I’m the third model to arrive. A gummy, raven-haired girl with a choppy bob stands in the lobby wearing square-toed heels and a pair of confetti cake-printed pants that hang off jutting hips, a shirt buttoned to the neck. She looks like a six-foot Anne Frank with a circumstantial eating disorder.
A zaftig blonde who’s been waiting on the couch is next. She leaves briefly and returns in the same outfit as the skeleton before her, filling out the pants in a manner that most clients aren’t into. They want you small, tiny, half a person. They want you drowning in fabric that they have to pin away from your bony body even though it would be easier to hire a girl who fits the clothes. Someone hands me a baby doll dress reminiscent kindergarten birthday parties, all eyelets and white lace. It doesn’t fit right. My broad shoulders pull against the shape of neckline and my knees poke out below an unfortunately placed hemline. “Fat guy in a little coat” plays in my head. I suspect I will not be hired.
We are shuttled into a corner office and paraded in front of a party of three. A blonde man with a hip haircut and snug pants rolled at his ankles herds us towards the next viewing. Three different people in a different office stare up at us from their padded office chairs. Everyone’s checking for bulges and deformities, your physical shortcomings that will cost them sales. “Can you two switch?”
Me and the blonde change in the same bathroom, two strangers getting naked in front of each other like it’s not weird. For the last ten years my tits have been on casual display like the bargain rack at a dollar store. Come one, come all. The blonde silently hands me her outfit and I change into the shirt she was just wearing, the armpits cold and wet. My bare feet balance on the top of my own shoes, a barrier from the marble floor of a semi-public bathroom and my clean skin. Changing in office bathrooms – that’s been another theme of the last ten years. I’d lay down paper towels like I normally do but this girl would think I would a freak. And so I stand on my shoes, which is, like not normal either.
I grew up watching House of Style and wanting to be a model. These scenes never made the final cut.
The parade is over and all three of us share the elevator down. The blonde starts talking in an obtuse, vague way about her casting today with a photographer that she refuses to name, which means he’s probably famous and she doesn’t want to sound outwardly obnoxious. The skeleton knows who she’s talking about already; she had the casting earlier. I, on the other hand, seemed to have been skipped over.
“Oh… he likes a certain type of girl,” she hints, with all the subtlety her thick, Eastern European accent can afford.
The blonde looks down at her chest. “Like boobs?” she asks, in mild panic. “Does he like boobs? Because I don’t have any boobs.” The skeleton pauses, rolling her eyes, and finally breaking the code of silence: “Terry likes girls that look like crack whores.” As in Richardson. As in Terry Richardson. A silence takes over the elevator while we all sit with our inadequacies. The dresses that hit in the wrong place, the pants that fit too well, the famous photographer who wants bigger tits and bigger whores. In this job, you can never be just the right thing, even though most times the right thing is not what you want to be in real life anyway.
(Photos courtesy of Terry Richardson)