When I was young, my mom decided it would be a good idea to send me to charm school. I’ll pause for a moment so you can laugh out the sillies at the thought of me trying to be all graceful and cultured, but it’s true – I not only attended, but graduated charm school when I was but a wee Kimli.
I hated it, of course. Mom somehow got it into her head that I was a little weird, and thought if she perhaps submerged me in lessons on etiquette and manners and proper dress and demeanor, I would not turn into the horrifying crazy lezbot butch queen she feared. I suppose to that end she was only half successful, but I highly doubt the charm school had anything to do with it – those other girls were SCARY. And MEAN. When the classes were over, I was more glad to get away from the perfect little girls and go back to playing in the mud than I was eager to serve tea in fine bone china and politely discuss the begonias in dulcet tones.
Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.
Upon graduating charm school, mom thought it best to truly beat the potential lesbian out of me by sending me to modeling school. Yeah, you read that right – my mom paid a goodly amount of money to try and turn me into some sort of glamourous model. Models are generally tall and slender and beautiful. I am short and round and funny looking. My career as a model was pretty much doomed before it even began, but I had to go because it was for my own “good”.
What do people learn in modeling school? Well, we were taught makeup, posture, walking, smiling, clothes, doing little turns on the catwalk (on the catwalk, yeah). Obviously, none of it really stuck with me – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t *try*.
Here is how I failed in almost every way:
Makeup: At that time (and for a good 15 years afterward), I was addicted to eyeliner. I honestly didn’t know what to do with makeup, so I would generally just wear gray or blue eyeliner and call it good. This was clearly not good enough – models had to wear makeup, and a lot of it. After being allowed to do my own face for “evening glamour shots”, I was inspected and laughed at, then used as an example of what not to do. The teacher person helpfully redid my makeup for me, and let me tell you – a 12 year old girl covered in bright blue eye shadow is truly a spectacular site to behold. Even then I could tell that the “expert” was insane and that I looked just awful, although to be honest, I have now come to embrace the blue eye shadow – just not so very much of it, and certainly not lacquered on as though my eyelids were kitchen tiles.
Clothing: a 12-year-old tomboy who is determined to spend the rest of her life in jeans and a baseball cap will at no time ever be able to dress fashionably enough for a group of bitchy aspiring models.
Posture: No amount of standing up straight was ever going to make me taller than my spectacular height of 5’2”, and I will never, ever be slender and willowy. Spending hours on end with people the exact opposite of my body type and being repeatedly told that I should look like them was in no way damaging to my self esteem, let me tell you.
I could go on, but it’s really just more of the same. One day, I showed up to class with my fingernails painted in sparkly polish. The owner’s daughter saw this as an excellent sign of improvement, because I wasn’t talking about hockey and I was doing GIRL THINGS – she took me aside and said that it was nice to see me wearing nail polish and that it was a good start, but maybe now it’s time I started growing up and acting like a girl and stop being such a schlumpy little sausage all the time. The owner’s daughter, by the way, was a year older than me and around the same height. It was great. I think that incident may have been the beginning of my rage issues.
I hated the classes. They would routinely bring in “experts” to tell us how we could better ourselves. I remember they brought in a hair expert one day to talk about fashion and hair styles and being glamourous. My hair at the time was thick, black, and straight – typical Asian hair. I hated it, of course, so I asked him what I could do with my hair to make it better. I don’t remember his answer, but I DO remember that this “expert” in excellent hair was sporting a huge poufy mullet. I don’t think I took his answer very seriously – he didn’t like me very much because I admitted to cutting my own hair – but dude, he had a mullet. It wasn’t sexy, even back then.
We did product shots one day. We got to choose our own product to model as though we were in a magazine, and they took pictures (which I still have, and might actually see the light of day some time). My product: Diet Coke. Just for the taste of it, baby.
Modeling class was so worth the money. Can’t you tell by my exciting career as a successful supermodel? Yeah, I’m a star. Thanks, mom, for those many years of torture and being the odd duckling in a room of swans. The charm school was good, too. You might even say it was a fucking blast. Etiquette ain’t got nothin’ on me, bitches.
All this came flooding back this morning when reading the news about the model who was killed in China last week. The girl’s agency in Victoria is run by the same woman who ran the classes I was forced to attend those many years ago, and her daughter is still in the business. The names gave me a jolt, and made me reminisce about that one time long ago when I didn’t fit in and was clearly out of my element. It’s a good thing that awkward stage is long behind me, though. These days I have no trouble fitting in and I never ever feel out of place.
Actually, I DID do some modeling after all this: remind me sometime to tell you about my days as a hair model. There’s also the work I did with the corsets, too. Oh, and I was in a magazine once. At this rate, I’m sure to be on the cover of Vogue any day now!