Welcome to Modelslips, Jezebel's inside guide to Fashion Week as seen through the gimlet eyes of our very own 35-inch hipped, gel-schellacked, damaged-hair and hotdog-eating Anonymodel "Tatiana." She's smart! She's thin! And she's BEHOLDEN TO NO ONE. But what she was this weekend was a little bored, and so, instead of tripping down the runway (no that's not her above left), she answered your questions.
The biggest difference between modeling and, well, other jobs I've had, is how much surprise is inherent to the former. It's kind of cool that, on a given day, you might get a call from your agent informing you that you're booked on the next plane to Prague. The perpetual motion of fashion pulls even people like me, the totally unknown, relatively-interchangeable, low-hanging fruit of the modeling world, to locales we might never have dreamed of, back at home. And then sometimes, it doesn't.
This weekend, Diane von Furstenburg had her show, as did Alexander Wang, Hervé Leger, Preen, Miss Sixty, Abaeté, Sass & Bide, Threeasfour, and Tuleh. Even Elisa Jimenez, that spit-marking freak, and Zulema, that crazy-eyed model thief, had shows. I was on option for a total of five jobs this weekend, including one or more of the above. An "option" is modelspeak for a Pretty Good Shot at a job — it means the client likes you enough to want to officially nab first dibs on you for a given time slot. Some options get upped to confirmations, some dematerialize for reasons unknown. Of course, as with grades, there is options inflation: Prada is notorious for putting hundreds of models on option for shows or campaigns and then picking only a half-dozen or none at all, in which case they'll just start their process over. But, in general, options are strong indications of interest, and over the long term as many as one half should come through. Given the rough formula of Jobs = Options X .5, I thought I'd be working all weekend.
Instead, my options collapsed like a house of cards. Every last one canceled. Even the designer who, right after his casting last week, called me back uptown and kept me in his studio for five semi-clothed hours, causing me to miss three other castings while I feverishly wriggled into and out of every scrap of cloth the man designed in the last six months — the designer whose wholesale volume I read in WWD just topped $1 million — dropped me. Five unpaid hours. Sometimes them's the breaks.
I'm afraid I consequently failed to do anything particularly model-esque this weekend. Aside from going to the usual castings, and hitting up a sample sale where I popped my Christian Dior ready-to-wear cherry to the tune of $200, I did not actually work. I did not get my hair done, nor was my makeup professionally applied. I did not walk as if my shoulder blades were tied together by an invisible thread, and I did not go to any crazy cocaine-and-champagne parties at sweaty clubs in the Meatpacking District where a quarter of the models were drinking water to feel "full." I did not see the Fug Girls or Fern Mallis or even Nolé Marin. I sat home watching crappy TV, went to a museum, and wondered why I keep reading about Max Azria talking up the apparel economy when my agency has BCBG on its blacklist for non-payment.
But I'm not in low spirits. I'm confirmed for various shows this week — heck, even Chanel Iman had a slow start to her New York fashion week last season — and if my five weekend options all fell through, then the formula should hold that nearly all of my remaining options should come through. Either that or I'll find out I'm going to Prague next weekend.
Instead of regaling you more with tales of my uneventful weekend, I took the opportunity to answer some of your (very thoughtful and much-appreciated!) questions.
1. From Wolf Biter: What's the most ridiculous direction you've ever been given on a photo shoot? How do you feel about nude shots? Who's the nastiest designer you've worked for? The kindest? Who is the most like Jacobim Mugatu?
I'm fine with nudity, personally. I consider it a point of professionalism to just wear the clothes you're given. The stylist picked them for her own unsearchable reasons, and it's not my job to say things like, "Oh, I'm not comfortable wearing a huge crucifix/exposing my left nipple/jumping around in those ridiculous Hammerpants." I'm a model. The least I can do is wear the clothes. Luckily enough my boyfriend has no issues with my chest appearing in the occasional fashion magazine. My professionalism finds its limits in only one area: depictions of smoking. I just don't see why I should advertise Philip Morris gratis.
The nicest designer I've ever met was also the most deeply annoying. Kris Van Assche stole my boy Hedi Slimane's spot at the helm of Dior Homme, and for this I will never forgive him. Hedi Slimane could design darts that made me weak at the knees. Hedi Slimane took a fashion backwater where the main creative activity was making the two-button-suit v. three-button-suit question seem new! each! season! and turned it into a phenomenon people actually paid attention to. Men in skirts! Madonna in menswear! Karl Lagerfeld lost over 88 pounds to wear Hedi Slimane's suits. That is a fucking fashion talent. And then his first assistant, Kris Van Assche, took over the label and made this.
So even though he seemed like the nicest guy in the world when I met him, I was still crying on the inside. Because just one season prior, I would've had the chance to touch Mr. Slimane.
2. A series from goodcheapfun: Is it funny or horrifying to watch a fellow model take a dive on the runway?
Horrifying. And always particularly horrifying because nobody ever steps in to help: at a lot of runway shows, the front row is seated just inches from where we walk. But there's a kind of diving-bell/don't-touch-the-strippers aspect to runway work. Whether it's Naomi Campbell plopping on her ass or just poor Kamila W. hitting the floor, nobody ever offers a hand. I live in fear of ever working a Vivienne Westwood show. I adore her aesthetic, and applaud her stance on hiring minority models. But she has a longstanding habit of expecting her models to walk in 9" fetish heels, heels that can and have broken ankles. I think I'd be too frightened to take a step.
3. Are underage models, i.e. 15, paid fairly or are they taken advantage of (and how the hell can they work in the US, don't we have child labor laws?)
I think the teens are paid as well as the models who've reached the age of majority. There's no such thing as youth rates for modeling jobs — but most of the youngsters have higher expenses, since they need to live in chaperoned apartments, and/or have a parent traveling with them, so they'll see less net from a $4,000 job than, say, I would (come on, someone, send a $4,000 job my way! I have consumer debt like the rest of y'all). In general, I think you're less likely to be sexually harassed on the job if your high school profession is modeling instead of the ubiquitous alternative, retail. I've done both. Modeling is full of gay men who tell you you're fierce and make ribald jokes you can actually laugh at. Retail is full of creepy managers constantly undressing you with their eyes and angling to cop a feel. As for child labor laws, I think modeling falls into the exceptions governing entertainment and the arts, so there are child and teen models the same way there are child and teen actors.
4. If models eat do they promptly throw it up?
I don't, and I've never knowingly lived with a bulimic model. The rates of eating disorders among models, for all the attention the issue has attracted, are actually relatively unstudied by academics. One extremely small, non-peer-reviewed study performed at the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2007 compared models with female undergraduates, and found that the prevalence of eating disorders did not differ significantly between models and students. However, models were significantly more likely to smoke, and twice as likely as students to report vomiting after meals. But all the models who admitted vomiting for weight control claimed to do so only occasionally, meaning they wouldn't necessarily all meet the criteria for a bulimia diagnosis.
5. From BadUncle: If I can toss in a question, I'd like to know if you ever feel proprietary about your image? Like, do you get angry or embarrassed by a client's concept or a photographer's execution?
One of the few reasons I still read American Vogue is for Jeffrey Steingarten's food column. Like lots of models, it's never been my favorite fashion mag because it's very repetitive month-to-month and even page-by-page in some cases. But Steingarten's a genius. In a piece about the truffle hunters of Piedmont, Italy, Steingarten asks one of his sources, a man who's coming to the end of his career, what he dreams might await him in heaven. The old man pauses, and says that all he would really, really like to see is all the truffles he's ever retrieved in one room. Just to see what they look like, all together in one place.
I have kind of the same feeling about my pictures. I sell the rights to my image for a living. I'm complicit in my own objectification, and I have no role in the creation or dissemination of the pictures I animate, yet I'm still unmistakably there. I do not feel proprietary about these images — I think you give up that right when you sign the agency contract — but I do feel a strange sort of attachment to them. I get my photo taken dozens of times daily, if not hundreds. Every casting agent snaps a zillion Polaroids (sometimes I think the fashion industry is single-handedly keeping Polaroid in business). At shows, where everything from the hairspray to the nail polish to the champagne is sponsored, photographers from all the donor companies crowd the backstage, getting hundreds of frames of whatever in the makeup artist's hands. Then, on the runway, the whole press corps snaps away at you, not to mention editorials, with their hundreds of discarded frames. They're all tiny, tiny parts of me.
Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to see every picture I've ever appeared in in one place. How high would the stack be? How many megabytes would I fill? When do I look most confident? Most nervous? What was my best haircut and color after all? When there are so many pieces of you out in the ether — liable to turn up in in miniature on the back pages of magazines with captions like "Models backstage at the X show," or plastered on posters for the public to scribble on, or stored in a designer's archives as an indelible record of collection Y from year Z, should anyone ever care to look it up — and when your job depends on being able to take a good picture, these are the (moderately self-obsessed, semi-male-gaze-theoretical) things you think about, from time to time.