***I have changed the names of those who were involved in the shoot to protect their identities. Any conclusions the readers may come up with are all their own opinions. ***
“Just fucking do it. It’s awesome. You’ll love it, I swear.”
I gazed up at this beautiful boy (let’s call him Male Model) and then back at the tiny mound of white powder in front of me. I was warned about this moment from my agents when I first started modeling. I looked in the mirror at the young, newly-turned 16 year old staring back at me. I examined my face which had been transformed from a sweet, all-natural girl next door to a dark witchy look. My eyes had been rimmed with dark eyeliner and charcoal eyeshadow and the hair and makeup artist had teased the shit out of my hair. This is going to be hell to brush through later, I thought. I loved it though. I loved modeling for this very aspect. I loved becoming a different person and escaping from myself.
“Well?”, Male Model asked with dark eyes.
I shook my head no.
“Aww. She’s so young!”, he said while smiling around the whole room with the others. “That’s cute.”
I started nervously jiggling my leg in the makeup chair. We were shooting in Brooklyn at a white studio which was pretty blank save for the random NYLON and LOVE magazines scattered around. The other model, which we will name “Female Model”, was being dressed by the stylist and the photographer was maniacally talking with his hands while his assistant listened and chain-smoked Marlboro Reds. “Heartbeats” by The Knife was playing softly in the background.
“I’ve never done it.”, I squeaked.
The hair and makeup artist gazed down at me adoringly. Like she was looking at a helpless puppy. “Aww, stop pressuring her., grabbing another fistful of my hair to tease more, she continued, “You’ll do it. Just maybe not today.”. As if she hadn’t just spent the last five minutes trying to persuade me to do a bump with Male Model. Just a bump!
I giggled nervously, desperate for the attention to not be on me. I stared at Male Model. He was good looking in a really weird way. He was scrawny but tan and had a bunch of tattoos scattered around his chest. He was barefoot and wearing only his skinny blue jeans. With a shaved head and eyes that danced with mischief, you could just tell he was the type of kid in high school who had probably used to skip class to go smoke weed or dabble in graffiti. He was exotic, dangerous, and only 20 years old.
He shrugged with a smile and walked closer to the table. He took a key out of his pocket and dipped the end into the coke and brought it up to his nose.
“Ahhh”, he exhaled, “Yeah, you’ll try it alright.”
Luckily, the photographer motioned for us to join him for the last shot. Male Model and I joined Female Model, who was already standing in front of a gray backdrop. We were shooting an underground editorial that I didn’t understand at all. Years later, I would see that this was a reoccurring theme and realize I had played the “gothic fallen angel” quite a bit during my short-lived career.
The stylist came over and repositioned my too-big tent dress as I envied the Female Model’s sexy, sheer number that exposed her brown nipples. She was a beautiful girl from New Zealand who stood at 5’11” with wispy shoulder-length hair that grazed her bronzed back. She exuded sex appeal and knew it. I felt like an awkward 10 year old next to her.
After being told what exactly on the outfits needed to be showcased and how to pose to highlight them, we shot for another 15 minutes. Finally, the photographer made a sign with his hands to show we were done with that image. He had been quite pleased with the one of me glaring at the camera while Female Model was leaning on Male Model. We looked like some kind of fucked up religious cult. “Alright, Megan, we got your shots. You can go now.”, He said, not looking up from his rather expensive-looking Nikon.
Relieved, I quickly changed into my black and white striped muscle tank and basic bodycon black skirt. Slipping my feet into my beat up black combat boots, I looked up at the others and they were once again prepping for the next photo. It was as if I faded into dust as soon as the photographer dismissed me.
“Uh.. Yeah. Okay.. Bye guys?”, I shakily said, grabbing my black cotton tote and modeling portfolio. Male Model had been watching me this whole time with a smug grin plastered on his face. I quickly exited while looking at my Google Maps and trying to find the subway station that would take me home and away from this nonsense. Pushing open the door, I was greeted by hot air and a disgusting garbage smell. Ah, summer in the city.
As I turned the street, I realized we weren’t in the safest area of Brooklyn and I cursed myself for wearing such a short skirt. Groups of construction men watched me as I skipped to my subway stop, which was luckily only 5 minutes away. Bounding down the grey, wet stairs with my Metro Card in hand, I couldn’t stop thinking about Male Model’s face when I left. What was his deal, anyway? What did he know that I didn’t? He was only FOUR years older than me for crying out loud!
The L train finally pulled up and I hopped on, clutching my tote bag to my chest. My mom had told me horror stories about having your things stolen from you on the subway which is funny because the last time she had taken the New York City metro was in the eighties. I noticed a grimy looking man ogling me. Ignoring him, I pulled out my old copy of “Endless Love” by Scott Spencer (which is the most beautifully written book, in my opinion). While I pretended to read, I thought more and more about the bizarre shoot I had just engaged in. There was fucking cocaine in front of me! They wanted me to do it. Me! A fresh-faced sixteen year old model!
It’s not that I was extremely sheltered about drugs. One of my family members (who has asked me not to mention him) had a horrible addiction to opiates/heroin and all of my Florida friends smoked weed. I had just never seen cocaine in real life. The mere word “cocaine” brought up image stills in my brain of Al Pacino in Scarface, sitting at a desk surrounded by it with a disheartening frown. I tried to console myself so I wouldn’t feel the urge to cry. I mean, this was a normal thing in the fashion industry, right? If it wasn’t then my agents probably wouldn’t have warned me about it. I’ll never do it though. They’re so wrong. I’m going to be successful. That shit ruins people. Male Model will probably overdose and die from it one day. Fuck him and that shit-eating grin he gave me. Fuck that hair and makeup artist for trying to get me to do it with him then contradicting herself. FUCK ALL OF IT.
I scrunched up my face in anger. No way was I ever going to put cocaine anywhere near my nostrils. I had my eye on the fucking prize.
A couple months later, I would try coke for the first time and it would turn into a two year, roller coaster addiction. But I’ll save that story for another post.