You know, it’s funny; the beauty and fashion industry can be pretty ugly. For all the beautiful clothes and beautiful people, awesome events and exclusive invites, there’s the B-side of the experience. The rejection. The judgement. The industry imposed body dysmorphia. The unfollowers…and the bots. The clicks (or lack thereof). It can be a lot. You’ve got to have a thick skin, because everyday and with every accomplishment, there will also be a punch to the grill, and you know nobody wants to look at bruises when you are fabulous. Beyonce was right when she told us; pretty hurts.
Take for instance, my last two weeks. My agent called me about a booking for a fairly large charity benefit; I would be walking as a survivor and model in a fashion show to raise money for breast cancer. On the surface, it sounded like a perfect fit; as a cancer survivor, (occasional) model and fashion junkie, we both felt like all the boxes were ticked. I personally was excited to participate in a show that would allow me to meet women - fighters and survivors- who could both encourage and use some positive support. Most of all, I was excited to shine a light on the other side of breast cancer; the survivor side. The you can be just as fabulous as you dream of, you can wear the dress, wear the bikini, feel like yourself again side of cancer. It may not seem like it, but knowing that there is hope that you can feel like yourself again is a big deal when you are battling through the huge changes that come with the fight. I was excited for all these reasons and looking forward to the show when I got an email last week letting me know that, actually, I had lost the booking. Specifically, it read “after reviewing your spec sheet (my sizes), the designers are concerned because the dresses are form fitting and they are concerned about fit, so they actually won’t be using you. I’m sorry!” Okaaaaaaay…..
Now let’s be clear, this is not the first booking that I have lost for one reason or another. It does happen from time to time, and very honestly, its to be expected. Production needs change, budgets change, all sorts of things happen and next thing you know, you are down a gig. No big deal. But this one bothered me. Maybe its because it reminded me of the all the gigs where even at my skinniest, I just wasn’t skinny enough. But that passed quickly; I am 6 feet tall and a size 8; in no one’s world is that or should that be “too big”. And why would a fashion show with the aim of celebrating life and survivor-ship be featuring models of only size 2-4? Its NOT fashion week, after all. The aim is not to sell clothes; its to make people feel good about the value of investing in saving women’s lives. So in a fashion show to celebrate the realness of what it means to be a woman, there would not even be one size 8 among them? Whose experiences will these perfectly modelesque women speak to? The reality is that when it comes to fashion, a lot of people feel that “real” designers only use “legitimate” - translation - ultra-skinny - women. In other words, a show is more valid when the dresses are pretty and the models are skinny. But we have to think more deeply about what we value and why. Women of all sizes are beautiful, they know how to strut, they know their angles and are just as ferocious as any size 2; we are valid as models and actors and influencers and dancers and any other creative you can think of. If we cannot acknowledge that even in events that are supposed to celebrate the value of womanhood or diversity, something is horribly wrong.
I want to be clear; I was not and am not devastated about loosing the gig. I continue to be extended amazing opportunities that I am excited about and thankful for. Also, realizing that the priorities of the production were so vastly out of line with my priorities for this particular event made it is easy to walk away. But it reminds me that even today, with all this body positivity and body diversity in New York City, it is still exceptionally hard for women who fall outside the “requisites” to even get a gig in an off off Broadway show, charity fashion show, etc. It reminds me that having a true sense of your own worth and your own beauty and your own style will save you when the world will imply that you’re not enough. And most importantly, it reminds me of sage advice from my dear cousin (and Broadway vet) in a convo so many years ago: we’ve got to always be looking to create opportunities for ourselves. I’m thankful for this platform, in large part, because it’s mine. We all have a space that is ours, and that is where our talent sits. Whether we are writers, or artists, of connectors, or dancers, our talents are our platforms, and they will always make room for us. Even if that means clearing our paths of a few people, gigs, collaborations in the process. Because in the end, it is our talent that connects us one to the other. My talent is being fabulous. And if the people I am working with have a hard time seeing it, then I trust that my talent will move me away from them and towards more like-minded fabs. Here’s to you following your talent wherever it may lead you. Remember, some fools may not get it, but they won’t take up space on your journey for long. Your talents will make sure of that.
Stay Fabulous, Dolls!💋