On the catwalk, yeah on the catwalk.
There is probably zero money in it for me, but I have identified my second career. Last week, initially with great anxiety, I modeled in Stephen Moser's fashion show, and it was one of the funnest things I have ever done. Thanks, Stephen!
Moser, who is best known as the style columnist for the Austin Chronicle, has been designing up a storm at his East Austin studio this year. He makes resortwear and loungewear for both genders, as well as evening gowns, under the label Made in Heaven. This was the second such collection he showed this year. Held at Antone's, the fashion show benefited the Long Center for the Performing Arts. The center's director, Cliff Redd, emceed.
Moser's use of hand-painted silk charmeuse from Austin's Felton Knorra Studio has become a signature. The fabrics are created by fine artist Channe Felton, who also unveiled a terrific painting of Clifford Antone after the show, and screen printer Daniel Knorra. My first outfit was an empire-waist sundress with a skirt made of orange and yellow Felton Knorra silk, and it felt divine.
I flirted with modeling only once before, and the rejection was so demoralizing that I vowed, "Never again." When I lived in New York, a teacher at my yoga center said the staff had been contacted by Nike about a casting call for Asian women adept in various physical activities such as yoga, and they thought I should go.
I never considered myself modelesque by any stretch, but I figured if they were just looking to stage a yoga class or a group shot where I needed only to blend in, I might have a prayer. So one day I entered a room full of flawless-looking Asian women doing big, look-at-me stretches. I filled out a form and sat down, just observing the scene. One by one, each woman was called before the camera, vamped for several clicks, then was sent to another room according to her area of proficiency (yoga, martial arts, whatever).
When it was my turn, the photographer's assistant was friendly because he recognized me from somewhere else. He asked the photographer, who was busy fiddling with equipment, "What do you think? Film?"
The photographer glanced up, looked me up and down and sneered, "Digital." Meaning: I was a waste of film. The kind assistant snapped one photo and thanked me for coming. I wasn't even sent to the yoga room. Ouch.
Back out on the pavement, I marveled at the way models, actors and dancers have to endure this sort of rejection all the time. How can they be so resilient?
Yet, three years later, here I was, subjecting myself to the possibility of humiliation again. I agreed to be in Moser's show because I wanted to support him, and people who'd been in the first one said it was fun. Also, I have a mild fear of audiences and facing fears is therapeutic.
For weeks my friends kept gushing that I was going to be "just like Carrie" because in a memorable episode of "Sex and The City," Sarah Jessica Parker's character, a newspaper columnist, was invited to model in a celebrity fashion show. They made her wear a pair of spangled panties and a coat that opened below the waist.
Still, she looked great . . . until she fell face down on the runway. The next model had to step over her. So although my friends meant well, "just like Carrie" is precisely what I did not wish to be.
My colleague Melanie Spencer had some training in modeling years ago, and offered to coach me. The hardest thing to master, she said, is the strut, which elongates a woman's line. Hips thrust forward, shoulders back. Walk in a straight line, heel to toe. Full extension of the leg with every step. Minimal swinging of arms. Death stare.
I've been to enough fashion shows and seen enough models who obviously find the spotlight torturous, and it makes everyone in the room uncomfortable. I feel bad for looking. So getting over my nervousness would be vital.
Learning that the show would be filmed for the KLRU TV show "Downtown" did not help matters. Nor did a fitting session at Moser's studio the day before the show, since my second outfit, a crinkled and lightly sequined chocolate brown gown, did not yet exist. But I trusted he would somehow, in "Project Runway" parlance, make it work. (My friend Linda Asaf eventually sewed the gown for him, which made it even more special for me.)
The day of the show, I stopped worrying about falling and started worrying about throwing up. My stomach was in knots.
In the afternoon all of the female models were styled simultaneously at Pink Salon, Orbit Salon and Sage Salon. Moser had issued a mandate to the stylists: Brigitte Bardot. So Orbit stylist Rachel Pace deftly curled and teased my hair into a bouffant and applied false eyelashes, exaggerated liquid eyeliner and frosty lips to my face.
Backstage was a mad flurry, naturally. The other models included Carla McDonald, Patricia Vonne, Anne Elizabeth Wynn, Gail Chovan, Evan Voyles, Deborah Green, Maria Groten, Sarah Swindell, Christy May, Christy Butterfield, Margaret Krasovec, Joanie and Ben Bentzin, Beverly Silas, Karen Landa, Kate Hersch, Amy Rudy, Mark Mueller and Lance Avery Morgan.
Their humor finally put me at ease. A little wine was useful, too. We sipped our drinks, clawed at the necklaces and earrings Elizabeth Serrato brought from her boutique, Eliza Page, and fussed over each other. All the women looked astoundingly glamorous.
Minutes before I was supposed to go on as the first look in Moser's collection, I discovered I had a static-cling problem and went on a rampage for a can of hairspray. Then, in full view of everyone backstage, I blew a big cloud — it might have been Raid for all I know — up my dress. Someone, whose name is withheld for his protection, made a lewd joke. I hit him. The dress stopped clinging. Crisis averted.
I'd forgotten this was Austin, land of smiling and cheering! I recognized friends. I heard my name. It was a total blast.
Each look was supposed to take 30 seconds, so I dialed the strut down to a saunter, paused with arms akimbo, and basked.