I arrived to the fashion in a private car and stepped into a swarm of press in my red poofy skirt and white Edwardian shirt. I was not prepared for what would happen.
Someone hastily shoved a sticker into my hands. It read Save our Horses campaign. "Hold this up so I can take a few photos please." They yelled.
"I'm sorry but what's this for? I don't understand what's going on..." I leaned in so they could hear me better.
"It's for the Save our Horses campaign, I'm from the Daily News, we are going to make you famous girl!" The Daily News reporter was a short excited lady double fisting a flash and a camera.
I rolled my eyes. Everyone with a yacht or a camera has said this to a lady in a dress at some point in their lives. Sigh. "Can you pull this campaign up online so I can look at it?"
"Why? It's just a quick picture!" She furrowed her brow.
"Because I don't want to be published supporting anything I don't actually support."
This seemed to make sense to her, so she pulled it up on her phone. It seemed that the campaign was to keep the horses in the park pulling carriages, it listed the ethical practices used for the horses, and documentation of those ethical practices, it also had a quote about humanizing people through animal exposure. I took the picture.
"Oh one by the carriage too please! One by the horse now! Ohhh can you take one near the driver? Now just one of your alone please-"
I was getting pulled away by security escorts who were adamant about keeping our group together. There were seven models.... 6 of them had big fluffy white wigs on. I had my natural dark hair spray painted white. I didn't exactly fit in... And because of that, when we got slammed by the real blob of protesters shoving us and screaming, it was no surprise that I fell back and out of security into the crowd. I followed the group of models as various random people called me ugly, hideous, a waste of human life.
These people didn't even know me. I laughed up loud, which upset many of them. If only they knew I heard this on the daily from other people in my own industry. What were they so angry about?
Apparently, after I questioned a Protester named Rose, it turned out that they were protesting on behalf of PETA against animal abuse, and that they saw the horse carriages as a form of animal abuse. I listened to the facts she gave me.
"They are fed grain that's old and moldy with pigeon poop in it everyday. They never go outside. They have to walk to work everyday no matter the weather, they are neglected, and their owners beat them."
Well... That's a lot of intense information. I surely don't want to support animal husbandry of those proportions. By all means, if this were true I should walk out of is show right now. I mean I grew up on a farm with horses... and these ones seemed pretty fat and happy- still...
But I'm not one to believe facts just because someone yells them out at me. I need time to educate myself and do my own assessment before I act on convictions. I took this as a moment to absorb as much information as possible and investigate.
Someone threw a slushy. It missed its target and hit a reporter... I could see the headlines forming in his disgruntled head already "VIOLENCE IN TIMES SQUARE!!"
I ducked back into the arms of security. It was louder near them, protesters smushed their whole bodies against mine like They could liquefy me by squishing me, security an police yelled at them to get back.
"You're making a big mistake!" "You're so ugly, I don't know how you could be a model!" "Shame shame shame on you!" They changed over and over again. Even an elderly lady about 80 years old was calling me ugly.
For some reason I couldn't help but laugh through the whole thing. I honestly just needed some information, I had no idea what I was in the middle of. Or minute I was showing p for a fashion show and the next I'm being seen as a supporter of animal abuse.
One particularly loud protester caught up to me. "You're disgusting! Shame on you!"
I turned to her and halted much to the dismay of my security guy. "Look educate don't hate girl... Empower don't devour. Seriously how do you think people like me can make an educated and worthy effort if we don't have the facts? Don't scream and shout at those that you are trying to dissuade... PERsuade them to be a better person. Persuade me. What am I missing out on here? When you publicly shame people, it doesn't make it easy fr them to join your ranks or to see your vision. Calling me or any of my beautiful model friends here ugly is not going to make it simpler for them to help you realize your goal... Which is obviously is to get these horses ethical treatment. And my friends are clearly not hideous or evil. What you are doing is spewing hate language.... Not education language. And you're turning valuable assets against you. So educate don't hate, tell me what's up."
She blinked at me. Then before you know it she went on the same drumroll Rose did as if she had memorized it. Pigeon poop food, beaten horses, never see the light of day etc.
I was shoved into a private car to hide until our carriages were ready.
There were six of us in there. Two of the girls were crying. They hated the fact that this was happening, felt overwhelmed, and on top of that- they were animal lovers. One other girl was foreign and didn't know what was happening, she was just excited about the press then worried when the other models told her it was a bad thing.
When they were ready for us to come out, the whole car was a wreck of fluffed white wigs tweaking out on the static electricity the ceiling provided, feet that forced themselves back into heels, and lipstick stained cigarette butts from the three girls who couldn't help but "destress".
At this point, each model was pushed through the crowd and hoisted in pairs onto carriages. I was put into one by myself.
Someone hands me a Gay Marriage button... For good luck they said.
Photographers are clambering over each other, shoving protesters out of the way to get good shots. I can't help but grin ear to ear, the whole thing is like a drunk version of Circ de Soleil.
The horse takes off.
Like a soft version of a haunted hayride, the protesters popped out of the woods suddenly, screaming now and again. Their signs waving. Some walked alongside the carriage shoving their papers at me. If only I could read them... But without prescription lenses in I was unable to see anything other than blurry white boxes with scribbles on them. I felt bad for the horse... It must be an awkward day on the job for him.
Speaking of horse... This was a great time to get the other half of the story. So I struck up a convo with my horseman driver Larry.
"Come here often?" I joke.
He laughs and says "I prefer the aggro homeless people to these ones, their scaring my horse."
"Talk to me about your horse sir, seems you care for him, how long have you had him?"
He turns around and smiles, "about nine years. He's actually retiring in two years so these are special times for us."
I look at the horse as it trots forward. It shakes it's head.
"These people seem convinced you are an animal abuser.... Convince me you aren't?"
He sighs and nods. "The horse industry in nyc is heavily monitored due to rights activism in the 60s-now. The animals have an air conditioned facility, work only 3 days a week for 7 hours a day, are walked through the park and not into traffic as protesters suggest, are fed organic grains, purified water, are turned out to pasture in Amish country 3-4 months a year, are not allowed to be whipped or spurred, and must be impeccably groomed. If the protesters win and the horse industry is shut down in NYC... What happens to the horses? They will either be sold to farms where they would spend the rest of their lives working in much less comfortable environments tilling, pulling, and driving- with no air conditioned stables. And the ones who are not able to be sold and evacuate the city horse facility within the deadlines would be euthanized. As in KILLED. That's 483 horses at risk of being put into a much harder way of life or KILLED."
Wow. This was also heavy news.
"Can I visit the stables at any point to see their living environments? I heard they were in the city." I shifted the poofy skirt awkwardly.
"Absolutely, come by anytime you can see any of the horses no problem." Then he gave me his business card.
Suddenly a news reporter comes running alongside the carriage. "Excuse me! Scuse me! How are you feeling right now? Scuse me?" She was gasping for air.
"Why don't you hop in here and ask me." I laugh.
She asks the driver for permission and he pauses the cart for her. She re-adjusts herself. "Ahem, thank you... Er.... How are you feeling?"
"Great, how are you feeling?"
"The park is stunning at night isn't it?" I say. A protester throws a cup at the cart.
"You ugly whore! you are supporting animal abuse!" He shouts angrily.
The reporter looks shocked then turns to me. "How do you feel now?"
I'm beginning to see a pattern into how she conducts her interviews....
"I feel great! Seriously really really great right now."
"You don't feel bad about about what these protesters are saying to you?" She asks.
"No, it's great to see people so passionate about something. I think their delivery is a bit harsh, but it's inspiring to see people exercising their freedom of speech and right to assemble. I'm an animal rights supporter so I can appreciate the intentions of their efforts."
"Do you feel like any of it is striking home for you then as someone who supports animal rights? Do you feel more on the side of the designer or do you feel like an activist?" She's a little more excited now.
"At the current moment I'm doing my job. The designer is actually a very talented and kind man and politics aside, I'm simply a mannequin for his artistic vision tonight... Not his political preferences. As an activist, this is a great opportunity to be educated about a topic I didn't even know was an issue in this city. I've collected information from both sides, but will wait until I'm off the clock to do my OWN research... Then will take action based on my findings. But, I really can't just take what people tell me and act on it as fact. I have to know it for myself."
She nods and bits her lip. "So... Victor, what's he like?"
"Like I said, personally outside of this horse thing, he's been really kind to me. He's a talented designer, he works hard, and he's unique. Definitely a character."
"Why did he do this horse carriage runway? For the press?"
"To my understanding he just wanted a Victorian styled entrance... Like Cinderella. But you'll have to interview him for that information."
She nods and takes my name. The horse comes to a halt. Protesters surround again chanting. There is a small group of elderly women cheering for me telling me how glamorous I look and how well I did. I have no idea where they came from.
One reporter steps into the carriage foothold and hold a mic in my face. "Victor how did this collection turn out- do you think it was even seen above all the racket?"
I laugh and squeeze my breasts then say in a low voice, "I'm not Victor."
He scuttles away.
Then suddenly before I'm hoisted down, a girl comes running up dressed in all black, she's the drivers daughter. "Dad, are you ok?"
He smiles, "yes it's fine sweetie, are you having fun?"
She nods enthusiastically then whispers loudly "my friends and I are watching.... just in case..."
I'm whisked into a cab. Somehow, I end up with three older women... instead of the private car with all the models. They commend me and talk about bravery etc.
At the end of the night, after the runway, the lights close, and the people leave I hit a major issue. Someone took my contacts case...with my contacts in them. I'm in so much trouble, I have a fashion show the next day and I won't have the time to get new ones. I'll be walking blind.
I saunter down the street with my friend Kate, she helps me identify streets signs since I can't read them. Ugh.
Suddenly it hit me, this is how people walk when they don't educate themselves on the things they find passion in.... Blindly. They walk blindly.
For video and photos of the show check out this EPIC blog by WHATTHEDOOST.com