Modeling in New York: Welcome to the Concrete Jungle

My yellow cab pulled up to the Murray Hill model apartment that I had been assigned. I was to live with five strangers in one room and pay $900 a month. Model apartments are fucking ridiculous. I was sharing a bunk for $900 a month! A BUNK! Agencies take advantage of this because we are young girls who don’t know any better.

So does that mean I would be paying $1800 a month if I requested a bunk to myself? Jesus Christ.

The rent amounts are so skewed and agents wonder why so many girls live in promoter houses over agency assigned model apartments. Pay $900 a month or go out 3x a week. Think about it.

The doorman helped me with my bags as I gave the cabbie $60. He put me in the elevator and pressed my designated floor for me. I winked at him as the doors closed. What if I hated these girls or they stole things from me?

As you can see, “what if” is one of my favorite phrases and I use it quite often as I debate which voice in my head I should listen to.

We didn’t have keys, just a combination lock that I never quite mastered. The doorman would grow to resent me. Especially when I would come home from a night out and be begging him to put the code in for me at 5 AM.

I couldn’t get the fucking lock to work so I knocked lightly.

A beautiful, leggy blonde answered the door and immediately returned to her Skype conversation. I had no idea what language she was speaking and I looked to her for guidance. Noticing my wide eyes, she nodded towards the bedroom door. There were three bunk beds on each side of the room and a giant window with gnarled blinds. I noticed there was a bed open next to the window and I put my bag down to claim it. I left my luggage at the end of the bed for now.

I heard the main door open and close. A girl sang along to Beyonce and I heard the rustling of grocery bags. I didn’t know if I should go out to the living room and try and introduce myself or not.

Me, Mae, Ilze, and Lucy

The singing voice made it’s way to the bedroom as I was unpacking my carryon.

“Oh shit! Haha! Sorry, you just scared me!”, said a gorgeous, dark-skinned girl.

She was tall and lanky with short black hair. This mysterious stranger had puffy, pink lips and wide-set eyes. Holy shit, she was literally perfect.

“Oh, God, sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m Megan. I just got here like 20 minutes ago.”

The girl beamed at me.

“I’m Mae”

We started talking about how we were discovered and how this was both of our first trips. I was so happy that she was normal and easygoing. The blonde who greeted me earlier was not as friendly. Within 10 minutes, Mae and I were giggling like school girls.

I toned my voice down and got closer to her.

“What’s the deal with the blonde girl out there? She seems kinda rude.”

Mae burst out laughing.

“Ilze!? Rude?! Dude, no, she’s just super shy and self-conscious about her English. She’s honestly the sweetest. Come here, I’ll introduce you.”

Mae gabbed my hand and led me out to the dining area where Ilze was sitting. She looked up at me and then back at Mae.

“Hey, I’m Ilze”, she finally said.

“My name is Megan. It’s nice to meet you.”

We all sat around the wooden table and talked about random things. Ilze explained that she was from Latvia and had arrived to New York a week ago. Mae was from North Carolina and got to New York a couple days after Ilze. I started telling them about Florida when the door opened once more.

A frazzled brunette was struggling with her luggage so we got up and helped her in. She had rosy cheeks which actually went with her pale skin and brown wavy hair. She was 5’11” and I realized that I was the shortest one out of us four.

“My luggage must way a ton! Thanks, guys. I’m Lucy, by the way”, she offered her hand. She was 17 and hailing from Ireland.

We had one other roommate who was shooting in LA for the weekend. Her name was Xiao Wen. I knew that I had read about her on at some point but I didn’t know the extent of her fame. She was the first Chinese model to front a Marc Jacobs campaign and is one of the inspirations for the new street wear line Babyghost NYC.

Ilze, Lucy, and Mae would become my best friends that week. I think we all felt so connected to each other because we were all going through the same exact thing. We all just wanted to be the next Karlie Kloss and knew that we just needed that one big break to do it. We often fantasized about which brands/magazines we wanted to model for. I wanted to do Marc Jacobs, Ilze aspired to do Calvin Klein, Mae coveted a Vogue editorial, and Lucy wanted to be Alexander Wang’s new face.

Tabea,Lucy, Mae, me, and Ilze

We had so much fun together going to Central Park and the Gansevoort pool together. After our castings, we would link up at The ModelLounge and hang there or explore the city. We bought a goldfish and named it “Bubbles”.


We met a promoter while at the Gansevoort during the day. Because we were underage and he still works, we will refer to him as The Promoter. He chatted up Ilze who rebuffed him and then tried to get Mae to translate. He asked us if we wanted to go to a club that night. I had a job the next two days so I dismissed the idea.

“Well, you guys should come back here on Sunday. They throw the most epic daytime party.”

We got his number and told him we would give him a call. I was excited to go out in the city. My sister had snuck me into a club in Downtown West Palm Beach after I got my braces off but it was no New York. There would be champagne and model boys everywhere.

Ilze and I
Casting life

I had finished my job early on Sunday and texted the group.

Me: Where r u guys?

Mae: Are u done with ur job? we’re thinking about going to that party.

Lucy: Yeessss, get home, Megan!

Ilze: I want some champagne lol

I laughed at Ilze’s comment. She could do anything and it would be cute because I just pictured her saying it with her broken English accent.

I took the train from Soho to Union Square and finally, Murray Hill. My job had slicked down my hair with handfuls of gel. Actual fucking handfuls. I ran to the apartment door from the elevator and knocked loudly.

Mae opened the door and said, “Who’s ready to paaaartaaaaayyy?”

I turned on the shower and quickly got undressed. My hair was hard from the crusted gel and I almost debated putting it up in a bun. I couldn’t do that. This was my first time going out in New York. No fucking way.

I brushed through it in the shower and wrapped a towel around my head and body. What to wear, what to wear? I selected my black combat boots and new Urban Outfitters romper. We walked to the Gansevoort with our arms linked together. The Promoter was waiting downstairs for us.

He rolled his eyes.

“I thought you guys weren’t coming! And yo, you guys need to wear heels from now on cause you’re looking mad young.”

We presented our credit cards as faux ID like he had told us to do. In the past five years, I have only used one fake ID. It’s a thing in New York City to just show your credit card for the cameras. The NYPD know this and really don’t care. Same goes for LAPD. They don’t really care. They have more pressing matters to attend to like robberies and stabbings in Compton. Once in a while, you will get those asshole cops who stand around the entrance to the club and monitor IDs.

Lucy and I

We rode the elevator up and The Promoter asked about my job.

“It was an editorial for So-and-So Magazine.

“Ohhh, that’s tight. They’re pretty new and edgy.”

Oh, shut the fuck up.

The elevator doors sprung open and we were instantly surrounded by wild partygoers. Beautiful, scantily clad people cheered their glasses and writhed their bodies to a Steve Aoki song (who was actually DJing the party). We walked to the outside pool area which had been converted to an outside club. Male models, girl models, promoter, big money guys, and other randoms filled the area. I noticed a blonde haired guy standing on one of the lounge chairs and bumping to the music. He would later become a good friend of mine when we bumped into each other again in Tokyo. Fucking Stephan.

Stephan and I!

The Promoter ordered a pitcher of something pink and I downed a couple flutes of it. I began to loosen up after drink #2 and started dancing with the others. My lightweight alcohol tolerance will revert back to being my old 13 year old self if I don’t drink for 5 days. It’s a blessing and a curse.

We danced for hours before deciding to call it a night. We all had castings the next morning and would need our beauty sleep. The Promoter protested.

“Where the fuck are you guys going? It’s only 8 PM! Dinner doesn’t even start until 10:30 PM.”

We explained how tired we were and how we all had castings in the morning. He was pissed but we tuned out his complaining. Heading out to the street, we all realized that none of us had eaten and we needed to sober up. There was a McDonalds next to where we lived so we staggered in and went HAM.

When models are sober, they will eat salads from Whole Foods like it’s cotton candy. As soon as we get a sip of liquor in our skinny bellies, we head straight for french-fry land.

I laid in bed that night thinking of all the fun I had just experienced. This was nothing like the high school parties that I had went to. Everyone was beautiful and jumping around and having the time of their lives. Nobody was screaming at anyone for spreading a rumor or vomiting in the bathroom. It seemed like… anonymous fun.

I couldn’t wait to go back out again.




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