A Model Life

September 25, 2013

When I read these days about the so-called glamorous lives of famous models, I wonder if they had mothers like mine, who took me out of 12th grade to launch me on a modeling career and, like a stage mother, was a constant presence behind the scenes.


She had made a list of likely department stores and shops and photographers and we made the rounds. To my surprise, I was hired by Halle’s to model in its tearoom at lunchtime, by Higbee’s and May’s for their fashion shows, photographer Harry Cole for his fashion shoots and catalogues, and by Quinn-Maas, an exclusive specialty shop. I strutted on runways, stretched my legs and pointed my toes for the photographer, and (in fashion’s convoluted calendar) posed in fur coats and rivers of sweat in July, and bathing suits and goose bumps in January. I demonstrated vacuum cleaners at conventions, sprayed cologne at ladies in department stores, paced runways in my new hip-swinging stride, all the while feeling an immense sorrow. I had become my mother’s creation, her idea of me, a no-brainer not even fit to finish high school, a moving speaking, walking size 8, her windup girl-toy, a Barbie pushed down the road by her vicarious fantasies. With no idea of who I was or wanted to be, I went along, riveted by her will as she sat in the dark corner of the photographer’s studio, the front row of the style shows, the table in the tearoom...



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