Skiing The Slippery Modelling Slope

The truth is that I was pigeon-toed. To remedy my abnormality I was prescribed blue suede shoes with a leather strap attaching them at the back so my feet pointed outward. As I hopped around the house every evening and slept in them, my knees ached. I hated sleeping in them, as I could only sleep on my back, and longed to turn over. At some point every night, I kicked them off from agony. When my feet grew, toe holes were cut for me to poke through. Every time they got remotely comfortable, and I use that term loosely, the screws situated at each heel were tightened with precision. I was sure that I had never seen anyone walking like a duck in real life, so why was I doomed to sleep in these suede life-suckers?

To help me out, my parents enrolled me in Verna Williams school of modelling. Her studio was a mirrored runway in the basement that ended in a three way mirror. I was too young to make notes in my binder so Verna made notes of each pivot, with detailed instructions, hoping to improve my gait.

After dinner, my father would open the binder, and read out all the instructions as I walked balancing a book on my head from one end of our basement bungalow to another. One foot in front of the other (sans suedes), pivot, shoulders back, don’t drop the book, turn, walk, chin up, and pose. It felt dutiful and soldier-esque. I think that I have always been self conscious about my walk since I went from Pigeon-toed, to duck-toed, to book balancing, to hip slinging one foot right in front of the other.

In my still pre-teen years, I hit one more modelling school aptly name X-Plosion. By this time, I had full on braces, this time, on my teeth. I learned to swing my hips to “Boogie Woogie Woogie Woogie Dancing Shoes…Keep me dancing all night…” It was a little fast tempo but it was funky. Ever since then, I cannot walk in any mall or lobby or plane without timing each step to the beat of the music. I also learned to count my poses from head to toe and sway side to side to hit all the possible photographic angles. I have no idea what my brace face was doing. I was too busy counting the poses, all 25 of them. You know, showcase the earrings, point at the necklace daintily, the fingers through the hair move, the flip your collar up move. This was followed by the touch the buttons move, cross the arms, cross one arm, hand on the hip, on both hips, on no hips, hands folded, hands behind the back move. Next was the look at your watch move, or look in the distance with a salute move. All the while shifting my weight on the left leg, then the right, like I was skiing a slippery modelling slope. I have to say, it helped me out of some pose blocks when I started my plus size modelling career at 19.

Feet and teeth braces off, I answered an ad in the paper for models size 12 and up. I thought, oh great, I think I can do that. My dad took some good  photos of me in exaggerated leaning poses with way too much makeup and hairspray and I brought them in to my interview with an agency in Toronto. They arranged my first photo shoot at my expense. I paid $600 for yet another course. Professional makeup, lighting, photography and some gentle direction landed me some surprisingly decent photos.

The first “go see” I had was Sears Catalogue. I lied as per agency instructions and told them I was 23 instead of 20. I had my first, awkward photo shoot. I brought my neutral shoes and hose in a grocery bag. I smiled big for that camera.  I threw my head back with imagined confidence and chutzpa. I stood far and wide with hands boldly on my hips. I had to do my own hair and makeup (way too much teasing and poof from hair spray, but it was the 90’s after all).

The next week, the entire photo crew walked into Swiss Chalet restaurant while I was waitressing. There I was in my puffy swiss blouse, red-bibbed apron, spice nylons and white deck shoes. I took great pains to avoid their section at all costs, hiding my face, slipping off to the kitchen, back towards them at all times. They greeted me on the way out at the cashier bar, by name. I was mortified. But then, they smiled warmly and said, “By the way, Sears like you.” My face was flushed with embarrassment. Later I learned that most models do have jobs outside of modelling, often in the restaurant business and I did not have to pretend that I am making ends meet simply from my illustrious modelling career, and particularly, after one photo shoot with Sears Department Stores.

But every time I hear the Michael Bolton sing “put on my blue suede shoes and I…I boarded the plane….” I think of how far I’ve come. From wearing torturous blue-suede shoes with horrible screws to keep my knees from venturing inward…to walking the basement balancing a book on my head…to starting a plus size modelling career at 19 in Toronto… segwaying into an airline career 8 years later, where I board a plane numerous times per month. I am not sure they correct “pigeon toed” children the same way these days. I have often seen models on the red carpet posing as such to show off their figures. But in my song, the blue suede shoes are a bittersweet memory. And if that is what it took to get me from there to here, then, I am very grateful for walking that path. For that is what it took for me to get from there, to here.

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Categories: Modelling-Every Picture Tells a story, The Truth About Plus Size Modelling

Author:Stylish Stewy/Ask A Flight Attendant

A former plus size model and flight attendant reflects on an inner journey on this earth worth exploring.

Catwalk to Runway

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