ask me to walk for them... And I'm told by PeterPan to do so without any specific gender influence. Just to be as I feel.
That was new for me.
Bt the freedom to sway my hips slightly, roll my shoulders forward, and keep an even chin was refreshing. They all nod. More compliments. I can barely handle it. They ask me to walk again... Bt slower as the runway they anticipate using is much smaller. I do as they ask, and then stand in front of higher one more time. The stylists ask me once again if I have a gender preference to represent on the runway. The designers ask the same thing.... and if I felt comfortable in heels. Lastly, PeterPan asks me if he can take a photo for his Instagram. I told him only if we could trade!
He posts up the photo on his social network. Everyone shakes me hand again and says they will see me soon. Once again I remind myself that noting is a guarantee until the agency calls to confirm at it's been booked.
And back into the street.
I pack my stuff from Brooklyn and prepare to run to my next couch surf in Queens. I spend the next four hours in silence, not quite processing the day. But when I arrive at my destination, I get not he phone with a close friend...and see that I'm officially up online as one of the people in the Men's and Women's packages for fashion week as promoted by Major.. And suddenly I start crying. A whole flood of tears and emotion just pour out heavily.
I couldn't believe it. I could NOT friggin believe it.
Do you know that just over two months ago I was WATCHING the show Americas Next Top Model each week with my friend Jen. We would see an episode, then exercise to work out videos off from YouTube. We always booed at Chris' villainous character... And when we found out that ANTM was hosting auditions we went to LA, BAKERSFIELD, SAN DIEGO.... Everywhere. We spent money we didn't have, waited in line for hours, practiced what we were gonna say to each other, filled out tons of paperwork, paid for printouts of our crappy photos. We dreamed.
I'd never thought modeling would be my field. For a while, I was content to be in a couple of shows.... Do films....scrape by. I was living in a moldy dark basement of a community home holed up by a close friend (who also lived there too!). I was unemployed officially, had just spent 6 prior months sleeping in my car in a marina... And when I lost that vehicle due to the fact that police caught me sleeping in it and towed it.... I slept on people's lawns, doorways, and in parks. Even a period of time was spent in the woods, in which if attacked by raccoons.... Would then turn into sleeping on the floor of a public bathroom.
I would table surf... Which consists of going to places like the Westfield Mall, waiting for people to be finished eating, then if they don't dump their trays- you take whatever you like off from them. Do random gigs off from craigslist, staffing agencies, etc.
Why didn't I just get a real job? A 9-5? A stable paycheck at some random place?
Because I thoroughly believed, that if I focused on what I wanted.... 100% deep.... That I could do it. I honestly thought I could be originally, a lucrative actor or film maker. I dedicated EVERYTHING to it. I wrote letters, set up shoots, made short films all summer long... Even worked on HBO sets as an extra.
I was afraid of getting a stable side gig. I did not want to be derailed from my goal.
Modeling happened accidentally. I'll explain in a different story.
But basically... One day- after going through all this crazy crazy low quality lifestyle... I suddenly woke up and had a massive feeling that I needed to go into FORD. The conviction was so strong hijab I booked a bus THAT night I only $30 extra in my pocket and went down to LA.
What was wrong with me, I don't know. I felt possessed. I had no real portfolio, my resume was limited, I was broke as hell. I didn't have money to spend doing this... What was wrong with me?!
Immediately, FORD took interest and the head of the men's division said that my market was NYC. I was told that if I ended up in NY that my information would be forwarded over.
Before I could even breathe, I'm in NYC. My grandmother paid for my ticket with her hard earned cabbing money, my wallet has a little over 100 bucks in it. I don't know the city... My portfolio is just as crappy... My resume just as small. But I went into EVERY SINGLE AGENCY I could. FORD, WILHEMINA, DNA, IMG, AIM, NY MODEL MANGEMENT. Then one day, I made phone calls to a few I found after researching agencies who have famous andro models. And that's how I found MAJOR.
There were offers from 6 agencies.... But MAJOR was the only one that embraced me for doing both MEN and WOMEN. The others wanted me to do MENs boards solely.
The catch was that I had to remain in NYC for Fashion Week and be a part of the show package. That may seem a haily ever after, but... I wasn't prepared.
Suddenly I found myself in a situation where I had no stable place to stay, no funds in the most expensive city in the world, and due to the on call nature of the FW GOSEES I was told not to get a job. Not to forget it was the Polar Vortex.
So here I am, exhausted, broke, hungry, alone, awkward and wondering what the hell I'm doing here. I felt my opportunity could be stripped at any moment. That Fashion a Week might not pan out positively. That I'm not femme enough....
And I'm in the same room as someone I'd just seen on television.... Who I'd wished I could've been two months ago. I'm vying for the same opportunity. The same designer. And we are on the same package for the same agency.
We were equal...
He as just as human as I as, and just as much at the mercy of the casting director as I was.
Your life can change at ANY second.... No matter- NO MATTER AT ALL how SHITTY your situation may feel.
YOU HAVE TO STOP DREAMING.
START SETTING GOALS INSTEAD.
MAKE YOUR HOPES AND ASPIRATIONS GOALS BY CREATING SMALL STEPS DAILY TOWARDS ACCOMPLISHING THEM.
THIS ISNT DISNEY. STOP WAITING TO BE DISCOVERED. DISCOVER YOURSELF.
I know that my career may be short lived, I know things aren't easy now, but I also know how I WANT this to play out and I'm going to do EVERYTHING I can to keep on this path.
I hope you do too.
I hope you change your dreams to goals.
I hope you make time for your happiness.
Because when you discover yourself... Others do too. And your life can flip in a matter of seconds.