NYFW with Stephen J.

Bicoastal Model, Stephen Jabaut, wrote this hilariously honest piece about his first runway experience at the AMCONYC NYFW Show, see below:

Modeling is for the thick skinned. You face a lot of rejection and judgment in this line of work. That is the point of the work; sometimes you are right for something and sometimes you are wrong. When you can free yourself from the idea that the best person gets it, you are liberated. The truth is that the model who best fits what your client needs, gets it. Often times, you will be put up against a bunch of doppelgangers (evil-twins) for the same job and you need to stand out to book it. These have been my struggles in attempting to be a New York City model for the past several years.

I wont lie. I started this venture in an attempt to validate my own vanity. I wanted to see if I was good-looking enough to make it. The more I learn however, the more I realize that looks are subjective and have almost no bearing on whether or not you will book a job. I am now under the impression that looks are an illusion that we put up when measuring another person’s worth. I have been able to do certain things to give others the impression that I am worth it, that I am valuable, that I am a model.

I groom myself frequently.

I drink lots of water and take care of my skin.
I exercise more, eat healthier, and get more sleep.
I am friendly, listen to people when they speak, and react honestly in turn.

These are the things that have helped me book jobs. They make me feel better about myself, which translates well in front of a camera and on a runway. After two-and-a-half years of uncertain attempts to model, I finally booked my first runway for New York Fashion Week.

The morning of the audition, I had my beard trimmed and my hair cut. I was showered, brushed, flossed, eye-dropped, and deodorized. Sporting tight-fit jeans and a dark snug v-neck, I waltzed into the top floor of the Gansevoort on Park with confidence that I could fit the look. As soon as I met the designer, Tucker, I felt an instant camaraderie that made feel like I had a shot. After some quick photographs and a walk-through, that was it, I was done. The whole thing took maybe five minutes. And afterward, I let it go and put it out of my mind. That way, I keep my expectations low and only feel all the better when I get it (and I got it). The day of the show was very exciting. I got there early to meet with the stylists and the designer to see what it was that I would be wearing. I got a chance to learn about his brand: Pierson Sportswear. It is a great concept that works with dead stock fabrics (that are no longer in circulation) to create a modern cut with a New England Hunting Lodge-Newsie sort of feel. It pays homage to his grandparents and draws inspiration from a trove of old family photos that he features with his product. The wear was woolen sport-coats and pants with printed v-neck logo tees. And his was one of eleven emerging designers at this runway event.

Hair, check. Makeup, check. Wardrobe, check.

I was fortunate to have a great team of models, handlers, and stylists to keep things entertaining while we were waiting for the show to begin. I spoke to an avian-faced model with enormous crimped blond hair about how she could not wait to feast on Shake Shack following the show. There were pop up shops with emerging styles from the twelve designers to check out, as well as all the potato-chips and watermelon-waters one could ever consume. At one point I ended up standing next to a tall Nubian goddess with a melodic voice and fiery red dress; while we were talking backstage a smattering of photographers began to take our picture. A large circle formed around us so that they could get the shot they wanted. “Am I in this?” I posed to one of the photographers. “Uhh… yeah. You are.”

Hours later, when the show actually began, there were 600 people with tickets vying for 60 seats on the runway floor. That’s a 10% admittance rate. (You are more likely to get into Yale than into a New York Fashion Week show.) I was given an extra ticket to give to my friend. Hat’s off to her, because she got in when I was sure she would be left outside of the room. Her tactic was to go up to the timid looking guard (Freshman from Parson’s) with the designer’s Family. “This is getting ridiculous, we should already be in there, we’re family,” Laura confidently stated. Looking down scared; nervously, “Oh… oh my god, let me get someone.” Needless to say, they were offered the prime seats right near the runway entrance. They were in and would be cheering loudly on my behalf very soon. The photographers were all placed at the end of the runway, and many of the chairs along the side were designated for various celebrities of the fashion and entertainment industries. And there I was, on the other side of the curtain, about to make my first walk.

The backroom at a runway show is not a place for the faint of heart. It is a maelstrom of moving arms, hair, and clothing. Making the gauntlet from one side to the other, you are sure to be burned with hair-curlers, suffocated by hairspray, or trampled by a pair of 30-inch heels. Many of the models had multiple wardrobe changes, including hair and make-up, and things turned over FAST. It was utter chaos. Change in front of a room filled with people in under twenty seconds… no problem.

The “model-handlers” corralled us to the curtain, as the music shifted from downbeat-electronic R&B to classic Janet Jackson, “The boys are up, the boys are up.” The designer was to be introduced and then we were to walk. As I approached the gate, the handler put some words of wisdom in my ear, “Go slower than you think.”

When I turned the corner onto the runway it felt like a scene from a movie, when the music fades into the background and everything slows down. I entered the realm of slow motion. There was an onslaught of bright white lights flashing from every direction, and I only saw the path ahead of me. I walked slow. I walked with confidence. I could feel the energy of the eyes and cameras coming up through my feet, trying to break my nerve. But I would not be broken. The nervous butterflies did not surface. My left arm casually swung at my side, with my right resting comfortably in a woolen pocket. With deep breaths and a focused gaze ahead of me, I took stance at my turning point. Holding each pose for a full breath, I shifted my weight from back pocket to back pocket. After a final look, I made my turn and walked back for the curtain.. Amidst everything, a single review made it’s way to my ears from the front row.

“That was pretty cool.”

I walked back through the curtain and released a big exhale. It was a morning of preparation and hour of anticipation in exchange for an phenomenal rush in a performance that took less than a minute. I bumped into my designer. There was a look of satisfaction there. I thought of the creative minds and beautiful faces I had met today. The ideas of poise, style, creativity all ensconced into these brief moments of magnanimous energy. For me, this is the first of many great runways to come.

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