By Alison Satterwhite
Part 7: Neurosis
The alarm sounded early and I nervously jumped up and readied myself for the day. Today would be my first day of castings and each was an opportunity to meet with potential clients around Milan. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of these initial contacts and was confused at my role in the process. What do I do? What do I say? What do I wear? I was left to wonder on these crucial points. My personal insecurities and lack of experience coupled with the absence of communication from my agent were making it very difficult to pursue modeling with any sense of confidence. Thrown to the wolves, it would boil down to survival of the fittest.
I anxiously picked up the phone and made the call to my booker to get my schedule for the day. I struggled to write down the times and addresses of each of the client appointments as my booker rattled them off in her poorly constructed English. I needed a mother figure; someone to take my hand and walk me through the process, but instead I got the apathy of a high-minded booker and a little help from my 16-year-old roommate. I hung up the phone and immediately sought Sasha’s deciphering skills. “You’ll be fine,” she promised. I halfway sincerely agreed. “Is my hair and makeup what they are looking for?” I asked. “Just make sure you are natural. They don’t want to see you done up. The less, the better,” she advised. We marked the various client locations on the map and parted ways. I would spend my day figuring out how to walk to, take the metro, or ride the bus to my various castings that were located all over Milan. I had never had to find my way around entirely on my own before.
Clutching my portfolio, I miraculously arrived at my first casting. There were about 20 girls from agencies throughout the city waiting in the tiny lobby for their turn to meet with the client. I looked around from behind my sunglasses to see what I was up against. Sure enough, I found one million reasons to feel inferior to these esthetically refined beauties. In my mind, I was just a teenager, and they were bona fide women who ranked above and beyond me in every way. Ironically, nobody said a word to each other, so I didn’t have a real gauge on their character as people, with personalities, weaknesses, and humanity. Before I could give myself the benefit of the doubt, I immaturely rated myself “loser” on the scale of who is who. Sadly, from that point on, the measure of my worth was based solely on how I perceived my appearance in relationship to the other models. I desperately tried to reconcile what I had been taught my whole life with the antithesis of the feelings I was having, but it wasn’t working. The first layer of the onion had been peeled away, and I had exposed my raw weakness to myself. It felt ugly.
Oddly, I don’t remember meeting that initial client. I was engaged in a battle against myself and I was losing. For the rest of the day I was obsessed with my inadequacies and how I would try to fix them. The loop in my head would play something like this: You are not tall enough. You are not pretty enough. Your clothes are bad. You look too old. Your hair is bad. Your smile is bad. You are not confident enough to pull this off. You are just not good enough. The remaining meetings with clients rendered me less and less assured and I was beaten down by none other than myself. I could sense I would need to be “talked off a ledge” very quickly. Alone and lost in my head, I vowed to resolve the issues by wearing something better and doing my hair more perfectly the next day. The idea that beauty must radiate from within hadn’t even crossed my mind, nor did the fact that my character and innate individual worth meant more than any external validation I would receive. I simply didn’t realize that the broken part of me was the weakness within.
Although I was tired and worn out, I managed to find my way throughout the city to each of my castings as they hastily thumbed through my newly developed book. It was now time to head back and report to my booker. I was relieved the stressful day was over and I could unwind with my roommate and new friends. I ran into Sasha at the agency and she excitedly told me that we would be having dinner and going dancing with a few of the other models that night. I was more than happy to get out and away from my neurosis and gladly let the excitement of the upcoming events overtake the self-doubt that possessed me. I had no idea what was in store when this feral and largely unsupervised group of girls would meet face to face over dinner with the Mafia.