A year ago, I would have never thought I would be walking away from my first volunteer season of Kansas City Fashion Week with the realization that I could walk the runway… and then have the capacity and determination to do so.
I also didn’t think I would be walking in that show exactly a year later.
White translucent boots, fishnet tights, blue wig ‘n all.
Let’s back up: It is a little known fact that what I originally was pursuing in college was fashion design. I just didn’t know how to get there, and if I really wanted it. Was it really the design part of the industry I wanted? Though I made super crazy hodge-podge, ultra-colorful clothes in high school with scraps of fabric from my ma’s sewing bin, I didn’t have the patience for creating a well-made garment. (hence, pants made with one tight rear cheek while the other pathetically sags, and a crotch area that was all wrong were the result.) But I knew the fashion industry was one of the industries that made sense to me somehow (and for the sake of clarity, working in a Banana Republic store isn’t what I am talking about when I talk about working in the fashion industry).
Frankly, anything with a stage feels like home, but that’s another story for another time.
In my experience, anything in the artistic industries doesn’t necessarily have a clear set path, and those that are say, CPAs or attorneys or doctors or hotel managers, haven’t typically understood that. Though, I am sure they all mean well, and they just want me happy and thriving. I have gotten a lot of, “Well, what are you doing to make that happen?” which becomes exhausting. For me, it’s been mostly trial and error, making connections, using my gut, and “waiting for the right time” while working on my skills in the meantime (and mostly failing at it) with the limited extra time I have. These typically aren’t industries that provide consistent living means, so the main dream became the side dream out of necessity. And then the next question I have gotten is, “But if you love it, well then, why aren’t you doing it?”
And because I hadn’t quite figured out what I love exactly is or how to get there. All I know is where it is and that other people are somehow doing what I want to do, whatever that is.
It’s been a tough spot to live in; let alone, explain. Usually it’s come out as me sputtering something about, “I only know that I am made for it, but it hasn’t worked out for some reason yet.”
For me that has usually been followed by blank skeptical stares, and sometimes this comment:
“You’re a millennial who doesn’t know how to stick around to build a career.”
I HAD a job opportunity in a similar industry (music) 10 years ago, but the timing and opportunity wasn’t right, as much as I violently opposed that realization. I had to begrudgingly let it go, but not before, while in the middle of a dream being realized, my entire self ignited with purpose and with a resounding “Hell yeah, THIS IS WHAT I WAS MADE FOR.”
It was one of the hardest decisions of my life.
Time and numerous similar interactions with people had taught me to be quiet about my dreams. To disregard them. To downplay them. To second-guess them. To change the subject. To bury them. To cry myself to sleep over them. To silently die inside over them as the fire in me ironically continued to grow.
Any one feeling me over here??
This is not to point fingers; it’s simply the truth of my story. I know I am not alone in this struggle.
One of the best ways I can describe it is akin to putting a puzzle together.
Except most of the pieces are missing.
And the top of the puzzle box is blank.
And the pieces don’t seem to make sense and aren’t fitting together though some look like they should (my puzzle people feel me?).
Meanwhile, there are those that are effortlessly finding their puzzle pieces and have the tops of their puzzle boxes. Some are even almost done. These puzzle wizards are now either staring at you, leisurely sipping their victory tea and wondering out loud why you aren’t done, while others are telling you where to put the pieces.
But that’s not where that piece goes, and the pieces they are trying to force together don’t actually fit. But somehow you are being told that this isn’t being completed because you must be lazy, unrealistic, flighty or a failure.
When you know in your heart of hearts that’s not true. None of that bullshit is.
I am not lazy. I am not flighty. I am not a failure.
Neither are you.
I have not missed it.
Neither have you.
But fast forward to now…
The picture I always felt was there on the top of the puzzle box is being revealed, and it’s far more tremendous than I could have ever dreamt.
Can you see and feel it?!
Here I was with a realization as I watched those models walk last year: I can do this, and I would’ve never considered it before without seeing it, or honestly, without first going through two years of therapy.
This is just one piece to the puzzle for me.
After that light-bulb moment, I began soliciting advice and coaching from different models in the fashion industry last December, and I was taken aback by the willingness of the Kansas City fashion community to welcome me in and share with me. In between measuring models for last year’s Spring show tryouts, I practiced my walk with seasoned models. Took pointers. Learned the rules. (There are rules to runway modeling! Who knew?)
Then I went for it. I auditioned with my heart thundering out of my chest and with terror that had to have been evident on my face.
But I made the roster! This means that the KCFW committee saw my walk and headshot and allowed me to be a part of the pool of models that they would allow the designers to choose from.
I didn’t get picked up by a designer.
I started trying out for other shows. Terrified. But not as much as before. Slowly improving and always making the roster.
At my second tryout for another show I nearly fell over in my walk and gave a (truly) gruesome headshot, and somehow a designer (LV Swim) saw that hideous tryout and said, “I’ll take her.”
For that I am so grateful.
In preparation, I met up with a local model coach who has been in this industry for 18 years and is killing it: Walking multiple times for a long list of designers at Paris Fashion Week and fashion week’s all over the States; doing extensive print modeling; and sitting on various fashion boards, among other impressive accomplishments. (See below for the contact info for Noelle Manica, one of sweetest and most helpful human beings ever.)
I walked that first show this past April for LV Swim. Within five months, I have walked in four other shows, had a photoshoot for a local designer’s new line, and am currently waiting to hear if I got picked up by a designer in another show. I also started as an ambassador for an iconic KC gym. Watch for more on that soon!
Last Saturday, two other models volunteered their time to show me some more modeling pointers, coaching me through what to do in front of the camera, and how to perfect my walk. I couldn’t be more grateful. (Contact info for Heather and Jenn are below. Heather has been at this for a long time, and Jenn also doubles as a stellar photographer.)
This ain’t easy.
And my goodness, it is so scary. Sometimes fear and doubt have gotten the best of me.
But I am doing it.
The best part? I have people in my life who are supporting me and cheering me on.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, y’all. Buckle up.
Support your local women! Check out some of the talent and support I have the pleasure of knowing and have mentioned in this post:
LV Swim: Don’t go to Target; buy all things beachy-, sleepy- and comfy-wear from this local designer! Find her on Facebook at LV Swim and follow her on IG @lv_swim
Noelle Manica / The Model Board: For more info, for model coaching and to contact her, go to www.themodelboard.com, and follow her @the.model.board on IG
Heather: Follow her @heatherbcurvy at IG
Jenn Robbins: Check out her website www.jenniferrobbins.net/, contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information, and follow her @jenn.a.robbins on IG