Monday, May 30, 2011

Triumph Advertorial Published Nov/Dec 1998

Since the success of the Gossard Show, Storm pegged me as a body girl. While I remained a bit shy and conservative in my mentality, I felt more and more comfortable shooting tasteful swimwear and lingerie. I figured I wasn't any more nude than on the beach, and as long as the publications were the kind aimed at women, the pictures could certainly pass the Grandma test. 
(Those pants sure pass the Grandma test...)

As far as body-issues went, I can honestly say that I was blissfully, blessedly slim and trim by pure genetic luck. It frustrates me when people indiscriminately judge "eating disorder" or "drugs" when models look unusually skinny. While those are certainly two frightening areas of concern in any young model's life, I would say most models under 24 are scouted in the first place for being naturally slender, it isn't a foreign body-type they torture themselves into. 
My arms in the the following picture look like little twigs, but that's just how I was built. My financially indebted student life, an aversion to cooking and a super fast-paced lifestyle all added up to twig-arms, but I was healthy. 

There is so much contentious debate around model weight and sizes and I am encouraged whenever the industry makes gestures towards condoning a healthier model body type. 
The model herself is the first and final body with the power though, and my advice to any aspiring models and their parents is this: if a scout / agent / client says lose more than one or two kilo's and you'll be great, you're stepping onto a very slippery slope that I'd avoid at all costs.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

elle new talent fresh face competition

I'm excited to attend the Elle & Woolworths model search finals tomorrow night! 
You can see all the models on the Elle website and still vote for your favourite.
I think Sonja Wronski has major potential, such a strong and classy look, but what a loss for the medical world?
She's a second year medical student in Pretoria. 
Tough choices lie ahead!

Update: fresh faced Alexandra Robertshaw, 17, from Johannesburg was announced as the winner.
Congratulations Alexandra!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sarie Swimwear Shoot Sept 1998

I was very excited when Debbie called one day, to say that I'd booked a local women's glossy magazine!  Sarie magazine was shooting their summer 1998/99 swimwear story and I was to be one of three models.

I arrived for the shoot, eager to get into the hair & make-up chair... Finally I'd be in a cool magazine shoot! My mom, my little sis, my grandmother, they'd all get to see me in a real publication. The editor, Anneke Blaise, was so nice, chatting away as if we were old friends. When 20 minutes had gone by and there was still no make-up artist to be seen, I got a little worried. The photographer and his assistant were almost done setting up and Anneke pulled the swimwear rail closer. When she handed me the first suit and pointed out the change room I thought okay, change first, then make-up! But it was not to be. Anneke merely asked me to put up my hair in a ponytail, and escorted me onto set.

When the publication hit the stands a few weeks later, my little sister called me and said with great pride: "I can recognise you! By your funny belly button!" My grand debut in editorials...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Studio 22 Test end 1998

With my new hairdo, courtesy of Lucilla Booyzen, I needed new pictures. Storm told me that there were two industrial photographers who were trying to move into fashion photography and that they'd be interested in shooting me for free.
Now remember, this was the tail-end of the 90's. Kate Moss was the quintessential supermodel, the words 'heroin chic' were tossed around without irony and the London look had convincingly replaced  conventional beauty on covers all over the world. Pretty was not hot, feminine and sweet was not cool at all. And while commercial and catalogue clients usually remain a bit more true to classic good looks, even they expect a model's portfolio to be current, they want to be assured that the model is comfortable and suitable accross types and remains in fashion, as it were... So our aim was to make me look edgy, grungy, raw.

I roped in my lovely model friend Michelle du Toit to help me with styling, hair and make-up. While she has classically stunning bone structure and features, at that time her hair was fiery red, highlighting her freckles and when they'd shoot her with little or no make-up, she was your perfect 90's model!
I threw a bunch of odd stuff into a bag and set off to the studios in Goodwood. The guys had a big space and quite a bit of lighting at their disposal. Michelle and I went through my bag of crazy stuff and settled on a few looks.

When you do a test shoot for the model's portfolio, you want to get at least three completely different moods. This helps to show off the model's versatility, makes it look like he/she has a bit more experience and besides, it's more fun! We started off with minimal make-up, or in fact some anti-make-up. A bit of vaseline and we were done... Look, no photoshop!

The actress in me just responded to the next outfit's quirky 50's vibe and we got some silly, expressive pictures.

Pull back the hair and move in for a quick close-up. I remember feeling really comfortable and confident working with this team. With Michelle also there, urging me on, I managed to finally get some different emotions on camera.

 My Grandmother's Kimono came in very handy! Wet hair and stark Geisha make-up go well with screamy pictures. The longer I look at these the stranger they appear, but I promise you at that time, this was cool, arty fashion! Well we thought so anyway...

I must find a few archetypal late 90's tearsheets to prove to you guys how cool these were...
That was the first shoot where I took over the direction of styling, hair & make-up. It was the most fun I'd had in front of the camera yet and when Debbie from Storm was excited to get the pictures into my book, I was pleased as pie.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

*Gossard Show 11 August 1998*

I wrote the following article for Stage magazine, covering a Gossard lingerie show I did. But the article doesn't even begin to tell the whole story...
*On 11 August 1998 Gossard celebrated their 50th birthday with a fashion show held at the Natural Cafe. The aim of the show was to present a view of Gossard lingerie through the decades. But this wasn't your average lingerie show, with model after model wearing very little, walking self-consciously up and down the ramp and then scurrying off gratefully.

The show started with only one girl in six different scenes, representing each decade from the 20's to the 80's. The lingerie worn was consistent with the actual styles worn at the time. Each scene was musically accompanied and choreographed to portray the area beautifully. Props and costumes were generously added and even the make-up was designed to suit each girl's scene.

After this nostalgic trip through the years, different themes were portrayed. There was a beautiful dream-like combination of turquoise lingerie with soft white chiffon, with the models blowing bubbles as they walked down the ramp. The "China Girl" scene was fun and flirty with floral pinks, browns and maroons where models played coyly with fans and parasols. The finale garments were intricately embroidered corsets, complimented by huge tulle skirts, which created the most beautiful wedding gowns.

What I appreciated most about the show was the originality employed by the organisers and choreographer. The emphasis was completely removed from the models and their bodies through the abundance of stimulation presented by the costumes, hair, make-up and music. It was obvious that the models were comfortable and confident on the ramp because each scene was delivered with either grace and poise or a sense of humour. I can only congratulate the people involved on a job elegantly done.

*As published in Stage Magazine, Fourth Edition, 1998/99

You might notice a strange tone in my reporting voice? And see the blue picture on the right of the page? That's me, in negative. Because, well, I was trying to pretend that I'd only attended the show, not modelled in it. Yeah, very clever right?

See my boyfriend at the time (eish, and now it gets complicated, cause he was not the Bad Boyfriend of this blog so far... he's the original Boyfriend and eventual Ex of my other blog!) didn't exactly love the fact that he was dating a model. In fact, he hated it. So I kind of kept it to myself, never sharing the stories and my fears and the excitement and my joy and all the craziness of this half-life I was leading. With him, and even amongst my friends, I was just another drama student, dressing in weird outfits, running around on and behind stage, worrying over exams, going out often, getting a little drunk at times, sleeping a lot,  studying seldom, skipping class regularly, writing tests ignorantly, going out and getting more than a little drunk, dancing wildly to grunge and metal at the Garage etc etc etc. 

Which is probably part of the reason why writing this blog is so important to me. Giving that giddy time in my life the proper attention and appreciation.

So while I never actually lied about what I was doing, I might have omitted more than a few things. Like going for a casting for Gossard and having to strip down to underwear and being so grateful for that one, pretty, matching set of lingerie my mom once bought me... And standing between so many naked little ladies waiting for the clients to take their pick and obviously, quietly feeling super complimented and lucky and special for being chosen to be in this lingerie show.

Even while I was naturally shy and reserved and a good 'boere-meisie' (translates as farm-girl, though I never lived on a farm but I hope you know what I mean; old school values, slightly conservative) who knew her Grandmother wouldn't approve, I can't deny that I enjoyed stepping into this glamorous character of model. I'd done some growing up since the Fair Lady days where near-nudity sent me running for the hills and I had an inkling that getting cast for lingerie and swimwear jobs was a way to get ahead in this game I was playing at for a little while.

We had fittings and rehearsals a few days before the show, where we were assigned our various eras. I was given the 30's, a CD recording of Billie Holiday singing 'They can't take that away from me' and told to learn the lyrics by showtime. For my scene I would mime the words of the song, dressed in proper suspenders, girdle, pinstripe stockings, little cloche hat on my head and a fur shrug round my shoulders... it was beautiful.

After my 30's mime, I was in a pretty chemise for David Bowie's 'China Girl' (hearing it takes me back there instantly!). There was a dramatic black mantilla over red lace for Sexy Senorita (the picture of me that's in negative) and then I closed the show in the white bodice and tulle skirt pictured, to 'Time To Say Goodbye' by Andrea Bocelli. Walking down the ramp to that song, tulle floating over the ramp as I swished this way and that... I was on such a high after the show, I felt like I could fly.

And fly I had to. Back to Stellenbosch, back to rehearsals, back to my other life, back to the boyfriend. When I sat down to report on the show, I automatically began writing it as a spectator. I can't remember anymore if the boyfriend's disapproval of my modelling was overt or just implied, but I sure remember pleading with my editor at Stage not to publish any pictures of me in lingerie. 

This struggle between propriety and professionalism has still not been settled in my career. My opinion on nudity, lingerie and swimsuit shoots and the way so-called sports magazines depict women wavers all the time. Personally I adopted the mantra that if I couldn't show a picture to my grandmother, I shouldn't do it, but there were many times when the lure of a good paycheck or getting to work with a great photographer compromised that rule.

At the end of the day my message with this post is this: it is fine if you as a young model are unsure, if you change your mind, if you grow to see things differently, if you ask advice from reliable adults, but please, let the choice ultimately be yours. Not your agent's, not your friends' and certainly not some possessive boyfriend's.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I've been a busy little blogger, though you probably couldn't tell?

Please come visit me here if you like:

But I do plan to come back and continue the model tales sometime, very soon.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

*Audi SA Fashion Week 18-22 August 1998*

I wrote about my first South African Fashion Week as a model in Stage Magazine in 1998. Twelve years later I attended Cape Town Fashion Week as a writer, you can read more here.

*One of the most important events for the future of South African fashion is the Audi South African Fashion Week. This year it all happened in Sandton from 18 to 22 August. This is the meeting ground for designers, clients, models, hair dressers, make-up artists, fashion editors, reporters, photographers and everyone else you can think of who's even remotely connected with the fashion industry. It is where all the best professionals come together and display their work, willingly sharing the limelight with their peers. It is a week during which we pretend that we aren't living in a third world country and that being well dressed is just as important as feeding the hungry. It is a couple of days of glamour and enchantment before everyone returns to the grindstone. It is work, but it is the most thrilling and pleasurable part of our work.

Fashion Week is a relatively new concept in South Africa, but all it means is that for a few days in a row you can actually go and see the new collections of our best designers presented in a professional fashion show. I was very excited to be participating, especially since it was held in Johannesburg, which meant that I would have to fly up there, work for a few days and then fly back to Cape Town. Doesn't that sound so sophisticated? "Daahling, I'm flying up to Jo'burg for a few days to do this little show. Yes, I'll be staying in the model house on the company's expense." Sounds divine, doesn't it? Little did I know what was in store.

So I arrived in JHB and went for my first fitting. The address I had was Sandton Towers, Sandton. Sounded easy enough. Looking in the map book, I found a hotel by that name and thought I was on the right track. But the rpoblem is that people up there in Sandton aren't very original. When the hotel concierge had no idea what I was talking about, he pointed out to me that there are three other buildings and parts of buildings within a kilometre of the hotel, also called Towers. There was a North, East, South and West Tower in Sandton City. Then some office towers and I don't know what else. So I went from Tower to Tower looking for the fitting. No luck.

Eventually I came upon the square where the shows were being held. A model I saw there sent me on another wild goose chase, thinking that the fitting was being held in the Michaelangelo Hotel. (I noticed a billboard saying 'Michaelangelo Towers opening soon'?!) When I'd been running around for more than an hour I decided to go back to the first hotel. Eventually I found that the fitting was held there, but everyone had left already. Great.
I'd been running around for an hour, I wasn't feeling very glamorous anymore and I'd missed my fitting. What a wonderful start.

After that fiasco I was off in search of the model house. I eventually found it in a suburb called Orange Grove. In spite of my optimistic expectations, a model house is no different from a normal house, except that it contains far less furniture. This particular house had three bedrooms with two single mattresses in each and then another five mattresses in the living room. There was a pool and a television so I suppose quite luxurious, but it was winter and the television only had SABC so I guess it wasn't fantastic either. Just normal, I was so disappointed. I was also tired and frustrated so I took a nap on my little mattress on the floor.

That night I went to Sandton Square to watch one of the shows. It was amazing! I've never actually been at a professional fashion show merely to watch and I loved it. It was also an informative occasion, because for the first time I could see what works on the ramp and what does not. The footage we see on television is obviously the best of the show so we never get to see the girl who walks too stiffly or the one who's eyes kept roving around. These are the mistakes that can make you and the outfit you're wearing look horrible on the ramp and I paid close attention, making mental notes all the time.
I must also add though, that most of the models looked absolutely perfect. I remember feeling more than a bit jealous when these amazingly tall, stunningly black models swayed onto the ramp in all their glory. You can say what you want, but the most beautiful, poised white model disappears from the ramp the minute a black woman who knows what she's doing gets up there.

The next day was my first and busiest working day. I had a fitting at 7:30 am which meant that the driver had to pick me up at 6:30. These drivers are unlike anything I've experienced before. Johannesburg traffic is unbelievably scary, but these guys don't seem to notice. They run a shuttle service especially for models, taking them all around the city, picking up and dropping off portfolios, prints and just about everything else. So they are quite used to being on the road. I am not. I was scared out of my wits before seven in the morning and that can be dangerous. All I can say about these trips is that they went by very fast, way over the speed limit fast; a quick adrenaline rush before the day starts? The rest of that day, and the next one was a mad rush from fitting to casting to rehearsal to fitting, but I survived.

The first show I did was my old favorite, a young designers' competition. This one was enjoyable though, because I really loved the clothes. It wasn't exactly wearable or particularly easy to get into at all, but it looked good. So I took a deep breath and went onto the stage. The tent was full, the music cool and the make-up very funky. Before I knew it, it was over. We were all back stage getting ready to leave when someone started yelling: "Clinton Lotter's girls, get back into your garments!" We obediently did this, grumbling because it just so happened that Clinton's garments were the most difficult to get into. Then the happy announcement was made and we were all shoved onto the stage, along with Clinton. He had won the Vodac/Cosmopolitan Young Designers' Award. The prize? Three months in Paris working for Stella McCartney's label, Chloe. Not too shabby hey?
While Clinton was overjoyed, we were just eager to get back into our own clothes and leave. That is, until Videofashion from New York started looking for one of Clinton's models. I was still dressed in his garment and lucky me had to stand next to him while he was interviewed. Needless to say, this was one of the highlights of my stay in JHB.

Straight after the Videofashion interview, it was time for hair and make-up for the next show at 21:00. This show included the collections of Rosenworth, Andre Croukamp and Jenni Button: elegant and stylish rather than funky. So I had to remove all the make-up from the previous show, just to have some more slapped on. But I've always like people patting, wiping and brushing on my face, so I won't complain. The show went very smoothly with nice, relaxing music and a calm atmosphere, simply beautiful, like the clothes. After the show I went straight home, I had to be back there at 8:00 the next morning.

My last day was very much like the previous one. Rehearse, fit, rehearse, hair and make-up, show, etc. The first show was for Paul Munroe and Natalie for Juniper. Natalie had designed a range of which I desire and absolutely need every single item. It's all very romantic in white and soft grey and peachy chiffon and organza and stretchy pants and the simplest little day dresses which could double up for the evening and embroidery and lace and everything little (and not-so-little) girls dream of. The best part about the range is that even with all this romance and femininity, each item of clothing has a sharply innovative edge to it, which I adore. And even better is the wearability of it all. It's young and funky and new but I could wear it and still please my Grandmother at the same time. I could go on about it for six pages but I'll force myself to stop now.

Naturally, doing Natalie's show was easy and nothing but a pleasure. If you actually like what you're wearing, it does show and you feel confident and pretty and everything you should. But all good things come to an end and so did Natalie's show. To great applause, I might add.

The last show I did was for Gavin Rajah and then Errol Arendz. It was during this show that I realized for the first time that I actually like being on the catwalk. I wore the most visually stunning outfit by Errol Arendz; a long silk skirt in cerise and burnt orange which fit perfectly from the hips and then flare out just a little at the bottom. The top was patterned in matching bright colours with thin gold straps. To crown it all, I had to maneuver a huge pink shawl while slinking down the ramp.
Earlier in the day, Mr Arendz had been teaching us how to control the shawls. It seemed very silly at the time, but afterwards I really appreciated the lesson. When I walked down the ramp in that outfit, swishing the shawl this way and that, I experienced one of the greatest moments in my life. I just thought to myself: "Everyone in this huge tent is looking at me because I'm wearing something extraordinary. I feel wonderful and I know I'm making this outfit look good!"

It might sound vain, but few people ever understand how incredibly insecure most models are. Until that moment I'd always thought that I'm just lucky to be chosen for the fashion shows, thinking every show that it might be my last, that I might not be so lucky again. But since that moment, I know that modeling does require a very specific skill which cannot be taught. It's all about the way you must feel and think when you're on the ramp. You transcend yourself, become someone else. Someone glamorous and mysterious and and interesting and definitely very lucky.

Audi Fashion Week was an amazing learning experience for me. I discovered many things about the industry and Johannesburg and also about myself. But eventually, when the plane swerved in past Table Mountain, I was so glad to be back. No experience I've had in my life, beats coming home to the mountain.

*As published in Stage Magazine, Fourth Edition, 1998/99