Though it’s well documented that ballerinas have notoriously thrashed tootsies, it’s lesser known that models are similarly afflicted. Just trade the pointe shoes for a pair of Peter Pilotto stilettos and, voila!, you’ve got yourself a hazardous mess of pinched nerves, sexless bunions, and none-too-pretty spider veins. Yes, friends, even your favorite supermodel can’t say she’s perfect from the ankle down.
Don’t believe me? If you haven’t seen this picture of model Sojourner Morrell’s bruised and battered foot (who likely wished as never before that she be anonymous) from the last day of Paris Fashion Week a few years ago, you should. It’s a testament to the lengths a model will go to suffer for the art of a designer. “Sorry, we just don’t have your size” is one of a models most often heard and least favorite phrases, an accurate signifier of hours of pain in the short run and yet-to-be-seen damage that will haunt her later on.
Once when working, I met an older woman, likely 60-years-old, who told me she was a model in her day and proceeded to bemoan the state of her feet and lower back. I commiserated genuinely; I’d already begun to feel the creeping effects of my career choices.
In the last ten years, my feet have turned into black-and-blue shadows of their former selves. I have bones where there shouldn’t be bones, rough spots that refuse to go away, and a nice, healthy dose of sciatica that tends to flare up whenever I idiotically decide to give up caffeine (as it turns out, caffeine and sciatica are linked for some strange reason). My personal shoe choices are dictated by the queer shape of my foot, with straps that camouflage the sharp, alien angles.
Like the last five minutes of an episode of CSI, I can trace back the guiltiest culprits. There was that time I was put in a pair of plastic Alberta Ferrettis in a size 37 (I’m a large-and-in-charge 41) and asked to wile away the afternoon modeling in a department store until someone bought a dress or my feet started bleeding, whichever came first. I’ve got lasting purple scars on my feet from a five-day blister fest working for a designer whose very beautiful vegan shoes refuse to stretch in that beautifully forgiving way leather tends to do. Then there were the nine back-to-back days wearing leather booties two sizes too small, which latched onto my foot with an ever-the-more-painful vice grip. Each day made increasingly difficult to even get the shoes on, let alone walk, with my foot swollen in protest.
Needless to say, I’ve never managed to snag a guy with a foot fetish.
Though not necessarily stoked on these largely preventable side effects of my job, I’m not complaining. All over the world, there are people who suffer for both lesser and greater goods. I’m just saying that it would have been nice to have learned how to bourree as opposed to sashay! shante! in exchange for my troubles. Shante, shante, shante. -Jenny Bahn