What It’s Like To Walk The Runway At Fashion Week

“LN,” The writer, is a rising new face in male modeling. He’s been singled out on models.com as being one to watch, has shot with some of the best photographers in fashion, and has walked runways for top designers in New York, Milan, London and Paris. After booking exclusive contracts with a famed French fashion house two seasons in a row, and with the promise of anonymity, he’s now ready to open up about what its like to actually be a male model—and an openly gay male model at that. And what better way to kickoff New York Fashion Week than with the tale of how he came to open his first show? Dim the lights. Cue the music…

LN: It was the last day of men’s fashion week in Paris, but it was the first day of this little bitch’s modeling “career”.

After being booked everyday, solid, for three weeks by a very well-known French fashion house—I shot their lookbook and did their showroom—I thought my first-ever modeling season was coming to an end. It was the last day of showroom and I had one more fitting for a show the following day—arguably the single best show a skinny, white and slightly awkward boy could get in Paris. My booker told me they were interested and wanted me to come in that day and I was like, “LOL, RIGHT GURL.”

Since this French fashion house is known for using all the new boys a season can offer, when I showed up I figured I’d just be another extremely underweight walking hanger to them. But when I was given, not one, but two looks and the designer himself told me, It’s nice to see you again,” I walked out of there like I owned this bitch.

The call time, however, was not as cute. I had to be there at 7am the following day and I already had plans to go to an after party that night—plans, which I totally wasn’t breaking. A few too many drinks later, and I’m prying myself from some extremely affectionate design interns. Finally, by 3am, I was out of there. Four hours to sleep? Totally doable.

Fast forward to 7:30am and I’m still sleeping in bed, just doin’ mah thang, already 30 minutes late. I’m not even out the door before my agency calls to berate me like I’m some sort of animal. But it didn’t matter because I was finally feelin’ like a real male model: hungover and having just slept in. I jump in the shower and I’m out the door.

I arrive backstage at 8am and, lo and behold, no one seems to give a shit. I get checked-in and am immediately ushered to some Italian woman’s makeup chair. “Oh good, you already look a little sick. So we won’t need to put that much makeup around the eyes,” she chimes. Well, thanks lady, I think to myself. That’s a cute fanny pack but I’m pretty sure hungover isn’t the look of the season…that is, until I look around and see makeup artists applying dark eye shadow under every other boy’s eyes and cover-up on every other boy’s lips so that they look like Taylor Momsen’s brother. Shocked, but kind of relieved, I sat back in my chair and let the girl do her thing.

When I moseyed on over to the hair chair, they immediately started snipping away like it was nobody’s business, which slightly worried me, since my agency, the day before, had cautioned me not to let them cut my hair. But, as they didn’t seem to be doing anything too drastic, I ignored my agency’s warning, put my headphones back on, and started judging all of the boys in the room. There’s that boy over there, who opened this show, and that one over there who closed that show. There’s that boy I made out with in a park after that one lookbook shoot, and there’s another boy who looks just like Lord Voldemort! You know, just like your high school cafeteria.

After my daily dose of silent judging, the Japanese hair girl tells me that my hair is long enough and I don’t need extensions, to which I look up and see that they have glued a single track of weave to the front of my and every other boy’s head. Suddenly we all had (at least) 12-inch bangs shrouding our faces. “Well, fuck,” I instantly think, “The one big show I actually walk and no one will even be able to see my face.” Just my luck. She tells me they’re going to cut the bangs shorter and not to worry, because I “won’t look like a girl.” That’s the least of my worries, gurl.

A second later they call time for rehearsal and all the boys change into their first looks. I had one look towards the beginning of the show and the other was second to last. I started talking to the boy who’s supposedly opening the show, a British boy with cheekbones that could double as machetes and the most comical Essex accent. I tell him I think it’s dope that he’s opening the show and he brushes it off with, “Ey mate, this is like the 5th show I’ve done and opened. Just another notch in the belt bruv.” I start dying of laughter (in my head) and decide this boy is entertaining enough for a little more conversation. As we talk, I find out it’s his first season as well, but instead of only doing shows in Paris, he’s done London and Milan as well, and killed it in each city, walking almost 25 shows in one season. I’m amazed, but, seeing as he seemed more interested in the chick dressing him than he did in talking to me, I let him be and got into line up for a practice run.

I’m nervous, I’m not going to lie. This is my first show, it’s one of the biggest of fashion week, and I’ve never even walked a runway unless you count every time I’ve ever walked anywhere in my life. Okay, so I was nervous, but I had been prepping for this day since I got signed. I would werk it to the subway, back to my apartment—anywhere, as long as it was a long-extended, straight faux catwalk, and as long as I had my headphones. Let’s be honest: I was ready, but still a little nervous.

Opening boy goes out first, and after only a few boys later I’m up. I take the runway and own the shit out of it, staring straight ahead and stomping as fast as I can while the show producer is running alongside of me with a megaphone, screaming, “GO FASTER! WITH EMOTION! FASTER! HAVE HEART IN YOUR WALK!” I’m trying not to laugh and as I turn at the end, doing a mental hair flip (obviously), I feel triumphant, and make my way backstage and into my second look.

Changing backstage is honestly a shit show; the dressers are nothing short of mentally handicap, and so of very little help. My toe’s already bleeding from the sandal, my belt wont stay up and my bracelet’s not on. Then, before I know it, I’m the next one out and half the clothes I’m wearing aren’t even on correctly. We finish the rehearsal but the show producer doesn’t seem too happy. “Boys, you need to walk with ENERGY, with MASCULINITY and ANGER, but with HEART and COMPASSION,” he says, as I slowly feel myself dying and think to myself, “Yeah…nope. I’ve never once in my life ‘walked with masculinity,’” so this was going to be a problem. Then we’re told to go get changed and come back in line up and sit down.

LN: As I talk to a boy about his previous night, when he brought home a Russian chick who turned out to be a 17-year-old virgin, I see out of the corner of my eye the show producer pointing at me. I think, “Well FUCK. You screwed this one up you fucking queen. I bet they’re talking about how they’ve never seen a boy walk like such a girl and how they need to get me out of here.” And—oh great, now the head designer of menswear, head designer of womenswear (a VERY famous fashion icon) and the show producer are all walking towards me. I’m getting canceled, I can feel it, and I’m already devastated. They approach me and ask if they can have a word. I say of course and I’m very sorry if I didn’t walk with enough masculinity. They turn around and start laughing at me as we make our way towards the opening boys’ rack. Then the show producer says “YOUR WALK, IT HAS ENERGY SHOW NEED” (I type in caps because that’s literally how he spoke.) I look over at the two designers and they’re nodding their heads when the menswear designer asks me to try on the opening boy’s look. I immediately look over to cheekbone boy to see if he’s looking, cause in all honesty, he seems a little feisty and I don’t want to mess with him. I comply, expecting the clothes not to fit me because my hips, unlike Shakira’s, do indeed lie (and the measurement on my comp card is an inch and a half bigger because I’m so skinny). I put the shorts on and god damn it they fit. They then proceed to put me in the full look and call all the other boys back to the changing area to come see what happened.

Cheekbone boy takes one look at me in his look and he is NOT. HAVING. IT. Immediately he comes up to me and says, “Hey bruv that’s not your fucking look.” Trying my hardest not to turn into my ultimate Rupaul alter ego, I say, “Honey, not anymore it ‘aint, your look got TOOK,” I nervously say, “Yeah man, I know, they just put me in it and I don’t know what’s going on.” This seems to anger him even more and he turns around and makes a full sprint up to the head designer. From where I’m standing, all I can make out is a lot of hand and fist motions, and cheekbone taking out his cellphone and handing it over to the menswear designer. Now he’s coming back to me with a look in his eye that I can only compare to an angry mother bear if you just touched one of her newborn cubs. As he gets closer I start bracing myself for a punch of some kind, but, still having no idea what’s actually going on, I decide to make light conversation with the dresser next to me. As cheekbone gets closer, I’m not sure why but I let out a big fake laugh with the girl as though she just told me some really funny joke. “Ey bruv, you think it’s funny stealing other people’s shit do ya?” he asks me, to which I respond, “Dude it’s not my fault, honestly I didn’t ask them, they just came over and put me in this I don’t even think it’s confirmed.” He then motions toward the look board which has his face crossed out with a permanent marker and my name written over it—granted, misspelled, but A for effort! “NOT HAPPENING BRUV MY AGENCY WONT LET THIS HAPPEN, I SWARE BRUV IF THIS WAS ANYWHERE ELSE WE’D FUCKING TAKE THIS SHIT OUTSIDE AND HAVE AT IT BRUV.”

Okay, great, so cheekbone boy is literally having a conniption, threatening to shank me outside, and I still don’t even know what’s going on. Suddenly they call first looks and tell cheekbone to put on my original look. He’s not happy about this and refuses until his agency calls him. Meanwhile, I’m being led over to the lead hairstylist who also happens to be the MOST FAMOUS FUCKING HAIRSTYLIST EVER, and I almost shit myself. I sit in his chair, he looks at me with a huge smile, and says, “Looks like someone’s opening their first show!” When I ask him how he knew he says, “Oh honey, I’ve seen it all, but I always know a newbie when I see one. Is it really your first show?” to which I reply with a big fat YES. He says he’s only going to cut my hair a little and since I already ignored the agency rules once today, I figured I may as well turn my the other cheek again. Plus, he said he’d only be cutting a little. I only started to gte nervous once I heard the sound of a buzzer, but I wasn’t going to say no to this guy, and plus, you literally can’t say no to this guy. Like I physically don’t believe he would take no for an answer. And since it was the last day of fashion week and I didn’t have any more jobs for the next week I figured it would grow out, right? LOL, WRONG.

When I look at myself in the mirror about 20 minutes later, the entirety of my head is shaved with only a 4-inch-wide by 6-inch-long strip of hair on the top of my head. Gulping down any last bit of self respect and clearly holding back tears (Don’t fuck with my hair Literally, don’t. Tears will be shed and it will not be cute), I look up at the famed hairstylist and with another big smile he says, “Great, right? You love it!” I love it? I love it…? Ok, yeah, I love it because I HAVE to fucking love it because ALL MY FUCKING HAIR IS GONE. I’m enraged, but keeping my cool because hey! I’m opening my first show! And then it hits me. WAIT… I’m opening my first show and it’s the best one a new face can do. Holy fuck. I need to call my mom, I need to call my agent…and suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by cheekbones, “BRUV IM SORRY FOR BEING A BELLEND BEFORE BUT I WAS WELL PISSED.” What the fuck is a bellend? I think to myself (a quick Google search later that day shows that a “bellend” is the end of a dick, which is shaped like a bell. Get it? These fucking Brits are clever). I tell him, “It’s no thing bro,” in my best trying-to-be-a-forgiving-straight-bro voice and confess to him that I’m quite nervous and actually wish he was still opening, because this is my first show and my toe is bleeding and all my hair is gone. He pats me on the back, chuckles, and continues to bite on a toothpick. Like, where did he even get that? There’s not even food here…

We get in line up and the designers are going over each one of us to make sure we are perfect for our 15 seconds of fame. I’m shitting bricks as the head designer comes up to me and says, “Nervous?” I laugh and say, “No, I think I got this.” LIE. “It’s your first show right? We love that, we’re happy that we could do this for you,” he says, and that comment alone has me questioning everything in my head. Do what for me? Have me open the show and probably die of stage fright when I catch a glimpse of whatever A-list bitch is in the front row? I didn’t understand anything, but as soon as I put my mind to rest and took a deep exhale, the music began and they were counting down. 5, 4, 3, MODEL ON STANDBY, 2, 1, MODEL GO. MODEL IS OUT. There’s an awkward long walk to the actual runway and a set of stairs right before it, so I approach the stairs with caution and suddenly the lights hit me. I’m walking dead center when I start thinking, “Hey, that’s cool. I can’t even see anything around me. Just me and the runway.” And I start walking like I’ve never walked before, like the runway is the walk from my apartment to the subway. I get to the end, strike a fierce pose and turn around, and then the lights are off. Now I can see everyone. EVERY. FUCKING. ONE. And they’re all staring at me. I begin to panic and I can feel it showing in my face, but I reign that shit in and keep it looking CA-HUTE cause this is my first show and I ‘aint gonna let these front row bitches make me nervous. I notice one girl wearing Celine in the front row, I play with the thought of giving her a you-go-gurl wink, but figure I’m not on that level of douchebag male model yet, and so I get the hell off the runway and hurry backstage for my quick change.

During rehearsal everyone was calm, but now everyone is like a Central Park penguin during mealtime. I can easily describe them in two sets of three words: “crazed as fuck” and “in my way”. As I push the backstage photographers out of my way, I finally make it to my second look rack. I quickly put on the giant pants, lick my finger and wipe the blood from the toe (like how is it even still bleeding?), put the bracelet on and then the belt breaks. And my dresser just starts screaming—no words, just screaming. (Actually, maybe she was screaming words but it’s Paris and, to be honest, I never know if someone is screaming or just speaking French.) I ask her to calm down as we run towards the head dresser who provides us with another belt. At this point I’m literally out of breath and every person in the world is touching me. There were so many hands on me and so much adrenaline, someone could have been giving me a hand job and I wouldn’t have even noticed. Finally I get back into line up and I see that the boy two looks in front of me is already on his way out. I feel a hand tugging my back, turn around and its the show producer, screaming, “STAY HERE YOU CLOSE SHOW, WE CHANGE LINE UP.” Oh great another boy I’m fucking over, I think. Except this time a bald guy from Latvia who was actually super cool and nice. He looks to the show producer and screams in a thick accent, “NO. I CLOSE SHOW. AGENCY TELL ME. IT IS RIGHT HERE ON PAPER.” No sooner had he finished that sentence than he’s literally being pushed onto the runway right before my eyes. He looked like a sad puppy, but I had no time for empathy, I was about to shut this shit down. WITH. EMOTION.

LN: They do a countdown and I’m out yet again. This time isn’t as bad as the first; I make my turn, go up the stairs and hit the runway. I swear I heard someone gasp but that could have also just been my imagination. At that point, I really didn’t have any fucks to give, and so I posed at the end and walked dead center on the runway as the lights faded with me. I wasn’t even backstage before I was pushed into the finale line up and thrown back onto the runway. While I was up there for the finale I got to look around a bit and started recognizing some people. And then it was over.

We all walked backstage, were handed champagne, and toasted to a good show. As I put my own clothes back on and thought about HOW CRAZY THAT JUST FUCKING WAS, my phone rings, it’s my agency, and once again my nerves hit my stomach. They saw the show on firstcomesfashion.com and are so happy I opened and closed, but seething about my hair. I tell them I’ll call them back and hang up because there’s no time for haters right now. Look at me, I’m not drinking the hateraide I’m drinking champagne bitches. The head designer comes up to me and as we cheers he says, “Thank you, that was great. I will see you next season, if not for the campaign!” Dead. The campaign???? Elated, I exit outside to a thousand street style photographers and immediately put on my cap and walk my ass back to the metro. I get back to my apartment at around half past noon and don’t bother opening my computer. This shit was too crazy to handle and I needed a nap. Open and close your first fashion show as a male model on the last day of fashion week in Paris and then take a nap. Very me. TC mark

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