I cannot sleep. Not for a second. Excitement, I think. It is half past two, I am done with my book. Now I have one option: to stare at The Eiffel Tower. I cannot think, I feel numb, but sleep is not coming. Maybe I meditated without knowing it, maybe the tower hypnotized me. Around 7 am my ringing alarm brings me back to an awake state of mind. Happy and cheerful, I jump into the shower. Luckily, my roommate is not coming home for days, and the studio is completely mine. I turn on the only cassette I have, recorded only half way through. Maybe it is too loud for early morning, but today is my special day and I don’t want to think about rules. I don’t want it to be like the song: rules are there to kill you, or your back to bend and break.
After a quick breakfast and another happy dance in front of the mirror, I go. On the Champs-Elysee, in a huge gallery, everything is already swarming and busy, even though the sun is shyly showing. At the door are hostesses waiting for the crew. One of them puts a sign next to my name, gives me a ticket to enter and shows me the backstage door. It is my first time backstage for a Haute Couture show in Paris. I know I already said that a hundred times, but it is one of the biggest moments in my life. Please understand.
My ears are buzzing. When I pass through the door, I am officially part of that world.
That show was very special for me in many ways. It was more glamorous and more beautiful then I imagined and expected. But never, ever, did any other job after that come even close.
That day I formed some illusions about modeling. Illusions I never had before. But the day afterward, those illusions were destroyed. So now I am asking myself if I actually dreamed the whole thing. Maybe it didn’t happen. Or I was witness to the last day of a glamorous era. No matter which of these options is true, the feeling that comes over me every time I think about that day is priceless.
In the backstage there is a casting director. I wish him a good morning, and he starts kissing me. Left cheek, right cheek. Today I have so many kisses from unknown persons. In my country we kiss only if we have known each other very well. I think here it is different, and I may stop comparing. I hope I will get used to this kissing thing.
After the kisses exchange, he sends me to the girl who gives us to the hair or make up person. But before that I have to go to the dressing room; I have to change into a robe and leave all my stuff there. I take my phone with me. Maybe the agency will have more good news for me. I am now headed to a table for a massage. Oh yes. You read it right. A table for massage. Seems that is something normal. I am the only confused face here.
I cannot relax, I am looking around, left and right, to check what the other girls are doing.
After half an hour of massage, I am taken to a chair for a face massage, plus a manicure and pedicure. Before the girls start doing their job on me, I have to rub my eyes and pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming.
I don’t wake up, I am awake. This is my first manu+pedi ever. I don’t know what to expect, I cannot relax completely. Maybe it’s a hidden camera show?
I think this is some kind of joke. It is not real.
After 45 minutes of face massage and manu+pedi, I am ready for hair. Yes, it is real.
And here we are: the hair part is torture for me. But, intoxicated with everything that is going on around me, I manage to control my unhappiness about the hair stylist’s hand work on my head.
He is brushing my hair. Oh my God, I hate brushes.
He is pulling my tail. It hurts.
He is brushing again. When is the end of this torture?
Thirty minutes later- he is done.
Thank God it is over.
Someone is pulling my arm, walking me to a room with three high chairs. Two are taken, so I sit in the third one.
“What is your shoe size?”
“39,” I answer, completely confused.
In just two seconds four arms grab my feet and put them on high-heeled soles with a few very tiny, long rubber laces in different colors.
“It is going to take a while,” a girl says.
Coordinated fingers are knitting those laces around my feet. They are making knots in various colors, making a boot of it. Thirty-five minutes later the boots are up to my knees. The team helps me to get up and warns me to come back after the show to have them taken off. And like something normal just happened, like you have boots made on your legs every day, they continue to work on the next girl.
I am overwhelmed. The agility of their fingers and the final results are something that I could not imagine in my craziest dream. I feel sorry that I don’t have a camera to take a photo of this masterpiece.
Thinking only of my boots, I go on to the makeup chair. I sit down and get up without noticing that I am completely ready. I am thinking only about the boots.
Rehearsal is quick, organized and disciplined. They have to repeat a few times not to cut the corners on the way out to the stage. That sentence will be repeated for every show I ever do, over and over. Do not cut the corners.
A buffet is served for models. It looks like the best restaurant buffet in the world. The delicacies served are mostly unknown to me. Some of them I try and some not, but everything looks perfect and tastes even better than perfect.
I have just sat down on the sofa in the waiting room and started to write a letter to Mama in my head when they start calling our names. It is time for the first outfits, which designers call “Looks.” It’s time to go backstage where the clothes are located and to change. That is the place where the magic becomes the job.
Racks with the looks are against the walls, one next to another. Every rack has a board with the name of the girl whose look is on it. There is a photo of the face of the girl and a photo of her in the look. Next to the racks are women-our dressers. There are no covers or curtains to give us some privacy; we are stripping in front of everyone there. Honestly, that is a little bit surprising. None of the girls are reacting to that, so it must be a normal thing. But even if we protested, I don’t think it would change anything.
There is an announcement that the show will start in 40 minutes. The girls are throwing themselves onto the floor to use the extra time to relax their legs from all the long walks around Paris in the last few days. The shoes are stuck to our feet, so we have had no chance to take them off to relax. I am wondering how we will take them off after the show.
There are one or two changes per girl. All the looks are unique, handmade. I think that is why they call it Haute-Couture. Maybe. Some looks are amazing, some of them I don’t understand, they are not wearable. Maybe the designer is showing his creativity with clothes like that. I am just looking around trying to record as much as possible, so I never forget my first show.
Now it is time to get dressed. A few girls are ready, and I am one of them. It is easier this way. It is better to change right away and wait, than to have someone pulling my sleeve and calling my name every 30 seconds to get ready. Some girls are ignoring the calls.
I have only one look. Cigarette pants, black, with silk embroidery in various colors. It looks like flowers, but I am not sure. The pants are three quarter length, with the boots showing. I like it.
On the top I have on something like a trench coat that is laced the same way as the boots. Heavy and half see-through, but there are pockets covering my boobs. If they showed I would ask for something else. I am not sure how the design team would respond, but I would not walk in something I think is inappropriate. Luckily, everything is ok and I feel good. I am a different person, I am rich and special.
I am waiting next to my rack to be called for the line. All the girls look different now with hair and makeup done and in their looks. At the rehearsal I remembered who was before me, but now I cannot recognize the girl. So I have to wait. Makeup artists and hair dressers are coming to me to fix everything. At some point there are six hands on my head. They are all doing their work not thinking about anything else, but with respect for each other’s work.
Now they are calling us by name. The tension is increasing. The models are ignoring the calls. The girls, whose job is just to place us in order, are pulling our sleeves, arms, legs, anything they can grab to drag us or keep us in line. Somehow models are not able to stay in line, or they are just not disciplined, so the five screaming girls keep checking on us, saying our names with just a stop to take a breath. If the models are not in order the girls are the ones to blame. And so on till the end of the show.
Now the lights are off and complete silence is taking over. But not for long. The five girls pointing lamps at our faces are whispering instead of screaming.
Makeup artists and hair stylists are non-stop on our heads. Even though it is dark, they are busy doing something. If you ask me they are just pulling my hair to make me even more nervous. I don’t have any jitters, but I am getting little bit impatient with all these hands on my head doing unnecessary things and taking me to an unwanted nerves attack.
At some point, 30 minutes later, thank God, everything stops and complete silence takes over. Even the lamps are turned off. The first beats of music are about to begin and the first girl is ready to walk out onto the stage.
The lights are on, the noise is starting again, the backstage is again full of screaming, squalling, roaring, running and crowding.
Everything is going much faster than I thought it would. In just a few seconds I am out on stage blinded with the lights pointing at me. My brain is focusing on my steps and balance.
If you ask me how is it? How do I feel? I don’t know what to tell you.
Well, I feel focused, like I am doing an exam. It isn’t fun, it isn’t glamorous, it isn’t relaxing. Just a balanced walk on the imaginary line and focusing on not falling like a plank in front of the cameras. If I remember right, I was told that modeling does not require brain work, thinking, focusing. But now I am doing all that. Anyway…
I can say that the finale, the exit of all the girls together one by one, is fun. We all smile and applaud the designer. The audience is enthusiastic, and at the end everything is cool and I feel great. I don’t think too much about my walk now. We walk one after the other. it is important that for my first exit everything is perfect and I don’t make myself a fool. That show is going to be watched by all the designers. It is important that I am on top of the task.
My first show is over.
Applause is waiting for us backstage. And all the crew is cheering us with champagne. The designer comes backstage after bowing to the audience, and he thanks every girl personally. I am surprised by his gesture. When his assistant gives us a small goody bag, I pinch myself for the second time today. We get a Diptique candle and a scarf from his last collection. Very nice of him.
Although we have just begun to change, a crowd of journalists and audience runs in through the backstage doors and in less than a minute I have no space to turn around. The place is full of people pushing each other, trying to get to the designer.
Half naked I walk to the door to get out and save my head in this craziness. They could walk over me without noticing.
Before I leave, I have to get my stuff and take my boots off in the “shoe maker’s room”.
Taking my boots off lasts 35 seconds. Two girls have scissors in their hands and snap here, snap there. Done. All that is left are marks on my skin. It is a relief to be bare-foot again, but I feel sad at the same time. They were very special and unique boots.
I grab my things, change completely into my own clothes and leave. It is gloomy outside, but I feel happy. I have to call the agency to see what I have for the rest of the day.
I have only two castings and one fitting left to do. Great. I am tired. I want to go home.