Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Glimpse Into My Travel Journal Part1

Just recently, while doing something of a major organizational overhaul in my house, I discovered a few of my travel journals and a binder full of emails that I would send out to family & friends as my modeling seasons were coming to a close. I'll go ahead and share these sappy entries that often waxed and waned poetic....or something like that.....LOL! I am a Gemini and therefore subject to being both very attached and very detached to people and places all at the same time. So I hope that explains some of the emotion behind my entries. Here is the first of many....


I am still in South Beach. The shallowness remains, but I have made some of the best friends I could've ever imagined. I love them all. I will miss then and this place with all my heart. I don't want to leave. I don't want this all to end. I have found my true happiness here and must return next season. South Beach is ingrained in my heart and psyche. Being here is like a drug. I know I can't go for long without coming back. It is here that I became both a woman and lived the childhood I never truly was allowed to have. I have somehow fallen in love with this place. It is inexplicable. It is mad. But, it is true. I cannot deny myself this. I have lived more in three months here than in all 22 years of my life. I will return and live fully again when I do! I FEEL SO ALIVE!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Moving On to Milan & My Dirty Little Secret

My season in Miami ended at the end of February. I had thought about staying for a few weeks into March, but by then my mother agency, Q6 Talent, had placed me in Milan with a reputable boutique agency called Eye for I. The owners were on the horn with my booker at Q6 on a weekly basis from the beginning of February asking when I would be flying out to Milan as they had a lot of clients showing interest in me and one photogrpaher was already starting to line up some jobs. I hemmed & hawed with them because I really didn't want to commit to a date since I loved being in Miami so much and I would be the first of my group of friends to be leaving.....but the pressure kept mounting so I booked my plane ticket and was off.

I have to admit that the prospect of going to Italy was both exciting and disturbing. I had toured the country and loved it when I was in college, but somewhere in between my Asian modeling trips I had actually, and this is my dirty little secret, gone to Milan with another agency and stayed for a total of 7 days before hightailing it outta there and none too quickly. I was scouted in Portland right after I had gotten back from Taiwan and asked to fly out to Milan within two weeks. I was besides myself with excitement and because my mother agency had not heard anything bad about the agency that scouted me I was on that plane quicker than you can blink an eye. I will not disclose the name of the agency as they have since grown to have a pretty powerful reputation, but trust me, when I was there, it was not a good place.

My first trip to Milan is not one that I like to count as a season or an actual modeling was a bad experience, and since most of my modeling experiences have been nothing but positive, this is one that I prefer to keep locked away in the catacombs of my brain....but why write my memoirs & not include it...right? So here goes....I get to Milan, move into my tiny and filthy models apartment with two other models, Beata from Poland and Rikke from Denmark. They were sweethearts so that was great, although Beata was dating an Italian P.R. which meant our phone rang off the hook day & night with other P.R.'s asking us out to party and dinners.

As a model in Milan you quickly find out what a P.R. is and that you should stay away from them at all costs. P.R.'s are Italian men who are paid by the Milanese clubs & restaurants to take models out in order to provide eye candy for the other patrons. Yes, in Miami we also got VIP treatment at clubs and got invited to parties by promoters but the vibe was totally different. P.R.'s are very, and almost harrassingly, persistant and once you give them your number they will hound you like a stalker until you agree to go out with them....then they put the moves on you. Luckily, Beata's boyfriend was her boyfriend so the few times I joined them on a night out that week I didn't feel too weird although watching the other P.R. vultures in action was rather sickening. These men are notorious for slipping GHB in an ususpecting girl's drink and then welll....I'm sure you have all seen this kind of stuff on Dateline.

My third night in Milan, my roomates and I were called by our model scout, Fabio, and told that we would be required to attend an agency dinner later that evening and that he would be picking us up at 10pm. Agency dinners anywhere are a normal and good way to get to know who you are working with , meet your fellow models, make contacts, etc. I didnt think this was too odd of a request although being told that we were "required" to go should have been a red flag. Most agencies invite you to their dinners and whether you show up or not is up to you.

Fabio showed up as promised, took us to a very elegant restaurant and that is when things started to get strange. There were only three other girls there from the agency, and they were already in varying stages of drunkeness, there were no bookers or clients, but in their stead there was a handful of very old and very aristocratic looking men. Hmmmm. I sat with my roomates on either side of me and commenced to eat and make small talk with the other models all the while noticing how these men were eyeing us like wolves. Uncomfortable? Hell yes. After dinner we were then taken to the home of one of the men who happened to be an Italian count for "dessert" and espresso. Since the restaurant, and subsequently the count's house, were on the outskirts of Milan, we had no choice but to go along....had I been in Milan longer than three days, you better believe that at this point I would have figured out a way to get home and pronto.

The count's house was a palazzo....entirely divine and had been featured in an issue of Architectural Digest which was proudly displayed on a coffee table. What the palazzo did not offer however was dessert and espresso. Champagne was uncorked and served, and I passed time & time again on the offers of bubbly. At this point I was completely uncomfortable and my fight or flight instinct was on at full throttle.....and that was even before we were escorted to the basement...or should I say "love den". The man had a basement that was fully tiled in black marble with a black marble swimming pool in it, a sauna, tennis court (not marble...jeez!), and a huge round bed covered in black silk sheets. Had I somehow been transported to the set of some really bad porn? Felt like it.

When I saw what was going on I asked my scout to take me home and he not so graciously declined while stripping to his boxers right next to me. At this point the other girls, with the exception of one of my roomies, had started taking off their clothes and jumping into the pool with the lecherous geriatrics. I sat on the edge of the bed with my coat on even though I remember it was pretty damn warm in there and watched on in disbelief. The girls were squealing and flirting with these nasty old men, letting themselves be groped and lord knows what else. After what may have been 5 minutes but seemed more like an eternity I got up and started to leave. I had no idea where in the hell I was, had no money for a cab but I was bound & determined to get the hell out of that sex hole hell. Here I was, a model, a professional, being treated like an escort. The other girls may have been fine with it, but this went way beyond anything I would ever be willing to do or be a part of. When my scout noticed me leaving he walked over me, dripping wet, and told me not to be stupid, to loosen up & have fun since these were important men & I would not want to make a bad impression on them. WTF? I left anyways and took my one clothed roomate with me.

Somehow, and by the grace of God, the count's chauffeur agreed to drive us back into town although he got lost and we ended up hoofing it back to our apartment on Beatrice D'Este. I got on the phone immediately and made calls to my agency leaving messages and later talking to them telling them I wanted out and that I would be booking a flight home the next day. I ended up staying for four more days because of airline issues, and left swearing I would never return. Later I found out that this and several other agencies that are actually legitimate modeling agencies in Milan were participating in this kind of behaviour.....wealthy men would pay to have models come out and join then for dinners, etc. much like an escort would, albeit unknowingly. Highly disturbing. One of the girls that night was only 15.

Ok, so now can you see why I was a little hesitant to go back to Milan? I hate thinking about that trip, hate admitting that I got suckered in to a situation like's been my dirty little modeling secret for a long time. What put me on the plane this second time was the fact that my booker at Q6 knew the owners of the agency (Eye for I) who were a husband & wife team and the fact that I would be meeting up with some of my friends from Miami while there. Jean-Paul was going to be in Milan with Why Not and Kari would be going to Athens and joining us later with IMM Agency. What did I have to loose? So it was time to bid South Beach farewell....but not without a promise to return.....

I'd be giving up my Miami comp to go overseas and see what Italy could do for me......

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Attitude Adjustments & Calling Cabs South Beach Style

I ended up staying in Miami that season as long as I possibly could. I had established an amazing group of friends, was working several times a week and having the time of my life. And because writing about photoshoots is just not all that interesting.....okay, another day spent at the beach getting hair & make-up done, yadda yadda yadda....I always fall back on my memories of those times of debauchery that were ever so much fun.

After Kari and I moved in with Jason at the Decoplage, we quickly became regulars at Wet Willies which is a margarita bar of sorts on Ocean Drive. For $7 you could get an enormous frozen beverage in one of about 30 flavors and don't even get me started on how good the fries were. The best on earth. Nuff said. You could then take your drink and either walk across the street to the beach or sit on the second story porch and people watch....and you have not people watched until you have been to South Beach. This was a place we could go hang out toss back a drink and just chill, or prefunk cheaply before hitting one of the the main clubs. Prefunking is of the essence even though models get VIP treatment which includes free bottles of alchohol, etc.....but oftentimes you have to wait a while for your table or there are so many models already there waiting to pounce on some vodka that you end up sipping on cranberry juice pretending you have the most orgasmic blend of cocktail in the house. Always prefunk. Amen.

One drink at Wet Willies would leave you rubber legged unless you were a hardcore alchoholic, so cheap & tasty are the best way to describe a Willies frozen cocktail. I'd be lying if I said I don't sometimes wish I had one in hand...especially after a long day with a crazy toddler. Willies was also notorious for how strict they were about the legal drinking age, unlike pretty much every other party establishment on the beach. I have seen models as young as 13 wasted and dancing on tables in the most exclusive clubs there. At Wet Willies, you were either 21 or left outside. This was a nice perk since drunk people in general annoy the crap out of me (thank God I never met myself drunk) so you can imagine how annoying it is to have to be around a drunk teen. You inevitably become a babysitter and that is just not cool no matter how you look at it.

Two of the most potent and popular drinks at Willies were the Call A Cab and the Attitude Adjustment. These would kick you in the ass and Jason was incredibly fond of the Cabs. By the end of season the boy could drink 5 (or more?) of those things and still walk straight. I remember one night my friend Wendy and I emptied an entire container of salt into Jason and her boyfriend, Travis', drinks while they were in the bathroom. They sucked those puppies down without noticing a thing after they got back. That is what those drinks do to you. So you can imagine the insanity that would ensue when we would go out to Willies, the boys would down drinks like they were going out of style and we girls would sip our one or two demurely.....heh!....then we would head out on the town. Club Amnesia was hot at the time and we would end up there on most nights, or Bar Room, then go eat papas rellenas and croquetas at 2am from one of the little Cuban greasy spoons before heading home for the night. We always traveled in our tight knit, thick as thieves pack, so partying hard was never an issue. We were safe in our numbers and after a while, when you are a model on South Beach, the entire place becomes a little like "Cheers"....everyone knows your name & face and you know theirs. They also happen to know your business so you don't ever want to go too crazy. But crazy is as crazy does. eh?

I always had my camera on me to record our antics.....but I just can't find the energy to scan in and crop every single one to show you how badly we all behaved, or how much fun we had....depends on how you look at it. But here are a couple.....

Jason, Travis, Wendy and Kari on the way home from a night out at Wet Willies:

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My beautiful cousin, Melka, who was home from Duke Univ. & decided to brave a night out on the town with me & mine (not sure where the mystery rose next to my face is coming from.....):

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Club Amnesia with Matt, Anna, me, Jean Paul, Kari, and Mandy:

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lechon Asado and Tanning on Christmas

It's Christmas Eve as I type cold and ever dismal Portland, and I can't help but think of my first Christmas away from the West Coast that season....Christmas in Miami. All the agencies shut down on the beach for a couple of weeks so there is no work & nothing to do.....most of the other models go home, wherever home is. I got to stay behind. And even though there was something empirically wrong about seeing Christmas lights, wreaths and other decorations go up in balmy, palm filled South Beach, after all my Oregon Christmases, it was kinda nice to work on my tan while sipping on an egg nog latte frappucino with nary a goosebump in sight.

The reason I didn't high tail it out of there for the holidays with the rest of the model flock was because I have a bevy of relatives in Miami, Cuban of course, and they invited me to stay with them and gorge on homemade Cuban food...which is some of the best food on earth in my opinion. Ummmm, excuse me as I wipe the drool off of my chin while visions of lechon asado, yucca con mojo, moros con cristianos, and maduros dance in my head. It was a great holiday that year....full of all the family warmth, salsa music and delicacies Cubans are known for. Not to mention some family time and real world-ness that was missing from the ever glitzy South Beach scene.

Two weeks of holiday hiatus and it was back to the beach, work, and play. I think I may have been a few pounds heavier by then, but what can ya do, eh? Turn down lechon and tres leches? I don't think so!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The English Gentleman & His Outrageous Irish Sidekick

This was the season in Miami that Kari and I befriended two guys that would become fast friends and give us a taste of what it's like to be, well, extremely and wonderfully pampered.....Neil and Cormac. Neil was a self-made tycoon from London and Cormac was his wild Irish social secretary who would go check out the hottest clubs and restaurants and report back to Neil whether or not they were worthy of going to.

Kari was the one that met Cormac first, and if I remember correctly it was at an Elite agency dinner at Joia that we all happened to be at. They exchanged numbers and the following day he called her asking in his delicious brogue whether or not she would want to "join [him] in bed." Rather awkward question unless you already knew that BED was one of the hottest restaurant/clubs in South Beach at the time. Basically the decor consisted of enormous white cloud beds seperated by gauzy white curtains surrounding a DJ booth and dancefloor. You'd eat, drink and make merry on the beds and were served by a waitstaff wearing white pajamas.....think Sex in the City....

Anyways Kari turned down this invitation, but Cormac persisted until one evening she caved in, recruited me to come along and we joined Cormac and Neil for dinner at one of the many posh posh restaurants in Miami followed by VIP treatment at Opium Gardens. We had a blast. The first thing we noticed was that Neil traveled well....always in accompaniment of beautiful girls and interesting people, be they entrepeneurs, politicians, etc. Neil seemed to know everyone and be known by everyone as well. He was exquisitely mannered and soft spoken, eloquent and the epitome of what you would imagine dining with James Bond would be like. Cormac was wild, hilarious...and I mean side-splitting in his humor....and could turn anyone's bad mood into a good one. They were both absolute gentlemen, and to the surprise and/or suspicion of anyone that Kari & I ever told about our new friends, were far from shady or lecherous. Here were two perfect gentlemen who liked being surrounded by brains and beauty and for some lucky reason they decided that we fit into that description. No advances were ever made. We were treated to wonderful evenings out and had to give nothing but our presence and stimulating conversation. Neil and Cormac are living proof that there really are good, decent men in the world who just happen to have a lot of money.

Dinner with Neil at some insanely good restaurant....can't remember which one though!:

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At the lobby of the Delano with Cormac & friends:

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Thanks to Neil and Cormac, Kari and I got to check out and spend time in the most exclusive enclaves that South Beach had to offer.....they were even more of an "in" than the mere fact that we were models which is usually your E-ticket anywhere. They made sure we were well fed at the most ridiculously amazing restaurants, and we thanked our lucky stars for that. Thanks to those two we got to diversify our Taco Bell, Burger King diets and dine on Kobe beef and caviar. Ocean Drive parties and rockstar treatment aside, Neil & Cormac let us into a world where we got to really feel like royalty. And this was just a taste of what was to come....we met up with them in Milan later, Miami for second season and then Milan again for a side trip to Monaco for the Grand Prix. I miss those two. I'm still in contact with Cormac but haven't heard from Neil in ages...and I hope he is well.

Cormac in his PlayBoy Magazine cover shower curtain turned someone's Star Island house party:

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Infamous Ocean Drive Party

So what was THE most memorable event/party that I got to attend my first season in Miami? I have to say it was the Ocean Drive Party hosted by the magazine of the same name and thrown with lavish proportions at the most luxurious hotel in South Beach. Geting to attend this party made you feel like you had officially entered the world of the gliteratti....and yes, for that one night in particular, my friends and I could have given any of today's celebutants a run for their money....and we would not for a second mind getting our hands on some of that cash.

Models Night Out.....pretending to be famous...there I am in the middle, sandwiched by my beautiful friends:

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The Ocean Drive party was so exclusive that only a small amount of models per agency were allowed on the guest list which was reserved mainly for celebrities and other people that normally roll around with black Amex cards and a 20+ person entourage. Walking into the lobby of the Loews, the hotel it was held in that year, we were all exposed to the flashing lights and general obnoxiousness of the paparazzi (although when you are far from famous, this is actually more fun than obnoxious) after which we were all ushered into the grand ballroom where hedonism ruled supreme.

Kari and I with our friends Neil and Cormac...the REAL James Bonds:

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In every corner of that massive room there were buffet tables layed out with food from different countries and bars overflowing with libations....all of which were free to us. Above the tables, you were either greeted by intricately carved ice sculptures or skin models on beautifully bedecked beds wearing practically nothing and literally in the throes of copulation in every position you can imagine. This was particularly disturbing since I am not a huge fan of naked body parts coming (take whatever definition of that word that you would like) anywhere near my food. But no matter how you looked at it, this was a P.A.R.T.Y. and a full blown one at that and you felt on top of the world just being there....especially after a glass of champagne or two.

Needless to say, this was one night when nobody would have made a good designated driver...or walker for that matter. An hour into the affair we were all but stumbling and inhibitions went by the wayside. At one point I snapped a picture of Steven Segal which I would NEVER in my right mind do, as well as walked up to Robin Leach and gave him a tremendous hug while calling him "darling". Whoah. After the party ended we joined Lenny Kravitz in the VIP of Crobar only to continue being served drinks which at one point, while dancing madly to Jay-Z, Kari and I spilled all over some guy who said he owned a publishing firm in NYC and must have been drunk off his own keester to not mind that we had soaked his Armani suit with Jack Daniels.

Steven Segal......I guess I thought I was one of the paparazzi for a sec:

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The next morning we ran into this same guy at the News Cafe on Ocean Drive as we ate a late and greasy hangover breakfast....he had the waitress bring us over Bloody Mary's which we did not touch....not much into the hair of the dog thing....just made Kari & I want to hurl all the more. Luckily, we didn't run into Joe Publisher again and were able to enjoy the Volleypalooza model agency volleyball competition (imagine fashion models in board shorts and bikinis all competing to win for their agencies) followed by the open air Third Eye Blind concert during which I developed a 10 minute crush on Stephen Jenkins. Man, this was the life. I remember thinking at that point that life could never get better than that. My job was to have good friends and good fun at that point. Nice.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Let Me Interrupt....

Just had to go off track for a second and respond to a few queries as to why I am only using first names in my posts...Well, it's pretty simple. Although the majority of the people I am writing about are close friends, some have gone by the wayside and some have a lot of dirt to hide since they plan to run for office and other such things. Ha! And while no one has told me that they care whether or not I disclose their entire identity....with the exception of one good friend who insists that I call him "Golden Arms"....I think it's kinda creepy to give out THAT much information on people in a public blog. I'd rather just stick to writing about their drunken mishaps and so on as well as posting images of their naked bums running around Italy....oh, you'll see what I mean by this later...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cheese and Sex

Not even in Miami was I able to escape the super smile-a-rific cheese that I had had to endure on one too many shoots in Japan. A lot of German and Dutch catalog clients like their models to smile till it hurts for their pictures, and since I had Asian tearsheets professing to my smiling abilities, I ended up booking many a job that would leave my facial muscles aching at the end of the day.

Here I am in the middle doing a campaign for a Dutch jeanswear company called "Cracker Jeans"...yeah, that really was the name, LOL!:

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Cheese was not something I was soon going to escape....but you learn in the modeling world that Cheese can be a good pays...a lot. You may not end up looking like some drop dead Victoria Secret diva...but you get to pay your bills, and that is pretty damn okay.

From super cheesetastic and wholesome as can be, to severely naughty in 2.5 seconds flat.:

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On the other hand, I also got morphed into a sex kitten while in Miami. Shooting for the likes of Spanish Maxim, H: Para Hombres, and Alex Pertile. Now these jobs made me feel fabulous, but like I said's the cheese that pays. The glammy jobs were for magazine editorials which pay nickels and dimes. You do these jobs for the tearsheets, nothing else, because after the agency takes its cut (20%) you are often left with only enough to treat yourself to an awesome night out at Taco Bell.

This is how guys think we girls like to hang out when they aren't around.....dream on boys......

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bookings...Miami Style

Since I covered some base on what work conditions were like for me in Taipei and Osaka, I have to go into what bookings were like in South Beach.....and I have to say that besides the usual pre-dawn call times, the work was cake.

After getting used to working long hours in Asia, I was amazed at how quick & easy the bookings were in Miami (later I came to find out that pretty much all of the bookings I would have in the States would be like this). Like I said before, work in Miami is mainly catalog and commercial and done for an International clientele. I worked for several British, Italian, Dutch, Mexican, Spanish and German clients as well as a handful of American companies flying South for the winter. Although I shot a few magazines and covers, I mainly worked on catalogs and was booked for what is called either a "half-day" which is supposed to be 4 hours but many times is only about an hour and a half, or a "full-day" which entails 8 hours...which pretty much means anything over 4 hours.

The clothes were for the most part basic and comfortable, no overheating here, although shooting swimwear in the early morning, even in Miami, makes for blue skin and goosebumps. The clients were always super nice and accomodating, genuinely friendly and had motorhomes for us to change in, relax and/or stuff our faces with the veritable cornucopia of snacks that would always be layed out for talent & crew. Ahhhh, comfort! This, however, doesn't mean that I didn't sometimes have to change in make-shift conditions (which happened almost ALL the time in Asia) and which meant you were changing....yes, getting completely buck naked and changing....surrounded by the stylist, art director , photographer's assistant and make-up artist as they held up beach towels so that all the passing tourist couldn't catch sight of your naughty bits. Once you've done this a few times, you a) lose a lot of modesty and b) learn to change from one bikini into another without ever really getting naked. That one is on my resume, thank you.

Bookings would take place anywhere. Sometimes we would shoot in South Beach itself, and sometimes we would head out to Key Biscayne or the Everglades. On the days I would shoot in SoBe, I would normally get really lucky and end up showing up, going into hair and make-up, shooting for 20 minutes and then getting to go home....this would be considered a half day job even though I would only be there for maybe a little over an hour tops and I'd still make the same amount of money I would make in Asia for a 12 hour day. Spoiled? How could you not be? Most of my full day jobs were on-location off of the beach. Which basically meant, we, the models were getting paid to travel in a moho, shoot for a while, chat it up with the clients and basically just hang out. The clients were always in a good, layed back mood too (they were on pseudo vacation, remember?!) which made for a really great work environment. This was the modeling of my dreams!! Although, being something of a workaholic, I honestly never minded the grueling Asian work days. Long hours being dressed up and made up still beats long-hours in a cubicle.....and believe me, been there & done that.

That was what working in Miami was like in a nutshell! A pleasure, through and through. I'm sure people have had nightmare bookings there happens, but I was lucky enough to have nothing but good experiences there and work with really great teams. Even the shot for Spanish Maxim where I had to lay on the floor of an old abandoned warehouse wearing a thong and some feathered wrap wasn't so bad....the clients made sure I was warm with a portable heater and scoured the floor to ensure that I wouldn't get tetanus from a rusty nail in my glutes. Oh, I love thee.....

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Of Awesome Views and Psycho Roommates

After living in our pension for a little over a month, our friend, EIleen, decided to go back to Portland. Kari and I would have been fine staying and splitting the rent two ways, but at that point the unit was having some problems, i.e. the bathroom from the apartment right above ours was leaking copious amounts of water through the ceiling and into our apartment & the owners were doing nothing about it. At that timeI was approached by two other girls from Elite about moving in with them.

Jada & Erin were the girls who were looking for new roomates to share their studio apartment at the Decoplage. Jada was a self proclaimed "Southern Belle" from Georgia and Erin was from a small town in Washington. They both seemed really nice at the time and they had an amazing, albeit small, unit at the popular complex, the Decoplage. The apartment was on the 12th floor of the building and afforded us views of the beach and its vast expanse of cerulean waters. At that time, the Decoplage was considered "model towers". Most of the models on the beach lived there which gave it somethng of a fab dorm atmosphere. The building sat at the end of Lincoln Road, right on the beach with a gym, valet parking, concierge services, pool and private beach access. It was luxury digs when it comes to model apartment living. But along with the "luxury" came steep rents so the more the merrier. Kari and I moved in.

The Decoplage....tall pink building to the right of the pic....not too shabby:

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After living there for several weeks, Kari and I started to feel uncomfortable. Jada and Erin were very clique-ey with each other and for some reason, Erin had a problem with Kari. This has, to this day, remained a mystery to us since there was never any real issue other than perhaps Erin was gaining a lot of weight and Kari could out eat a football player any day and still have a perfect body....being that they were both blond and therefore in direct competition with each other....jealousy maybe? Or maybe it was because she would be on the phone at every hour of the night & day with her boyfriend and we never got to use the horn because of it....or get much sleep. There is nothing more annoying than getting woken up at 4am by someone whispering a conversation over the phone with their sig other. 4 am? Seriously, what the hell do you have to talk about at 4am? Anyways, I think Kari may have mentioned something about this to Erin and therefore upset her. Like I said, it's a mystery.

Jada, on the other hand, I dismissed as shy rather than think that she was an outright bitch. I was wrong. The girl never, ever smiled, and also had some obsessively weird relationship with her fiance who lived in Georgia. Another all hours on the phone thing. We ended up all cohabitating in this studio and it got to the point where Kari and I dreaded to go home and would hang out with other friends and at coffee shops till we just had to go back for showers and sleeping. At this point we had met with a zany photographer from NY named Gary who perenially wore a black Stetson and who dubbed us the "anti-models" because we were such normal girls and just did the job for the sake of doing the job, nothing else. He took us under his wing and introduced to us a bunch of great characters, one of which ended up becoming my best guy friend, Jean-Paul. Luckily, this meant we had a lot of people to hang out with and that kept us out of the apartment.

I would say another month passed and my friend from Portland, Jason, who was also a model let me know that his two roommates were going back to Canada and he needed new roomies....and did I know anyone? Oh, did I know anyone? LOL! Jason had a one bedroom on the unfabulous third floor of the Decoplage....but it was a one bedroom! When I jumped on the opportunity, he offered me & Kari the bedroom and took the living room as his home base. Jason is and always has been the quintessential gentleman. Kari and I won the lottery with him as a roommate. We traded our beach view for a view of Burger King and the Albion Hotel and lived happily ever after that season.

I have to add that several years later, while living in LA, I did a shoot for Razor magazine with a photographer, Ian, who I had become friends with. When I arrived on set my heart sank as I saw that the other model working that day was Jada. It is a small industry, really. We were cordial to each other. That was that. The next day, Ian called me to say that Jada had talked some serious crap about me while they were shooting together. She said that she hated me because I had tried to steal her fiance. WTF?!?!?!?!? Psycho is the only word that comes to mind. Please note: I NEVER met her fiance and didn't so much as see a picture of him....ever. And even if the guy had been around, I am sorry, but I am not into the Confederate flag owning, cross burning, gun rack having type of dudes. No thank you. I like my boys urban & rough around the edges. Not to mention, that I have always had an internal rule that makes any man in a relationship completely taboo and untouchable to me. I don't care if Johnny Depp had walked up to me one day when I was single and asked me out....if he was attached, then he would be out of the question. I am a kharma freak so you can chalk my morals up to that.

So now that I have gotten my South Beach geography all ironed out for you, I'll be able to go on and tell more tales of work and play Miami style. And believe me...there is much more to tell.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Night of the Grand Marnier

Before I get into how Kari and I ended up moving two more times that season, I have to share about the Night of the Grand Marnier. This one goes down in history for Kari and me even though no one else may find it funny. (Kari: Ha! Remember this!!!????)

Kari had been living in San Francisco before she came to Miami and about 2 months into season, her friend, Dante, came out to visit her. Dante was a hairstylist from SF full of mischief and party fever and we just felt it was our responsibility to show him a good time South Beach style. Eileen had gone back to Portland for the month to see her boyfriend so Dante was able to stay with us and we also somehow had acquired a new, temporary roommate from Spain. I don't actually remember how she ended up staying with us or why.....I think her work visa had run out and her agency was giving her the boot which meant she had nowhere to live until she could book a plane back home. Something like that. And I can't for the life of me remember her name, so from this point on I'l call her Ana.

So, there we were, an odd foursome in a little SoBe studio with altogether too much time and privilege on our hands. On South Beach there are always a handful of the "It" clubs (these change from season to season) and each of these offer a different party on a specific night each week. If you aren't booked for the next day, then you go out. That is pretty much it in a nutshell. The VIP sections of these clubs are always full of models and celebs on the designated nights, and when you are a model, you never, ever have to wait in line. We would show up in jeans, tank tops and flip flops and be let in behind the velvet ropes while hordes of regular people would be left dressed to the nines waiting outside.

We had to show Dante what it was like to be a pseudo every free night we had that week we took him and Ana out with us....Bar Room, Club Amnesia, Crobar....we were there. We even accepted an invite to go to the Hawaiian Tropics competition and party at Level which was cheesetastic and one step up from going to a strip club. Note: Fashion models can't stand "skin models" calling themselves "models". It lumps us all into the same category, and well, that is just not cool. Sorry to sound like a pretentious bitch, but that is just how it is.

We had fun, but there was nothing close to debauchery going on. No blackout drunkeness or holding back of anyone's hair as they hurled their stomach lining into the commode. So far, Dante was having a great time, but he wasn't yet feeling like a rockstar. So on his last night in Miami we decided we really needed to give him a good send off. A rather large bottle of tequila was purchased along with some 40's and we prefunked at the apartment O.G. style. We'd be heading out to Senor Frog's for their Monday night party and then over to Nikki Beach for Beehive to close the evening out. Between the four of us, that bottle of Cuervo or whatever the hell it was emptied out at the speed of light and after some totally justified mayhem and creative make-up application we made it out the door.

Something wicked this way a bottle:

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I'm sure you can imagine that at this point we were totally obliterated & I cringe at the thought of what we looked like walking down Collins Ave. Then again, if you are in South Beach and it is past 10 pm and you are not falling down drunk, then you are an anomaly. I do remember at one point (and she swears this didn't happen...lolol!) Kari fell sideways and headfirst into a privet hedge outside a restaurant mid-song....we'd been singing something, and don't ask what cuz I can't remember, at the top of our lungs at that point. Oh, models behaving badly indeed....

Myself, Ana and Dante in full rockstar pose....getting ready....:

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At Frog's we hung out with the usual crowd. Monday nights were popular with the model set since it offered $1 beers and live rock bands....and really good nachos. That I know of, nothing much happened there other than we met up with friends and then walked over to Nikki Beach. At the time, Nikki Beach hosted Beehive on Monday nights which was a weekly hip hop party held by my friend, Linley. Anyone from Ice Cube to Eminem, supermodels to Pauly Shore could be seen preening or on the prowl accompanied by their entourages on any given Monday night.

So, we get to Nikki Beach & since it's an outdoor club on the beach itself, we head straight for a table on the sand. At this point my buzz was wearing off and I was feeling that heavy & unpleasant ugh-ness that would always follow one too many drinks for me. It felt good to sit under the stars & feel the ocean breeze...respite from the thick as stew cigarette smoke at Frog's. At this point, Dante parks himself on top of the table and grabs the menu & before we know it he has ordered the cheapest item on it.....A $200 bottle of Grand Marnier. After it arrived, a couple of model boys also mysteriously appeared at our table, no doubt to partake in what would be free booze for them. I was liqoured out and Kari had passed out in full recline position against a palm tree, so Dante and the boys drank the entire bottle of GM. It was about 1 am at this point and being that I was the most sober of the group, I gathered our band of revelers (yes, Ana was still with us, and I am sure she hd wonderful stories to tell her cronies once she got back to Barcelona.....about los Americanos....lolol!) and we headed back to the homestead. Dante had to be at the airport by 6 am.

I'm sure genereal pukeage ensued after we got home, followed by room spin episodes and desperate clutching of pillows and mattresses before consciousness was lost. At 5am, Dante's alarm went off....and it is by the grace of God that it ever got set in the first place. I remember opening my eyes and seeing him pee in the bathroom sink, splash his face with water, tell his reflection he was a rockstar and then leave. That was the last time I ever saw him. A week later he called Kari to say he had never had a better time in his life & to ask if she knew what the $200 charge on his Visa card was from.

The morning after is not good, ever. Here is the ugly I promised to deliver along with the good & the bad...

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jumping the Agency Ship & Joining the Big Dogs

As happy as I was in Miami, and as truly in awe as I was at the new life I was getting to live, everything was not perfect. Although my bookers at Karin were sweet, I kept running into girls from other agencies with my "look" who were going on several more castings a day than I was, and I was getting a little weirded out by how long it was taking me to get paid for the bookings that I had already done.

Having gone only to Asia prior to this, and being under pretty stringent contracts, I had never had to really think about leaving an agency and looking for other representation. So, the prospect of looking for another agency that would be a better fit for me in Miami was pretty intimidating....especially since I didn't want to piss anybody off. That just goes to show how new in the game I was at the time. What you learn quickly in modeling is that you don't work for your agency, THEY work for YOU...a fact a lot of agencies would rather you forget. And if your agency just isn't working for you, then by all means find someone who will.

My agency was just not sending me out as much as I wanted, they weren't paying me in a timely manner, and I was getting screwed over when it came to rent. My apartment was costing me $1000 a with Kari and I sharing it, they were getting $2000 a month for the unit while normal, non-model units in the building were renting for under $600. Even though the rent was being advanced, I was wanting to get more bang out of my buck, and not feel ripped-off in the rent department. So after weighing all my pros & cons, I called Justin, the owner of my mother agency in Portland, and he set up an appointment for me with Elite Model Management. The next day I went in, they were very excited to take me on board, and I "broke up" with Karin. This meant that I had to find a new apartment and pronto.

Luckily, Kari was game to move out with me even though she was staying with Karin, but she wanted to save on rent so we found a cute little studio apartment in a pension owned by an Argentinian couple just 7 blocks from the beach. With my friend, Eileen, flying in from Portland to work with Elite as well, we would be splitting rent three ways in a $1200 unit which worked out so much better than each getting charged a grand for a bed the size of an eraser and cockroaches declaring squatter's rights.

Eileen, me and Kari in front of our new digs:

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Almost immediately, I started getting sent out on at least double the amount of castings than I was before, and more castings means more bookings. Elite put together a strong comp card that I felt confident in handing over to clients, and just the fact that now I was with one of the top powerhouse, international agencies opened a lot more doors for me. Had I stuck with my former agency because I was too "afraid" to step on any toes or hurt anyone's feelings I would have only been hurting my own chances at the game. Chalk one up to "growing up" in the industry!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mas Miami Por Favor

Before I get into the stuff I know you really want to read about....the Models Behaving Badly kinda thing....I have to go into life in South Beach a little. After all, when I am gray and senile, I am going to be looking back on this blog to refresh my memory of what it was like to be young and fabulous, and everything else in between.

Hanging out on Ocean Ave. with Kari and Crystal:

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After having worked in Taiwan and Japan where modeling is serious business and your castings and bookings are no laughing matter and actually consist of WORK, Miami was a complete and total vacation. Of course, being professional, on time and well rested are always a priority no matter where you go for work, the atmosphere on South Beach was layed back and be expected, right? Models are lured to SoBe with tales of making great money and getting to play....a lot. The money comes mainly by way of German catalog clients and TV commercials, seeing as a lot of the fashion shows and magazine editorials pay in a much smaller scale. Clients come to SoBe to get good models and play as well. Why not turn your business trip into a vacation? I know I would!

Gotta love the Jetsons' style lifeguard stations that dotted the beach!

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So, very unlike Asia, a busy day of castings would maybe see us running to 5 or 6 spots to see clients and photographers. The castings in Miami did take a lot longer since there were tons of models there and in Asia, agencies only bring in a small select number of talent per season. You also were left to your own devices to find your way around the beach and to all of the casting locations, no managers to take you around and act as a tour guide/model PR person. It was solely up to me thent to sell myself to the client after finding my way to whatever hotel lobby they were holding court.

Castings would almost always start in the afternoons and go into the evenings which made for plenty of time to sleep in and sleep off your hangovers as well as go lay out onthe beach to perfect that toasty skin (God, I miss being tanned!). I always knew that this was because the clients needed their mojito by the pool just as much as the next person, so why hold a casting in the morning? Needless to say, I loved this newfound freedom & lifestyle. There are times when I look back on my college days and think what a bummer is was that I could never afford to go on Spring Break....then I catch myself and remember that every time I was in Miami for work was like a prolonged, and much less raunchy version of Spring I can live with that. Instant halt to the pity party!

And with all of the free mornings, if we weren't working (in which case you would be expected on set before sunrise....this is great ont eh Circadiam rhythms, let me tell you....) Kari and I would go hang otu with our new friends and eat breakfast, lay out and just be lazy and happy. There was a lot of time spent walking around that city and enjoying its beaches. And since South Beach is so small, we got to know it like the back of our hands in no time. I also loved the fact that after a few weeks of being there we would always run into familiar faces everywhere we went....had friends call out to us fromt heir cars or mopeds as they whizzed by us. It was like a college campus really, only everyone you saw walking by was more genetically blessed than the next. Seriously, there are tourism flyers that tote how you can sit at a cafe in South Beach and watch models walk by all day long....I thought this was a tacky & kinda funny way to sell the place, but it really is true.

I fell in love with Miami right away. I loved that I felt like I wasn't in the U.S. even though I obviously was. The energy is so Caribbean island style, even the air felt exotic. And of course there was always the parade of the pretentious as you will find anywhere that is as balmy and beautiful, but that could be quickly overlooked......nothing really seemed that serious there. *Cue the Reggae music.*

I just love this picture. The colors are so beautiful and I love how the boys (Jason and John) were so into building this sand castle....they became kids that afternoon. The good life.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Welcome to Miami....Bienvenidos a Miami!!

Being that my mom is Cuban, it goes without saying that I have a lot of relatives in Miami & that I'd visited them several times while growing up. I always had a great time there since my relatives are a warm & boisterous crew always trying to fatten me up with amazing, homemade Cuban food. But the Miami of my childhood waas gonna prove to be a fry cry from the Miami Iwould get to know as a model....the Miami of the fashion world.

Whereas all of my relatives live in "mainland" Miami and its surrounding areas, all of the agencies, photoshoots, castings, clubs, and basically everything that is anything exciting takes place on South Beach. South Beach is an island of sorts that is connected by a series of bridges to downtown. It is small, and fully walkable in every direction, full of beautiful Art Deco buildings, a great strip of beach, & entertainment opportunites for all. It's a playground for the fabulous & the wannabe fabulous, plain & simple.

Since my nearest relative lives about a 30 minute drive from South Beach and I wouldn't have access to a car while there, I accepted my agency's offer of a model's apartment along with their December through March contract. The agency was in the penthouse of a building on Lincoln Road, and my apartment would be 2 blocks away from it. I would have everything I needed right at my fingertips, and I could still spend the holidays with my relatives. Perfect!

Now, unlike NY, Milan, Paris, etc., Miami is not considered a market. It is a location. There are very few clients that are actually based there, rather most of the clients come from all over the world to shoot in Miami's summery winter, the beaches, Everglades, and Art Deco splendor. January is the month that sees the majority of the clients start to migrate to South Beach along with hordes of models both new and seasoned. In subsequent trips, I'd fly into town in September to enjoy a quieter yet just as lucrative pre-season & then stay on until the busy months were over. Miami is not a place that you readily want to's just too much fun.

So, December rolled around, I said my good-byes to Portland once more and was off to Miami. Upon my arrival, my booker took me to my apartment which was a double studio that I would be sharing with 4 other models and pile upon pile of trash...literally. These roomies were sweet, but very young and unpracticed in the arts of hygiene, so it was a matter of days before I scoped out the apartment next door which was also owned by Karin Model Management and which was smaller but only housed two girls. As soon as one of the girls moved out I was in without wasting any time. My new roomate was a sweet Australian girl, who took me under her wing and showed me all around town, where to buy food, etc. The only thing about her was that she had this odd habit of always hanging out naked when she was home as if it were the most normal thing in the world. This made for awkward conversations, let me tell you, and even more awkward roach killings.

I had walked to McDonald's one night and was on my way back when I could hear screaming coming from my apartment, and I mean bloodcurdling screaming. I ran in only to see her in her birthday suit swinging around a broom at an enormous flying cockroach. All the windows and doors were open, the lights were on and the neighbors across the way were hanging out of their windows watching this naked girl chase around a bug. Have mercy, that was embarrasing.

After three weeks, my naked roomie was off to NY & a new girl moved in. I walked in from a casting one day and she was there and I loved her instantly. First of all, she had really short hair and mine was pretty short....anomalies in a market and field where stick straight looooooong hair was the norm. She also had this great layed-back energy and was just plain genuine. We became instant best friends.

Kari and I shared our apartment in peace. We were both as clean & organized as the other. Yay! We hung out and people watched while drinking coffee, shopped, baked on the beach, went to castings together and eventually someone decided to introduce us to South Beach's notorious fashion/nightclub scene & we were accepted into it with open arms and open velvet ropes. I guess you can say that was the end of our so-called innocence.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Osaka--It's a Wrap!

Okay, so I am sure that I have a lot more to write about my first modeling trip to Japan and Osaka in general, but I have come down with a nasty cold....again. So here I sit, pregnant, unable to take any meds even though I would KILL for TheraFlu or NyQuil or pretty much anything that could make me stop feeling like my throat is being invaded by an army of fire ants and giant cinder blocks have been shoved up my nostrils. It doesn't make for great writing or memory re-calling. Sorry guys.

What I can tell you is that I had a great time in Japan. Once again made great friends, although somehow lost complete contact with all of them. The fact that most of them didn't have email addreses didn't help, I'm sure. I made a nice sum of money, got to see a lot of beautiful places....but never made it to Nara where the giant Buddha is located & I kick myself for that one to this day. I am a Buddha freak. I learned some totally random phrases in Japanese, loved how polite everyone know my cousin just got back from teaching in Japan and mentioned that she never saw a little kid throw tantrums there....and I never did either. I swear they are born polite. Maybe I should have given birth to my son in Japan....he is 2 and the definition of tantrum incarnate. I ate some amazing foods...but not sushi. Why? I really can't answer that, seeing as I love the stuff. Hung out with my girls and watched altogether too many totally off the wall Japanese gameshows while overindulging in Meiji ice cream (the best vanilla on earth) with little wooden tongue depressor things.

I got to experience the wonder that is a Japanese department store. You walk in and are treated like royalty. You purchase an item, and no matter how miniscule it is, it is rushed off by a salesperson and returned to you in the most beautifully & intricately wrapped package....makes you cringe at the thought of having to open it to get to what's inside. Karaoked in a "box", but never got into the Osaka party scene, so no crazy stories on the debauchery end of things. I did go to a few Brazilian nightclubs with my roomate and the other models, but those times consisted mostly of people watching and listening to odd Cher remixes & techno-ized samba. Nothing too wild.

I was sad to leave when my time was up. You get pretty attached to your agencies & fellow models when you travel since they become something of a surrogate family for you when you are abroad. But 6 weeks was all I was contracted to be there for, so I was off to board a plane back to Portland for a few months to wait & see where my next stop would be. Stopping "home" in Portland was always my chance to get back into a work-out routine, eat healthy and relax or "de-tox", so by the end of each trip I was ready for that return to normalcy. And the return to normalcy in Portland after Osaka was going to be a much needed one.....seeing as a month after I had returned I was scouted by Karin Models who at the time had offices in Paris, NYC & Miami. They offered me a contract and I was to go to Miami for the following season. South Beach. Den of Iniquity and Happiest Place on Earth. Hallelujah. I was about to be thrust headlong into the world of model rockstardom.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Purple Lipped Fashion Faux Pas

I got lucky in Taipei in that most of my jobs there were shot in-studio and therefore were climate controlled. My location jobs were usually shot at a coastal spot, so I never got to really "suffer" for my art while there. See, catalogs & magazine editorials are shot in opposite seasons. For example, fall & winter clothes are shot in the summer and spring & summer collections are shot in the winter. If you are working somewhere where the weather is mild then lucky you....otherwise get ready to sweat to the point of dehydration or freeze your ass off.

My most memorable, or perhaps traumatizing, job in my modeling history took place in Osaka. Ok, I can't say memorable, because I have had awesome jobs that I will always look back on let's stick to traumatizing.....The job was a catalog shoot for Daimaru Deptartment Stores and was for their Spring & Summer collections. I was driven to location which was several hours out of town at a theme park by the sea that had been shut down for the winter. Red flag. It had an uber-Disney-like Venetian theme to it. Cute, if it hadn't been graced by sub zero weather conditions.

After the long ride there, during which time I got to watch the original version of "The Ring" which scared the crap out of me even in Japanese without English subtitles, I was promptly sent to hair & make-up and then shown my wardrobe. I had upwards of 20 outfits for the day, all of which consisted of flimsy, flowery, spaghetti strapped dresses, shorts and tank tops. I knew I was in for some trouble seeing as it was gray, blustery and yes, very freaking cold outside.

Shooting commenced and I was in my summer's best trying to keep my teeth from chattering and the rest of me from shivering uncontrollably, All the while I was getting wind whipped by frigid air as the rest of the crew huddled around cups of hot tea wearing their goose down jackets, hats & scarves. The light kept shifting as well, so I can't even tell you how long I had to stand in these conditions while the photographer took polaroid after polaroid after polaroid with all of the different meter readings that his assitants were getting. You may ask why no one offered me a coat while I was waiting for the polaroids to show whether the shot was a go or not.....well, their reasoning was that the clothes would wrinkle and thus not look good in the shots. Ha! What about the model dying of hypothermia? A corpse in a summer dress. Hmmm.......Necrophilia-chic?

I remember at one point the make-up artist came up to me and handed me two palm sized packets that contained a gravel like substance in them that heated up on contact. I must admit it was very sweet of her, but while half of my palms were luke warmed, the rest of my body was going into shock. But I grinned and bore it. After all, I was getting paid an chunky amount of money to "just stand there and look pretty" and I was a professional right? So, a little snow shouldn't be a problem, right? And I joke not about the snow. Halfway through the shoot it started to snow.....which I guess was a blessing in disguise since it made the rest of the day progress much more quickly. There was only so much photoshopping they were gonna be willing to do to get rid of the flakes on my summer attire. By that time my goosebumps were so big & painful I thought surely they would have to be surgically removed. But what took the cake was near the end of the shoot when the client had the photographer tell me that I needed to "control" my lips because they were turning purple and that was "not professional". WTF?!?! Whoah. Let me show you "not professional"!!!!

This had to have been one of my worst and most meteorologically challenging bookings ever, and definitely least forgettable. I swear one of my toes is still numb from the experience. It beat out a booking from my second trip to Taipei when I was asked to stop sweating by the client while I was shooting at the top of a parking garage in winter coats & sweaters in 100 degree weather.

Yeah....modeling is a piece of cake.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Journey Through a Model's Intestines While In Japan.

I promised that I was gonna tell you what poop tea is....and so I must keep my word & deliver. But I must preface my description of this fine herbal concoction with a little explanation. Rice is huge in Asia, and in Japan, there is not a single meal that isn't served with a steaming bowl of white rice. You can even get a side of the stuff at McDonald's for God's sake. Delicious? Yes. Filling? Absolutely. Wreaks havoc on your intestines? Hell yes.

See, white rice is binding, as are Udon noodles, and any of the million of other rice based delicacies served in that great nation. The ridiculous amounts of pastries we would eat at the Japanese tea shoppes also, I am sure, did not help in the lack-of-roughage department. And when you are young & busy, eating a balanced meal is one of the last things on your mind. So, on many a day, we would eat an all carb diet with maybe an apple on the side if we were feeling particularly wealthy. Another thing I have to point out is that in Japan, produce is more expensive than 24 inch gold spoked rims. I have never in my life seen bigger and more beautiful apples, pears, grapes, lemons, tomatoes, carrots, etc. than I have there. (Impressive, although you have to wonder how many GMO's were being pumped into those things.) And along with the enormous size of the produce were their enormous price tags. Rice, noodles, bread, and cake were always there you go.

Now, after eating all "white" carbs, toally processed and with not a shred of the original grain left intact, for a period of a week you start to wonder why your body has stopped "producing". If you have lived in a place where white rice, et. al. is what you eat three times a day, then I am sure your body is used to digesting it, and therefore you won't end up doubled over in pain or having your belly protrude as if you had just downed an oversized keg of beer. And if you are not paid to look like your stomach has never seen a spoonful of food, then having a gut that could be the home to a litter of bear cubs may not be a huge deal.....but here we were, both male & female models, going on swimwear and lingerie auditions all sucking in our ever expanding bellies and wincing at the pain in order to not be told by our bookers that we needed to lose weight. It was awful.

Nobody warns you that your intestines will become blocked as if by an anvil when you stop eating lots of fiber and instead replace it all with white rice rice rice rice rice. So here we were, suffering in silence, until one day my roommate comes bounding out into the living room (2 weeks after we got there....and I am not kidding, this means 2 weeks of NONE of us having made any movements if you catch my drift.....and sorry about the TMI, but pretty people have bowels too.) and yells out in her heavy Brazilian accent....."My mama sent me a box and it has poop tea in it!". This was greeted by a snicker and general silence after which she explained that she had not been able to defecate in over 2 weeks, and was in a lot of pain and worried about her career. At this point there were about six of us hanging out at the apartment and we all rushed in with our scatological confessions with great relief. Another Brazilian model suggested we make the tea immediately and have a tea party of sorts since her method of lighting a cigarette and drinking a cup of black coffee while on the pot first thing in the morning just wasn't working.

My roomie, Karen (Brazil), and I at our first Poop Tea Ceremony:

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Needless to say, the stuff worked. The heavens parted, and so on. Rice still remained our staple but we were sure to hit up the local Pizza Hut for their overpriced salad bar at least a few times a week. And we never again felt like we had overindulged in the plastic food displays that sat out in front of every restaurant in Japan. I also must say....if you ever find laxatives in a model's possesion while she is in Asia, please do not jump to the conclusion that she has an eating disorder. She may well be a seasoned pro or have been warned of the dangers of an all white rice diet.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Cheese & Heroin Sandwich. Yum!

After a bit of digging, I was able to un-earth one of my Osaka golfwear catalogs and a beauty editorial from a Japanese magazine also shot in Osaka. Please note the dichotomy between photos. Apparently I make the transition from 20 something to pre-teen to heroin addict with great ease. I'm hoping that the glazed expression in the heroin chic beauty shot was just sheer modeling talent from my part, and not due to the after effects of the poop tea that the girls and I were imbibing. What's poop tea? You'll have to come back to find out! Muahahhahaahaa!

There I am on the left while the other model was an actual 13 year old from Estonia. I was a decade older than her.....have mercy.

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Dazed & confused, but at least they made my eyebrows look good!

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More cheese. Arigato!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Models Apartments...A Practice in Luxurious Living....Ha! I am gonna break away from the chronological re-telling of my travel stories for a second here. To make a long story nice & concise, I have sworn off America's Next Top Model because, frankly, it has become incredibly boring to me, and the girls are just getting more & more daft & annoying. I did, however, watch last night's episode because I am a travel freak and just had to know what country they were gonna be sent to.....ends up being Barcelona, Spain. Bitches. Ha!

I watched ANTM with guilty pleasure up until this current season, much as another person would watch a train wreck, Jerry Springer, or Cops. I also loved to see what foreign markets the girls would be sent to each season since I had lived in most of them (except Capetown & Bangkok) and it was always nice to see familiar streets, buildings, etc. and watch the contestants act the role of "ugly American" to a T. My sense of humor is a bit off, okay. This season just killed it for me though when I saw the girls that were chosen to compete and for the first time ever, not a single one caught my attention as a potential "top" or even "middle" model. Caridee is a maybe, but the rest of the girls are just blah....and Melrose acts like a tweaker.

What I have to rant a bit about is that any girl expecting to enter the world of international modeling is in for a rude awakening if she expects to live in digs like the ones the girls on ANTM are set up in season after season, country after country. This new apartment the girls are set up in in Barcelona is amazing.....and completely unrealistic, but so is the entire show, so what the hell I am writing this for anyways?

Agencies provide housing for their models, yes. However, these apartments are always small, spartan and often times crammed with other girls. And depending on who your roommates are, the place can be a hovel. Pretty girls are not always clean girls. As a matter of fact, some of the most beautiful girls I have met have been the most unhygienic.....worse than a frat boy on any given day. Seriously. I walked into my apartment in Milan one day to discover a new roommate sitting on the couch completely naked and shaving her crotch onto the floor and sofa cushions. She has since become a pretty big name in the Industry so I will allow her her anonymity, but have mercy. That was disgusting.

My apartment in Hong Kong sat right on top of a McDonald's and you couldn't open the windows without being attacked by french fried steam pouring out of their vents & into our home. And this is an apartment that I shared with 7 models. 5 girls and 2 guys in a three bedroom, ONE BATH unit. One bathroom and seven models. Good God.

A huge powerhouse agency in Miami my second season there had to remove all its girls from their residence-hotel because several of the models had allegedly contracted scabies from the sheets & towels. Another friend of mine reported that she had woken up in her bed in Seoul covered in red ants. Fabulous baby.....just faboo!

Models apartments are normally old and unkempt. The agencies don't generally care about the units since they know that they're gonna get trashed anyways. Taipei was nice in that we lived in a hotel so it got maid service daily, but it was still small, had no kitchen, etc. There are no fancy furnishings and you are lucky if you get even so much as a towel rack to hang any clothes on.

I stayed at the Elite Model Management models apartment in NYC one night since I had flown in for a one day booking, and although that was one of the nicest model's apartments I had seen, I still had to endure a luke warm shower with no water pressure, and I wasn't provided with a pillow or blanket. Nice. My friend who was living in NY at the time in her agency's apartment, told me that I had it good....her unit was infested with roaches....they were even in the fridge.

One of my close friends and her roommate in Milan had to shower and use the loo by candlelight since the tiny bathroom had no electricity and no windows.....the agency didn't fix the problem for an entire month. It is totally normal to move into your new home away from home and have to clean out old food and condiments left behind by the girls who lived there before you as well as throw out 2 months worth of garbage piled high up against walls & stinking to high heaven. Like I said, pretty don't mean clean.

So when Miss Tyra presents to the television audience and many prospective models, these luxe, lofty, amazing accomodations....she is setting you up for a nice fall. Once you are an established model, clients may fly you out on location and then set you up in nice quarters. I've had clients put me up at the Four Seasons and at 5 Star resorts.....but it takes time and a lot of work to get to that point. If you end up with cheaper clients, you may be staying at a Motel 6 which is what happened to me for a booking in San Diego......feces covered toilet seat and all.

If you wanna travel, be prepared to live in a hole. If you get lucky and hook up with your own tiny studio apartment, some agencies especially in Asia provide those, then consider yourself blessed. But rememeber, you will pay for it in the end. Most models opt to stay in the overcrowded, crappier units because rent is only being advanced to eventually comes out of your earnings.

And I'm not saying that all agencies have their models live in crackhouses.....the units are just really old, as filthy as the other models living in them, and the utilities are not always reliable. And they are tiny. No posh Barcelona loft full of antiques for you! And to be honest, if you want to travel, you should do it for the love of going abroad and working in fashion. I still think it is the easiest and by far most fun way to travel. Your apartment may suck, so consider yourself warned, but if you luck out with good roommates, then you've got it made.

I've only had two crazy roommates in all my years of traveling, The German crotch shaving model and a girl from Spain who was super cool until she became strangely obsessed with one of my guy friends and then went off the deep end. I've had dirty roomies, like the nudist Aussie who never, ever showered, and the Argentinian chick who went on to move to NY and make it pretty big but who was living with a maggot filled trash can in the kitchen when I moved in. Other than that, everyone else was awesome, and that made living in a closet so much more pleasant.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Would You Like a Wedding Dress With That Cheese?

My first day of castings in Osaka was a totally different experience than a day of castings in Taipei had been. First of all, in Osaka we got driven to all of our appointments in a posh, little mini van owned by the agency. Each agency in town had it's own vans & each van had the name of the agency largely emblazoned on both sides. I was with Forza Models, and our van had both the name & agency logo in Japanese & English all over the vehicle in bright yellow. There was no way of escaping the stares from the general public when we were cruisin' along in those!

Our managers....sweetest people ever!

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The appointments in Osaka were a much lighter load as well. Whereas in Taipei, a day of 20 castings was pretty much the norm, in Osaka we averaged about leisure baby. The Japanese castings themselves were similar to the Taiwanese ones in that there was a lot of dialogue, laughing, joking and critiqueing going on in a foregin tongue between the designers, photographers & managers as we stood in front of them grinning like dolts. I can't tell you how many times I'd watch new models (after I had been at this a while) smiling innocently as a client would tell her manager right in front of her face that she had a fat ass, funny nose, strange legs, etc. I'd cringe remembering that that was once me. But trust me on this learn a lot of key words & phrases in many, many languages very quickly when you are a model on the international circuit. This enables you to know when to stop smiling when an insult is hurled at you. You are not gonna get that job anyways so save the facial muscles for a client who will like you, fat ass & all.

So,,,back to castings in Osaka....Can you tell I love to digress whenever possible? Yeah. Well, I gotta say the clients there took CHEESE to a whole new level. Taipei had its own brand of cheesiness, but, but the greater part of the fashion scene was a lot more progressive & edgy. Osaka had mostly bridal, uniform, lingerie (picture granny panties & stomach flatteners), maternity, and business attire catalogs. You want edgy in Japan, you go to Tokyo. Although I have to say...once we were taken to do a lingerie casting & much to our shock (and later amusement) it wasn't for the typical waist-high panties and full coverage bras. Nope. It was for "novelty lingerie". Novelty=fetish. We promptly walked out of the appointment after another model found a copy of the current catalog complete with other Western models in cupless brass & completely see-through underwear. Rate was high, but that was one job not worth the money!

During my first day of go-sees and every day thereafter, we'd make the longish trip to Kyoto. This was something we always looked forward to since it afforded us naps in the car and Kyoto is just plain gorgeous. Plus our manager would always end up treating us to lunches at any number of tiny, family run joints where we would huddle up (because it was winter & damned cold in that part of Japan) around hot cups of tea and udon soup.

Temple in of the oldest in Japan, if not THE oldest (my memory is not what it used to be!):

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The reason we were always trekking out to Kyoto is that the city is home to a huge number of bridal fashion houses. So every day we'd travel there and end up in ridiculously flouncy, meringue concoctions that came in every color of the rainbow. Hmmm...why is it that I didn't choose to get married in a lavender wedding dress?? And whereas in Taipei we would be asked to do "funky" and "editorial" poses in a lot of the castings, in Osaka we were always being asked to do "lady" or "cutey" poses.....and especially "cutey" ones. So, not only were the gowns outrageously tacky, but we'd end up having to pose like Scarlett O'Hara on crack.

This held true for the maternity and uniform catalogs as well. We'd have to smile so big that it felt like our mouths would rip to our ears, cock our heads to the side a la valley-girl & open our eyes wiiiiide. There is something of an obsession in Japan for all things juvenile, and models are no exception to this rule. The younger & more innocent we could look at a casting, the more likely it would be that we would book the job. These castings were our training ground for bookings in which we'd end up in pig tails with rosy cheeks and huge prosthetic bellies strapped on for maternity wear clients, and for bridal shoots where we'd be in frothy gowns with a big swirly lollipop in one hand and a bouquet in another. Now don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about this at all. We got paid big bucks to do these bookings & the clients were always wonderful....but there was still something slightly disturbing, albeit funny about it all at the same time. Here I was being made to look & act like a 12 year old child, and I mean hello? who looks at these catalogs? Pre-teen expecting moms? Child brides? I hate to think pedophiles...ugh. Weird.

Oh, and dare I forget the request that one client in particular made of me my very first day of castings? No. It's too good not to share. I was asked if I would be willing to bleach all of my skin because she thought I was too dark. Bleach my skin? Yikes. See, in Asia, and Japan in particular, very light skin is considered far superior to darker skin. Things may have changed since I was there last....but if you looked like a porcelain doll then you were gonna go home with the fattest pockets. I, although not dark or tan by any other standards, am half Cuban and therefore have a light olive complexion. Compared to the other models who were from Canada and Eastern Europe though, I must have looked like the Coppertone Baby. Ooops! The client went on to give me a note in Japanese to take to the Shiseido counter for the skin bleach. Needless to say, I promptly "lost" the note as soon as we left the casting. Can you imagine? Bleach my whole body? Crazy. And I still booked a good number of jobs even with my dusky skin. Ha! I just didn't work for that one client in particular. I'll keep my little bit of soul, thank you.

Lucy (Australia), me, & Szuszanna (Hungary) in the subway station, on our way home after a long day of castings:

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Love Hotels, Yakuzas, & Okonomiyaki, Oh My!

Where do I start in my description of Osaka? Well, since I had already been to Asia for my contract in Taiwan, it wasn't the culture shock that my initial trip had been. By then I was well versed in incessant traffic, neon light advertising, and throngs of people on the streets at all hours of the day and night. Let me just put it this matter where in Asia I have been, every city is very much awake & alive and I loved the energy.

Neon lit advertising by our apartment:

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Osaka is significantly smaller than Tokyo, but it is still a bustling metropolis in its own right. It is divided into sections much like NYC is divided into burrows, and I was happy to find out that my apartment would be in Nippombashi which is a section of town full of shopping & dining arcades.

Once I arrived at the agency from the airport, I was driven to my new home by my manager. It was a tiny three bedroom apartment that I would be sharing with two other girls. Amanda from Canada and Karen from Brazil. There were two other apartments in the building designated for female models and around the block was the building where the male models had their digs.

Now when I say my apartment was tiny, I mean it was miniscule.....and that includes the furniture. I still remember the was a little, black fold out number that you had to seriously squat down to sit on. Basically it had no legs....picture a futon couch without a frame. The coffee table was of course sitting on one inch legs and our kitchen was pretty much comprised of a dorm style fridge and a microwave.....tiny....although I must say it had an unusually large sink!

Our bathroom was in miniature too and every time one of us took a shower the entire bathroom floor would become inundated. The toilet was in a seperate little closet and had music that would play and a little sink on top of the tank that would start running water as soon as you flushed. I swear to you, that we were living in a doll's house. It was hilarious. And when I say that the apartment had three bedrooms, you may find yourself wondering how it could possibly be so small.....well, believe me, it was small. Three bedrooms in Japan is a far cry from three bedrooms in the States. By bedrooms, I mean sliding shoji doors that opened onto your bed, a small clothes rack and that's it. Since Karen had arrived several weeks before Amanda and I, she had taken over the "large" bedroom which included a foot of space between her door and her bed, as well as a bookcase. Lucky girl.

I was really fortunate in that I arrived into town on a Friday evening, because we had the next two days off and Karen was kind enough to take me on a tour of our new hood. And let me tell you....getting to know my new neighborhood was one hell of an experience. As we were leaving the apartment on Saturday morning, Karen told me to watch for the shiny black towncars that would cruise around the streets in our area. And lo and behold, there were several, all driving slowly, and once in a while stopping to let out a finely dressed Japanese man in black suit & white scarf. Who were these cats? I came to find out that they were members of the Yakuza...yup, the Japanese mafia. They apparently patrolled the streets of our neighborhood since many of them supposedly had girlfriends (not models, let me clarify on that one!) that lived in the area. This all sounds more daunting than it was. They were always polite, and according to locals, they kept the peace in the neighborhood. Basically, nobody dared cause trouble on their turf, and I wasn't about to show off my Shaolin skills with them.

The other eye opener was the plethora of kitschy buildings that dotted not only our neighborhood, but pretty much every other section of town....and when I say kitsch, I mean KITSCH! I am talking about several storied buildings with loud themes like Santa Land, Paris at Night, the Moulin Rouge, Space name it. And you wanna know what these buildings were? No, not video arcades or restaurants. Nope....not day-care centers or specialty stores. They were Love Hotels. So, what is a love hotel? I asked the same thing, and came to find out the tittilating truth behind them. In Japan, love hotels are pretty popular joints where you can go and rent a room for an overnight stay or for an hour's "rest". They are not brothels since you are expected to bring your own date....and these places don't just cater to the depraved, hooker hiring types (although I am sure those can be found renting rooms there as well) but are hugely popular among married couples. Basically, you can pick out a hotel that caters to your fantasy of the day, you rent a room, and get some nookie while pretending to be Old St. Nick, a martian, a mermaid, or the King of France. The closest one to our apartment was the Santa/Christmas Fantasy Land. It always put a smile on my face when I walked by it to get to the subway. To this day I wonder what the heck the rooms must've looked like!

Sexy Santas please apply within:

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Hotel 69.....wonder what they meant?

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Then there was the little restaurant next door to our apartment. Oh my God. Their specialty was the Osakan main dish....Okonomiyaki. I still salivate just thinking about it, and even though I really can't fully describe it to you....let's just say it's something of a Japanese omelet. Sheer gastronomical bliss. I discovered that place my first night in Osaka....just followed my nose to it really. And by the grace of God, didn't turn into a heifer or need an emergency angioplasty by the end of my stay from eating that grease soaked deliciousness.

Ok, so enough of the geography of my apartment's immediate vicinity.....Monday would bring the real start to my trip...and I would be thrown head first into the world of Japanese CHEESE....and I don't mean the edible kind.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I Heart Airports (aka My Arrival in Osaka)

There is little doubt in my mind that somehow this traveling deal was part of my destiny. I have always loved traveling, hanging out for hours at airports and airline food. May be sad, but it's true. My first trip abroad was with my parents when I was a teenager. We went to Hungary to visit my paternal grandmother and so that my dad could go back to his homeland for the first time after the fall of cummunism. I got bitten by the travel bug then....and as most of you know once you are bitten you develop a fever of Wanderlust that lasts a lifetime. And this depsite the fact that I was a teen and traveling with my folks, and know how "uncool" that can be.

My second time abroad was to live in Austria for a year while in college. Loved the traveling bit even more then.....and then I became a traveler by profession. Oooooh was that good. Once I had traveled to Taiwan and was making my way to Japan, I really realized that the duality of my Gemini nature made it so that I at once was a social butterfly and a misanthrope. Hanging out at airports while waiting for transfers, etc. satisfied both of my personalities.....I made sure to sit away from anyone who might want to start a conversation with me, yet close enough to people watch in between reading chapters of the paperback of the moment. And being that I am also a food addict, I discovered that I loved airline food.....mainly on international flights, and could never understand the bitching & moaning that would ensue when the term "plane food" was brought up in conversations.

When you fly on an Asian airline, you are normally offered a choice between an Eastern or a Western style dinner. I always opted for the Eastern style and I think I hit the jackpot every time. I'd get to stuff my face with meals that ranged from intricately prepared sushi to ramen bowls so hot & spicy, I'd get a facial and a full body detox as a part of my dining experience. Good stuff. Needless to say, I was that person that would crane her neck around every two minutes to see when the hell the dining cart was gonna make it to my row. And since middle models ALWAYS travel coach, unless they have a sugar daddy, but that is entirely another type of blog which I will leave to the sugar babies to write......the meal cart never, ever came soon enough.

One thing I gotta say warned....using chopsticks during turbulence, no matter how slight it is, could have you giving yourself a lobotomy or losing an eye into your Egg Drop Soup. If you aren't a pro with the sticks, set your meal down and wait till the plane stops shaking. You'll thank me for this piece of advice, I promise. for airports.....Japan has the best air hubs on the planet. Technology bred with whimsy and a sense of humor makes for an excellent place to hang out in while waiting for your flight. No where else on the planet have I experienced such pulchritude and user friendliness even with the language barrier. When I first arrived in Osaka, I had to run and pee after going through customs for what seemed like an eternity, and was pleasantly surprised at the fact that had I needed to, I could have eaten off of the floors in there. Everything smelled clean and looked as if no human had ever so much as breathed on anything. Not to mention the fact that the toilet seats were mechanically kept warm and offered a vast array of buttons to push (none of which I tried, since the writing was in Japanese, and I really wasn't keen on getting a surprise enema) that could customize your WC experience should you so desire.

After my tour of the facilities, I ran out to find a calling card so that I could call my agency & tell them that I had arrived. Taipei is different in that when you arrive at the airport, you have a Lincoln Towncar and a driver waiting for you at the curb with your name spelled out in English & Chinese on a placard. Everywhere else, you are pretty much left to fend for yourself with a little over-the-phone assistance from your bookers.

Phone cards were easy to find, since they are sold out of vending machines every five feet along with sodas, hot coffee in a can, toiletries, naughty comic books, you name it....Japan has a vending machine for it. I'll get into some of the nastier stuff later......But anyways, after calling my agency, they told me what bus to take into town and then what subway to hop on that would get me to my agency. The lady at the information booth was so helpful that when I asked her where I could find my bus stop, she practically carried me & my luggage to where I needed to go. You want to experience real customer service? Get thee to Japan. far so good with my first taste of Japanese life. I could tell Osaka was gonna be good to me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Farewell Taipei....Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.....

I won't bore you with the details of my last few weeks in Taiwan. Needless to say, it was a lot of the same stuff I've already written about. Saying good-bye to all of my new friends was hard, but we promised to keep in touch although only Laura and I have managed to do so. As of the last time we spoke, she still didn't have an email account, so we've been doing it the old fahsioned way and putting pen to paper a few times a year.

I also won't go into the details of what happened in between my trips. Or maybe I will if I am feeling particularly sadistic and want to bore you all to tears. Basically, I'd return to Portland, which I kept as a home base since rent was cheap and I had a sweet little studio in Knob Hill right behind Trader Joe's....and it just didn't get better than that.

Sometimes I'd work part-time at an antique shop that was three blocks away from my apartment, and I'd model locally...which is more of a part-time endeavor than I care to talk about. See, Portland has a miniscule market with just a handful of clients like Nike, Adidas and, as well as the local supermarket that sells clothes and thus hires models (Fred Meyer). I'd work up in Seattle a couple of times a month for Nordstrom and the Bon Marche, and that was the extent of that. I barely eeked out enough money to cover my bills and was so understimulated after my first trip abroad that I couldn't wait to get back on the road.

There were other bits here & there that happened while I was at "home", like, my cats were always happy to see me, and the feelings were reciprocated. I always ended up missing those little buggers curling up at my feet at night. I didn't have any friends in town anymore, since the girls I had graduated from college with had all gotten married and were starting to have babies already, and I was "the model" and therefore a pariah. The one exception was Amber who I met while modeling in Portland. Her inner & outer beauty made an instant impact on me and we became fast friends. That and the fact that the day we met, backstage at a fashion show, she told me she could have sworn that my boyfriend at the time (a photographer....yeah, I know, totally cliche) was gay. Gotta love her brutal honesty!

I did end up going through a messy breakup with the afore mentioned boyfriend after I got back from Taiwan. He pulled a disappearing act while I was out shooting a commercial for Panasonic. We were living together, I came home, his stuff was gone, blah blah blah, no warning, more blah, etc. But this ultimately was the best thing that ever happened to me and my career. I was now free as a bird to travel travel travel non-stop. And anyways, did I really need to be with someone who got my car towed & impounded while I was gone because he had parked it in front of a fire hydrant ( Einstein here). That was awesome. Let me tell you. I just have to go into this a little because it is just too Jerry Springer not to.....So my car was impounded from the day after I left on my trip to a week after I got back....over 2 months! And they were ready to auction if off since no one had come to claim it.....I was, of course, never informed of this one. When I got back I was told that my battery was dead and that's why my car was "at another location". Ha! Thank God, I wrangled the truth outta this dude and his best friend saved both my car and my ex's ass by putting $1000 on his Gold Card to get my car out of jail. Hell, I wasn't gonna pay for it....wasn't my fault! I figured ex could deal with his best friend later.

But I digress...and must say....when you are a traveling model, being single is key. You don't want to have anyone to miss at home or wonder what they are doing when you call at 4am and they aren't home. Plus do I really have to mention that you will be living, working and playing with some of the world's most beautiful boys and why would you ever want to be young and attached.....? Oh, naughty.....but need I say more? Be ye young, single and rootless......someday you will be old and live to regret not doing so....

I never had a boyfriend the rest of the time I traveled as a model and I loved the freedom that that afforded me. I had my guy friends, and I don't mean friends with benefits unless stealing kisses from a few of them counts as benefits. Nope, we were just a band of brothers, because I was just one of the boys. But, more on that later....since I don't start meeting who'll ultimately become part of "the crew" until I go to Miami.

But on to my next stop....the land of the rising sun.....Osaka, Japan.