By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
I pull on the brown dress, twirl around, and feel like I'm on my way to a dinner party. The dress is made of a soft, stretchy jersey material and has a loose, low waist that falls just beneath my hips—it would be perfect for a woman who wants to hide some extra pounds. (This is not a confession.) The lower half of the dress consists of intricate layers of fabric bunched together like an accordion, and it bounces up and down when I walk.
"I'd never seen it done before," Selden says of the bunched layers. She circles me, fluffing the loose waist, pulling it down on my hips, and declares that it fits perfectly, but does not flatter my rear. Rather than let my ego seep out my pores and form a puddle on the concrete, I take her remark as artistic criticism, and hear my mother's words echoing in my head. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes.
I pull on the fitted red overcoat to cover my ass (and Selden's, too). The coat also fits perfectly, and I ask Selden if I can keep it. She laughs and I assure her I'm kidding. But I'm not. (It costs $248 for an unlined version and $278 lined, and has already sold in blue; Selden has custom orders for two more.)
This is the garment that I'll be donning for the Voltage LookBook, a catalogue of band bios and designers' photo spreads. It's an eye-catching number, with a stiff, upturned collar, cropped sleeves, and a matching wide belt. The bottom half has large pleats in the sides to allow for poofy skirts, which the brown dress fills out easily. Cinching the belt, I feel like I should be strolling the streets of SoHo with a tiny dog in my arms.
Selden hasn't decided yet which outfit I'll be wearing for the final show. A rack in her living room reveals many options, but she admits that her collection has shrunk. People keep buying her designs, which isn't the worst problem an up-and-coming designer can have.
I can handle walking a runway: pacing, posing, and pouting. But a photo shoot is like walking the runway in extreme slow motion. Lower your chin and shadows appear all over your face; twist your waist and your silhouette turns into a lumpy pear. Step off your mark and you might as well be sitting in the corner wearing a dunce cap.
Time for my catwalk confession: Most of what I know about modeling comes from watching Tyra Banks berate overambitious waifs on the CW.
And yet here I am in the same downtown studio where I auditioned six weeks ago. Large windows flood the room with natural light, and a cluster of makeup artists and hair stylists scurries around a table near the door. They look like fashion designers themselves, in denim miniskirts, chunky belts, and thin, layered tees.
A girl in a polka dot top bounces up to me. "Hi. Are you one of the models?"
I answer yes—what Tyra doesn't know won't kill her—and she invites me to take off my coat and have a seat. But all the chairs have been claimed by girls being fluffed and primped. So I slip my bag behind a potted plant and lean against a pillar, pretending to know what's going on.
When it's finally my turn to get dolled up, I plop down in a green metal chair and fold my hands in my lap. My hair stylist is a blonde named Kelsy Osterman who works for Juut salon in Wayzata. She's dressed like an Urban Outfitters window display in a bright red shirt and gold belt, with a comb jutting out of her pocket. We exchange pleasantries and she starts running her fingers through my hair.
"It's so fine," she says. "Did you wash it today?"
"Yep," I reply...and as soon as the word leaves my mouth I realize that I broke the number-one rule of fashion modeling: Never wash your hair on the day of a shoot. It's easier for stylists to work with slightly greasy hair because it stays put and holds its shape better than a headful of clean, limp locks. "Sorry," I groan. "I completely forgot."
I try to hold my head still as she divides my scalp into sections and secures chunks of hair with tiny rubber bands. Di Medlock, my makeup artist and the girl who greeted me at the door, wanders over and discusses my look with Kelsy. They're aiming for a futuristic, space-age style, with bright colors and a zero-gravity 'do. Di considers the instructions sent from Selden, tilts my chin upward, and gets to work. The professionals lavish attention on both sides of my head, touching my skin, fluffing my hair, narrowing in on every pore. Because of my elaborate look, Kelsy recruits an additional hair stylist to curl half my head as she works on the other hemisphere. Di slicks red and blue eye shadow over my lids, and creates a ruby lip gloss that inspires such pride that she calls another stylist over to see it. When they're finished with me, I have a giant mass of curls framing my head, and my eyes—now with caterpillar-size fake lashes—resemble Elizabeth Taylor's in Cleopatra.