Most of my income from modeling comes from showrooms.
I had no idea they even existed until I booked my first job the same day I signed with my New York agency. After a few years of being a showroom model, it has become sort of like a day job. They are usually 9-5, Monday-Friday, and very, very repetitive. The account executives that work for the designers show their clients (Saks, Nordstrom, Shopbop, etc.) the new collections, and the clients choose what they think would sell in their stores.
The models have to wear these clothes over and over again to show multiple clients in a day. Sometimes there are two clients in a day and other times there are 15. I prefer being busy because it leaves less time to worry about things that shouldn’t be worried about. I had a casting for a showroom job with a high-end Italian designer. Depending on what your agency negotiated, the models usually make between $400 and $750 per day. I had a few regular clients that I worked for each season, so it was always a relief to know I had even the slightest bit of stable income.
The casting for this job was at 7 pm on a Wednesday. I got a call 15 minutes prior from my agent. I was already at home underneath blankets in my freezing cold apartment (the landlord was a cheap ass who didn’t turn the heat on), watching “Project Runway,” and eating Morningstar Farms corn dogs. It was a pain in the ass, but I was in no position to turn down potential work, being a 26-year-old model with imperfect skin competing against teenagers.
I get to the showroom in Chelsea, but before I walk in, I take off my hat, scarf, gloves, boots, and change into five inch heels that made me walk like I had just moved to LA and fell into the porn industry because I was behind on rent, and recovering from a butt sex orgy scene for the first time. I’m not great at walking in heels, guys.
I’m taken to the changing room to try on pants with another model from my agency. The pants fit me perfectly and I stand there while three ladies talk about my hips. Apparently they needed a model that “filled out” the pants more than their size zero 15-year-old models. I’m not fat by any means, but my hips are 35 inches. An average model’s hips are between 32 and 34. It’s physically impossible for my hips to ever be that size because of, you know, bones and shit.
I change back into my clothes and when I get home my agent calls to tell me I booked five days in their showroom. Sweet!
I show up at nine the next morning with my soy chai latte, but it’s instantly swapped for an outfit and shoes to put on. I’m also told to take my hair down even though they sent two emails reminding me to put it up.
I have that stupid bend in my hair from my ponytail. Ugh, the bend.
I prance out into the showroom, walking to different tables and turning in circles listening to the clients talk about how faaaaaaabulous the clothes are. You know what’s fabulous? Beyonce. These clothes were not fabulous, unless they are on Beyonce, of course.
I’m handed sheer purple tights to put on with a skirt. The material is extra fragile, and I rip them immediately when I pull them past my thighs. Whoopsies! I take them off and hand them back to the dresser. I say sorry and she hands me new ones. I’m extra careful with them but somehow I rip them again. Son of a bitch. The tights are ridiculously small, basically designed for a woman whose legs have atrophied after being in a coma for months.
I give the “What do you want from me?” look and take the ripped tights off. She hands me a dress instead and I walk out into the showroom feeling guilty. I have my half-smile half-don’t care look on my face and stand in front of the clients staring into space. The client has to say “Thank you” twice before I hear her because I’m too preoccupied with how hungry I am, and walk back into the tiny model closet.
The account executive walks in. She’s about 50, wearing way too many accessories, and says, “divine” every other word. She asks to see me in a skirt with the fucking too-small tights. I put on another pair and they actually fit. Great, I’m not a fat-ass after all! I kneel down to put on shoes and of course the tights rip. I give up.
“This is the third pair she’s ripped,” the snotty assistant says.
“Ugh, these are the only samples we have. Why don’t we put them on a model with smaller legs?” the “divine” account executive says. I stare at the floor silently and take the ripped tights off. I put my clothes back on, sit next to another model, and pick up my phone. I wish I had one of those operating systems like Joaquin Phoenix had in “Her.”
I would say, “I’m sad, ScarJo, help me.” But she’d probably reply back with, “Shut the fuck up and stop complaining about modeling you pussy.”
It’s lunchtime and the five models are told to go eat in the kitchen so we don’t get anything on the clothes. Right, like the lettuce from my salad is going to somehow fly through the air onto the arm of a hideous $9,000 bejeweled neoprene scuba jacket.
Most of the items in the collection were only affordable to rich older ladies who bought them to appease the fantasy version of their lives. While I’m in my reality of being a human clothes rack, eating a chicken salad,
I look over and see the other models taking the croutons and cheese off their salads. I feel guilty, but not enough to eat raw spinach. I eat half of my salad and throw the rest away. Looks like I’ll be surviving on espresso for the next four hours.
So far this job has made me feel beyond inadequate. My body is too large and I’m not eating like a model should. I also had to pretend to be interested in conversations about prom dresses. I definitely put myself through more criticism than I should. The thing about modeling is the good always outweighs the bad. I would go months without booking jobs and feeling ugly, and then I’d book a job that would pay my rent for the year.
It’s almost like an abusive relationship. You stay in it because you think something great will eventually happen. The down times are the worst, though. The rejection gets easier, but the days when you need reassurance are the ones where you’re dismissed even before you hand them your portfolio.
The end of the day arrives and I walk through the snow to the 14th street subway stop. It’s amazing how you can ride the train and not make eye contact with another person even though you’re squeezed next to them for 20 minutes. The capability New Yorkers have to block out their surroundings will forever be impressive.
I always think that I look defeated after a day of work or castings. I usually stare at the ground or listen to music while half-closing my eyes. I’ve missed my stops a few times from thinking too hard and not paying attention.
I get back to my Hell’s Kitchen apartment and immediately change into sweatpants. Everyone takes off their pants when they get home, right? I see that I have a voicemail from my agent and I call them back.
“Hey sweetie, so you’re not needed in the showroom the rest of the week.”
“Is it because I ripped their anorexic tights?”
“Yes, have you been working out?”
“Yeah of course.” (total lie)
“OK, well just make sure to watch your thighs, I sent you tomorrow’s castings.”
“K thanks bye.”
I sit on my couch and browse Netflix for a movie. Oh cool, a documentary about physician-assisted suicide, I should watch that to cheer myself up. I try to convince myself that I’m not hungry, and fall asleep to the sounds of an old man with cancer taking his last breaths. Life tip: DO NOT watch “How to Die in Oregon” if you’re feeling down. It’s the second saddest movie I’ve seen other than “The Bridge,” about people committing suicide from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Wow, this turned dark. I woke up at 2 am that night and ate two ice cream bars because I couldn’t fall back asleep. I’m sure they went straight to my non-anorexic thighs.