Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.
I have walked in some fashion shows. Certainly not in Fashion Week, or even on what I would call a real runway. I think the history of my downmarket-catwalk modeling career (2004-2006, RIP) went like this:
•Two or three fashion shows for a now-defunct vintage lingerie store in Williamsburg. It’s not that hard to hold a fashion show in a bar — I’m pretty sure if you bring a bunch of scantily-clad women into a bar called “The Tainted Lady” and parade them around, you’re adding to the atmosphere and selling drinks, and you may be able to strike a deal with the bar in which you don’t have to pay anything to hold the event. In any case, a business that sells antique slips and girdles can perhaps only go so far. Observe the photo of me with a male model in a corset. Awesome.
•Lingerie fashion show at Marion’s Continental. This is a restaurant. It holds many fashion events, but this show nevertheless involved journalists looking at my ass while they ate brunch. Also, I wore three different outfits in the show, two of which involved silk thongs. As silk does not stretch and each thong sold for over $200, I had two people assigned to me in the staging area to slide the first thong inch-by-inch down over my hipbones and then slide the new one inch-by-inch up over my hipbones. (What’s the point of lingerie you can’t take off, you know, in a hurry?)
•A Valentine’s Day fashion show, also in a bar, sponsored by some kind of lingerie company. Noticing a theme?
•A crime against clothing in which I modeled a vest made out of neckties. Sarah Jessica Parker once wore something from the designer on Sex and the City. Neckties. Sewn together. To make a vest. A very stiff vest. With pointy bits at the bottom. The show was held in the upstairs part of a very nice Indian restaurant that I think uses the space for weddings.
I was also briefly signed to a fledgling modeling agency in Soho that I never did any work for because the owner wanted me to call her every morning and looked confused when, in 2005, I suggested that it would be more efficient to send out an email to all the models at once. We just weren’t going to get along.
Surely, I learned a few things from these experiences. As I later confirmed when I held a male beauty pageant in a bar to celebrate my thirtieth birthday, anyone with $2,000 and access to Craigslist is basically omnipotent. Also, walking in a fashion show is much like being a bridesmaid: you have to walk much, much more slowly than you think you should.
I later ended up contributing three pages on “How to Put On Your Own Fashion Show” for the book Girls Gone Mild, by Wendy Shalit. Specifically, how to put on your own modest fashion show. To promote modesty and no-sexing. Weird, right?
Here are some other things I learned from my brief “modeling” career.
(By the way, if you would like to become an indie model yourself, joining OneModelPlace or ModelMayhem isn’t particularly more difficult than setting up a Facebook profile. Making money without being entirely naked is another matter.)
Being a Pretty Girl Doesn’t Get You That Far
I don’t just mean a girl who happens to be pretty. I mean a girl trying to make it almost entirely on being pretty. A girl putting herself out there, saying, “I’ve noticed I’m kind of pretty!”
Being a Pretty Girl kind of makes you a walking target. Yes, some people will want to have sex with you, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Rather, you will be a target for people looking to make money off of you, or use you to look good the way one uses a new sports car and a nice watch to look good. You will be viewed as a raw material, much like timber or an underground oil pocket.
There are a million valedictorians, even more A+ students. There are a million absolutely beautiful girls. Perfection just puts you in a club. Despite how hard it is to get into that club, there are a lot of people there, because so many people are engaged in the same pursuits. There are fewer B- students running companies, or really-pretty-attractive-for-a-regular-person women selling cars. These people make more money, do more exciting things, and are better able to handle life’s vicissitudes.
There’s just no point at which someone shows up and gives you money for being pretty (or being talented in general). There’s no Jesus who reaches out of the sky to reward you, fairly, for being so special and better than everyone else.
If someone does ever pay you for being pretty or talented, it is only so they can make even more money off of you. That’s it. That’s all there is. Be clear about that. Very clear.