A friend texted me earlier this week asking if I wanted to… model.
In the attic of my heart there has always been a desire to be a model. I imagined being “spotted” at the mall, at Disney, on the beach. I wanted to submit my photos to the Ford Agency self application page. I browsed Craigslist ads. People always told me I was pretty so wasn’t that the ultimate conclusion? To be professionally recognized for my appearance?
The reality was that I was chubby, tall but awkwardly long limbed, unaware of how to dress myself, averse to makeup, and had a face too long to campaign for anything.
And yet in the shadows of my secret desires it still lives there. Even though my face and body are too big for Asian commercialization, even though I’ve certainly aged out of, even though my looks aren’t particularly unique, the dream lives on.
I’d give it all up to live that kind of lifestyle— beautiful clothes, TV appearances, access to stars, makeup artists, a presence that means something.
Maybe it’s about being seen, or about being in an equal playing field with people I admire. Maybe it’s about access to all the secret gardens of which I can only dream.
The night before the shoot, I got a message that there would not be a stylist and I found myself sending a picture of every dress and skirt I owned. Ultimately the crew found a yellow maxi dress in storage.
After copious skin care and doing my own hair and makeup, I headed to the location: a mall so expansive and shiny I felt too poor to even use the bathroom. Hermès, Tom Ford, and Chanel reflected off the buffed marble floors. I watched the janitors and sellers and thought that the people working here probably couldn’t afford the items either.
Two women helped me change into the dress in the bathroom and touched up my hair. One gently twisted a few curls by my face and I reveled in the special intimacy of personal attention.
My friend showed up and chatted with her friend who I think is a makeup artist, if I were to guess by his crate of lipstick. He had a beautiful and incredibly detailed baroque tattoo of Jesus on his forearm.
The mall ended up rescinding their permission so after waiting and waiting, my friend and I hopped into another man’s car and drove one block to the movie theater with equally impressive architecture.
A young man who introduced himself as “Sunny from Korea” showed us where to stand and walk.
There was an actual crew, just like the ones I had seen in dramas. The director was an outgoing woman who told us to smile! And Walk With Confidence!
A man on a gyroscopic longboard had a complicated contraption strapped over his shoulders with a camera to film us as we walked (with confidence).
We did four takes and then the day was done.
I bowed to the crew and thanked them, realizing later that I could’ve used a phrase I had learned in class earlier that week. Then I changed back into my street clothes in the illegally parked car while a woman from earlier helped me shimmy out of the borrowed clothes.
I told our local little crew thank you and then that was it. The footage will be used to promote Busan tourism.
My friends and I headed back to the food court of the fancy mall and split a barbecue meal.
She’s done a lot of online dating but updated me on an old friend from uni who’s about to become her boyfriend. That certainly seems to be how it happens. Date after date but it’s still the people we are familiar with, the people who are fixtures of our lives, that become our lovers.
I was happy for her and wished her luck in her upcoming long term visa exam.
We parted ways: she brought me to the subway then left to get a taxi in a surprisingly small but heartwarming gesture.
I wanted to share the photos the makeup artist had considerately taken when he was standing behind the scenes with the crew so I texted House Owner to ask the location of her cafe and realized that I supposed she might be my friend after all.
I got to the cafe and Freshman was there studying,
“Oh!” She exclaimed.
I showed them the photos to their cheers and then House Owner brought me a coffee on the house.
I sat there drinking coffee and catching up in a slow hour while a few other patrons sipped their drinks.
I thought again how grateful I am for this little family with whom I can share my joys and accomplishments.
But even after coffee, the taste of the whole experience lingered on my palate.
I’m so thankful but I’m also so, so greedy. I want to do it all again.