When I was 22 I was recruited by a modeling agent while I was shopping for shoes on Melrose.
I said no. Nothing about that interested me at all. At the time I was teaching anger management skills to gang members in south central LA, doing work that matter to me, walking around looking pretty meant nothing to me.
Maybe it was because I’m a people pleaser, or I’m detrimentally curious, but she was able to talk me into it. I took headshots and a few weeks later I was on a catwalk in Culver City modeling high waisted jeans, and a mesh top with no bra, with vines and flowers drawn on my face.
Backstage I was so nervous I felt like I was going to throw up. At 5”7’ and 118 lbs, I was the “short, fat” model that needed the 7-inch heels to make the $500 denim inseam work. I was in a world that didn’t belong to be, in an ill-fitting role. A seasoned model, one with dead eyes and the purse full of cocaine walked by and gave me a smirk, “First show? Good lucky, honey” in a voice as nasty as garbage.
A switch flipped. I’ve never been the mean girl, I’ve never been the center of attention girl, and I was learning how not to be push over. I smirked back.
I walked out on the long black stage, lights from all sides. Camera bulbs flashed. I was acutely aware of being nearly topless, and I owned it. I got to the end of the runway, I knew it was going well. When I got halfway back, I saw Dead Eyes at the other end, she’d paused. I put my hand up, forcing her to stop. I turned back around and did another pass, walking back to the end of the runway. For some reason, the crowed cheered at my double pass. Dead eyes had to wait, she was furious at the back of the stage. When I finally exited the stage, I did so with a death glare at my back. I very quickly changed my clothes, grabbed my things and left, vines and flowers still painted on my cheeks. I didn’t get paid for the show and I never did another, but it was worth it.
I’d much rather run around a kitchen that a runway. It was a reminder that sometimes when you don’t belong somewhere it’s not your loss. Sometimes, with a little luck, we just end up where we are supposed to be. And it fits really well.