Stepping in Someone Else's Shoes

February 19, 2012
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My toes ached. I stretched my smooth, perfectly toned legs out over the fraying, upholstered edge of the couch. They went on for miles, people informed me.

At 15, I was a supermodel, the youngest the world had ever seen. I had been on the covers of magazines; Teen Vogue etc. since I was ten, when I did my first modeling job; posing for the cover of the American Girl magazine. I had been told I was a natural, I was told to hire a modeling coach… We had not had much in the means of money then, so we did not hire anyone, simply buying cheap drugstore cameras from Rite Aid once a week, so that I could get used to posing without smiling, smiling, and having a good presence in front of the camera.

There were only a couple of things I loved more than modeling; they were my family, and ballet. I loved my strong, loud, authoritized, mum, my quiet, humble, loving, father, and my crazy younger brother, always running around with a bat or a ball or some other sports equipment. Ballet. That was my other love. I had tried it first when I was 3. That was when we had had some money, but that money was lost when our home, our tiny cottage burnt down and we lost all our possessions, moving out of St. Albans, into the city, London, living in a dingy, dank, cramped apartment, miserable, and out of place, we were not the city type of family. We had not any more money for me to attend ballet classes, so I danced on my own, everywhere, using the benches in the tube as a ballet bar, or attempting pirouettes around my mother in our tiny kitchen.

As one would imagine I was extraordinary pleased, when on my fifth Christmas, I found a small box wrapped in green paper with red poinsettias under our tree addressed: To: Ivi, Love: Father Christmas. It had been the only present left under the tree, after Carter and I had opened the few presents we had from Mum and Dad, mostly socks and little things, we were happy, but then there was one more box. I had carefully torn a small piece off the corner of the present. I completely tore off the rest of the paper, and the large red bow that lay on top and under the wrapping was a small, flat, blank, white box. I lifted the cover and inside, was a pair of pink satin ballet slippers. I shrieked with joy. I put them on immediately, ripping off my ratty bunny slippers, and worn but warm socks, twirling around the kitchen and my Mum, Dad, and Carter like there was no tomorrow. I had ballet slippers. I was unstoppable now. All I could think about was dancing. There in our terrible little home, was a moment of pure happiness that made my world seem just a little bit brighter, in those tiny dark rooms of our apartment.
Finally we’d had enough. We were going to have to move to keep up our existence. Or we would have simply perished in that little hell hole. We took the money we had made off of selling the property of the cottage (it was of great value as it was on the lake), and bought 3 plane tickets to America. My Dad stayed in London in the apartment, for a couple more years, as he had finally found good work in the city. My Mum, Carter, and I however started out on what seemed to be the greatest journey of our lives. We moved here when I was ten and my brother was eight. I was extremely excited, everything was new to me. We had our savings, and my Mum found work in our elementary school as a substitute teacher, the income was better than nothing, but not enough to support us. Of course, we had some money coming from London from my father, but he was also supporting himself, and saving money so that we could buy a bigger house when he came from over the pond. My Mum eventually gave into my pleading and signed me up for a ballet class, right down the road from my school; it was called Doreen’s Dance Studio. I was in the beginner’s class as I had not been in a formal dance class since I was four.

The dancing was easy. I absolutely loved every minute though.  My instructor, a girl named Julie, told Mum that I needed to be challenged, and put into a higher class. Mum said that that could be arranged if I really wanted to be in that class. Ballet was my point of living at that time; I absolutely fell in love with dance. In order to move me up though, we needed money. Mummy said that if I could make one hundred dollars (she wanted to teach me the values of saving money), I asked other girls my age what they did for money, my friend Anna had an allowance; I tried this idea out on Mum. “Can I have an allowance for doing my chores?” The reply was no. I already did my chores, they were my own responsibility and I was not about to get payment for them. I looked through magazines at the school library, an article called “Ideas for Earning Money”. I started making progress. I made and sold “friendship bracelets” as they were called, little string creations, on the corner of my street, for fifty cents apiece. I made a whole five dollars this way. I was very excited. I ran into our house and showed Mum. I had begun making progress.

We took a trip into New York City, around Christmastime, to go skating on Rockefeller center, Mum had seen it in a magazine, and was absolutely enthralled with the idea. Carter and I were excited too. We took a train in from New Haven, CT, to Grand Central Station in the city. We had our own skates. It had been popular in London. We finally had a little extra money that was making this trip possible. The skating was wonderful. I loved every minute of it, it was a dance too. As we were walking out of the area, I saw a booth. Covered in red and white paper and shiny silver stars it read: “Model auditions, today, 10-4, Macy’s, Salary: 300$”. We had been on our way to a little café. But I stopped dead, and my mouth dropped open. Three hundred dollars! That was three times as much as I needed! I could buy Carted and Mum nice gifts, and send one to Dad too. I begged and begged and finally Mum gave in.

I walked to the door, and all of a sudden everything was bright, and slightly scary. Cameras were flashing as other girls posed with dolls, American Girl Dolls I believe they were called. They were on every girl’s Christmas list in my class. The audition was for the magazine, The American Girl Magazine. I walked in, sat down, and watched the other girls pose, and smile cheerily. I was nervous. I did not know how to do anything well accept dance. It was what I loved. It seemed as though girls were loving being in front of the camera. I thought about it. If I could make the camera loved me as much as I loved dance, then I would maybe be able to get it.
I walked in and sat absolutely still on the big red chair they had placed in the middle of the floor. I waited for them to speak. “Here’s a doll,” they told me, she was light skinned with a fair complexion, light red hair, lots of freckles, and dark blue eyes. I instantly loved her. I took her with a shine in my eyes. I forgot about the cameras, I forgot about the lights, and I forgot about wanting to win the audition. I did what I would have done with her if I had just received her on Christmas morning from Mum and Dad. I twirled in front of the cameras with the doll in my arms. I leaped around the room, feeling exuberant, happier than ever before dancing, and feeling alive. That was only the beginning.

I got the job, the director of the shoot said the joy in my eyes was all she needed to perfect the cover. I earned the money, and I began taking more dance classes, my happiness had no extent, I could not imagine being happier. I excelled in dance, and I modeled on the side, to earn the money I needed to push myself further into dance. I started pointe when I was thirteen, I ate, slept, and breathed dance. My modeling career was advancing as well. I posed in shoots for Teen Vogue, and I knew I wanted to keep going. Other girls had advised me that directors and employers would inform me that I was fat, and ugly, and I needed a nose job, etc. I had never cared before, and I would never care in the future, if they wanted to fire me, fine. I had dancing, and a wonderful family supporting me. I kept going, and here I was now, doing a shoot for Seventeen, the “extravaganza” issue. This included, the stiff plastic pointe shoes with heels attached, that I have on. The closet director had thought I would be comfortable in these because of my pointe. She was wrong. My feet were terrifying to look at at the moment. I nudged them off my heel. Band-Aids were going to be necessary. I sighed. Tonight I had a four hour pointe practice. Generally I would be absolutely thrilled about this, but I would have to dance barefoot or in slippers. Oh well, I would dance through it I always did, expressing emotions, passion, love, glory, hate, pain, sadness, and depression through my favorite thing in the world.

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