Sunday, May 22, 2011
“People deal with grief in different ways.”
It’s an axiom you hear often after a dark, nameless event that you burrow in the back of your mind. Some retreat into the comfort of a pastel-colored carton and an unlit room. Others thrive on moving, moving, moving, until their pain is going, going, gone. Some kill people. Some kill themselves. And some give up their hard-earned (via excessive intern hours) cushy (but just-not-quite-right) post-grad desk jobs to move to Mexico and model. Uh, yeah. That last one? All mine.
I don’t want to pull the woe-is-me, "Eat Pray Love" card too soon, but here are the facts. You need to know them so the rest of the story makes sense. My mother passed away on January 4, 2011, after an 11-year battle with the identity-stealing autoimmune disease Multiple Sclerosis. Secondly, my best friend/top confidant/soul sista is still in a vegetative state after her Honda had chance meeting with Otay Lakes Road at 2AM on April 2, 2009. But you deal with these things; you attempt to handle them with resilience, grace, and lots of elegant (and not-so-elegant) eye dabbing. So I did. Until one day I didn’t. At which point, I pulled out my dusty photo album of self-indulgence, abandoned at the ripe old age of 20 for college life, and emailed my former agent, now based in Mexico City.
“I’m old. I’m not 5'11. And I’ve probably eaten entirely too many Oreos over the past four years. Can I come?”
“Absolutely,” was his response. Three months later, and I am writing this to you atop a three-story bookstore/café across the street from my apartment on Nuevo Leon, in Colonia Condesa, DF, where I live with 12 roommates (10 ladies, two sometimes-gentlemen) from five different countries bequeathed with abnormally long limbs and amazing cheekbones.
It’s a very strange thing, this modeling profession. No qualifiers exist—you can’t bring a fresh-baked plate of carbs to the office to impress your boss (and you probably shouldn’t); nor can you work your ass off (well, quite literally, you probably should) to prove your self-worth.
For those who aren’t quite sure how the modeling industry works, this is a primer. Just to avoid any sort of monetary disillusionment: you sign with agency, agency sends you to dozens of auditions, called “castings,” if fate intervenes you possibly book a job. Said job typically takes 1-2 months for reimbursement. It’s an infuriating right-place-right-time ritual—you must luck out and arrive mere minutes before a girl deemed more of-the-moment or your 2-second job interview (they make snap decisions) becomes obsolete.
Mexico City is what is termed a secondary market. Not quite a member of the high-fashion trinity of New York, Paris and Milan, it’s an excellent place for aspiring models to “build their book,” or garner high-profile editorial/commercial bookings not as easily achievable in bigger markets.
Having been an alumni of the runway-ready NY circuit, however, DF is oddly refreshing. Curves abound; fully made-up faces and hot pink attire are commonplace. Jobs so far have included several lookbooks, which are visual references for a designer’s collection, a chance booking for a department store, and an editorial for Nylon Magazine (will post once published, pinky-swear).
But I’m not here to focus on metrics. I’m here because I am in another country, learning another language, learning to let go and learning to adjust, post-grad, post-mortem, post-everything. This time a year ago, I was prepping my cap and gown while obsessively checking Craigslist for entry-level anything. A week before "Pomp and Circumstance," I had my exit interview at KPBS with my mentor Angela Carone, who will actually be having me write about my travels as a series. I mentioned Mexico as an afterthought; a blip in conversation that only happens when you’re verbally daydreaming.
“You should go,” she told me seriously. “No matter what happens, it will be an adventure.”
I'm here for two more months, and I’ll be posting here weekly.
Meredith Hattam is a regular contributor to Culture Lust. You can follow her travels further on her blog, Afterisms.