I want you to know that as I’m writing this post, my orange argyle sock is falling into my Converse, I have a serious case of Helena Bonham Carter hair going on, and a brief foray into the sun (I hate the sun) has left me freckled. I am not feeling too sexy for Milan, New York, Japan, or even a Walmart in Kansas.
Once upon a time, I was a model. I’m not even making that story up. Like all models, I was chosen because I fit some important characteristics:
Modeling Requirements Brought To You, Of Course, By eHow:
1) Be tall and skinny. As in, cocaine addiction skinny.
2) Have exotic features.
3) Get clear skin, nice hair, and straight teeth.
4) Be ambitious and willing to travel.
Oh, wait, that’s not right.
Modeling Requirements I Fit:
1) I have hair.
It started when I agreed to work for my college newspaper. After the first meeting I ever went to, my friend Charlie, the editor-in-chief, walked up to me and said, “Are you free on Thursday? Because I need your hair.”
My first thought was, “But… I need my hair.”
After a little more explanation, I was told the paper was showcasing local businesses, including a salon, and that she wanted my hair to remain attached to the rest of me. I agreed because I was new, scared, and because there was no way to argue I didn’t have what she wanted.
The day of the shoot, I met my friend Sarah, who is a photographer, a person I blog about a lot, and another accidental model, at the salon/boutique on Main Street. Charlie introduced us to the owner, who fit all of the requirements in that first list up there.
She looked us up and down, turned to Charlie, and said, “I thought your models would be… taller.” The three-second pause where she chose the right word will haunt me until I die. I should have known right then and there that bad things were coming.
Things the Salon Owner and Hair Stylist Said to Me While Fixing My Head and How I Responded
1) “Oh, honey. Your hair’s so thick. It’s like a thick forest that no one can live in.”
2) “You put on mascara today? Was it your first time?”
“…Yep.” (It was not.)
3) “It’s a good thing you have such a tiny head.”
“It once got me almost thrown out of a softball game. It’s a really interesting story.” (It was not.)
4) “I’m putting makeup on you because I can’t let you– I just can’t.”
I’m pretty sure they didn’t like me because I accidentally interrupted the stylist’s story about how her father had a warrant out for his arrest to ask where a person could buy a box of 500 bobby pins. “The store” is all I was told, and then after curling, straightening, and re-curling my hair, she stabbed me in the head with every single one of those 500 pins.
Throughout this entire process, the owner was strapping things onto my head. She pulled necklaces, bracelets, and scarves off the shelves and pinned them to my head until she found the look she was going for, which was evidently a garter belt wrapped around my forehead with a giant brooch pinned onto it.
I avoided looking in the mirror the whole time and when they were done I looked up to see a Bride of Frankenstein ‘do with cheekbones you could stab someone with, and then it was time to get dressed. The owner decided which outfit would look the least ridiculous on me. I managed to avoid a denim minefield by staring at it and saying “Uhhh” for 10 seconds straight, and ended up in a white, tissuey dress and a brown belt with some weird hangy things attached.
The changing room is not a place where I excel. I am always the slowest person to change, probably because I spend a lot of time looking in the mirror going, “Oh dear. Really?” and an even longer amount of time worrying about how the people outside the changing room are wondering why it’s taking me so long. I’ll admit that I panicked. I pulled the dress on over my head and got stuck inside it. I was only caught for a second, but it was long enough for claustrophobia to set in. I was flailing around, trying to get a dress over my head without messing up what the stylist had just done, wondering if they could hear me flailing on the other side of the curtain. I finally got a hand in the right hole, then the other, and I pulled it over my head. And then a terrible thing happened. I pulled the back down so it settled in the right place and I heard a very small tearing noise. The tissuey part of the dress had caught on my necklace and it was tearing at the back. I freaked. I didn’t know what to do, so I reached up, and snapped my necklace in half. I’d only kind of loved that necklace anyway.
When I left the dressing room, it was explained to me that the weird hangy things were not actually part of the belt. It’s just where the wrist warmers had been wedged. Wrist warmers. You know. In case your wrists get cold.
Finally, it was time to take the pictures. We were herded upstairs to a room that used to be a brothel. The features editor who was writing the story was also a dancer, so he coached Sarah and I on proper body positioning. Unfortunately for him, I have never not been awkward a second in my life and it wasn’t going as gracefully as he would have liked.
Things Our Features Editor Said to Me in an Effort to Get Me to Do Anything, Literally Anything, That Wasn’t Standing Tensely
1) “Stand up straight, Stephanie. Not like a fighter pilot. This isn’t Top Gun. Now suck in your stomach. No, I’m not calling you fat. Just suck it in!”
2) “Ok, now look sad. Look like you were really excited for a big date with a new guy and he stood you up in a dark alley. And it’s raining! And there’s a dead body in the dumpster behind you! And your parents hate him!”
3) “Well that didn’t work. Try mad. Nope. No. Stop being mad. That’s… Just stop.”
4) “Look sexy. No, that’s scary.”
5) “DO NOT SMILE. DON’T DO IT.”
6) “Turn your body this way. No, I mean put your legs over there and your shoulders over here and then sort of turn your neck so you’re looking at-but-not-at the camera. Like so.”
6) “Why do you look so tense? Your neck muscles are all bulgy.”
After hours of trying to look sexy and not scary, we moved on to the last store Charlie wanted to feature. What she hadn’t mentioned to Sarah and me is that it was a lingerie shop. I pulled off my tissuey dress, gave back my garter belt headband, and tried to look like I was super excited to wear underwear in the school paper.
Happily, when we got there the owner assured us she sold other things, too. So Sarah was told to wear jeans and a blouse, and I was given this:
As we walked (and in my case, squeaked) down Main Street to find a place to shoot, several women muttered things behind us and an unmarked police car slowed down to make sure we weren’t doing anything illegal. When we finished and I walked proudly back into my building, photogenic head held high… the desk attendant asked if I’d been electrocuted.
I’ll leave the modeling to Kate Moss. I’m perfectly happy hanging out at home in my sweatpants under my inhospitable forest of hair.
I may take up cocaine, though.
(Just kidding, Dad.)