“If you could try on the pants and jacket back there. And you,” the man with the close-cut shave and the blonde hair and the silver bracelets looks at me, “if you could put on the gown. There are shoes in the closet.”
Into said closet I go, a room filled with empty shelving units and black velvet hangers clawing on bars. I snatch the only pair of size 10’s they have, operating as a shrewd and calculating witch who knows that every advantage counts and every disadvantage means losses into the thousands. A hobbling entrance on account of the wrong size shoe can cost you a job. Fend for yourself, Nice Girl — who I didn’t say one word to in the elevator we shared or the lobby we walked through together or as we stripped down to bare breasts and underwear; two strangers forced against one another like very thin gladiators.
I beat her out, which means absolutely nothing. Still, it’s a race. Ten years into this and I have gone from a puppy to a pit bull, playing a game that I have practiced for a decade. The only joy is in knowing when you’ve got a good hand, when the odds are stacked in your favor.
My hair, thrown back into a loose ponytail, is freshly blonde, the perfectly obnoxious shade for a client that caters to the nouveau riche debutantes of Boca Raton and Orange County.
“Could you walk for me, please?”
I ask him to specify the purpose: clod-hopping runway or an expensive showroom saunter.
And I send myself on my way, a black knit dress with silver lame threads gliding down my torso, hips and heels as I put one foot in front of the next with more grace and poise than I can ever harness in real life. It is that otherworldly affectation that all good models have. In these walks you transport the viewer to a time and place that exists in another realm: a wedding in Lake Como, a black and threatening alleyway in 2046 New York City, a Parisian park filled with dogs that answer to “Oui! Oui! Oui! Mon petit chien.” It is in this way models can be fantastic actresses, playing parts inspired by the costumes we wear that we can rarely afford, stars of our own silent films.
Right now, in front of Bryan with the close shave and the silver bracelets, in this insignificant and uninspired room filled with white tables and stagnant air, we are somewhere else, where everyone is rich and beautiful and trouble-less. That’s the sell. This is the dress. And here I am, still playing the game. — Jenny Bahn