No One Walks in LA, Except the Models

catwalkIt’s a Saturday.

I enter through the side door, past the loading docks for equipment rentals and towards an open door where clothing hangs from rolling racks, individually separated and merchandised according to girl. “Hi,” I eek, peering from around the corner towards a table full of extremely well dressed women. Everyone is eating lunch. The worst time to show up at a casting is during lunch.

My friend waves me over towards the couch and tells me to wait. Almost immediately, a host of old insecurities come flooding towards the surface, percolating like sweat. You’re not good enough. You’re too old. Your jaw’s too strong. I haven’t been in LA or walked in a show here in over four years. I used to book this same show all the time. Then again, I was 20.

One of the assistants is taking Polaroids of a very thin girl with bleached blonde hair. Even here, the look has changed. The girls are cooler, more masculine, with gap-teeth and little bones – just like New York. Fashion moves in cycles, swapping out types of models out the same way it would the rise of a pant or the proportion of a coat sleeve. You’re good for two, three, four seasons, then they want something else, something novel. If you’re a girl they use for longer, you’re one of the lucky ones – the LBD of the modeling industry.

“Where’s the sign-in sheet?”

Standing above me is a girl, hardly 16 years old, her mother hovering behind her. She has stick-straight brown hair and a blank-canvas of a face with no remarkable features. Designers like the plain faces because it doesn’t distract from the clothes. Naomi, Linda, Cindy, Christy – they all became distractions. Fashion became about them.

I kill time by slowly putting on a pair of heels and staring at toenails in dire need of a pedicure. During the Recession I gave up getting them done for modeling gigs all the time. Work for everyone ground to a halt, and the few jobs that remained paid less. When you’re used to working every day and you suddenly find yourself sitting around doing nothing for weeks at a time, you’ll find saving $30 every two weeks pretty easy. Things are better again, but the habit has stuck, much to the detriment of my nails.

After thirty minutes, the editor approaches. We’re familiar in a working capacity, which means no matter how friendly she is or welcoming or generally personable, I will always be an awkward and blathering mess in front of her. It is impossible to escape the fact that your every movement is being watched, every wrinkle scrutinized, each step analyzed. You’d have to be an idiot not to feel it, which is why the idiots generally do so well. They’re dumb enough to believe they’re special.

“Jenny, just take a walk down there and back,” she says.

I head towards the back of the room, legs moving, arms swinging, wondering what the hell I am doing. I used to be good at this, I think. I used to take it seriously. I remember there was a season when a model friend came up to me after a show casting and – quite earnestly — told me my walk had gotten “so much better.” I remember when I actually cared that it had, that it was a compliment that mattered. Now I find myself heading back towards the editor, clueless as to what I even look like, unsure that my face isn’t contorted with confusion, that my arms haven’t been flailing wildly by my side. I feel blank, purposeless, not like a model at all.

I can’t believe I used to be good at this.

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