“You’re going to be a super model at New York Fashion Week.” I still remember the feelings that coursed through me as I read the email. My heart was pounding as a childhood dream re-awakened. As a little girl I’d tell my father I’d be a top model when I grew up, with that lack of conceit and absolute certainty of childhood. That wish had already been granted for me; all that was needed was for the exact moment to appear. That’s often the way the biggest dreams come true, all of a sudden. And so it was. Earlier this year I had been “crowned” among the world’s 100 top fashion influencers, and now I was being invited to join these amazingly beautiful models on the runway. I immediately said yes, even though I felt a glimmer of tension. I set off from Philadelphia in the morning with my photographer, video operator, and also with a fantastic woman who’d made a wish on the Wishwall: to go to a NYFW show.
Her name’s Gloria, she’s a cancer survivor and she’s a woman fighting with all her might to encourage others like her and demonstrate that one can live. I very much wanted to give her the gift of this adventure. Having her with me made it all the more beautiful. I drove for two hours, we parked and amidst the clicking of camera-shutters, videos and frenetic dashing we entered into the “models” section. I gave them my name. I was there on the list, so it must have been true. Right away they started to apply make-up to me and do my hair. A room full of assistants, shouting, running, clothes that flew around the room, and sudden make-up changes to suit the designers’ impromptu innovative whims.
I look at my make-up artist and smile. I can even feel her tension. We’re at the New York Fashion Week and it probably doesn’t come any greater than that. I meet my stylist, Odair Pereira. He’s such a sweet and attentive person, and this greatly encourages me. Rehearsal time. It’s time to rehearse on the catwalk together. A long shiny black runway, surrounded by a lot of seats, soft lighting and the production manager who shows us where to stop for the bank of photographers. When you parade, try not to smile unless the stylist specifically directs you to do so. You must be sexy, intriguing and serious. Message received and understood, I rush downstairs. Odair is to dress me. He’s fantastic; every piece is a unique creation and he drapes every item of clothing around his model as if he and her were one.
“For you I’ve chosen this chiffon mermaid dress”, and he holds aloft a long dress, with such a long train and chiffon decorations. A dress fit for a princess. It’s close-fitting and body-hugging and my first thought is – it’s just as well I’ve been on a diet. It’s true, the life of a model is an endless succession of sacrifices, but anything’s worth it to be able to wear that dress. I’m handed a pair of stratospheric heels with studs and I am seized with panic: heels, long dress, train, catwalk. What if I take a tumble? What if the heel catches on the train? Another model realizes my plight and gives me an impromptu lesson on how not to fall when you’re wearing a long dress. When you stop in front of the photographers, take one more step forward and then spin around to walk back. In so doing you will cast the train behind you and you won’t fall. And when you walk, kick forward slightly so that the dress stays behind you.
We’re all waiting in line, in order of appearance. The music is loud and the tension palpable. Odair makes us smile and everything springs into to life. The show starts, four models take to the stage first, and then it’s my turn. I go on, get to the center of the ramp, I pause a little, look at the photographers, and start walking. The floor is slippery and I can make out hundreds of people; all eyes are on me, but the emotion is exquisite. I reach the end of the runway, pose for the cameras for a few seconds, and at this halfway mark, turn back round. Much to my untold relief I haven’t stumbled. As always the applause brings the greatest satisfaction. Odair is happy, the public sing his praises and we can bow out. The end-of-show euphoria is something that only those who’ve experienced it will understand. Joy mixes with tender melancholy as I remove my dress. My dream has come true. From a tiny village in Italy, I got to parade along the catwalk like a supermodel, at New York Fashion Week no less, and I owe it to my hard work and perseverance, which are two of the most fashionable qualities one can possess.
I am Fashion, and extremely so. My heartfelt thanks to the fashion world which brings so many dreams to life in ways that nothing else can.
Credits: William Russell-Edu, Collaborator