Well, it’s official. I had to take my first crazy pill since December and the decision has been made that I can never be a model. No, it’s not because I’m only 5’6”. No, it’s not because I have ALS. No, it’s not because I have a weak jawline. No, I can never be a model because I just quite frankly cannot cope with the stress.
Welcome to Paris Fashion Week.
The glamour, the excitement and the fashion equate to stress, near starvation, and a lot of “hurry up and wait.” Normally, I am only half interested in fashion week due to the fact that my obsession usually lies in furniture and antiques. However, living in Paris, you cannot escape fashion week. And I can doubly not escape Paris Fashion Week because I happen to have a petite supermodel in the making as a houseguest. Her name is Kelsey Owens and her mother is my really good friend, Debbie. They could have just as easily stayed in a model apartment but I invited them to stay with me instead for this week in Paris. Now, I have had a firsthand experience of what really goes on during fashion week… And the stress is nearly fucking killing me.On top of watching Kelsey go through the rigmarole of fashion week, I also have to keep my eye on my other little darlings Gigi and Bella Hadid, my best friend Yolanda’s daughters who are petite supermodels as well. On top of that, I also have my little Gracie working behind the scenes as a fashion styling assistant. My plate is full of worry. That kind of worry that only a mother has. Even though all the girls are doing really well, it is impossible not to stress out a wee tad bit.
Let’s start with Kelsey. Kelsey is almost 5’10” tall and definitely at her fighting weight. Before you get on the Worry Train bound for Anorexia-Ville, this is the life of a runway model. It is what it is. Previously unbeknownst to me, there are different types of models. I just thought you had to be tall and pretty and could go for it. No no no. These runway models are a different breed. These are the super tall girls who are superduper skinny because that’s what the fashion designers call for. These are the girls who are at the height of the game of modeling. At any point of the day, during fashion week, Kelsey needs to be her thinnest physically and her strongest emotionally. At only 17 years old, Kelsey has the balls similar to that of King Abdullah of Jordan. She is a rock. Kelsey wakes at dawn after a good night sleep which is imperative to ward off any unsightly dark circles under her eyes. She forces herself to eat an egg white omelette at breakfast for protein to have the strength to get through the day even if she would really rather have a big stack of pancakes. I offer her a green juice filled with vegetables but that is refused because it could mess with her “fashion week digestive system.” Next, Kelsey scrubs her face clean of any makeup from the prior day. Apparently, when these runway models go to castings they are required to not have a stitch of makeup on their faces. Can you imagine going to a job interview with no makeup! Next up, Kelsey dresses herself in skinny black jeans, black Cashmere sweater, and her military boots. This uniform is required as Kelsey is skipping all over Paris at breakneck speeds, on the Metro, to get to her minimum 11 castings a day. She keeps her high heels in her backpack. She has to organize her schedule to make sure she gets to every casting on time and find the proper location in a city that is not her own. I took one look at her Saturday schedule and threw myself into a full-fledged panic attack and then I laughed out loud thinking, “Oh my God, how do the dumb models get through this week?” As much as this looks like an “easy job,” it is anything but. I dare any of you to try to get through fashion week
Givenchy at 10 AM. Lanvin at noon. Valentino at 2 PM. Balenciaga at 3 PM. St. Laurent at 5 PM… And then wait the rest of the day for callbacks. During these castings, Kelsey is required “to walk.” This means that the designer wants to see how she walks. The verb “walk” becomes a noun in the modeling world. Your “walk” can make or break you. Can you imagine the stress and pressure of walking in front of a room full of people who are judging every move you make. That alone would exile me from the modeling world altogether. I would be like, “Dude! This is how I walk. Take it or leave it.” Then I would cry. I have watched Kelsey “work on her walk” at my apartment. "Shoulders back, no bouncing, wide stride, resting bitch face, don’t swing your arms, be light in your heels.” It’s exhausting!
Kelsey Runway Proenza Schouler
Some days, Kelsey goes on “fittings.” On these days, Kelsey is required to strip to her skivvies and try on the designer’s collection over and over and over again. All I could think of was, “Oh My God, what to do if it is your “time of the month.” Apparently there is a new birth control pill that basically eradicates periods. Oh, that sounds real healthy. Once again, I would not make it one day in the modeling world.
Kelsey Runway Maison Rabih Kayrouz
Now, the waiting game arrives. Kelsey gets back to the apartment at about 8 PM every evening and all that she wants to do is eat and sleep. All we want to do is talk to her about her day. The last thing a tired, grumpy, hungry model wants to do is relive the day to her anxious mother and me. But we insist, “What happened at Givenchy? What did they say at Dior? Did they like your walk? What did they say!” Kelsey usually indulges us a little bit and then ignores us and does her own thing. We are left to interpret everything. We start to overanalyze and over think everything.
Kelsey A.P.C. Denim
The funniest part about this whole week is the polar opposites of my diet and Kelsey’s diet. I am required (to keep my ALS at bay) to basically pig out on a daily basis. Carbohydrates, fats, sugars, cream sauce, chocolates, butter, baguettes, crème fraîche, pastas… I could basically eat an entire ham in one sitting and my doctor would say, “Bravo.” Kelsey on the other hand is required to look like a pencil. She survives on a very specialized super healthy diet. It breaks our hearts that her mother and I dine on four cheese lasagna and homemade peanut butter cookies while Kelsey is extracting the skin from her grilled chicken breast. Kelsey takes it like a champ and keeps her eye on the ball and marches through. She knows that after fashion week is finished she will reward herself with the biggest fattest most delicious dessert on earth. And she will deserve every inch of it.
Now, I also have to worry about my sweet Gigi. Gigi was born to model. It’s in her blood. However, that doesn’t make it any less difficult for her. Sometimes I think she has the added stress of being the very best because that’s what everyone expects from her. The good news is that the only thing Yolanda, her mother, requires from her is to be a good person. Check.
Gigi Spanish Vogue March 2015
Gigi started officially modeling only a couple years ago after she finished high school. She hit the ground running and has become the “It Girl” of the modeling world. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Check. Tom Ford campaign. Check. Maybelline campaign. Check. Gigi’s reputation precedes her. She is known to be professional, polite, and genuine. I know all of this about her but I also know that she is kind, loving and sensitive. Sometimes when I am out for a walk around Paris, I am bombarded with photos of Gigi. Huge photos on the sides of buildings and on buses. Huge ads in the Gallerie Lafayette. Without fail, I always tear up because I’m so proud of her. I have known and loved this little angel since she was in second grade and now there she is… Bigger than life.
Gigi Runway Dolce & Gabbana
Gigi Runway Anna Sui
Now, I also have to worry about my little Bella. Gigi’s sister. Bella just started officially modeling this year and it’s a whole different ballgame. While Gigi is definitely the girl next door with her blonde hair and blue eyes, Bella is the mysterious chic model with her smoky eyes and pouty lips. But what people don’t know about Bella is that she is hysterically funny, silly and loves food. I always encourage her to write a food blog because she has a true love and appreciation for the world of cuisine. I love how Bella always brings out the silly side of Gracie.
Bella has just started her career and landed the Los Angeles Tom Ford runway show. I watched the show from Paris and when Bella came out onto the stage, I just burst out crying. I spoke to her a few days later and I told her that I was so proud of how confident she was on the runway and she said, “Ellie, I was scared to death.” Well, it definitely did not show and she was the consummate professional and rocked it.
Bella for Louis Vuitton
Lastly, my little Gracie. Gracie has been working her little fashionista butt off behind the scenes as a stylist’s assistant. She has been working on numerous different ad campaigns and is really learning the ropes. Gracie started her styling career when she was just in high school with her first internship at Santa Barbara Magazine. Santa Barbara Magazine is also the magazine that gave Gigi her first cover. Whenever Gracie is at my apartment, she will only take “work calls” in the other room and out of earshot from me. She is a totally different person in her work mode. She is polite, professional and courteous. She is required to call on big fashion houses like Chanel, Balenciaga, and Dior to organize the orders. These clothes are her responsibility and the pressure is enormous to keep track of everything. Grace is going to London for a job next month and I suggested that I meet her in London and we make it a “mommy/daughter girl’s night” in London. She, of course, screamed at me, “Mommy, I am in London for work and I have to get these clothes back to Paris safely. I don’t have time to have tea and “mommy time” with you in London, for God sake!” Well excuse me!
Gracie in Paris
Gracie in France
This evening, all of the girls were over at my apartment for dinner… Gracie, Gigi and Kelsey. We had a delicious dinner of homemade thai chicken spring rolls with peanut sauce. The girls all talked about their upcoming week in Paris. Gigi brought over a friend, the supermodel Karlie Kloss, who was the sweetest, most graceful and affable girl ever. I am looking forward to seeing Bella at the end of the week. If one more supermodel walks through my door, I think my Filipino caregiver is going to have a stroke.
Kelsey, Gigi, and Karlie Kloss at my apartment last night.
(As you can imagine my caregivers were miserable.)
Gigi and Gracie at my apartment last night.
Kelsey, my little nugget caregiver Joel, and Gigi
feasting on Joel's homemade Thai chicken spring rolls with
homemade peanut sauce.
All in all, I cannot be more proud of my Kelsey, my Gigi, my Bella, my Gracie and now sweet Karlie. The girls have demonstrated strengths tenfold to what we mothers have and remember, all of these girls are under the age of 20. I am proud of their work ethic, their determination and their ability to smile through a storm with patience and grace. Each of these girls put on a brave face, exhibit positive attitudes, work themselves to the bone, never complain and take the occasional rejection like a champion. It is not easy being in a world where you are judged on a daily basis by your looks and your style. I would crumble straight out of the gate. I would take everything personally, judge myself harshly and then most likely seek revenge.
The reward for all of this hard work is obvious. The fashion world is quite exciting. The clothes, the makeup, the jewelry, working in Paris… This does not suck. Even though the behind-the-scenes of fashion week is grueling, the end result is nothing less than fabulous.
Just for fun, let’s take a break from cooking and decorating, and focus on fashion until next week in honor of Paris Fashion Week. This ought to be interesting… Stay tuned.