I sat in the waiting room of Next Models, anxiously tapping my foot. Next to me were my mom and sister who were on their phones. I desperately wanted to sneak a cigarette but my mom would’ve killed me and besides I didn’t want to reek of smoke.
I had been dressed in the skinniest of black jeans and an olive tank top with holes in it. My mother agency really did teach me how to dress.
Neutrals, neutrals, neutrals
I wore what the typical 15 year old in Florida wore. A lot of brights and sandals. I grimaced while writing that sentence. Nowadays, my typical uniform is anything that’s black. I like to pair H&M with Prada or Sandro with Forever21. I love expensive clothing but it’s not practical to wear just designer all the time. My go-to outfit is a pair of black pants, a neutral colored t-shirt (sleeves rolled three times), boots, and my Celine.
The thin brunette receptionist, who looked like she had once modeled, came over to the waiting room.
“Hi..Y-yeah that’s me.”, I stuttered.
She smiled, sensing my uneasiness.
“They’re ready to meet with you.”
My mom squeezed my hand and we followed the woman to another glass room.
A buxom, redhead woman and a flamboyant man in blood orange pants greeted me with hugs and cheek kisses.
I barely could even listen to their questions because I was so tense.
“How old are you?”
“What is your schedule like? Are you in school or are you home-schooled?”
“I’m in school but looking for a reason to be home-schooled and leave.”
They all laughed.
They wanted to take digitals of me so I went to change into my bikini in the bathroom. I realized I would have to exit through the waiting room to go to the bathroom. I noticed all the other models waiting, flipping through their portfolios, counting how many comp cards they had left, and texting.
Those girls looked so much thinner and taller than me. I changed into my bikini and balled my other clothes up. My cheeks burned as I went back through the sea of models and I felt all eyes on me. One girl whispered to another girl and they giggled.
Were they calling me fat? Were they making fun of how short I am? Do they have some kind of inside joke about short, babyfaced models? Bitches.
I rejoined the room and stood against the white wall that was designated for polaroids. Front, side to side, back, hair up, hair down, smile.
“You are just the cutest!”, Blood Orange Pants squealed.
They told us they would give the agency a call tomorrow and let us know. There was no way in hell that I could go to school the next day.
My sister and I sat in the living room all day and watched movies. I couldn’t focus at all. I was doing crossword puzzles (my guilty pleasure) when I got a call from my mom.
“Meg, don’t take this the wrong way but…”
My heart sank.
“They don’t want me..”, I finished.
“No, they don’t but guess what?”
“What?”, I muttered into the phone. My sister was staring at me with shining eyes.
“The Mother Agency said that 8 out of 10 of the top agencies in New York want you. Also, there’s an agency in Paris that loooooves you and won’t stop emailing them about you. Meggie! Paris! How cool!”
I grinned, “WHAT! Really? Which ones???”
“The Mother Agency is going to email us the list. I gotta go back to work but I love you, Megsie”
“Okay, okay, bye Moooooooom”, I said cutting her off and hanging up.
My mom really is the sweetest woman in the world. She may be a little crazy but she always makes me feel better.
I logged onto my Hotmail account and there was an email from The Mother Agency.
From: The Mother Agency
Sorry about Next Miami. As you know, we have had a tremendous response from agencies regarding you placing. We have had to narrow it down but here’s the list:
-Marilyn(New York and Paris)
-IMG (They want to sign you worldwide meaning New York, London, Paris, and Milan)
-Silent Models(New York)
-Ford Models(New York and LA)
-New York Model Management
-DNA Model Management
These are the best of the best and we are so happy! We are negotiating and speaking with all of them now. We will give you updates the more we hear. Go check them out and get back to us!
We love you, little angel-baby.
The Mother Agency.
I went on Models.com immediately and stalked the rankings. IMG was currently #1 and wait… Oh my God, do they really have fucking Kate Moss signed with them??? Wait, the agency that represents Kate fucking Moss wants me?? What?
I decided that I either wanted to be with Marilyn, IMG, Women, Ford, or DNA, because they had the highest rankings.
Marilyn had my friend Kelly Mittendorf signed with them, IMG had Kate fucking Moss, Ford was one of the biggest fashion brands in the world, Women had Daphne Groeneveld, and DNA had Natalia Vodianova.
I felt like I was already living a double life even though nothing had happened yet. I continued going to school but I couldn’t focus no matter how much Adderall and coffee I fed myself. I would find myself in History class, doodling the different names of agencies who wanted me. I couldn’t get that out of my head.
“They want you, Megan”
I didn’t want to talk to my friends about it. One of the bitchy girls had heard through Erin and laughed in my face.
“They’re probably a fucking scam.”, she said, her DD boobs jiggling as she chuckled to herself.
You just mad because you only 5’2″.
God, teenage girls really are the fucking worst.
Over the next week or two, The Mother Agency gave me updates as they shortened the list. Women Management and Trump Models didn’t like that I was only 5’7″ so they withdrew. DNA had some conflicts as well.
The Mother Agency decided that IMG, Marilyn, New York Models, and Ford were the best. I cut my losses. At least 3 out of the 5 I liked were down to sign me.
The Mother Agency informed me that they would arrange for me to go to New York and meet with the agencies. I had been to Long Island but not to Manhattan. I couldn’t believe any of this was really happening. I begged my mom to let me home-school myself.
“Let’s meet with the agencies and then you can see how you feel.”
I groaned. My grades had been slipping because I couldn’t think of anything else other than modeling and becoming famous. I started withdrawing from other high school activities and being more introverted. I wanted to say “fuck you” to this town and leave. There were bigger and better things out there than going to the mall and chugging Natty Ice’s at some junior’s house.
The Mother Agency arranged for me to go to New York on February 2nd which was a week away. My mom booked a room for three nights at The W in Union Square and took me on a $5k shopping spree for my new model-off-duty look.
I counted down the days that I had until New York. We would be leaving on Thursday morning at 6 am and getting home on Sunday afternoon. I would be missing another two days in school. Cardinal Newman kept sending my mom letters about my absences which had totaled up to 9 due to my test shoots and meetings in Miami. What was the big deal, anyways? If it was public school, I could understand, but it was Catholic school. They had already been paid in advance and it’s not like my teachers cared where I was. One less bratty teenager to deal with.
Monday greeted me harshly and with a bunch of homework and reminders of tests that week, which I took as another sign to be home-schooled. I smiled to myself knowing that I would be absent on one of the test days.
My art teacher, Mrs.Lampman, pulled me aside after class one day and asked if anything was wrong because of my spaciness. She was and will always be my favorite teacher that I’ve ever had.
“There’s just a lot on my mind, I guess.”, I shrugged.
“Well, do you need someone to talk to? Is everything okay at home?”
“Yeah… It’s fine… Actually…”, I paused, thinking of whether I should tell her or not. She was a free spirit like me so I decided that I could trust her.
“I was recently signed with a Mother Agency and I’m a model. I’m flying to New York to meet with agencies on Thursday.”
She gasped and got up to hug me.
“Go for it! That’s fantastic, Megan. I always thought you should model or act.”
After telling all of my teachers about my becoming a model weeks later, it would be only Mrs.Lampman who showed happiness for me. I will never forget all of my friends telling me about my Speech teacher announcing to the class, “Megan? A model? You guys are joking, right? She’s so plain.”.
Really, Mrs.Reed? I guess the top ten agencies would disagree with your 20k-a-year-salaried-ass. She had cancer the prior year and beat it so everyone felt bad for her, including me. Not anymore, Mrs.Reed, not anymore.
That week, I buckled down and threw myself into schoolwork. I needed something to occupy my brain before New York. A essay in English here, a quiz in History there. It was all the same shit. All you really have to do to succeed in high school is just do the work. It’s sad because I don’t remember anything from high school and I blame it on the Cardinal Newman staff. I’m writing and frowning because high school doesn’t teach you anything about the real world.
I am so happy that I got out when I did. A lot of my friends are in college and (this will read condescending so I apologize in advance) they are extremely sheltered about life. Amanda and Erin moved back home from school and they are working real jobs and going to school part time. I find that they have matured greatly since doing this and it’s easier to talk to them now.
At 3:45 PM on Wednesday, I was the first to bolt to homeroom when the bell rang. Mrs. Hendricks was mad at me for packing up early and tried to get me to stay an extra five minutes more than the entire class. I just ran out the back door. It’s not like she was going to fucking chase me down the halls.
I packed my Geometry book and Spanish workbook to do on the plane ride there. I knew I had a Literature test on Monday and I decided against bringing home my book. That was my easiest subject so I took the risk of failing.
My sister was waiting outside for me in her Mercedes, glaring at the high school that she had also attended. The faculty really did bully her. She left when she was a senior because of how fed up she was. She liked public school more anyways.
“I see Mrs.So-and-So is still looking like she needs gastric bypass surgery.”, she remarked, squinting at the hated teacher.
I cackled and we drove away.
I was way too nervous to eat when we got home and I bolted for my room. My new clothes were still in the bags as I didn’t even have anywhere to wear them yet. I yanked off my ugly Cardinal Newman uniform and tried on a couple different things. The Mother Agency had sent me ideas of how to pair my new clothes and I packed accordingly. My Polyvore account was filled with outfits by my favorite street-style models. Miranda Kerr, Hanne-Gaby, Ginta Lapina, and, of course, Kate Moss. I will never stop trying to emulate Kate Moss and her cool edginess. Black blazer, black simple tee shirt, light denim jean shorts, and thigh high boots.
Who knew you could made simple clothes look so sexy?
I did yoga in my room and showered my sweaty self off. I stationed myself in front of my floor-to-ceiling mirror and practiced my poses and facial expressions.
Looking at the clock, I saw that it was only 7 PM. I thought about just taking two benedryls and knocking myself out but decided against it. I didn’t want to wake up at 12 AM unable to go back to sleep. I filled my evening with mundane activities and was watching TV in bed by 10:30 PM. I set my alarm for 3:30 AM because we had to be at the airport at 5 AM.
Before going to sleep, I went downstairs to my moms room and saw her reading a book in bed. I sat on the edge of her bed and really thanked her. I never gave my mom credit or thanked her over the years. I just thought that’s what moms were supposed to do but she wasn’t like any other mom. She did everything for us and made so many sacrifices in her career to tend to us and I will never forgive myself for being so mean to her as a teen. I just sent her a text telling her how much I love her and appreciate everything she’s done for me and I suggest all of my readers text their mothers. I truly feel for the people who have lost their mothers or grown up without them. I especially want to name an old friend, Jaynie Kugler, who lost her mother about a year ago. May she rest in peace.
My alarm began blasting “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex. Nothing else will make you wake up faster than “D-D-D-D-DROP THE BASS!!” followed by what sounds like the old AOL dialup strain (I know, how much of a flashback was that for you?).
My glassy eyes shot open and I went downstairs to jump on my mom. I burst through her door and basically did a front flip onto her. With how excited I was, I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually did do a front flip onto her.
“Mom! Mom! MOOOOOMMMMM!!!! Wake up, wake up!”
My mom is the opposite of a morning person. If you wake her up without coffee already brewed then you are basically on a suicide mission.
“MEG, NO, I HAVE 30 MINUTES LEFT.”
I let it go. I didn’t need her cranky on the flight. I skipped to the kitchen and prepared her Starbucks coffee grounds. I made a little station of the things I know she loves: Two graham crackers, whole milk, raw sugar, and whipped cream.
She finally woke up at 4 AM and trudged into the kitchen wearing her robe and Uggs.
“Aw, thanks, Meg.”, she said, noticing the “coffee station”.
She had also packed the night before and would be ready after brushing her teeth and hair. I changed into a pair of Lululemons, black Uggs, and a sweater. It was February in New York so my mom had bought me a beautiful brown coat. I kept it with my carry-on and Marc Jacobs black purse. We loaded our luggage in the car and set off for Palm Beach International Airport.
“We going to New Yooooooork, we going to New Yoooooork”, I sang out loud.
I wouldn’t have blamed my mom if she had taken a gun out and shot me in the head. It was 4:30 AM and I was singing. Poor woman.
We boarded our plane and held hands as we departed. My mom isn’t the easiest flyer so I always held her hand regardless of whether we were fighting or not. She closed her eyes and said a Hail Mary.
I finished my homework in the 2.5 hours that it took to fly there. We landed at JFK and only had our carry-ons so we didn’t need to wait for baggage. I excitedly threw my coat on and headed for the door. I was greeted by freezing cold weather and went right back inside.
My mom couldn’t stop laughing.
I bundled up a bit more with scarves and a hat and went back out to brave the cold. Mirroring Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I hailed my first yellow cab. I reread The Mother Agency’s email for the billionth time. They didn’t like what New York Models had to offer and decided against them. A couple of Marilyn’s bookers were out of town at the time so I would only be meeting with Ford Models and IMG. My appointment with IMG was scheduled for later that day at 2 PM and Ford was the following day at 4 PM.
The drive from JFK took what felt like 7 hours but we finally arrived at the W. We checked in but had to wait until 12 PM to go to our rooms. The concierge held our luggage up front as we took a walk around Union Square. I fell in love with the city and dreamed of living there. I belonged in one of these four story walk-ups. My fingers felt like they were going to fall off and we returned to the hotel. My mom convinced them to let us up early. Honestly, I would want my mom to be my lawyer over anyone else, even my lawyer father who was making double what she made at the time. She can get anyone out of anything with her negotiating skills.
I laid down for a bit and recharged before changing into my black American Apparel Zip dress, tights, Aqua navy blue blazer (cuffed 3.5 times, of course), and Vince Camuto brown 4.5 inch heels that I had been practicing walking in.
At 1:15 PM, my mom and I decided to walk to IMG since it was only about 9 blocks north. I wore two pairs of gloves and socks but the cold still bit at me. Winter in New York is magical but also kind of the worst. The weather is freezing and clings to your bones. No matter how many layers you wear, you never feel warm enough.
I was too anxious to even think about how cold my Floridian-self was. I gawked at the high rises surrounding me on Park Ave and admired the diversity of the Manhattanites. There were business men, teenagers in funky clothes, and chic women everywhere in different shapes, sizes, and colors. No two people looked alike. The city just felt so… Free. Nothing like West Palm Beach.
We arrived at E. 23rd Street and Park Ave and I choked when I saw the building. What if they didn’t like me? What if Ford didn’t like me either? What if the whole trip was a waste? What if The Mother Agency drops me because nobody likes me?
And the one I feared the most: What if IMG and Ford pull a Next Miami and just pretend to like me and reject me later?
I shook the thought out of my head. I was just going to be myself and let it happen. That’s the funny thing about me. Sometimes, when I get so scared to do something, I randomly get this burst of confidence.
Or, I just take a 0.5 milligram of clonopin.
We arrived at the IMG lobby and my jaw dropped. This was it.
The grey waiting room was encased with glass and had the IMG logo printed on the wall above the receptionist’s head. The glass wall showcased what looked like a computer gamer’s heaven. Rows of computers and respected bookers sat in front of them, animatedly talking on the phone or stabbing at their keyboards. The receptionist looked up at me and smiled. She had a thing face, freckles, big blue eyes, and strawberry blonde hair.
“Hey there, do you have an appointment?”
I snapped back to reality and nervously giggled.
“Hi, yeah, I’m here to meet with Jessica. My name is Megan Kennedy.”
“Oh hii! Welcome to IMG. I’ll buzz Jessica now. You can have a seat if you would like. Do you want any water or something to drink? “
I thought that was classy as hell.
“I think I’m okay but thank you.”
She dialed Jessica.
“Yeah, Megan’s here.”
The receptionist nodded and hung up the phone.
“She will be with you in 5 minutes.”, she stated before returning to her emails.
I took a deep breath and said a quick Hail Mary.
Hail Mary, full of… Um… Grace…. The Lord is with thee..
A cute, short, plump woman in her 20’s greeted me. She was wearing a pair of basic blue jeans, long sleeve striped shirt, and shoes that looked similar to mine minus 2 inches.
“You must be Megan! Hi! I’m Jessica.”, she said before enveloping me into a hug. She had the friendly demeanor of The Mother Agency and I liked her already.
She led us to a room that was bare besides the velvet couches that faced each other and shag rug underneath it. My mom and I sat on one couch and Jessica plopped down on the other. I noticed that she had a pad of paper on her lap. She leaned in and began to ask questions.
How was your flight? What do you think of New York City so far? How crazy is this cold weather? Have you ever seen snow before?
Then, she got serious.
“So we love Megan’s look. We aren’t too thrilled about her height but I’m sure we can work it out. She’s also only 15 so she could grow a bit more. How tall is your father, Megan?”
“Six-four”, I lied. My dad was maybe 5’11” but I wasn’t about to tell her that.
“Fantastic! Yeah, I’d say you’ll probably shoot up to five-nine.”
She explained that she was going to take some digitals of me and show me around the office. I stood against the wall in my American Apparel dress and did the side-to-side routine. My mom gave me thumbs up and Jessica squealed with excitement. She was like a little ball of energy. I wanted to put her in my pocket and carry her around with me.
She took me to the next room which was the office. She introduced me to a passing agent named Bradley. He clapped his hands and appraised me.
“Oh, you’re even more beautiful in person!”, Bradley exclaimed.
I blushed and he remarked how cute I was.
I looked up to see the wall of comp cards in front of me.
There were hundreds of faces in front of me. I recognized a couple of the up-and-coming girls from reading about them on Models.com. I was baffled at the thought of my picture and name being next to theirs. WOWOWOWOW. Jessica showed me the upstairs art department and another room that had a changing area and two racks of clothing. I was grinning ear-to-ear.
They wanted me.
We rejoined my mom in the room where my digitals had been taken. Jessica closed the door and sat down before us.
“We want to sign her. We drew up a contract when we were told Megan was coming to New York.”, she proclaimed, handing us the stapled paperwork.
My heart soared. I couldn’t believe it. It was really happening.
My mom told her that we would have our lawyer look it over and would discuss with The Mother Agency. We bid adieus and I walked out in a daze. I caught a glimpse of the office once again before we left and smiled. They were like a big family. Maybe my new family.
We called The Mother Agency and they shrieked like school girls. They advised me to get a good night’s rest before my meeting with Ford and wished me luck.
At 4PM the next day, we arrived at their W. 57th street location and rode the elevator up to the 18th floor. I knew IMG already wanted me so my nervousness had subsided. The office looked very different than IMG with it’s red walls and wooden floors. We checked in with the receptionist at the front and took our seats in the swanky waiting room. I had worn my black Theory pants with a forrest green pullover from United Colors of Bennetton. I opted for the brown Vince Camuto’s again because I felt comfortable walking in them.
A woman emerged from another room. It’s weird because I had read her name a million times in the email and to this day, I can’t remember it. She had wild blonde hair and wore cuffed boyfriend jeans and Converse shoes.
“Hey Megan, what’s up?”, Boyfriend Jeans asked with an easygoing, serene voice. She sounded like she had just smoked a joint or something.
We walked us to the sitting area in the next room. It looked like a living room. Where were all the agents and computers?
Boyfriend Jeans sat on the small settee in front of us with her legs open like a man. She had a very tomboyish thing going on that I dug. She looked effortlessly cool. She didn’t try to engage in bullshit small talk and she got straight to the point.
“So, Megan, we want you. What’s your availability and how soon can you come up here?”
I was taken aback. Bam! Just like that. They wanted to get my ass in the fashion world of New York City.
“I mean, I’ve been thinking about home-schooling. So, I guess I can come as soon as that can happen.”, I answered positively.
“Great, great. That’s good to hear. We at Ford think that you have great potential and we look forward to representing you.”
A bit presumptuous, eh?
My mom interrupted, “We will definitely have our lawyers review the contract immediately.”
Boyfriend Jeans smiled.
“Good. Now, Megan did you bring a bikini with you?”
I nodded and pointed to my bag.
Boyfriend Jeans led me to a changing area and a Latino woman came in and took my measurements. She silently marked them down on a piece of paper and took my digitals, muttering directions of what she wanted me to do. She gave me the OK to change back into my clothes and return to the living room.
Boyfriend Jeans had already handed my mom the contract and they were standing up now.
“Megan, what do you think about acting? Are you interested?”
Was I interested? YAAAAAAAAAASSSSS
I composed myself before replying with, “I’m definitely open to it.”
We said our goodbyes and shook hands.
Now, for the hard part, who to pick?