A Model for a Day
The one and only guy swaggers in.
We each have our own make up artist as we perch on the bar stools. Our front is covered with a black plastic bib and we look at our changing images in the mirror illuminated by a row of bright bulbs.
The make up palettes litter the tables with brushes and combs and eye shadow sets. Lipstick and gloss and fake eyelashes teeter on the pile of cosmetics that take up every inch of the available space.
The mirror in front of me reflects the studio. The snow white wall and floor, the camera stands, the video rails, the umbrellas and light filters hanging from the ceiling.
Yards of cables snake their way from the ground up to the various apparatuses.
Dance music blares from the speakers. The air vibrates with anticipation.
You won’t find Karl fanning himself here or Donatella blinding us with her perfectly straight blond hair. You won’t find Gisele or Naomi.
You will find us.
Normal, every day people.
Except that we all had cancer at one point. Some of us are still in treatment.
You can tell by the length of our hair and the freshness of our scars how far we made it.
The Prevent Cancer Fashion Show promo shoot is about to begin.
They call me to the set. My Jessica Simpson strappy heels click clack on the white floor to the designated mark in front of the camera.
“Are you nervous?” The director asks me.
“No, not really”, I swing my arms by my side, “I just don’t know what exactly to do.”
“Do whatever you want.” She and the photographer say.
I stand there. What do I want? What do I want? I have no idea. I have not asked myself what I want for so long, I forgot. I have been doing what I have to in order to survive two cancers. I have been following doctor’s orders and eating and drinking what I should, not what I want.
What do I want? I stand there frozen to the spot. My mind goes blank.
Just think of Tyra Banks I tell myself. But it’s not working. Tyra Banks is beautiful and has long hair. All I have is a one inch growth that sticks out in all directions.
“Just look in the camera and try different poses.” The director helps me.
I start moving a little. My brain battles the paradox of me finally doing what I have always wanted to do but yet doing it because I had cancer and also while I feel the least attractive.
I manage to somewhat satisfy this first portion of the shoot. I walk off the set and another girl walks on. I think she feels similar to me.
We are all stunted in our inhibitions. We are like snails slowly sticking our eyes out. Slowly but surely. She starts moving around too and smiling ear to ear.
The next girl dances to the music, pausing momentarily for the shots.
Another girl makes a hand stand and holds her whole body in the air. She giggles as she does it and I feel my mouth smiling. My eyebrows loosen up, I feel lighter.
As I am getting my make up touched up, I see the guy model bite down on a flower and pose for the picture a la tango dancer. I smile wider.
The next set of pictures are taken on a red Snoop Dog like couch. As per the direction, we pose with an attitude. We can do that one real well. We channel our inner frustration with the cancers and our life. We look pissed off. We look tough. We are the mafia.
I am called to the red couch by myself to take a few more photos. This time I find the poses faster and easier. I am starting to feel good about myself. Maybe I can do this. I just have to forget about my short hair and all the scars crisscrossing my body.
We conclude the photo portion of the shoot with a group dance in front of the white wall. Wind blows in our hair from a huge fan aimed in our center.
The interviews are next.
We feel the seriousness settle over us like a light veil. A silky layer of reality that we have to reveal.
I hear a story of a 20-year old whose tumor was so large, it bulged out of her body and she fainted every time she walked up three stairs.
It is heartbreaking to hear about a Mom in her first trimester getting the cancer diagnosis and then undergoing surgery under local anesthesia only in order to protect her unborn son.
It is hard to come to terms with the fact that a lady with a family history of cancers pulled the short stick too.
It is maddening to hear that a new Mom was shuffled from doctor to doctor, her concerns dismissed only to find out that her cancer spread to the lymph nodes in the meantime.
But for each cancer story, there is also a tale of pushing forward. Starting a wellness company, elevating one’s dream to be an interior designer, or being a cancer navigator for others in need. There is my story of wanting to be a writer. There is a story of a Mom wanting to rebuild her relationship with her son because she missed so many important milestones due to the disease.
We all have this powerful wave in our backs. This rush of foaming water that carries us further and further. We taste life and we see it in more color hues that usual. Something sneaky tried to take it away from us. We are taking it back. We are the models, the writers, the entrepreneurs and we are not giving up.