Picture this — beautiful international 6 foot models swarming backstage, ready to strut their long legs in front of millions of cameras, capturing the vision of a beloved designer. “Lights… Camera, Action, its New York Fashion Week 2015!” The fashion director cues the music as the first model is waiting behind a partition — palms sweaty, heart racing with adrenaline.
The lights are dimmed and the backstage director puts his hand on the middle of your back and says, “GO!’ At that exact moment the whole world goes quiet. My mind is blank. I am a walking hanger until the I reach the middle of the runway. Then that mental daze is cleared up and I realize that this is just a normal day at the office. I somehow notice everyone around me, judging me not for me but, for me as the silhouette that is wearing beautiful designs. I focus on the cameras ahead of me. All I think about is, “DON’T FALL, I repeat DO NOT FALL.” My mind is blank, yet thinking at the same time. I am not aware of anything, yet my senses and awareness are fully honed and sharp. Euphoria enters my body. I stop at the end of the runway pose for about 3 seconds and then walk back.
As I gracefully strut back on the runway while heading backstage, that’s when real life happens. I exit the runway and it’s pure chaos. As I am running, I’m pulling off my outfit. I have a fashion intern help me undress and re-change into a new look in a matter of 15 seconds. Clothes being ripped off, the show runner yelling for you to get back in line, being nearly naked in front of designers, fellow models, press people and maybe even the janitor. As you line up, hair and make-up are putting the finishing touch ups on you. Everyone is screaming and yelling – at who I’m not so sure still to this day. You’re in line sweaty again, waiting your turn. I go out for the second look. Now, this time it is so different. I hit the runway and my mind is flooded with passion. These lights are what you work all season for. All the cleanses, early morning workouts and blisters from running around town going from casting to casting are all worth it. I am thinking how lucky I am and in one minute it will all be over until next year. Two months and your “6 hour early” call time is all over the moment I walk off the stage. I end my final look, line up again for the finale and we all walk back out representing a designer’s vision. It’s something that she or he has dreamed of for as long as I have possibly been alive. We head backstage and change. Cheering and gloating about killing it and not falling. We chat backstage about how agents treat you and how you can’t wait to eat after. I thank the designer and head out in my Goodwill clothes. The only thing that reminds me that I was on that stage tonight is the hair and make-up I wipe off as soon as I can, heading out of the venue and back to reality of doing it all over again several months in the near future. Sounds like a vision right? So glamourous. But just like any other job, behind all the great feelings of success comes the hash truth called reality.
I have been modeling for about 5 years. But out of those 5 years It has only been the last 2 years where I’ve actually been able to “live” off my earnings. And, even now it’s still an uphill battle every God forsaking day. I know that I still have a long way ahead of me and many more years of egotistic designers and rejection to come my way. I moved to NYC about 2 years ago for work. I said goodbye to my stagnating life in LA to head east. This sounds like an intro to some cheesy country western song, but a song couldn’t come close. I had a top agency wanting to meet with me when I landed in NY. I naively thought, “This is it!” If they want to see me, that means so much work, so much money and my fantasy will be coming sooner than I thought. Yeah, RIGHT!
I left behind a brand new, DTLA condo, where I thought I was going to be spending the rest of my life with the man I use to love. I left a car and my beloved dog Amigo who if HE could talk would probably be hating me, talking all sorts of s–t. Oh and work, lots of work. However, I knew it was needed to go to the next level in life. I landed in NY with a head filled with dreams and realized I was so ALONE. I was in a city where nobody cared about me or my LA life and work. That meant s–t to people. I managed to land my first Craigslist scam. I was “renting” a furnished bedroom in the Upper East Side. I arrived and gave the girl about $3000 (pretty much all my money). She promised me everything was coming tomorrow. I ended up sleeping on the floor using my clothes as a pillow and blanket. Showering using paper towels as a towel and using my iPhone as a flat screen TV :)… I soon left as I turned into the Hulk, threatening the girl that if she didn’t give me my security deposit then she wouldn’t be too happy to what would be happening next. I’ve watched The Godfather way too many times. Scared as emotions washed over me, yet holding the perfect poker face, she agreed. At the same time, my agency fell through and I was jobless.
I went to LA for the holidays and I was crying asking myself why I left everything for a vision. As my mom and I sipped on our second martini she told me I had to go back. She knew if I never went back that I would never forgive myself. I landed a couple jobs in LA on vacation and made some money. I got my ass back on a plane and back to NYC for round two. This time I knew I needed to kick New York in the balls. I landed a model apartment that a fellow model friend told me about. I showed up knowing nothing about what I was getting myself into. I arrive in Chelsea. It was 8AM and there was nobody to tell me where to go. I walked up 5 fights of stairs with my bags, to find out the flat was in the basement. I went into the basement that smelled of gas and looked as if I was in a scene from the movie Taken. I knocked on the door — no answer. I just walked in, not knowing this place would change my life. It was so dark and messy. Ten models shoved into a tiny 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment. I noticed a girl was up from possibly the night before sitting on the couch. I soon found my bed which was in a room with four other girls. I was assigned the top bunk. I hit the pavement and was in search of a new agency. And I needed it fast.
I bonded with 4 amazing gals. They taught me so much and we had so much in common — same work ethics and values. I’ve never hung out with just models before entering this odd living environment and it was comforting when they took me in. I landed an agent and was sent to test shoots and working here and there. I put my head down and hustled the New York pavement for months, staying on track with work. Calling a cockroach basement home with 10 crazy chicks, I knew there was more to life than this. We finally moved to a nicer apartment, but a new batch of crazy girls came with it. It became unlivable. I was with yet another agency and was participating in my first season of Fashion Week. I moved out at 9AM in the morning without telling a soul besides my roommate/best friend. I wrote her a goodbye note. I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew it would all work out in the end.
Summer came and I moved out. I was hitting castings after castings. I went to about 5 appointments a day and was competing with not only the thousands of models who were already living in NY, but even more international hoes. For 2 months you prep for Fashion Week. I hear about 50 “no’s” a day and find myself starving because you really don’t have time to eat. Sweating all day and feeling the rejection finally get to you, I reminded myself that it’s all worth it. These tests are to show who I really am. So as my appetite diminished, and my feet were swelling with blisters from running around the city in heels all day, oddly, it finally started to pay off. It wasn’t easy at all and it for sure isn’t glamorous at times, but as I found myself shooting “summer looks” on a beach in Queens in February, I always look back and think wow!
I am proud to say that I just wrapped my third season of Fashion Week. And even though there are times it feels like the same bulls–t, it really is worth it. That is, if you stay focused and grateful. The blisters, overworked skin and stress comes with the job and never goes away – but I’ll take it. I took every opportunity that was thrown my way and being able to see the bright side, even in the darkest places, is what I feel makes me successful. The friends I have lost and gained are part of the ride. The countries I have been able to travel to without having to be a member of SugarDaddies.com is such a honor. Waiting 30-90 days for my money at times is sill a part I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. But the most amazing part about it all is when everyone told me to just give up, I didn’t bother to listen . Modeling is a battle that is equal parts mental, physical, and emotional; a war where your highs are high and your lows are so low that it makes you question your whole life; a life where you are admired for nothing other than just being a hot thing to look at and if you have a mind it is “intimidating” to men; a life where I know I work twice as hard to prove my smarts daily. However, the fact that I get to do what I love, at this moment of my life, is priceless.
To have work and freedom is what makes me smile everyday. As I freely write this in my non-model apartment listening to Kendrick Lamar, after this I’lI be packing my bags and heading off to Paris tomorrow evening to meet my best friend for a couple of days -because I can. To anyone out there who is doing something they love, this is for you. It’s not just the stars that makes you successful and happy, it is the sacrifice, tears, heartbreaks, and non-believers that make you really dive deep down to a place only you will ever feel and pull out faith. Maybe it is God to some of you, an elephant or the stars to others. I know mine is me.
I live being prepared for anything. One day I know I will be crying tears of joy thinking, “Wow I did it.” Who knows exactly what that is, but I’m ready to find out. Now I have so much more work to accomplish and challenges to overcome but as a confident, single, smart mid-twentysomething, this isn’t too shabby. I finally grew up and realized I don’t dream anymore. I create.
****To check out Deandra Miranda’s spontaneous journey to Iquitos, Peru, which was partly inspired by the Graham Hancock book Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind please listen to our Find Your Seen podcast below: