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I became a fashion model for a day and lived their glamorous lie

Shunali Khullar Shroff
Shunali Khullar ShroffMar 06, 2017 | 14:18

I became a fashion model for a day and lived their glamorous lie

I was recently asked to walk the ramp by a well-known designer who was curating a fashion event to raise money for a charitable institution. She wanted “real” women to model her clothes as opposed to just professional models that the other designers had chosen.

This also meant that as a "real" woman one would have to be in the presence of six-feet-tall "waifs" backstage and fervently hope that bulimia was contagious.

Among the women invited to walk the ramp were achievers from different fields and somewhat familiar looking faces who, I was told later, were actors by profession.

Now, it is one thing to read about the formidable world of vanity and the dramas that unfold in the green rooms, and quite another to witness it firsthand — the latter being a highly enriching experience as you are about to find out.

It almost started as soon as we climbed up the ramp for our first rehearsal on the very day of the show. A well-known choreographer, who having chalked out the walking routines for most of us in pairs, was instructing us on executing it, when one of the women threw a hissy fit about wanting to open the show. 

Manifestly, this wasn’t something the choreographer was too pleased about, we had only an hour allotted to us for the practice and this did not afford her much time for making changes. Miss Hissy Fit, however, remained adamant, delaying everybody else in the bargain, and finally having her own way.

None of us knew what her professional background was, and some of us could not help but admire just how perfectly her chiselled, almost reconstructed features, sat on her sculpted to precision face. She wasn’t ignorant of her own pulchritudinous appeal either, as is usually the case, and had chosen to use that as a bargaining tactic with the already harassed and overworked designer.

Backstage, in a large room where make-up and hair stylists were dexterously working away on the participants of the show, I queued up behind the chair for my turn. This girl who had "pancake" slathered on her face in front of me, I reckoned, was in her late 20s. She was a pretty girl, with her pearly complexion and long, crinkled tresses, but so bewitched was she by her own reflection that there was little left to admire for an onlooker.

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Fashion models deserve more credit than they are given.

I watched her face balmed, contoured, dusted, highlighted, roughed, painted, sprayed… for an interminably long time while I waited patiently for my turn.

Several of these routines were followed up with selfies which Miss Crinkled Tresses examined carefully before proceeding to give the already proficient make-up artist further instructions.

The show was about to start shortly and the designer, who was understandably anxious about getting her models ready on time, urged us all to hurry up.

When the girl with crinkled tresses was finally done, I breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of replacing her on the chair, my legs numb from all the standing. But no, Miss Crinkled Tresses, who wasn’t entirely oblivious to my presence, went on to click a few more selfies, some with a pout, some with her eyelids shut and then some more with her chin up, eyes half open seductively, as if she were inviting the mobile phone to bed.

By that time, I was at the end of my tether and having murderous impulses, which I had to rein in, but not my speech that I could use. “If you are quite done with your selfies do you mind moving, as you can see some of us are still waiting,” I said unable to mask my annoyance. She disregarded my sarcasm and asked the make-up artist to touch up her lipstick.

“She is a TV actress,” the make-up artist told me later with a smirk while doing my face.

I got into a conversation with the woman on the chair next to me when I was nearly done. This lady who was closer to my age and of a somewhat corpulent frame was instructing the make-up professional to somehow sculpt high cheek bones on her visage.

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Wearing a blank expression on stage after surviving the daily, behind-the-scenes high jinks is surely a talent worth respecting.

She seemed pleasant and I casually asked her what her profession was. “You mean, you don’t know?” she said before proceeding to give my ignorance a full-bellied laugh that left me bemused. "Oh, but I really don’t, do tell,” I said with a smile.

“Look at her, I have given my life to this work and she says she does not know who I am,” she complained to the girl contouring her face with a charcoal black stick.

“Well, you see I am a radio jockey and the most famous one at that, I am pretty well-known,” she said, enunciating the word "pretty". “But radio jockeys aren’t known for or remembered by their faces, how am I to know what you do,” I told her unapologetically, but sincerely.

She forced a polite smile on her face and then deciding that an ignoramus like me wasn’t worth her time, she abruptly turned her face away.

Nearly 30 minutes later, as I was walking out of the make-up room, the photographers asked me to pose for pictures at a designated spot with a large sponsor backdrop with studio lights.

Ms Radio Jockey, who had just finished doing her own photos and was walking away, decided she wanted to photobomb my pictures and invited herself to pose next to me. “And please tell this lady who I am, can you believe it, she does not know,” she cackled and said to one of the press photographers around us.

By now, I was too entertained to be annoyed. I understood that some of these people around me had pitiably fragile egos, were terribly insecure and this is what the business of beauty and entertainment was all about. 

But people like us, who were not a part of this industry and went about our lives without ever congratulating ourselves on our good fortune, never realised what good fate saved us from ending up with a career under the spotlight.

We were minutes away from being called on stage when the designer beckoned me along with a bunch of her other models for a group photograph. We were just about ready with our best profiles and smiles towards the camera when a tall, well-built girl wearing an elaborate Maharashtrian nose-ring emerged from the crowd and decided to stand right in front of me, completely blocking me in the process.

The picture done, she wanted some more with the designer who was looking at me with exasperation, silently urging me to stay on for the photo. Ms Elaborate Nose Ring though, wasn’t pleased with my physical proximity to the designer and deciding that elbows can be mightier than the sword, she stepped in by elbowing me out in the opposite direction.

It's a pity that such girls don't consider a career in the armed forces, this is a serious loss to the nation. We need people like her defending the nation at the border solely on the might of their strong elbows.

When our show finally got over and I joined my children and friends in the front row to watch the next fashion show for the evening, I looked at the professional models parading up and down the ramp with a new set of eyes.

One had to not only be beautiful, lissome and long-limbed to be in this business, but also develop the hide of a rhino. I would not survive something like this another day, I reckoned.

Fashion models deserve more credit than they are given. Wearing a blank expression on stage after surviving the daily, behind-the-scenes high jinks is surely a talent worth respecting.

Last updated: March 06, 2017 | 14:37
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