"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye." -Miss Piggy
No one could tell Piggy she wasn't beautiful, sexy or star material without running the risk of a karate chop to the back. Hyeee ya!!!! I fully support that philosophy--figuratively, of course.
I dropped out of Yale at the end of my sophomore year to model. I gave myself a year to make it happen (turns out that small window was very unrealistic; no wonder people thought me nuts for dropping out). If it worked out, great. See ya, suckas! And if it didn't, I'd come back to school and figure out what the hell to do with the rest of my life, or at least pick a damn major. So just like that, I went from brains to beauty. The timing could not have been better: Seventeen magazine was booking their back to school issue and selected me. They seemed to dig my Ivy League credentials. Others seemed shocked that I wasn't an idiot. This is, verbatim, how the conversation would go every time:
Fashion Person: So, have you finished high school?
Me: Umm, yeah, I did a few years of college too.
Fashion Person: College? Really? Where?
Me: Oh, just a school in CT.
Fashion Person: Where in CT?
Me: New Haven.
Fashion Person: And what school is this?
Me: Uh, Yale...
Fashion Person: Oh, you're smart?!
Yeah, I guess so. I know models weren't known for their academic prowess, but they weren't exactly mentally challenged either. Not being an idiot wasn't going to get me jobs or get me paid. Not being an idiot would merely keep me somewhat balanced in a business where you are judged solely on your 'beauty.' It's what's on the outside that counts, duh. No one cares about your opinion, position, or ideas about anything of importance. Nor do they care how kind or sweet a person you are. Inner beauty is for suckas. Just stand there and look beautiful... Cool, whatever. I was so completely burned out from school that the mere idea of not having to write a paper or read some dense textbook brought a huge PHEW out of me.
So, there I was in a world amongst all of these 'beautiful' creatures where no one cared if I could translate "The Aenead" from Latin to English (actually NO ONE really cares about that in ANY world, except maybe the Vatican). It's all about the pictures in your portfolio, the fashion shows you book, campaigns you shoot, and the money you make. To actually do any of that is the tricky part since it's not really within your control who gets plucked from model obscurity to model greatness. Competition is high and the chances of you 'succeeding' are not. There's always someone taller, prettier, skinnier. Like Heidi Klum says, one day you're in and the next day you're out. Along the way, you'll get thrown some good bones, but you'll also get a whole lot of nothing too. The rejection that you receive ranges from discouraging to mildly brutal (you've seen "Top Model"). To maintain your sanity, you can't get caught up in your "inadequacies." I could accept that. What's harder to swallow was the beauty standard to which all of us were being held. And if it's a Euro-centric standard of beauty, where does that leave me? In the mid-nineties, diversity in the fashion/beauty business was hard to come by. Even now, although things are better, you can still watch a fashion show with absolutely no women of color. And while we're at it, when was the last time you saw an Asian woman on the cover of a major American fashion magazine? Yeah, exactly.... The limits of my 'beauty' became very clear one day during show season in Paris.
Every day was packed with castings for the shows. And a lot of those castings were huge cattle-calls, where herds of models weaved through the hallways and staircases, spilling out the door, grazing the sidewalk all the way down the block, all vying for a few precious spots on the designer's show roster, each of us believing that we had a good shot. Yeah, right. This day was no exception. It was the casting for a VERY famous designer. I was on line for at least an hour or so, which SUCKS but that's what you got to do, so you do it. I finally get to the room, where the VERY famous designer is sitting at a long table with a few associates. I say hello, hand my portfolio over, and proceed to "walk" (please reference "Top Model"). I do so and then the VERY famous designer says to me, with a smile of course, "Joy, you are soooo beautiful, but I'm not using black girls this season." (Insert sound of record scratching here). Yeah, he actually said that to my 'beautiful' face. He's lucky he didn't get a black eye. Hyeee ya!