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Brain to Beauty
“Mom, I’m going to buy my test prep books,” I called over my shoulder then turned around to finish tying my shoes.
“Okay. You better not get yourself in trouble,” she stated, sticking her head out of the kitchen doorway and giving me a stern look.
“Goodbye,” I sang out, standing up and dusting off the back of my pants. Why does she have to be so suspicious of everything I do? I’m at the top of my class. I study every day, practically killing myself to get perfect scores on even the most miniscule assignments. What did I do to be mistrusted?! All I do is go to school, do homework, do housework, eat, and sleep. I mean, I even study every weekend; in fact, when am I not studying?
My mind was so filled with rage and mental ranting that I failed to notice the man walking towards me until I ran straight into his chest. I bounced back and straightened the glasses on my nose before examining the woman in front of me. She was tall and seemed to be rather thin, but not in the skeletal, frighteningly skinny way, more model like. My eyes shifted to her outfit, which seemed almost too fancy to be wearing while walking around on a Saturday morning. She wore a crisp, gray suit with a white button up shirt peeking out around her neck. My eyes then settled on her face which looked much younger than her expensive suit would suggest, but her true age was evident in the way stress lingered in his eyes.
I suddenly realized I had been standing on the sidewalk for almost a minute awkwardly staring at this woman, but I noticed I wasn’t the only one appraising the person in front of me. Her eyes twitched back and forth, from my shoes to my hair, before finally settling on my face. She looked curious and seemed to be thinking for a moment before reaching into her pocket and retrieving a small rectangle of cardstock. She presented the rectangle to me; I looked at her, and then back at the card, before cautiously reaching out the retrieve the small rectangle.
“My name is Jasmine Kensworth,” she introduced herself as I examined the card, “How would you like to be a model?”
The business card slipped out of my hand to the hard pavement as my jaw dropped in astonishment, “What?!” Jasmine chuckled as I ran the question through my head again and processed it carefully. “You want me to be…a model?”
“You’ve got the looks and the body; you could really be famous,” she stated nonchalantly as she snatched my glasses off of my nose and removed the hair ties that secured my long braids. My chocolate brown hair fell over my shoulders in long-awaited freedom, and my eyes adjusted to reveal a fuzzy version of Jasmine. A satisfied smile spread across her face as she shared her thoughts. “Hmm, even better than I had thought. You need to model. I’m taking you to a photo shoot right now. No arguing.”
“But I-,” I started, but then decided the effort was futile as she began to pull me down the street.
We walked for ages, and I was about to give up when we arrived in front of a tall building that looked rather unassuming. Jasmine held the door open for me, and I cautiously entered the dimly lit, drab lobby. She directed me toward an elevator, and we rode up to the 37th floor. Jasmine inserted what looked like an I.D. card into a panel on the elevator wall, and the doors slid open.
Lights flashed. Music blared. All disorienting me further. I looked at Jasmine and asked, “Where are we?”
Ignoring my question, Jasmine walked over to a woman. “Hey, this is my new model. Can you take care of her hair, make-up, and wardrobe for me? Oh, and could you get her some contacts, please?” Jasmine ordered and pushed me gently into a cushioned leather chair.
“Hi, I’m Amber,” the woman introduced herself.
“Oh, hello, my name is Michelle, Michelle Lee.”
“Let’s get started!” the woman squealed excitedly then began attacking my hair with a blow dryer and large round hair brush.
After hours of hair straightening and make-up applying, Amber handed me a box of new contacts in it. I put the contacts in and blinked rapidly, so I could focus. The image I saw after my eyes focused was that of a girl with pale, milky white skin. She had perfect hair looking slightly disheveled, but in the purposeful way, and striking features that drew in your eyes as you looked. I felt like I was gawking at this stunning girl, so I turned my head away. The girl did the same thing. I looked back and so did she. I turned my head from side to side and gasped as I realized the image was a reflection of me.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” Jasmine commented from the doorway wearing a smug look, “Alright, time to take some pictures!”
I was suddenly drawn into a world of flashing cameras and bright lights; I was the center of attention. I fumbled making poses as the cameraman barked directions at me while simultaneously snapping pictures. The more pictures that were taken, the more comfortable in front of the camera I became. I began to make more daring poses, losing all sense of nervousness. Controlling my facial expressions was difficult, but I began to realize what look the cameraman was looking for and catered to his creative whims, still retaining my own aura.
“Okay, that’s a wrap everybody!” the cameraman yelled as he began to pack up his equipment.
“It’s already over?” I asked, looking at Jasmine curiously, feeling somehow unsatisfied.
“Don’t look so disappointed. If you want, you can do photo shoots for the rest of your life,” Jasmine commented as she walked over to me. Then a smirk spread across his face, “I didn’t realize you would get so into it.”
“Yeah,” I replied then looked at the floor, “Oh, what time is it?”
She glanced down at her watch and replied, “It’s about 9 o’clock.”
My eyes widened, and I scrambled to gather all of my things together before sprinting towards the door. My heart pounded and my breath grew ragged as my legs carried me down the street, fueled with fear of my mother’s punishment. Luckily, the modeling agency’s building was only a few blocks from my house, and I was able to return home within a few minutes. When I ran through the front door, my mom was waiting on the stairs, her head resting on her intertwined fingers as if she were praying. She glanced up as the door clicked behind me, a look of pure fury upon her face.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know what ti-,”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“Go to bed.”
Her words were final, and they rang in my ears as I crept up the stairs towards my room. I crawled into my bed and settled into an uneasy slumber only to be awoken by the sound of my phone vibrating on my night stand.
I grabbed my phone, flipped it open, and then grumbled in my morning voice, “He-hello?”
“Oh, Michelle, I’m glad to see you’re awake,” the voice sang happily in my ear, and I immediately knew it was Jasmine.
“What do you need?” I grumbled, while pondering how she got my number and then appreciating her crafty nature.
“Don’t you want to model again?!” she asked excitedly, “There’s a fashion show today. I’ll be there to pick you up in ten minutes. Get ready, sleepyhead.”
When I came downstairs, my mom was making breakfast. She looked up and curiously asked, “Where are you going?”
“Well, actually…yesterday I was recruited to be a model. That’s why I came home so late last night. There’s a fashion show today, and I know it’s last minute, but here’s the address if you want to come…” I trailed off and stared at her expectantly as I placed a small scrap of paper on the kitchen table.
“Don’t tell me you actually believe you can be a model?” my mom scoffed, “You’re staying home to study today.”
“What?” I choked out.
“You heard me. Now, come eat breakfast.”
“I can’t even try?!”
“You’ll just be wasting their time. You should do what you’re good at and focus on school.”
Tears began to well in my eyes. “You don’t think I can do it? I can’t believe you! Can’t you support me even a little bit? You can’t just tell me what to do!”
Her hand flew at me and struck my face before I could even comprehend what was happening. The anger on her face turned into surprise as she looked back and forth between her hand and my face. My face grew hot as blood rushed to where her hand had made contact.
“Oh my God,” she whispered as a look of dread spread across her face, “Michelle, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to!”
Hot, angry tears poured down my face as I ran out the door where Jasmine was waiting in a shiny, black Mercedes. I immediately jumped in the car and avoided making eye contact with her as I turned my head towards the window. I thought she would ask why I was crying, but she remained quiet the entire ride to the fashion show location.
“We’re here,” she stated simply, getting out of the car and coming to open my door, “It may not be very big, but if you model well, this might be the start of your career.”
I nodded and followed her into the building. We passed through a large, spacious room where the runway was located. I paused momentarily to take in the elegant room, but was soon hurried along to the dressing room to have my hair and make-up done. The rest of the day passed by rather quickly; all I could think about was how unfair my mom was. How could she say that I couldn’t be a model?! She only cared about if I got into an Ivy League college; not about if I had fun or liked what I was doing.
“Are you almost ready?” Jasmine asked, looking in the mirror at my reflection.
“Yeah. Wait. I don’t know how to walk on a runway,” I looked up at her in distress.
“I think you’ll be able to pick it up easily,” she said as she turned and walked towards the doorway. She stopped a few feet away from it with one foot in front of the other, posed with her hand on one hip to the left then to the right, turned on her heel, and walked back towards me. “Pretty easy, right? Just remember to keep your back straight and chin level!”
I tried the walk a few times; each time Jasmine corrected my discrepancies, and eventually I got the hang of it.
I didn’t realize how long I had been practicing until a stage manager called out, “10 minutes ‘til show time. Final make-up touches, then line up in order of appearance.”
I looked at myself in the mirror and took a deep breath before taking my place in line amongst the other models. My nervousness began to sink in, but it didn’t matter because I needed to do this in order to prove my mom wrong. The show started, and model after model stepped onto the runway until it was finally my turn. I stepped onto the runway and faced the audience, my left hand on my hip, and then I began to walk. I looked forward, stood straight, and held my chin level. At the end of the runway, I posed, and blew a kiss to the audience, which elicited applause and a few cat calls, then turned on my heels and walked back to the wings of the stage. I quickly hit hair and make-up again, made a wardrobe change, and went back on the runway, repeating the same process over and over until the fashion show ended.
“Wow, Michelle, I knew you had potential, but that was amazing for your first time,” Jasmine complimented.
I smiled and nodded while he continued to talk, but my mind was far away as I searched the room. I hoped she would be in the audience. My eyes landed on my mother who was standing in the corner taking in the medley of people. I took a deep breath and walked over to her.
“Michelle, I have been so worried about you,” she breathed out with a stern look on her face, “Do you know I almost called the cops when you didn’t come home yesterday?!”
“I’m sorry, Mom, I just… I just felt like I needed to do this,” I whispered as I looked at the floor.
“I understand,” she stated, and I looked up in surprise. “You were beautiful up there.”
“I suppose you are the woman who has drawn my daughter into this world,” she stated, looking at Jasmine who had wandered over.
“Yes. I’m Jasmine Kensworth of Mode Modeling. How do you do?” she asked and stuck out her hand which my mother just looked at. “Your daughter has unbelievable talent; I would like to sign her with my modeling agency.”
My mother stared back and forth from me to Jasmine for a moment before she began, “I realize how much Michelle would like to do this, and I will allow you to train her,” I yelped excitedly and began jumping up and down, “BUT, if this interferes with her schooling, I will NOT hesitate to pull her out immediately.”
“Of course, school is the number one priority. I will not let modeling interfere with that,” Jasmine smiled, then added as she walked away. “I will draw up a contract immediately then the real training can begin.”
“Thank you so much, Mom!” I squealed.
“I wasn’t sure about this modeling thing, but when I saw you up on that runway, you were breathtaking, and I knew that you were really serious about this. I’m sorry for hitting you this morning. I couldn’t see why you would want to do something like model, but now I get it. I want you to know I love you, Honey,” she breathed out, pulling me into a body crushing hug, as if I were leaving her.