Once you’ve scraped yourselves off the floor…
I will recount to you my adventures of Friday night. Now I know it’s something of a shock, and I have paper bags at the ready for those of you with a nervous disposition, but I spent the best part of Friday with styled hair, a made-up face, modelling clothes. In a fashion show. In front of an audience. With professional photographers.
Okay, okay, just take a minute to let that sink in. Sit down, let your heart settle and stop hyperventilating. Take as long as you need…
Ready for me to explain? Good.
My lovely friend Sarah, from Uni, contacted me a while back asking whether I’d help out with this charity fashion show she was putting on. She works for St Richards Hospice, and this is the second show she’s done to raise money for the charity. When she messaged me I immediately said “oh yes of course I’ll help out, no problem” without really thinking about it. A couple of weeks later, however, it suddenly hit me. I’d agreed to be a model for the night. Me. A model. The hilarity of that alone took a while to recover from, and then I got struck with the realisation that there would be people watching and I’d have to wear make-up and have my hair done and walk around in heels and aaaaah. I went into full on panic mode and almost sat there rocking, thinking “I can’t do this, I’m not cut out for that kind of thing, what was I thinking, I’m so stupid.”
It never occurred to me to back out though. I’d agreed to do something to help my friend, so no matter the fear, uncertainty and potential humiliation to myself, I was going to do it. And do it I did!
My first challenge was getting to Evesham in the first place, as I’d never driven there before. After fighting my way through the traffic and a rather disturbing looking collection of emergency vehicles in Pershore, I got there. Straight away I tried on my second outfit which I hadn’t seen before. Fortunately it was a perfect fit first time, so we didn’t have to play around to find something else. I had some minor reservations about the colour – purple isn’t really me – but the fit was good and it wasn’t supposed to be about me anyway, it was about showcasing the clothes.
When we entered the salon in the town centre for me to get my hair done, one girl was there with hers already styled, and another was sat in the chair with some serious backcombing action going on. My heart plummeted and I suddenly felt rather ill. I’d forgotten that 80’s hair was, on the whole, big and poofy.
Somehow, deep in my heart of hearts, I knew that big hair was going to be inevitable. I just hadn’t allowed it to surface until that point. So when she sat me in the chair and announced “Oh yeah, yours is gonna be fluffy, like Farrah Fawcett” I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably never be able to brush out the backcombing and hairspray that I was about to undergo. She whacked in a whole load of Velcro rollers, and stuck my head in one of those blowdry machines. The air alternated between hot and cold, and I couldn’t hear a damn thing for the fifteen minutes it was on. Which meant that when one of the other girls was sat chatting to me, I ended up accidentally ignoring her completely.
After that ordeal (I kinda felt like an old lady with the dryer on, all I needed now was a blue rinse) I then had copious amounts of hairspray blown in my direction and hairgrips firmly attached. In the end, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d anticipated and while it wasn’t something I’d ever do to myself, it was certainly not the worst hairstyle I could have ended up with. She barely even needed to backcomb it either as the minute she took out the rollers, it went all static and did the job itself.
Having walked through Evesham highstreet looking a bit of a plonker, I then found myself sitting in a chair faced with a table full of make-up and a woman with brushes in her hands. “80’s? Fab” she said, and went to work. I just sat there, panicking. There was so much make-up, more than I’ve ever seen before, and it was going on my face. Jesus! I could almost feel my skin rejecting it. I managed not to express any of that though, and just sat there quietly telling myself to get a grip. When she was done, I found a mirror. And nearly fell over backwards. I did not recognise the person looking back at me one iota. She was a total stranger to me with her scary electric blue and pink eye shadow, deep red lips and blushered cheeks.
Dressed in my 80’s gear of snakeskin leggings, a “War Is Over” vest top and denim jacket, I would’ve fitted right in had it been 1984. However, it was not. And therefore I was wandering around feeling a little self-conscious for the first while. Once everyone else was in a similar state of attire, however, I relaxed a bit more as we all looked as crazily out of place as each other. I didn’t know any of the other girls very well, but fortunately they were all absolutely lovely and made it easy for me to slot in and have a laugh. We practiced our routines about sixteen million times, eventually getting it right.
Modelling is just walking up and down right? I thought so too. Until this, that is. It was deceptively difficult to get 10 girls walking on and off stage at the right time, stopping in the right places, and matching each other pace for pace. We got there in the end though, and as we heard the hall start to fill up and the microphone switch on for Sarah’s welcome speech, we were all looking at each other nervously.
The first walk was easy enough, as we went out in pairs. It made quite a big difference, to have someone standing and walking next to you. I certainly felt less anxious knowing that my partner, Melissa, was going to be on stage at the same time as me. I had to force myself to go slow though, as in practice I’d walked as if I were walking down the street, with quite long quick strides, and left Melissa behind. Having a model sprint down the catwalk seemed less than ideal, so we agreed I would definitely have to slow down. And I managed it, although what I wanted to do was just run and get it done as fast as I could.
The second walk, however, was much scarier as we had to walk out individually and stand in an allocated space until everyone was out. We then had to stand for a length of time before moving on and standing in the next spot and so on, until we had all filed off the stage. Fortunately I was seventh to come out, out of ten, which meant I only had to stand in one place while three others took up their positions. I say fortunately, because my right leg started to shake while I stood there, the pure terror of knowing that the people I was directly in front of, would be looking at me. I had to force as much of my weight as I could down through my right leg, so that my heel didn’t clack on the floor with the trembling.
It didn’t help that one girl then forgot that she was supposed to stop at the top of the steps, walked down one and then backed up and stood in her place looking like a naughty child who got caught with their hand in the biscuit tin. So, naturally, I got the giggles and had to stand there supressing another set of shakes. Afterwards, I found out I wasn’t the only one, which made me feel slightly better, as I was worried I’d end up ruining the whole thing by being unable to stay serious.
My group then had a good long stretch to chill out in, as there were another two sections before our next one. So we removed the terrifying eye colours and had it replaced with slightly more normal stuff. Still more make-up than I would ever wear normally, but certainly less scary looking. I almost knew who I was in the mirror by then. We all fiddled with our hair a bit too, taking out some of the insane poofiness and removing enough hair grips to fill a bucket.
Our second outfits were evening dresses from a shop in Evesham called Bella Due. Mine was a ruched purple number, and all the others were in similar deep colours, purples and blacks and one rather striking green one. Paired with our toned down make-up and slightly less backcombed hair do’s, we must’ve looked a rather sophisticated bunch by the end of it. When it came to the walks for that outfit, my nerves had all but gone as I knew it was nowhere near as scary as I’d expected. The audience were clearly loving it by the murmurings of “oh look at that” and “wow, what a dress” and by that point I’d rather got into the spirit of the whole thing. Instead of feeling panicky and self-conscious that people were looking at me, I began to feel proud and empowered by it. After all, they weren’t actually looking at ME. I had a mask of make-up and hair and clothes which was what people were seeing. So I rose to the occasion as best I could.
The most disconcerting part of the whole thing, was standing there trying to ignore the photographers snapping away in front of you. It was their job and I’ve no doubt some of the pictures will turn out great, but having a guy clicking away at you is somewhat unnerving if you aren’t used to that kind of thing. I also found the posing side of it a bit awkward. But I think I pulled it off, just about.
I’d definitely do it again, because at the end of it, I had a lot of fun. It took hours to get all the make-up off, and even longer to gently tease out my hair. But it was quite an exhilarating experience and a really great thing to have been part of. The best thing, is that it was really successful and raised over £1000 for the hospice. So to have been part of something that worthwhile, was fantastic.
I think we all have an inner model, that part of us that yearns for the spotlight and when given it, can step out and say “Hey, you, look here, yeah, right here, look at me”. We all have the ability to go out there and command attention, but a lot of us don’t realise we can until we’re in a position where it’s unavoidable. I’d never have imagined myself doing anything like that until I actually did it. Until I was actually on that catwalk with the lights and the music and the audience, I never thought I could do it. Nor did I expect to enjoy it, but I really did! I’m so glad I agreed to do it, and even more pleased that I never allowed myself to think of backing out.
Tomorrow I will be back in my jodhpurs and off to play with the ponies again. No make-up, no crazy hair, no fancy clothes. But then….ponies.
Ponies always win.