A few years ago I was asked to be a model in a fashion show held at the Sugar Hut in Brentwood (shu’up!). When I got the message from Lindsey, the lovely organiser of the event, I wondered if she’d meant for me to ask my 5 foot 9 sister who has twice been scouted by modelling agencies, so beautiful and symmetrical is she. But no, apparently Lindsey did mean me (in your face Claire) and I was super chuffed.
The only tiny hiccup was the fact that I wasn’t sure Lindsey knew about my quaver spine. She probably assumed a petite pole dancer would be fairly easy to dress, which as I’ve mentioned before is not the case. Positive head on, I decided I’d keep that little secret to myself and seized the opportunity, as I’ve always been obsessed with Americas Next Top Model and I was pretty sure this was the closest I was ever going to get.
Rehearsal day dawned and I made my way to the Sugar Hut to meet Lindsey and the other models. At 5 foot 2 I’m often the shortest adult in the room, but this was like wandering into some kind of sexy, contoured giraffe enclosure. I consoled myself by remembering that this must be how Kate Moss has felt for most of her life, got into the queue of beauties and awaited further instructions.
Any hard core fan of ANTM can easily recite Miss J’s golden rules of runway, and I’m no exception. I’d laid out dressing gown ties on the floor at home to create a makeshift catwalk and practised everything I knew, smising and popping my hips, neck long, arms loose, I worked my mums front room carpet like a 9 to 5. So when Lindsey asked us to take turns walking the catwalk, mama was ready.
The only trouble was we had to walk to music, and it was rather fast. When it came to my turn, I tried to strut like the prize pony I know I can be, but I found myself struggling to keep up with the pace because my legs were too short and I had to rush to keep the spacing. I was worried Lindsey would tell me to immediately return to my apartment here in Brentwood, pack my belongings and leave. Thankfully she didn’t, and I got to stay and try on all the clothes. Yay! Or so I thought…
One of the designers had a collection of gorgeous, hand-sewn bikinis encrusted with jewels (natch), and I was asked to try on one of the bikini tops. Bugger. I’d been able to hide my wonkiness up until this point, but the jig was now definitely up. I didn’t want to be a pain, so with a sweaty upper lip, I went and got changed. I came out and clocked myself in the mirror, I was bright red and stiff as a board. I felt absolutely mortified that my entire ‘problem area’ was on show.
I stood in front of everyone frozen, more of a mannequin than a model (before it was cool). The designers flocked over to me and, seemingly oblivious to my discomfort, started to decorate me like a christmas tree. A handbag was looped over my elbow, someone hung a really long, beaded necklace around my neck, I had a sarong draped loosely round my hips and, last but not least, an enormous feather headdress was placed on my head, like the cherry on top of a bemused, half naked cake.
In films, this is when the girl is made to look silly, but somehow still manages to pull it off. This didn’t happen to me. I looked and felt like an idiot. I didn’t even say anything, I just stood there and let it happen. Like when you dress a baby up purely for your own entertainment and they just lay there helpless, with an oven glove on their head. All the other girls were watching and I tried to smile and be professional but I just wanted to take it all off and put my jumper back on.
Once the crowd had disbursed I went to find Lindsey to ask if she actually wanted me to wear this creation. Praise sweet baby Jesus, she told me I only had to wear what I felt comfortable in. I was so relieved, but it made me massively worried about what I’d be asked to wear on the day.
I went home that night feeling deflated. I’d been so excited to be in the show, but I was unbelievably self-conscious about my body. I left there feeling like none of the clothes looked good on me, and no-one would want me to model for them. I felt like the joke after I’d been loaded up like a glitzy buckaroo, and I actually started to wish I hadn’t said yes in the first place.
Still, I invited my family and some friends to come for moral support, and by the time the event came around I had bounced back from the rehearsal and was full of beans again. You just can’t keep a good show pony down.
I was surprised to be given 4 outfits to wear that day. One of which was a backless evening gown. This delicious garment had been tried on by most of the girls, and I’d been one of the last to attempt to walk in it. Even though I knew it was too long for me and my back would be showing, it was so gorgeous I couldn’t resist. I didn’t for a minute expect to wear it on the day, I was genuinely shocked to see my name on the hanger. I had a flicker of doubt when I considered my scars being out, but then I thought sod it, I’m going for it.
I later found out the designer had chosen me because of how I’d bounced down the catwalk in rehearsal, beaming and giving it everything I’ve got. I was also asked to open and close the show which I was thrilled to do. It goes to show that people’s perception of you isn’t always what you expect. I was so focussed on all my ‘negatives’, I struggled to understand how anyone would see past them.
Life is full of little lessons, and this is one that I’ve come back to many times. Take the chance to do things that make you happy, even if you doubt yourself. There will always be reasons why you shouldn’t, but you can’t let anything hold you back. When you have an opportunity to walk a new exciting path in life, you better werk.
Congratulations. You’re still in the running towards becoming Americas Next Top Model.