By Alison Satterwhite
Part 6: Bottle Rocket
Sasha was a 16 going on 25-year-old girl from Boise, Idaho and did not resemble the ectomorph model type but more like the “mean girl” from high school. She had movie star qualities: voluptuously soft features, feminine curves, full lips, and long beachy hair. Giuseppe briefly introduced us and left me standing, bag in hand, at the door of my new apartment. To my relief, she was warm and inviting. We instantly clicked and I began nesting in our small dorm-like quarters. She had just arrived in Milano days earlier, and I was mollified to have an instant English-speaking friend from the United States. Our 400 square foot apartment was very modern with 2 twin beds, a table that doubled as a mini sofa and a tiny little kitchen space with a dorm refrigerator and single burner cook top. I unpacked my suitcase while she told me all about her recent experiences. The agency had let her know in no uncertain terms that she needed to lose 20 pounds right away or she would be sent home. She was in no way overweight and I began to fear what criticism they would soon direct at me. Ridiculous as it was, she had already begun her low-calorie diet and was determined to get the weight off quickly. She educated me on the routine of calling in for our casting schedule each morning and loosely showed me how to use the map and public transportation to get around. We wouldn’t be going to all of the same castings, so I would have to brave the city on my own the next day. This was overwhelming, but knowing she had done it quelled my fears. We told each other about our families at home and how she was taking time away from high school to pursue her career here. Her portfolio was far more developed than mine and I became worried that I wasn’t going to measure up to these girls with my insufficient test shoots. She had been modeling for years at home and was comfortable and familiar with the process. I, on the other hand, had no exposure, no training, or even a discussion with my agent as to what I should expect. Luckily, my youthful sense of invincibility would compensate for my lack of propriety. I’ll just have to figure this out as I go, I told myself.
“Let’s go out tonight! The other models are going out with some guys to play pool. You can meet them and it will be fun,” she said. I was excited to explore the city a little bit and meet the other girls so we got ready for an evening on the town and headed out the door. Just down the hall were three other models apartments with 2 girls assigned to each room. Sasha knocked and then let herself into the first apartment. “Hi girls! This is the new model, Alison!” she said , introducing me to Celeste and Soleil. Celeste was angelic-like in her manner and looks, with her golden, cascading locks, pale skin, bright blue eyes, and rose petal lips. Her character would soon reveal its similar tendencies. Soleil, on the other hand, would prove to be outspoken and unrefined with a fire that propelled her from within. Her mocha skin was emblazoned with bold freckles. Her black, waist length hair was wild and curly, suiting her personality to a T. She was straight out of a Benetton ad campaign and someone I didn’t want to cross. Although we were all different, I felt like I could blend in and silently gave a sigh of relief. We locked the door and headed out to meet up with the guys a few miles from our apartment.
“Ciao, bella,” shouted a group grown, local men as we approached the pool hall. “Oh shut up!” Soleil barked on the defense. I could tell she had grown accustomed to the cat calls that would sound throughout the day. It was soon understood that it was very normal for married Italian men to hit on and have affairs with other women with the permission of their wives. These kinds of come-ons became normal, accepted, every day occurrences and as time went on, and I too would come to accept their brashness. Just then, up walked a group of guys from another modeling agency. I wasn’t sure how to respond to their self-assured, strikingly masculine yet pretty looks. It seemed odd to me that any man would want to pursue a career in front of a camera. The term “metrosexual” was just being formulated and I was unaccustomed to such vanity from a male. “I’m Vasko and this is James,” he said placidly. I introduced myself and we headed into the pool hall.
Within minutes, the underage crowd was drinking and Soleil, being the exhibitionist she was, began wielding her stereotypical American obnoxiousness to everyone around. I sat, green, watching from the sidelines as the mayhem began. The locals saw us as an opportunity and took full liberty in their use of sexual innuendos as they hurled comments in their broken English. Soleil, the leader of the pack, wasn’t having it and gave it right back without reservation. This continued on for quite a while when without warning, one of the men came over and hit her over the head with a glass beer bottle. Our boys immediately stepped in to gain control of the situation and a full-fledged fight broke out. Sasha and I saw an opportunity to exit and so we did, running down the street to catch the Metro. Exhausted, I fell into bed, mind racing about the events of my first night in Milano. Tomorrow would be a fresh start in an unfamiliar world.