It was Mid-July and season had begun to wind down. Another model moved in but we didn’t really click. She was a bit older and didn’t like to speak English. The girls and I continued to spend every free minute we had with each other and hated being apart. We all knew that we were leaving soon but none of us wanted to say it. Whenever a conversation started to lead to our departures, we would quickly change the subject.
One night, after we came home from 1OAK and were sitting in our respected bunks, Ilze brought it up.
“I can’t believe I am going home next week.”
I dropped my fork into my macaroni and cheese.
Mae was next.
“I’m leaving late next week too…”
My heart sunk as I agreed with her.
Lucy announced she would be leaving two days after us and Alexandra was leaving two weeks later.
None of us were working at the time because August is a dead month in the fashion industry. Barcelona and Milan close down and everyone else is preparing for fashion week in September. I didn’t make any money with any of the jobs that I had done and neither did Lucy. Mae had made only $120 which went straight to her IMG debt. As a new model, you are usually paid in experience or trade, which is such bullshit. It’s the same for models who walk in the shows. Obviously, the big girls make money but usually the newbies are almost always paid in clothes. It’s funny because people always think that models have this glamourous career and “don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day”. That’s definitely the case for models like Karlie Kloss and Kate Moss but not for beginners. You’ll get paid in designer pieces that you will never get to wear.
That new gown is going straight to the rent check.
I think Ilze made around $2,000 for a commercial job she did which didn’t even make a dent in her expenses. I realized how thankful I was to live in the United States. I didn’t have to worry about visas, constantly being on long flights, or having to learn the main language. Everyone can already speak English so I was in the clear.
I was scared as to what my next move was. The Mother Agency was being vague about where my next destination was because of how busy they were with placing the other girls for Fashion Week. Standing at 5’7.5″, I had been deemed too short to walk. Later on, I would learn that Preen and another big designer were interested in me for Fashion Week. IMG had decided that I “wasn’t ready yet”. I was distraught.
The Mother Agency told me to go back to Palm Beach and wait until Fashion Week was over. I would have to be stuck at home for a month-and-a-half. I couldn’t even bear the thought of leaving the city. New York felt more like home to me than Florida ever did.
The girl and I continued to distract ourselves by soaking up the city and nightlife scene. My favorite places were The Darby and 1OAK. It’s sad to now refer to “The Darby” by it’s new name because I hate change. I love “Up and Down” but it was at The Darby where I left my sixteen year old soul. Going to 1OAK in New York now is not the same as it used to be and that also makes me frown. Maybe these places were so fun because of the people I was surrounded by and the fact that I was so young.
Look at me: a jaded twenty-year-old.
In our last week, Mae, Ilze, and Lucy would tire of going out as often as we did and it would be Alexandra and I left standing. She was my little dance partner that I liked to kiss and cause trouble with. We were these underage nymphs who were constantly giggling and holding hands in places we shouldn’t have been. Everyone loved watching us together. She was my little Alexandra.
Finally, the night before Ilze was going to leave was upon us and I tried to drink away the sadness I was feeling. Sweet, innocent Ilze from Latvia who had grown to be one of my best friends. We sat around the apartment getting ready to go out and discussing our future plans of all of us living together again. We knew it was incredibly unrealistic that we would all be in the same place at the same time again but it was still fun to dream. We came home from PhD and Ilze began to pack. We stayed awake with her and continued to talk about all the good times. Her car came at 6 AM and we all shed our tears as she drove away. Mae and I would be flying out two days later at different times of the day at 10 AM and 2 PM. I was grateful that I was leaving at 10 AM because the house already felt so empty without one of us. I couldn’t even imagine sitting in the dining room with Ilze AND Mae’s ghost looming around.
I decided to walk the city alone the day before my flight. I studied every little thing about Manhattan because I didn’t know when I would see it next. I picked out the Upper East Side townhouse that I would live in one day and made a mental note of the location of my favorite spot in Central Park. I made plans with the girls to go out that night to The Darby for one last time. I was filled with so much despair that I couldn’t even make it to 1 AM. We went home, made buttered noodles, and commenced our last Photo Booth shoot.
I barely slept before waking up at 6:30 AM and tiptoeing out of our bedroom. I remarked that it was “the last time” I would do any of these activities in the apartment. Wow, this is the last time I will ever watch TV in this room. This is the last time I will ever eat cereal on the couch. This is the last time I will ever open this fridge.
It was 7:45 AM before I knew it and my car was here. My suitcase had been packed the evening before and everything was all set for me to go. The girls woke up to the sound of me rolling my suitcase out and quickly followed me downstairs. I hugged and kissed each one of them goodbye and promised to videochat as soon as I arrived. I dramatically watched them as I drove away and felt tears pool in my eyes. Our two-month-long sleepover was over and I was leaving my friends to go home. Summer camp had ended.
It was quite possibly the worst flight of my entire life.
Years later, we have all gone on with our lives. Some of us have quit modeling and some have continued. We still talk every so often to catch up even though we haven’t seen each other since then. We became sisters that summer and had an unbreakable bond that is everlasting. I know if we were all put in a room again that we would be collapsing into a fit of giggles again within 10 minutes. I love you, girls. Thank you for making my first trip unforgettable.