Part 1: The Offer, May 2016
I was visiting Providence, Rhode Island to watch my sister graduate from Brown University. On the night of the graduation, I went out to a party with her- at an apartment above the Johnny Rockets on Thayer Street. It was about 2am. At the party, Jocelyn introduced me to her friend Allison, a graduating fashion design senior at the Rhode Island School of Design (also known as RISD). We chatted for a bit before she explained that I wasn’t her type. However, she did say I was her look- tall and not too pretty. Asking for clarification, she explained that RISD was going to host a show at New York Fashion Week in September sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger. Allison was one of 10 seniors selected to showcase their work at the show and needed models for the show. She asked if I could model for her. I said absolutely yes!
The next day, I texted Allison to make sure that the invite was real and not a drunken mistake. It was real- I was going to Fashion Week.
Part 2: Preparations, July-August 2016
The next step was to convince my boss to let me model in Fashion Week. Luckily, my coworkers have a sense of humor and are encouraging of my adventuring. My boss’s assistant, Janis, told me that I should go for it because everyone else in the office is too old to model. They said they would let me go on the conditions that I provide proof the show is a legitimate New York Fashion Week show (which it was) and that I send them runway pictures. The show was on a Wednesday night. They would only give me that Wednesday and Thursday off- they needed me on Friday. So it was going to be a really quick trip to New York, but I knew it would be worth it.
With two weeks to go, I booked my flights: a red eye to Newark on Tuesday night and a late night flight back from JFK on Thursday night. My $100 model stipend would help to cover this cost.
In order to prep for my big walk down the runway, I did some preparation work. I got some advice from my friend Julian and his girlfriend who works on runway shows. I also got some great tips from a high school classmate Daniel who is a bona fide male model. He told me “straight back, chest out, relaxed shoulders, army by your side (not swinging very much), chin down, eyes up and straight ahead without making eye contact with anybody, confident facial expression, walk faster than you normally would.” Easy enough.
Additionally, I watched some YouTube videos about “How to be a male model” and watched Zoolander 5 times. After all this, I was as prepared as I could be for someone who has never modeled before.
Part 3: Showtime, September 14, 2016
I arrived on Wednesday morning in Newark and spent most of the day exploring the town of Patterson, New Jersey and its Great Falls. From there, I took a jitney to Times Square and a subway to Soho.
From the Houston Street stop, I walked a few blocks west to a large industrial building called Skylight Clarkson Square. As I walked by, a group of two really tall and beautiful women walked by and posed for about a dozen photographers. That’s when I knew I was really at Fashion Week.
Signs pointed me to the backstage entrance on the far side of the building.
There, I met up with Allison, 9 other designers and the 70-80 other models who were way cooler than me. Most of the people dressed on the “weird” side. This actually makes sense because if people in fashion dressed “fashionable” wouldn’t be pushing the boundaries of fashion.
3:30 pm: The doors opened and we were allowed into the backstage area. There was actually another show going on for women’s designer Georgine. We all watched the models line up for the runway. They were all so tall and beautiful!
4 pm: The Georgine show was over and it was then time to get ready. I was sent to a hairdresser who gelled my hair. The makeup lady said my skin was perfect as is and didn’t need any. Wow! The process of getting all the models ready took about 90 minutes. The rest of the time was spent waiting and chatting with Allison’s other model friends.
5:30 pm: With an hour to go until showtime we walked the runway. First, everyone walked it together. Then we did it again with the timing, lighting, and music. The practice and YouTube videos worked well- I felt confident with my walk.
6 pm: It was time to get dressed. Our group of 9 got into what looked like graduation robes complete with sandals & socks, and Michael Jackson gloves.
At first, I thought these were pretty weird, but then I looked over at some of the other outfits.
I then felt really glad that this event will not be a potential political blackmail 25 years from now.
6:20: My pants started to slip. Allison pinned them tighter on me. I worried that they would slip on the runway. Some of the other designers were scrambling, but for the most part everyone was in good shape.
6:25: We lined up in order and prepared to walk.
6:35: Showtime! The lights dimmed and the 80’s techno music started blaring. Untz untz untz. Every 10 seconds, a model would go.
6:43: There were 5 people ahead of me. I was really nervous. Is this actually going to happen? How many people are there? Would my pants stay up?
6:44: It was go time! I put aside all my nervousness and strutted my stuff. First through the backstage chute, then onto the middle of the runway. The lights were bright. Out of my peripheral vision, I noticed that every seat in the 650-person venue was taken. All eyes were on me as I walked down the long straight white runway, eyes glazed just above the camera streaming the show on the NYFW website. I can hear many camera shutters through the loud music. Somewhere out there, Tommy Hilfiger was watching.
6:45 pm: I turned the corner to the right (no left turns) and then made another right. I walked down another straight runway. My cousin Gregory is there with his camera out, presumably Snapchatting me. I can’t look at him or acknowledge him, because I’m rocking the runway right now.
6:45:30 pm: I made 2 more right turns and after crossing by the door, I am now walking down a third runway in front of even more people. Still in the zone.
6:46:10 pm: It is all over. I’m pumped up and cannot believe that this all happened.
6:55 pm: the designers walked out with one of their models while the Karate Kid Theme “You’re the Best Around” blared.
6:56 pm: The show was over. Allison told us to change back into our normal clothes. I did not get to keep the jacket and to join everyone on the runway for a cocktail party. We drank champagne to celebrate the epic day. All of us were amazed by how fun it was to model. I would imagine it would be similar to the thrill of performing as a musician or an actor in front of a large crowd.
This was certainly a thrill of a lifetime. If given the opportunity, I would definitely do it again- if you’re looking for a model, let me know!!