4 – Lights, Runway, Behind the Scenes
By Jessica C
The Midwest Fashion Extravaganza had not ever been on my radar before. I know, I pretended a lot of things with Hattie and even with Eva. When I was little Eva would put one of her blouses on me; it fitted like a dress. But I never expected I would be going to model in Indianapolis, Indiana before several thousand people. I guess it is not big in the fashion world though the show draws more attention every year. Someone even said the Slater sisters modeling was one of the draws this year for the press, TV and media.
Friday morning has a lot of trade people setting up booths and making presentations. There are a lot of samples being given out. Different bags for different levels of models. Little good Teri’s bag will go as they’re for women.
There are three name recognizable names that have been brought in to help draw greater interest.
There is one regional model Trei that is male performing as a regular model in the women’s fashion world. His desire along with many other models is to draw the attention of those who might give him an opportunity to break into the national or world scene. I sought him out but he is not at all warm to me. He, in one interview said of me, “He’s (me) only nice in that he looks pretty like his sister.”
Ms Briggs says to me, “He probably sees you as competition. If he’s like this now beware of any suggestions he gives later.
When we got to the mall last Monday and our store Jan as well as Ms. Briggs was there. We’re introduced to Aubrey, who will be working with us in Indianapolis. She’s more serious and particular to details at first. She warms up to us, when she sees we’re disciplined and follow her instructions. I am quickly down to my bra, panty and wearing a short half-slip. She has my face lightly made up girly. She says, “Teri, whenever someone refers to you as a boy, I want you not to react. If someone says ‘Terrance’ you are not to respond, even to look in that direction. Part of the mystique is that you stay as a girl.”
My first outfit is a cute pink dress with a lace front and baby blue worked into it. When ask what I thought, I told them. “It felt like someone screamed ‘here comes a little girl’, in a women’s fashion show.”
Jan says, “Good, I thought the same thing. Hurry and go change into the other pink dress that I have for you back there. I’ll take picture and hopefully you won’t be wearing this one in the show.”
Like she said, the next one is pink too, but Attie says, “Now you look like a teenage girl who’s ready to flirt with the boys.”
I even like a subtle change Aubrey makes in my makeup. I can see a gleam in her eyes when she feels she has captured my spirit for a dress or outfit. She says during the evening, “I can sense Terrance is there, I’m glad of that. But you have a personality that is Teri’s and she’s the one who is modeling.” I like that she understood that.
Ms. Briggs says, “After the show shuts down the first night, Aubrey will be there to help you with one outfit and to walk the runway one more time. Your group the next day begins around ten but you two won’t be stepping on the runway until after 10:30.”
“Do not be bothering Jan as she needs to focus on her performances. She so wants to be one of those invited back to model on Sunday. It happened two years ago, but not last year. We will be very happy if she remains a model in the Midwest and expands to the Northeast market. But she wants to make it even bigger. She has the ability and what it takes, what she needs is a break.”
Jan, Aubrey and Ms Briggs introduced us to the clothes we’ll be modelling. Aubrey Miles and Cindy Stanton will be helping us. Cindy asks, “I know three of your changes will encourage people to see you as a boy modeling as a girl. Which is it, are you a boy or are we just wanting them to guess you are?”
Hattie and I see two fantastic party dress and we’re hoping we each get to wear one of them. But they are put aside as we begin trying the different dresses and outfits. Jan and Aubrey help us to figure how we should present ourselves with each outfit. Everything is a better quality and there is not even one outfit that appears ordinary.
Two hours have sped by and we are told there are still two for each of us.
Cindy says, “There is enough of an appearance that you are budding to raise the question about being a girl.” The truth is the past two weeks one of the problems has been; I’ve looked more girly at the times they didn’t want me to. Mom said it was my complexion. I have watched my diet and have taken to eating natural foods like Attie. Attie and I do splurge when others are not around. Her doctor has told Hattie eating them will help her with her complexion and with her development, but not mine. Our third, fourth and fifth changes we are playing off of each other as well as raising questions as to my identity being male or female.
Each of us will argue during the week who as the nicest dress and look. It feels awkward for me to say that, but I’ve become competitive. I now want to look as fantastic as my sister or better. I had sent pictures of Attie and myself to Eva. Since we’re not there and have professional makeup, she is unsure which is who. She’s unwilling to say one was better. My dress looks and feels like the satin is snugging firmly against me.
Before we go home Mom takes me aside: “Teri are you comfortable with you looking this good in your dresses? There will be some young men looking at the models more than the fashions one’s wearing.”
I won’t let Mom know how well I understand. I say, “Mom it goes with being a model. It will be something I will need to deal with.” I ask, “I would like to talk with you, about modeling, dressing and using makeup like a girl.”
“Jan said, ‘There’re things others might do detect my boy parts. The company could get a special gaff that looks like a vagina; you could even pee while wearing. When you wore it you’d look with or without panties that you have a vagina.’”
When I tell my mother what she said, my mother says, “I know, she asked me if it was okay to talk to you about it. She told me both about the vagina gaff and how anatomically correct it is. I guess there are a number of ways people intruding into a model’s life may try to use revealing photos. I guess the intrigue of you being a male modeling women’s fashions has piqued the interest of the fashion world for the coming show.
“It would be possible to have one fitted for you and in place for the fashion show. But you should take some time and think about it.”
“Mom would it be okay for you and me to have a fitting scheduled as we think and consider it?”
Mom smiles, “Yes that could be a sensible way to go about it.” When we told Jan, she called over Ms. Briggs and Aubrey. Aubrey would be the one to schedule the fitting for the day after tomorrow. And everyone understood that I reserved the right to cancel it before or after the fitting. Part of me would be pushed up and hidden away, forming a slight mound where the pubic hair would be.
Come the fitting, my mom and I were impressed with how it helped me to present myself as a young woman. The cost was being picked up by others. I wore it home and if everything went well I’d wear it. It would be put on Thursday for throughout the fashion weekend.
Come Monday at school, I dressed as Terrance. Since Hattie and I were the only who knew, it seemed odd only to me.
I enjoyed practicing Monday through Wednesday. Aubrey worked with us at the back of the store. Mom thought Hattie and I would get tired of it and lose interest. Contrary, we were excited and wanted everything to be second nature to us come Saturday morning.
Jan was both part of the opening ceremony on Friday as well as modeling some outfits sometime during the day. She did a segment for a broadcast from the show, but it was only seen in parts through the broadcast and computer generated programing.
Friday night was like Cinderella stepping into a different world at the prince’s ball. We were giddy like little girls knowing Jan and having met two of the other models. Then when we got to practice walking the runway on our own, with a real fashion piece. I now knew why they said this was so important. It was both an emotional rush of joy and terror. I paused at the end of the runway and gazed around the auditorium. Gigi and Sonam, two of the big name models that I got to meet. And they were out in the auditorium talking to each other when I had my walk on the runway. Gigi saw me looking around at the end of the runway. She commented, “I am happy for you and your sister. You are both very photogenic and it appears you’re well practiced as models.”
Come morning we were to work come 6:30 for hair, basic makeup, and seeing the outfits we’re modeling today. More models and groups came and would be presenting than we previously knew. We would now be limited to seven maybe an eighth outfit to be modeled. Once Attie and I were determined to show well and to change fast so that we would appear on the runway at least eight times.
I threw-up shortly before eight a.m. when I was told we had an interview at 9:00 a.m. Gentry Court was interviewing us; we were nine or ten when we first saw her on TV. We were very glad when she asks good questions and shows she was interested in us. The interview started with us modeling an outfit we had model another time. “I’m told two young fans are here, but one was not originally a fan after your first show.”
Attie says, “Oh Polly and Madi,” she says, “Madi thought Teri wasn’t for real as a model, just as a novelty connected to a rumor going around. …We’re not super thin and definitely aren’t supermodels. But we work hard to be here, are blessed with some looks and we enjoy being models.”
Gentry asks, “So Teri are you a boy presenting himself as a woman?”
“Well Gentry, how many boys do you know were pretending to be a model even when she, I mean he was six with her sister? Do I look like a boy?”
Gentry said, “You present yourself very well, well enough that I believe you’re a woman, but I’m not fully sure.”
“I have seven, hopefully eight outfits I’ll be modelling and we’ll be around all weekend learning from the professional models.”
I am changing into the full skater dress with two petticoats and the white silk stockings held by a garter belt. The crocheted lace and satin dress is a hit as I step on the runway. As Terrance, I’m uncomfortable on a raised platform. Teri’s excited to show she’s a model worthy of being here. She moves to show the dress at its best.
I see Madi in the sea of faces, she is one of three I’ll look to. There was a man with a tablet, looks important, he’ll be another person and there’s Tamara a photographer from the last time for my third person. I’m making good contact with the crowd and getting reactions from those three people in particular.
The second outfit is a light blue summer skirt with a white cotton embroidered with blue, red and yellow flowers, and a yellow lace ribbon border below it. I am wearing a light red camisole underneath the blouse. This time I strut with spring in my step to convey a festive mood like the outfit itself. I can tell Madi likes the outfit, the man’s writing a lot. Tamara has been taking a series of shots this time, no less than twenty.
I pass Attie as she is stepping out and I’m finishing. Her bright colorful satin dress is a knockout. I’m not quite sure if that’s a girl term or not. I know a young man a row from the front who will drool seeing her.
The third change is a dress like I practiced in but this one is a beautiful red dress for a night out. It is very different from the safe evening dress, I was to be wearing. It opens a lot in the front with laces that barely hold the gap from going any further. The heels are supposed to be 3” but they feel like four. The back of the dress is cut low with a strip of fabric going across the back of the dress. It is where one could hide the back of a bra if one were wearing it.
There are two spaghetti straps, one goes over my shoulder and the other is down off the shoulder. Everything about it looks beautiful and by the time I’m ready for the runway I am excited that they trusted me to model it. My steps are long and I twirl once as I’m walking down the runway. I know I am giving maximum skin exposure, including a lot of leg. I make three different poses at the end of the runway.
They are taking their time in describing the dress, announce Marcus as the designer and lastly that I’m modeling the dress at Marcus’ request. They audience explode in applause. I saw in the program last night and know that Marcus is one of the featured designers. He’s from New York City.
I have bright blue contacts in that will show well against the dark cherry red lip gloss. There is a blue tint to my mascara.
One photographer pushes a camera in the middle of the runway to take pictures as I go over it. This is where, my vagina gaff comes into play; protecting my male identity. Before the end of the fashion show; it makes the internet I am a woman masquerading as a male model.
With the sixth outfit I appear as a poorly endowed, Twiggy type of a model. I am not sure who or what Twiggy is. But Aubrey says they oversized the rose tinted glasses add to that look. It is a floor length skirt, an off pink blouse that is feminine and flatters a petite frame. By the number of flashes and clicking of cameras and I am sure it is well received. Attie had worn another Marcus dress this one is an elegant evening gown. It is suggested for a young college woman coming out in society or celebrating the accolades of others in the business world. It is the third standing ovation Attie/her outfits have gotten.
The last dresses for both of us are by Aurei’ from Europe. Our last changes are the two evening party dresses. Attie’s dress will wow the crowd and when she heads back from the runway I begin my walk out. But I stop the same time Attie does. Then Attie turns around and runs to a stud of a model who’s now at the end of the runway. Attie jumps into his arms and is carried back down and into the crowd.
I take a breath and allow the beauty of my colorful party dress show itself. I had remained where all of the commotion and begin again. A spot light hitting my dress shows more sparkle and color than I knew the dress had. If there is a show stopper out of my outfits this dress is it.
Though I start with a sheer scarf covering much of it the color and design stand out. I bring the scarf off and tie it more like a belt with the ends hanging off my left hip, down my leg. Come the end of the runway I move it act as protection to help keep the damp coolness of a night in Paris night off of me. This party dress silhouettes the curves of femininity that I am presenting quite well. The front drops nicely showing the little cleavage I have.
Ms. Briggs quite excited as she introduces Attie and me to several people from the corporation. We’re invited to an evening gathering, we had not previously been invited to attend. True to our age we ask if there will be any music and dancing.
A Ms. Shon Dorf is nice enough to amuse us saying, “We’ll need to see what we can do.” She says, “We would like you to wear your dresses designed by Marcus.”
Attie says, “That seals it, we’ll be there.”
Attie and I take our dresses to our hotel room and change into nice casual outfits, have lunch at the café with Jamie. Madi and Poly both find us. I later find out they had text Attie. It is fun to see Poly’s excitement any time someone asks a question or for an autograph.
Tamara the photographer comes over and besides our own people she is the first to allude that we had done especially well. She says, “Do you realize how well you have done this morning?” There is a silent pause as we look at each other. “I would not be surprised if one of you would be asked to model tomorrow.”
I am trying to control my excitement and catch my breath, “Are you serious or just trying to tease us?”
Tamara says, “You are already favorites of mine. It was Alessandro and Pablo that mentioned it backstage after the morning show was over. That is high praise as it is from two known models that are part of the afternoon and evening programs.”
Mom soon came and Attie hastily asks her, “Mom did you hear some photographers say we might we asked to model tomorrow?”
“No, but Eva and her college friends are very impressed with the Slade sisters. I wanted to come and remind you that your cousin Eva came early this morning to see you. They’re likely to ask you to introduce them to Marcus if at all possible.”
I ask, “Mom we’ve been asked to wear Marcus’ dresses and attend some gala being held by the corporate people. I was wondering if you and Eva could possibly come as our agents.” Attie thinks that is a good idea. Mom calls Halley, her lawyer friend. When mother’s off the phone she says, “Halley Roberts has volunteered to be here tonight. She and I have talked before. She had told me if you did really well today. There are likely some offers to be made that you two should be considering. One is by the larger corporation and there may also be other groups and agents making offers. She said she liked the idea of Eva representing your business and investment dealings. She does suggest an independent agent should also be considered. Halley is very willing to check business contracts and any offers.”
Dad comes and while he compliments how we did. But he is noticeably uncomfortable with the venue and wanting to return home later this afternoon. Hearing the slight possibility of modeling tomorrow. He apologizes, but he rather not stay around to see it. Seemingly he knows there might be more. He does not encourage me, Teri, to continue modeling, but states he will not stand in our way.
We are emotionally exhausted from modeling, but we are too excited to miss Jan Coffman and others modeling this afternoon. We have met Constance and Travis who are among ten regional models in our group. Attie open to watching Travis but I’ve already lost any interest in following him. Constance and Jan are the two I know and like. I am interested to be in the back helping as Aubrey or other staff people instruct me. We will be out front for the evening fashion show. Marcus will have more clothing designs to be modeled. Many will be shown tonight.
Aurei is also to have ten more clothing designs to be shown, but all are to be worn during Sundays’ show.
Marcus seeks us out as the afternoon program is preparing to begin. “Attie and Teri, I am glad to catch you, can we please talk?”
We go and find a place we can visit with some privacy. He says, he’d like us to be photographed in more of his designs for teens and college women. He says, “Please if you sign any contracts or agree to work exclusively with anyone. I encourage you to reserve the right to choose two to four shows on your own and to reserve the right to do other photo shoots. You are fresh talents and there are designers like Aurei and myself who want you to keep some independence. We want you free to grow and change. You have too much raw talent and energy to be cast into anybody’s cookie-cutter mold at this time in your career.”
The conversation is much more of a conversation as it continues. Marcus got Aurei on his phone and she agrees with what he has said. We will see her tonight at the gala, along with Marcus. They are putting in an appearance there and several other gatherings during the evening.
Once we’re finished talking with Marcus, we are both emotionally drained and go back to our rooms. I would give a lot to have help taking off my makeup and getting ready for a nap. We planned a thirty minute power nap, but my sister was the first one to wake an hour and a half later. “Get up and get dressed Teri. We need to get dressed and eat a salad or something.”
“I hope Aubrey or Ms. Briggs aren’t upset with us for missing the afternoon session. I knew Jan did really well with her first two changes.” Attie, “With no thanks to us.” Attie reminds me to use brighter makeup.
Attie has a vitamin pill out to take, but I take it instead, to see if she notices. Attie returns to see it missing and gets upset, “You know better Teri; it is for my complexion. That is the third one I less than ten days. You know they’re meant for women to help our complexions. You weren’t to be taking them.”
I said, “The doctor didn’t give me a prescription because she said it wasn’t enough to help me. I did it more to tease you.”
Attie says, “Well it’s annoying and three begins to cut into my number of pills. Plus with how you’ve changed your diet, I think you’re wanting help to look more girly. I’m not sure, but it may be working.” Attie stares at me, “If you ask me your emotions and conversations seem to keep you in girl mode even when we’re not modeling. I hope you’re talking to Mom about what you’re doing.”
We’re in the restaurant’s main dining room and I’m happy as we change the discussion. Mom and our sister are coming. It is surprising to see that Halley Roberts is already here. Her hands shoot to her face, “Oh Teri you are so adorable.”
Mom reminds her, “She is a model; I’d use ‘beautiful or very pretty’. ‘Adorable’ I think is for a younger girl.”
Halley says, “You’re right, they’re both young women and as a teen I’d have disliked that too. Teri and Attie have you continued to have a good day?”
I share, “We both met with Marcus the clothes designer. He’d like us to model in a photo shoot. He said, if we signed a contract, we shouldn’t lock ourselves in without options. I.e. like being able to model in photo shoots for him and Aurei. We’d be happy to do it for either, but we enjoyed being with him.”
She says, “Did your mother know you were talking with him?”
Attie says, “No, it just kind of happened. It was a nice visit as Teri said.” Halley looks to our Mom like they think there is more to it. Attie asks, “What are you thinking, we should act like little girls and ask permission?” Attie figures whatever it is and says, “”Yes, Teri thinks like me she’s my twin sister when we’re like this.”
I blush as they thought of me looking at Marcus as a girl. “Mom, I’m a teenager and I’m a girl when we’re modeling.”
Mom steps next to me and gives me a hug. “You don’t mind him seeing you as a girl?”
“Mom, he probably already knows. He would for sure if we modeled for him.”
We’re back in the auditorium before the evening show begins and we applaud for Jan, Constance and a model name Sierra. She is not from our group, but we like her style. She and Jan both are exceptional in connecting with the audience. The evening session goes until 9:00. We wait, pretty sure Jan will be invited as one of those to model tomorrow.
The evening host comes back to the stage, “We’ve named eight to model tomorrow in the national and world gala division. They are: “Jan Coffman…” third model “Sierra Huntress”… They had just named the sixth model. “We’ve dipped into the morning session and are inviting Attie and Teri Slade to model tomorrow.”
We erupt out of hysteria in the audience. Yes, others have suggested it, but it is so different to hear our names called. Girls and women around us are happy for us. Time and again we’re hearing those our age saying “Wow, awesome, great for you.” They’re asking for autographs on their program, some have signature pads and others are taking selfies with us. I feel myself tingling like a girl; I know Hattie has similar feelings probably stronger.
Marcus finds us, “Wear my dresses tonight and tomorrow and they are yours to keep.”
Attie says, “You’re expecting us to wear the same dress tonight and tomorrow?”
Marcus says in response, “Of course not, I thought each of you had one of my skirt/blouse outfits along with the dresses.”
Aurei says, “Nothing doing, if they wear yours tonight, they should wear one of mine, preferably one they model tomorrow.”
Attie says, “You two agree and we’ll be happy to do it.” I ask, “Aurei, can Jan wear your gown that she modeled tonight?”
Aurei asks, “Can my young friends Kent and Roger escort and dance with you tonight. If you go out later they will be more than excited to be your escorts and pay for the evening.”
We didn’t see Aubrey until we heard her talk, “Hurry up to your room and I’ll help you get ready…”
To be continued…
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