Transgender is beautiful. Is that my alarm clock? God, what time is it? I think I left Penthaus around 3, or maybe 4? Jesus, I’ll bet I smell like a bar, I’m still kind of tipsy. I can’t believe it’s Fashion Week again already. I feel like I’d just gotten back to my better-body habits. Whatever, back to the grind, no time to think about health now. A quick shower to wash the club and some guy named Brett off of me, and I’m off to my castings.
I am a sexy transgender and I love it
The subway cars are lined with girls, too thin and fresh-faced to be real. It’s like somebody let all of Disney’s future princesses out from their Eastern European towers into the city streets. Looking around me, I’m hit with the unsettling truth that I’d started my career when these girls were turning 5 or 6 years old. No time for age insecurity, casting directors can smell fear from the crowded hallways, it’s game-face time. I’m a bad bitch, and I know it. I could walk cyclones around these girls. Yeah, that’s the attitude I’ll go with, I think I still believe most of that. I have GOT to get a coffee, though, I can’t have the clients smelling the four-hour-old Belvedere seeping through my pores from my nervous sweat.
“No, just black, extra hot please, four packets of Splenda, and my names Arisce, don’t bother trying to spell it correctly, I’m already late. Thank you!” I scream in one breathe to the Starbucks barista.
Casting No. 1, and the line’s moving quick. I watch the beautiful Brazilian girl ahead of me go her turn. “Book please, what’s your name? What agency are you from? Somebody get the fucking tape and take her measurements! Come on people, time is money! Seriously, is it that hard to take measurements?! Mmmmm, dearie, you’re a bit too ‘healthy’ for this show, thank you! NEXT!” exclaimed the irate casting director nearly all in one breathe. The Brazilian beauty left with her head down looking defeated. I wish I could tell her that this is just the beginning, we still have another week of this bullshit before the shows actually start. But there wasn’t time, I was next and playing to win.
I stand in front of the panel of three in my six-and-half inch walking pumps, short shorts and sheer tank top ready to stomp these girls with a walk and body that all could clearly see. “Well aren’t you lovely? And tall! Walk for us now, will you? Make it strong!” the boss lady barked at me, never asking the previously heard questions I had mentally prepared for already. Shit. Here goes nothing. I’m not even done walking, and I’m interrupted by an assistant, stopping me to take my measurements. “She may fit the gold one! You know, the one that looks like it’s designed for an anorexic with boobs?” he blurted out as if I wasn’t standing right there in front of him. I guess he thought that was a compliment? The queen was lucky I’d already had my coffee. “Who’s your booker?” the boss lady asked pointedly. “Eric at BMG,” I said, already tired of the dog-and-pony show. I wonder if she could tell I was over it? “Well, lovely, you will know if you’re confirmed by tonight, final fittings are on Tuesday evening. Thank you. NEXT!” yelled the casting director.
So glad to be out of there, what a shit show that was. Castings and Fashion Week in general make me crave organization, I become a bit more anal retentive watching the chaos, and damn near starving to death every season. Now I’m off to the Meatpacking District for castings two, three, four and five. The cobblestone streets resemble a younger, hotter version of the United Nations. Lithuania, Russia, India, South Africa, Canada, Croatia, Belarus, Tokyo, France … these girls are from everywhere! I grab another black coffee at Pastis to the background noise of young ladies’ broken English and foreign accents chiming all through the air. It really is Fashion Week again. Cue my sigh and eye roll now. I’m getting too old for this hustling around with children, shouldn’t I be a “Naomi” or a “Cindy” by now? Will I ever get that “big break” as a model? Ugh, I HAVE to stop making myself so insecure, I still have rooms full of people to lie to about my age. On I go.
Finally getting to the last casting of the day, and I spot a few of the Victoria’s Secret girls ahead of me in line chatting, giggling and looking flawless. Cue insecurity button a la Arisce set to red alert. Sure, that one is a known bulimic, and that one gets dumped every month or so by billionaires, but they have that “thing” the designers love. They’re commercial and easy to sell, whereas I’m a transgender girl still kicking the dead horse that is my modeling career if things don’t pick up. Shit. I should just leave now, I can still make happy hour at Cafe Champignon if I hurry. Lord knows I deserve to be properly sedated after this whirlwind of a day being poked, prodded and judged by people who don’t know or care to know me. But my will to succeed surpasses my self doubt, I have to at least try. Half the work is showing up, right?
I stand in front of the panel. All middle-aged, basic looking, wearing black, all are white and judging me. Us. All of us. These people are going to define what is beautiful to the masses for the next fashion season. They don’t fit the visual standards, and neither do any of us after Photoshop. So I wonder, what is the big deal? Why don’t they take more risks, more chances? If they are the final voice in what’s accepted publicly, why not use their power for good? “Sorry, love, we already have a black girl, and we really aren’t doing the whole “trans” thing this season. Thank you. NEXT!” said the casting director without batting an eyelash.
I owe my thick skin and work ethic to this industry, so don’t get the wrong idea, I love it when it’s good to me. But I do get tired of designers using one ethnicity as the standard of beauty in such a diverse world, as well as not recognizing gender beyond the basics. It places me and girls like me in a niche market limiting our jobs and marketability. But unfortunately, until somebody takes up some social responsibility, that’s the way things are going to stay. I’ll just be keeping up my ritual of crossing my fingers in hopes for next Fashion Week. So far, no luck.