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.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I have to say that the most unforgettable moment I had in Taipei was the night that a 6.0 plus magnitude earthquake woke us up just before dawn. Laura and I were asleep, as was everyone else in the hotel, I'm sure. All of a sudden I remember sitting straight up in bed because the emergency lights above our door were flashing, and that is when I noticed that my bed was shaking uncontrollably.

I looked over at Laura and noticed that she was still asleep (the girl slept like a rock!) and I yelled out to her that were having an earthquake. She sat up and and said "oh my God, what do we do, get in the bathtub?" and I yelled back to get under the doorframe. She'd never been in a quake before, and I had grown up with them. otherwise we would've both ended up in the tub! And even though I had grown up in Southern California where quakes of all sizes are a pretty regular occurence, this seismic turbulence was by far the worst I had ever experienced. It felt like the floor was rolling underneath our feet for more than 10 minutes, although it was under a minute. We both prayed out loud and squeezed our eyes shut until it was over. Then I ran over to the phone, called my mom, told her what had happened, grabbed Laura and we ran down the hall getting the other girls.

Now it is a good thing that I called my mom. She has a tendency towards being melodramatic and panicky to begin with, and I knew that this quake was going to make the news. And of course, the news....gotta love em...kept reporting that the epicenter was in Taipei City when it was actually in Taichung which was 60 miles away. They kept running footage of several high rise apartment complexes knocked over like dominoes and were giving the death count for Taipei, when in actuality it was in mom would have had a cornonary had I not called when I did....not to mention all the phone lines in and out of the country were dead in the next hour.

After we grabbed all the other girls, we ran down the stairs from the 12th floor and started feeling aftershocks on the way down. I remember being able to visualize the walls in that narrow staircase collapsing on us. Not a good feeling. We made it to the lobby and sat there waiting for news, the agency to call, anything. We just didn't know what else to do or where else to go.

In the lobby, just after the quake:

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By morning, we decided to go back to our rooms, try and get some rest and see what would happen. We had lost running water and electricity and it would remain like that for several days. You don't even want to imagine what the toilet situation ended up being like. The owner of our agency, Kitty Lai....God bless her, and several of the bookers were in constant contact with us and even so much as had food delivered to our rooms and the rooms of the girls with the other agency who also lived at the hotel and whose agents were unreachable. In the afternoon we stumbled out to take a walk and see the damage for ourselves. Although the epicenter was in Taichung and the death toll and majority of the structural damage was concentrated there, one entire hotel near ours collapsed like a house of cards and there were many cracks & gaps left in the roads and several buildings. At the park nearby, hundreds of families, whose homes were damaged or were just too afraid to go back into their high rises, camped out in tents for the better part of a week. The only food we could come across were cookies, candy and chips from the convenience stores which managed to stay open by candlelight.

Tent city at the park:

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Three days after the quake we were back to doing castings. A lot of the appointments found us trudging up to 20 flights of stairs to get to offices while the elevators were still not working, and needless to say, a lot of jobs got cancelled. To say that the atmosphere among us and in the city in general was somber is to make an understatement. In a city normally full of life and din, everything was oddly quiet for a long time. Death toll was close to 2,000.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

To Live & Play in Taipei, Part II: The Playing

You better believe that at the end of any given week, we girls were gonna find a way to get out and blow off some steam......although it took us the better part of three weeks to figure out where to go. The agency was certainly not going to condone their girls going out, partaking of libations and earning gorgeous undereye baggage, so we were on our own when it came to finding the nightlife.

Thank God a model named Christy decided to join our ranks after our first three weeks of sitting around stuffing our faces and watching Asian music videos on V-TV (with a sprinkling of The Backstreet Boys and Brittney.....have mercy). She was a model from Seattle who had been to Taipei several times and was ready to show us the ropes. She was also the eldest in the group so we all looked up to her and her word was pretty much gold when it came to having fun in Taipei. Christy also managed to befriend two German college students at a nighmarket and they quickly became the male counterparts to our shenanigans.

Las chicas getting ready for a night on the town (Mia from Canada, Christy from Seattle, me, Kristina from Russia):

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This is how we got to become regulars at Roxy, an expatriat bar, and @live, a techno/rave/strobe light paradise a few blocks away from Roxy, which provided free admission to models, and therefore was the obvious choice for booty shakin' after the bar got boring. And seeing as we never bought drinks there, this often happened quickly. See, when you only have your weekly stipend to work with, you learn rapidly that buying a $6 drink at a bar will leave you broke before your buzz sets in. And with three 7-11's across the street from our hotel, we would chip in on some vodka and OJ, prefunk, and then load up into cabs to go mingle with the other English speakers. Taipei was not a market, like others we all know about, where being part of the fashion scene got you a free table & bottle in the VIP. We got in gratis to @live, but that was pretty much it.

Normally, we'd close the disco down and then cab it back home, but not without stopping at a convenience store first for some munchies or waiting up the extra hour for McDonald's to open to get their hotcake breakfast (yeah, they have those there too!) before crashing out. Once we ended up at a 24 hour rave by the river, although we only stayed for a few minutes if I remember correctly. My memories of how & why we got there are fuzzy at best. I just remember being tired and seeing a guy passed out on the grass with potato chips all over his face. Artfully placed...I'm not talking crumbs here. Not that seeing a dude passed out on the floor was an odd sight. On any given weekend night it is normal to see drunk revelers (often times in business suits) passed out in phonebooths, benches and sidewalks in Asia. Asians party. Hard.

Random dude passed out on the sidewalk....and yes, he was drooling:

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Other nights would just find us hanging out at the hotel....see, we were pretty good & not out ALL the time! LOL! We'd run around the joint like overgrown versions of "Eloise" raising a ruckus and taking pictures of each other doing stupid things. Memories of our jackassishness saved for posterity. It's a good thing the hotel staff had taken such a liking to us, otherwise we may have ended up sleeping in the park.

Cheerleading camp?

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So fun, we certainly had. Although this was just the tip of the iceberg for me and I didn't even know it. But I enjoyed every last second of this Taiwanese playtime since I grew up as cloistered as a Carmelite nun (don't get me started on my sheltered childhood) and college saw me at my nerdiest....I basically had not partied a day in my life until my first trip to Asia. I just really had no idea what I was gonna be in store for.....I mean, really....Milan? Miami? Wheeeeeeeee!

Friday, November 03, 2006

To Live & Play in Taipei, Part I: The Living

So what was it like to live in Taipei? What was life like when we weren't pose pose posing our way through castings & bookings? I gotta say it was pretty great. I had spent a year in Europe when I was in college and thought myself to be a seasoned traveler, but nothing had prepared me for life in Asia. It was complete and utter culture shock. In Europe I had always been able to pass as a local pretty much anywhere. My mom is Cuban & my dad is Hungarian, so I guess I don't have the typical "American" thing going on, whatever that is. But in Asia you stick out like a sore thumb when you are, well, not Asian.

For the most part people were good about not staring, but the kids and the elderly were always pretty obvious about it, albeit cute. They would giggle or say things to us like "oh, very nice" or ask us if we were all sisters. Please keep in mind that none of us looked even remotely related.....but I guess we did to them!

At the agency:

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Like I mentioned before, we were all living at the First Hotel which was a business class joint on a busy avenue by the agency. It was simple but clean, and passed my no bugs test with flying colors. Most of the girls at the agency got their own rooms at the hotel, but Laura and I decided to room together in order to save money. While you do get everything paid for upfront when you travel to Asia on a work contract, the catch is that the money is advanced, so you end up paying it back out of the money you earn. The sweet part of the deal is that if you don't work, then you don't pay anything back. It is the agency's loss....a risk they took in bringing you over. But, I digress....Since there were so few of us at the agency, we tended to all hang out together and go sightseeing and eating. Because yes, contrary to popular belief, models DO eat. I have really only run into three girls in my entire career with eating disorders....I knew more girls in college afflicted with this disease than I ever met while modeling.

Our agency would advance us a weekly stipend to use for food and taxi cabs to our jobs, and we would always save up some cash to go eat all-out American on the weekends. Our favorite place to splurge on burgers & fries was always TGIFriday's. During the week we'd frequent the convenience stores, McDonald's and the supermarkets to get ingredients for our dinners, but lemme tell you, I had some awesome meals thanks to 7-11, Wellcome, Circle K and the 50 thousand other convenience stores that are found on every corner of every street in that city. Fried tofu, tuna squares (onigiri if you've been to Japan), pre made sandwiches and steamed buns filled with b-b-q pork....and lots and lots of candy. Not exactly Superfoods, but it tasted good and was fast.

During our days off we would walk around the city and explore all the little alleyways and the great boulevards. We would go to the night markets and buy tons of cute crap for next to nothing. And really, not all of it was crap. I bought some beautiful Buddhas for a fraction of what they sell for here at home, and there were intricate little incense burners, tea pots and other handicrafts that I wish I would've thought to buy but was too busy spending my loot on shoes and knock-offs.

It seemed like every corner that you turned you would run into an impressive temple or tiny, tucked away shrine infusing the air with musky incense and a feeling of utter serenity in that mad mad city. Taipei has to be the busiest and loudest city I have ever been to, yet these little spots seemed to pop up everywhere, offering the soul a place to stop, attain a little tranquility...then hop back on the moped and jet back through the thick as night smog.

One of the million temples we would happen upon at random:

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Chiang Kaishek Memorial at night:

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And by day:

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One of our favorite places to just hang out and chill was the Chiang Kaishek Memorial. Day or night, it was always teeming with people, but still felt like an oasis in the middle of the city. And that was a nice change from our days spent in the back of taxicabs whizzing to castings or stopped dead stiill in traffic jams watching entire families on mopeds fly by (and I mean entire families on ONE moped) or watching stray dogs get hit and run. This, sadly, happened more than I care to remember.

Dude! Where's my moped? (okay, stupid, I know....but I just had to!)

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It really was culture shock. But I was so fascinated by it. Where else would you see people setting up little tables as shrines full of fruits and other offerings in front of their businesses or burning "ghost money" on the sidewalks? And I always felt so welcome by everyone there....I remember leaving the agency one night and it was raining heavily. I, of course, was totally unprepared and didn't have an umbrella and was looking more and more like a drowned rat by the second. An older woman approached me and signaled to her umbrella and for me to get under it and she walked me all the way back to my hotel.....she did not speak a word of English and all I could say was "thank you" in Mandarin over & over again. I have never been treated that simply & kindly in my own country. Truth be told.

So life in Taipei was pretty good. The air didn't smell great. It was pretty rank actually. And at night you had to watch your step for fear of trampling the most enormous roaches on earth. And I mean, these things would easily out run and devour any socialite's pampered pooch in a milisecond. It was hot and inhumanely humid, but overall things were good. To this day, I miss that city a lot. I did end up going back for another contract a while later....but let's keep things chronological here. That will be another story for another day.....and that story has my best Taipei memories attached to it.

From A Lady Who Lunches to Pippi Longstocking....

And as are a few of the tearsheets I got from my first few weeks in Taipei.....

My first major magazine cover:

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A page from Harper's Bazaar:
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Doing the typical "cutey pose"...what the hell? Was I 15 or a college grad?

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This is what my mom would love me to look like everyday.....but can you say Stepford Wife?

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On the cover of "More Beautiful" on the newstands at the ever posh 7-11:

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

So...You Said Taiwan?

To be honest, when I first found out that I would be traveling for work as a model, I envisioned Paris, Milan, and New York. I never really had given any thought to going to Asia to work in fashion...silly me. When my agency approached me with the contract to go to Taipei, Taiwan for two months I was a) giddy to be getting the heck out of Dodge and traveling once again, and b) confused. Taiwan? For modeling? Oh, okay.....Luckily, I trusted my agency wholeheartedly. My family and a few friends on the other hand were a little less sure of what my work there would include. "What type of modeling? You mean 'hostessing' or 'dancing'".....this usually followed by an evil snicker or a melodramatic, eye popping stare courtesy of my mom.

Nope....I was going to Taiwan to be a good ol' little fashion model. For clothes, not without. And I have to admit, that I am ever grateful & glad that this was my first trip abroad and my debut into the Industry. It taught me how to be a model like no other market possibly could have in such a short amount of time. I arrived completely unprepared, but confident and excited. I have always been attracted to Asian culture and now I would get to experience it first hand, all expenses paid. Not a bad gig.

My first International comp card!

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My agency in Taipei was FMI (Face Models International). One of only two agencies not rumored to be run by the Chinese Mafia (phew!) and set up to live in the First Hotel with eight other girls, all of which were Canadian and complete sweethearts, as all Canadians seem to be. The bookers and managers took us all under their wings, and without hesitation whisked us off, jet lag and all, to do a slew of castings the very next day after we had arrived. And castings in Taiwan are unlike castings anywhere else on this are the bookings. But that comes later.

First of all, you are taken by a manager to all of your castings. And in any normal, given day, you go see anywhere from 8 to 20 clients. No joke, I said 20 clients. We'd get crammed like underfed sardines into cabs and led through the labyrinthine madness that is Taipei by our manager. He or she would then translate for us when we got to a fashion house as the designers, art directors, photographers, et. al. would leaf through our books (often times literally just turning pages & not looking at the pictures at all) and have us change into 5 or 6 outfits to see how they'd "fit" us. Once in an outfit, we wouldn't just do a little strut, twirl, and stand.....we were asked to do a series of poses. Yes....a freakin SERIES. And depending on the outfit or the designer's mood we would be directed as to what type of poses to do. "High Fashion Pose!", "Lady Pose!", "Funky Pose!", "Cutey Pose!", "Sporty Pose!". Needless to say, by the end of my two months there, I was a posing pro. I had my poses down like choreography....this came in handy when I later went off to larger markets like Tokyo, Milan and Miami. Taipei was the best model posing training ground a girl could ever ask for.

Our home away from home:

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And I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised at the clothes that I did get to model in Taiwan. Granted, jobs could range from the extremely editorial to the cheestastically embarassing, but for the most part, the designs were original, beautiful and the attention to detail impeccable. Taiwan has all of the major fashion magazines that we do in the States or in Europe as well as a myriad of their own.....and the editorials are always up to par to what you would find in Italian Vogue or W. I got to do editorials for Harper's Bazaar, and a cover for Taiwan Elle and the tearsheets I got out of these jobs landed me great representation and bookings in Europe. Like I said, Taiwan was excellent training ground for a newbie like I was. Then again, I also landed the cover of "More Beautiful", and did an Avon ad where they aged me 50 years...gray haired wig and all. Some jobs just never made it into my portfolio!

The catalogs I worked for were more than I can remember, seeing as most of the work in Taipei is catalog (Taiwan is one of the world's leading textile wonder there are so many fashion houses there, eh?!). But even then, these weren't ever run of the mill catalogs like we are all prone to getting in our mailboxes here stateside, complete with muu muu's and the proverbial mom jeans. Nope, in Taiwan every catalog was a major production with up to 200 cuts per model, the most breathtaking & creative hair & make-up I have ever encountered and art direction to make the editors at Vogue in NY weep. These catalogs were stunning. You could be wearing a burlap coverall and still end up looking like a million bucks. Leave it to the Taiwanese. And never fear....I'll be posting some of my tearsheets from Taipei in the next few days.....some good and some that turned me into a golf playing 12 year old. I just have to get this damned scanner going again......

My roommate, Laura, and I waiting outside a casting:

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And if you think that the fact that we were going on castings 10 hours a day and working up to 18 hours on other days (double bookings were pretty common) and didn't have time to have fun and/or get into trouble...whichever you wanna call it, then I'd have to say you are WRONG! LOL! Oh so very, very wrong. But you'll have to keep checking in for some of those stories & pictures.....