Catwalk Confidence - Part 60
By Connie Alexander
What started out as a great day ended in disaster. Considering the fight with Lindsey and Britney and our suspension from school–and I’m not sure how long that will be yet–plus going home and finding out that the rag trying to be a newspaper, the National Post printed an article that I’m not a girl but a boy who had a sex change operation. The last was what did me in for the day–seeing that I just broke down and cried.
Eventually Mom and Dad got me up to my room where I cried myself to sleep. Now it’s four in the morning and I’m curled up on the couch reading the damned article.
“Hey there, what are you doing up?”
Looking up, there’s Mom in her robe and slippers.
“Hi, Mom, I just woke up. I think it’s because I fell asleep so early yesterday.”
Sitting down next to me, Mom puts her arm around me and pulls me into her shoulder.
“How are you doing, honey?”
Snuggling down and relaxing in the comfort of her arms, I reply, “Better. I think I just got a bit overwhelmed, yesterday was kinda stressful. I’ve been reading this thing. It’s from that reporter that I hit isn’t it?”
“Yes, honey, it is.”
“I should have broken his neck instead of his nose.”
“Now, now is this from the same girl who finds it difficult to even spar?”
“For him I’ll make an exception.”
“I suppose I can’t blame you, honey, I feel the same way and lord help the man if your father ever gets a hold of him.”
“How did he get this? It says here that my Thai birth certificate proves that I’m really a boy. I didn’t even know I had a Thai birth certificate. The only one I’ve ever seen is my U.S. one.”
“To tell you the truth your father and I forgot about the Thai one. You know that your U.S. certificate isn’t like most?”
“Yeah, you said that was because I was born on a navy ship, right?”
“Yes it is, that’s also where you got your name. See, while we were in Thailand, some members of the consulate were given a tour of some of the ships that were in port. Your father and I went along on one wanting to see what the inside of a submarine was like.
“I was very pregnant with you at the time but since the sub was in port and we weren’t that far from the hospital, we didn’t see the harm. Well, we were on the bridge of the sub and the captain had just offered the captain’s chair for me to sit in. Wouldn’t you know it, no sooner had I sat down than my water broke, and as soon as that happened I went into hard labor. There was no way I was going to make it out of the sub, much less to the hospital in time to give birth. So, Lieutenant Commander Bethel, the ship’s chief medical officer helped me deliver you in their sick bay. He told me afterwards that he had never been so scared in his life. You were the first baby he had ever delivered.
“Now a U.S. navy ship is U.S. sovereign soil, no matter where it goes, so you were given a U.S. birth certificate that says your place of birth is SSN-757, Groton, Connecticut. SSN-757 is the ship number for the U.S.S. Alexandria, a Los Angeles class submarine with its home port being Groton Connecticut fifteen years ago. It’s also why we named you Alexander and why I’m pleased it’s now Alexandria. It’s this certificate that we recently had changed to reflect your true gender.
“After you were born, an ambulance came and took us to the hospital in Bangkok. Since we were in Thailand, even though on a U.S. ship, they issued you a Thai birth certificate as well. I guess you have dual citizenship. Come to think of it you may have three since it wasn’t until the following spring that your father became a full U.S. citizen. Hmm, you just might have Irish citizenship too. I wonder if there’s another certificate out there somewhere. I’ll have to look into that.”
I start to giggle.
“What’s so funny?”
“I bet the captain just loved having you break your water all over his chair.”
“He was very gracious, in fact they made both you and I honorary members of the crew.”
We both chuckle some more.
“Mom, what are we going to do about this? How can I show my face again and what are we going to do about school?”
“We’ll take everything one step at a time, honey. First, you are a girl in every sense of the word. We’ll get the paper to retract the story. We may even sue as they made no attempt to verify the story with us. We’ll see about that. As to school, I’ll be talking with them today and we’ll see what they say. I think it’s pretty obvious that you were the one attacked. Don’t worry, honey, we’ll work it out.”
“I sure hope so.”
After lunch I’m floating in the pool just vegging out when Mom comes out.
“Honey, come on inside. Your father and I have some news for you.”
Getting out of the pool and wrapping a towel around my waist, I go inside to hear the latest news.
I join Mom and Dad at the kitchen table and Dad asks, “How are you doing, princess, you holding up okay?”
“I’m fine, Dad, really. What’s the news?”
“While your Mother has been dealing with the school, I’ve been talking to our lawyer about the newspaper article. Our attorney will be talking to the paper to see about them printing a retraction but there might not be a whole lot more we can do. The Thai birth certificate is a valid document and it does have your gender down as male. We’re working to have that changed but the legitimacy of the document provides cover for the paper. We’re hoping that because the reporter didn’t verify the information with us, we can get a correction printed. Now you being a minor does make things difficult for the paper and we’re not sure how the reporter got a copy of the Thai certificate. Additionally, the part about you having a sex change operation is completely made up. We’re doing everything we can and we will be talking to some experts to ensure we are doing everything possible. I’m sorry, honey, we’ll keep working on it.”
“Oh man, that sucks. What am I going to do? Everyone knows they bury the retraction even if they print one. Nobody will believe it isn’t true.”
“I don’t think it will be that bad, honey, and we’ll do all we can. I just didn’t want you to get your hopes up too high. Don’t give up yet though.”
“Okay, Dad,” I say sullenly.
Mom clears her throat and says, “I just got off the phone with the school. The board met and for any incident that involves any of their ‘no tolerance’ policies, they are the ones who decide length of suspension. In talking with Mrs. Cavanaugh she’s convinced that you did not instigate what happened but the board seems to want to set an example that no matter what, these actions won’t be tolerated so they decided that all three of you girls are suspended for thirty days.”
Mom holds up her hand to stop my comment then continues, “Lindsey and Britney both will be suspended an additional fifteen days for starting things. To answer what you were going to say, yes they really do believe that Lindsey and Britney started the incident, however, Britney’s entire face and a good portion of her arms and front are blue and will be until the dye wears off which looks like it will take some time. Lindsey’s nose is rather severely broken. Given the seriousness of the entire encounter, the board decided on the thirty days for you. If you think about it, that really won’t be so bad. They did decide that you can submit assignments and other work during this time and most of your class assignments are online so it shouldn’t be too bad and this will give things a chance to calm down there.”
“Yeah, I suppose. I still would like to know what I should have done then. Should I have let them beat the crap out of me and dye me blue just to keep within their policy? This sucks and it’s so unfair.”
“It isn’t fair, honey, but it could have been worse. Now on another subject, PJ will be here in a little bit. She said she has some news for us. Why don’t you go on up and change before she gets here?”
“All right.” With that I sulk up to my room.
A short time later I’m changed into shorts and a tank top and I go back downstairs. I’m slouched down on the couch watching television when the doorbell rings and Mom lets PJ in.
Turning off the television I turn to greet PJ.
“Hey, PJ, I guess you heard.”
“Yes indeed I have. How are you doing? Are you holding up okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. There isn’t a whole lot I can do about things right now so I’m trying not to let it get to me. Mom said you had some news?”
PJ and Mom sit and PJ sighs then says, “I’m afraid that I too have a bit of bad news but I do have some potential good news to it. What do you want to hear first?”
Groaning I say, “Better tell me the bad first so we can get it out of the way.”
Smiling, PJ says, “Okay then but hear me out and don’t kill the messenger. First, remember I said that Margo’s show could lead to some catalogue and print work?”
At my nod she continues, “Well they didn’t pick you, they decided to go with Connie. It was close but she won out.”
“I can see why, she’s pretty amazing. What else you got?”
Taking a deep breath PJ continues, “Nike is pulling the ad. The coverage in the paper really spooked them and even if it gets cleared up they don’t want to take the chance, the cowards. There is a full termination clause and I’m going to get them on that. It will mean a bit of money for you and get you out of the options. I’m sorry, honey.”
The look on my face must have been bad because Mom comes over and gives me a hug and PJ is looking a bit stricken too.
“I’m sorry, Alex. I really tried to get them to change their minds but they spook real easy.”
“Well isn’t that just peachy. Thanks PJ, I know you tried your best. I guess that means the end of modeling.”
The thought of not doing any more modeling surprisingly upsets me and my eyes start to water.
“Why on earth do you say that? Just because Nike doesn’t want to use you doesn’t mean no one will.”
“But if Nike does this, I can’t see why anyone would want to hire me if there’s doubt I might really be a boy.”
“Alex, you don’t know the fashion industry that well. This isn’t going to hurt you, believe me. Have you ever heard of Lea T. or Andrej Pejic?”
“I don’t think so, well maybe.”
“Lea T. is a transsexual fashion model and she’s doing very well for herself. Andrej Pejic is that male Serbian model that’s so beautiful he models women’s fashion and looks incredible, better even than a lot of models born female. The fashion world only cares about the ‘look’ and if you can sell the product, not what you may or may not have between your legs. Lordy girl, that’s the other side of the coin I came to tell you about. There was a scout for one of the big agencies at the show and he was very interested in you and wants to see you.”
“Yes, you. I wasn’t surprised when the print work went to Connie. She has the look for a fitness model. You have the high fashion look and you have Paul chomping at the bit to meet you and try to sign you.”
“Sign me? I couldn’t, I’m signed with you.”
“Honey, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the agent for you. My specialty is not modeling, if you wanted to do acting, get into commercials, television or movies, then I’d hold onto you for sure but if you want to do modeling and have the opportunity to get in with one of the big agencies, then you need to take it. And this won’t mean I’ll be going away. Models are quite often signed with multiple agencies. So long as the area for each agency’s work is clearly established, there isn’t any problem.”
“Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to talk with him then if you’re sure. What can you tell us about him and his agency?”
“The scout’s name is Paul Coleman and he was one of the top, if not the top scout for Next Models, he’s now one of their top managers. You hear of them?”
I’m stunned and I nod my head. “They’re one of the top three or four agencies in the world. Are you serious? They really want to talk to me?”
“Very serious.” Turning to Mom, PJ asks, “Is there any way you can go down to L.A. to meet them at their office this week? I’ve got to tell you, Paul was very eager to meet Alex and he isn’t one to show his hand like that. This could be a huge opportunity for her.”
“I think we could manage that.” Turning to me, Mom adds, “What do you say, honey? Is this something you want to do?”
“Mom, if this guy is serious then hel-heck yeah it’s something I’d like to do.”
“Okay then, honey. PJ, when would they like to meet?”
“Let me just give Paul a call right now.”
While PJ makes her call, Mom turns to me and asks, “Are you sure, honey, this is something you want?”
“I really think so, Mom. It’s hard to explain but it was a rush doing the runway work. That day we spent with Phillip was a blast too and I got the same type of rush. I don’t know if all modeling will be like that, I doubt that it will be, but I’d like to find out. I’d like to see if this is something I’d be good at. Some people seem to think so and I’d like to know for sure.”
“Well then I guess we’ll just have to give you that opportunity then.” Mom says with a smile.
PJ puts her hand over her phone and asks, “Sharon, can we get Alex down to L.A. Thursday morning?”
“I don’t see why not. We’ll go down tomorrow and stay overnight.”
With a smile PJ gets back on the phone.
When PJ gets off the phone, she sits down and says, “Well, that’s all set then. You’ll meet with Paul Thursday morning at eight. Now it’s my turn to come clean. I think you’re a natural and I think you have the potential to be a top model. When I saw Paul at the show I latched onto him and sang your praises. After the show I showed him your book and gave him a copy of your film. Truthfully I don’t think it was too hard to sell him on you, you do have what it takes. I think it very likely that Next will make you an offer and if they do and if you really want to be a model, then you should take it. They’re definitely one of the best.”
“Thanks, PJ, I really do appreciate all that you’ve done for me.”
“Hey kiddo, like I said, you’re not getting rid of me, you’re just expanding your horizons. You decide to get into film work and I’m your gal so don’t act like this is goodbye.”
We continue to chat for a bit longer then PJ tells us that she has to run but she’ll follow up with us to see how the meeting goes.
After PJ leaves, I go up to my room and send off an email of the latest drama in my life to Aunt Dee. Now that she knows that I’m for real, we’ve really been getting closer through our correspondence. She was shocked that Mom had told me about their relationship and even more so when I told her about Robbyn and I. After that wore off she’s turned into a very welcome ear for me to vent to, even though she keeps telling me that she’s hardly one to give advice given her track record.
My goal is to reconcile her with the rest of the family, specifically Mom. I think it would be so great to have more family. Ellen is still cold to talking about Aunt Dee, she doesn’t know the reason why there was a falling out and feels a bit of resentment towards her. The boys I’m sure never think of her and poor Dad is kinda caught in the middle between his sister and father and Mom.
If I can get Dee and Mom talking, then maybe everything else will work itself out. I hope so at least.
With the email done, I grab a book and stretch out on the bed to read a bit.
I’m rather engrossed in my book when the door to my room suddenly opens. Looking up I see a very worried-looking Blair. Her expression eases slightly when I sit up and give her a smile.
“Hey, Blair, I was going to give you a call later. Are you okay?” I ask when she doesn’t answer right away.
“Am I okay, am I okay? Don’t you answer your phone? I’ve been trying to get in touch with you all day. The rumors around school go from you being murdered to you being a murderer and everything in-between. I was worried, the question is how are you? What the heck happened?”
Blair seems really upset so I get up, pull her into the room, shut the door and have her sit on the bed.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I haven’t even looked at my phone since yesterday; I should have called you sooner.”
Blair’s tension leaves and she asks, “Just what did happen? I heard that it had something to do with Lindsey and Britney.”
“It did, we got into a fight in the locker room right after school.”
“Was it…is it because, well I heard some talk that you’re really a boy at least there’s supposed to be some newspaper article saying that? I know that can’t be true. Is it?”
“No, I’m really a girl but the article is kinda right too.”
Blair first looks relieved then confused.
“Let me try to explain.”
So for the next fifteen or so minutes I tell Blair all about my gender confusion and how the paper got its information.
“So you really are a girl then?”
“Yup, the surgery that I had wasn’t a sex change, just corrective to make the outside match the inside. I never had boy parts, it just kinda looked like I did. We’re not sure how the reporter tracked down the Thai birth certificate but he did. We’re getting that changed but the damage has already been done.
“That’s why Lindsey and Britney attacked me. They thought they finally had something over me I guess. I just don’t understand what that girl has against me.”
“Well I’m glad you broke her nose. When I catch up to them they’re going to think they got off easy being dyed blue and getting a broken nose.”
“Hey, don’t think I don’t appreciate the sentiment, but don’t do anything. As far as I’m concerned it’s over with and I certainly don’t want to see you in trouble. Promise?”
“But you’re my friend and they hurt you.”
“And you’re my friend and I don’t want to see you in trouble. Promise me, Blair, please?”
“Oh all right, I promise.”
Smiling, I give her a big grin and a hug. Blair holds me tight and softly says, “I wouldn’t care if you were a boy. I l-like you, you’re my best friend.”
Giving her a final squeeze I reply, “You’re a great friend too, Blair. I’m so glad we met.”
With the tension eased, we sit back and I fill her in on my upcoming trip down to L.A. to talk with Next Models.
“So how long are you going to be down there?”
“Well as I said, I’ll meet with them Thursday morning. We’ll be driving down there tomorrow and I’m not sure if we’ll head back right after the meeting or on Friday morning. I’ll be back by the weekend though. I’ll give you a call when I get home, maybe we can get together?”
“Count on it. Now as much as I’d like to stay, I should be getting home. I promised Tia I’d help her with some stuff.”
“Okay then, give me a call later if you want to talk some more.”
With that we head downstairs and I see Blair on her way.
“Stop fidgeting, you’ll be fine,” Mom says as she pats my hand.
We’re sitting in the reception area for Next Models right on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A. We’ve only been waiting about three minutes yet I’m already super nervous. I really want this to go well.
There’s a young lady looking over at us and I say, “I’m Alex Conners.”
Smiling, the lady replies, “If you’ll follow me, Mr. Coleman will see you now.”
Mom and I get up and follow her down a hallway to an office. Entering, there’s a man a bit older than Dad talking in Italian to someone on the phone. He smiles and waves us in to a sitting area in the office where there’s a small couch, coffee table and a couple of chairs.
He says goodbye to whomever he was talking to stands and comes around his desk towards us.
“Alex Conners, a pleasure to meet you. I’m Paul Coleman. This must be your mother?”
“Yes,” Mom says taking his hand, “I’m Sharon, Alex’s mother.”
“Hello sir,” I say as we shake hands.
“Please sit,” he says indicating the couch, “and do call me Paul.”
“I appreciate you coming down here to meet with me. I apologize for insisting on the short notice but I fly out on Friday and I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to be out here again.”
“That’s okay, sir, I mean, Paul, I’m glad for this opportunity.”
Smiling he says, “Great, then let’s get down to business. First, a bit about myself: I started out with Next twelve years ago right here in Los Angeles. A few years after my start, I moved to our New York agency working as a scout. I did that until about two years ago when I moved to our Milan office where I manage several of our models there.
“I happened to be in New York a couple of weeks ago and a mutual friend of ours recommended that I give you a look while I was here in town.”
At my confused expression, Paul adds, “John and Ramona Dempsey?”
“Oh, they talked to you about me?”
“Indeed they did. They strongly suggested that I give you a look and I’m glad they did.”
Something in my expression made him ask, “What’s wrong?”
“Well, sir, I appreciate all this but I don’t want any undue favors, I want to do this on my own merit.”
“They told me that might be your reaction. Let me assure you that any success you have will be solely on your own merit. John and Ramona merely pointed me at you. If we come to an understanding and you decide to sign on with us, it will be due solely to your abilities.
“Tell me, do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“Yes both. I have two younger brothers and an older sister.”
“What does your sister do?”
“She wants to be a fashion designer and is about to graduate from school to do that. She’s really good too.”
“I’m sure she is. If you knew of someone who was looking for a designer, would you recommend your sister?”
“Oh yeah, she really is amazing.”
“Would that be special treatment?”
“Well no, if they didn’t like her designs then they could go elsewhere.”
“This is the same situation. John and Ramona pointed you out to me because they know I’m always on the lookout for new talent. They also know that if I don’t think you can do it, I won’t make you an offer. Okay?”
“Yes sir, thank you.”
“Good, now like I said, I’m always looking for new talent. Since I was going to be out here anyway, I contacted your agent PJ and she told me about your show. I saw you there, went over your book with PJ and have reviewed your DVD. You are a rare one. You look and act like you’ve been modeling for years and you have the image that I think will do very well indeed.
“Modeling has rather drastically changed over the years. The age of the supermodel is past and many of the models today are quite frankly forgettable. Let me amend that, the age of the supermodel has changed. While it’s true that supermodels don’t have the stature they once did in the nineties, they’re still around. Gisele Bundchen is looking to become the first billionaire supermodel, so supermodels are still out there, they’re just not so prominent anymore. Additionally, magazines that once sported models on their covers now use the celebrity of the moment instead.
“Now I’m telling you this because I think things are changing again. In the nineties models were at their peak, the pendulum swung the other way and for the past couple of years models have been skinny, ultra-pale, forgettable clothes hangers. It’s my thought and that of our other managers that things are on the up-swing again, I hope so at least.
“Now even at its lowest point, the models that were successful, that went on to become ‘supermodels’ had one thing in common: they were real. They have their own personality, they’re easy to work with–well for the most part–and they stand out from the crowd of other models in some way.
“I’m sorry to lecture you on this but I do have my point. You see from what I’ve seen of you, I believe you have the potential to succeed bigtime as a model, to be one of those that stand out in the crowd of easily forgettable faces and bodies. What do you say?”
“I-I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure if I agree that I could be that good and I think it would be easy for me to get a swelled head from all this.”
Laughing, Paul says, “Maybe I did pile it on a bit thick, but everything I said, I believe. Some girls do let it go to their head; some can’t handle it and never make it despite their ‘potential’. Don’t misunderstand me, if you decide to sign with us and you really want to be a success, I can assure you it won’t be easy. You’ll work hard and at times hate the job. I won’t fool you, yes you have the potential, but to realize that potential, you’ll work yourself to the bone and then some. Only you can decide if the end result will be worth it.”
“Wow,” I say. “That’s a lot to think about.”
Mom says, “Mr. Coleman, Alex can’t obtain the success your talking about up in San Francisco can she?”
“Truthfully, no–the industry isn’t as strong up there. Even down here in L.A. it would be extremely difficult.”
Beginning to realize the implications of what’s being said I add, “But what about Arizona Muse–she’s with Next L.A. isn’t she?”
“You’ve done your homework. Yes she is with Next L.A., she’s also with our London, Paris, Milan and New York offices. She currently lives in New York and she travels extensively.”
“So?” Mom asks, “What are you suggesting for Alex?”
“Okay I do want to sign you, Alex. I think you could find work here in Los Angeles and that you’d do better in New York. I think your best opportunity though would be in Milan, Paris and London, specifically Milan. I know I could put you to work right away there.”
“Milan! I can’t go to Milan, I’m only fifteen, well almost sixteen but still.”
“Your age really isn’t a factor from our end. We have a lot of girls your age or a bit older. Accommodations can always be made. Shared living with an adult supervisor to ensure their welfare and to make sure schooling is done, girls eat right and get proper sleep etcetera. Others stay with family that travels with them for their first year or two. Those are details that can be worked on. This is one of the hard, difficult things I mentioned. Are you willing to make the sacrifice, is this something you want enough to make that sacrifice?”
“I-I don’t know. This is coming at me awful fast. Mom?”
“I don’t think that this is a decision we can make right now and certainly not without talking with your father. Paul, when do you need an answer?”
“You can take as much time as you need. I’d personally like to get her signed and working as soon as possible but I do understand your concerns. Let me add this to the pot. Milan Fashion Week will be starting in a few weeks for the new spring fashions; I’d like to get Alex some work during that. We could call it a trial period and afterwards you could give me your decision. We’d fly you out, put you up in one of the apartments we use for our young girls and it would give you the chance to see a bit of what it would be like. How does that sound?”
Mom says, “We still need to discuss this with my husband and if we agree to the trial, I’ll be going out there with her. May we let you know our answer by tomorrow afternoon?”
“That would be ideal. If you have any questions in the meantime, here is my contact information.” Handing us his card, he adds, “Don’t hesitate to call me.”
“Thank you, Paul,” says Mom.
“Yes, thank you, Mr. Coleman,” I say.
“I keep saying it’s Paul and you’re most welcome. Here is a copy of the modeling packet. It has copies of the contracts and additional information you might find useful. I’ll let you go so you can think about this and I look forward to hearing from you on Friday.”
We all shake hands and Mom and I leave to head home. My head is in a daze as I think about all that’s happening. Me in Milan?
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