Excerpt from The BlackBerry Diet:
I was seventeen when I left home for Paris.
Two weeks after I’d finished high school and one year after my stepfather ran off with our babysitter.
On June 7th 1976 I arrived at the bottom of the stairs that led to Christa’s Modeling Agency.
Covers from Elle, Marie Claire, and Vogue went up the walls and familiar faces stared down at me and seemed to say:
We’re much more beautiful than you’ll ever be – go home.
Home was not an option. I was done with all that; My childhood, school and my wild mother who was indulging her new-found sexual freedom by taking a different lover for each day of the week.
All done. Even if these other models were prettier and skinnier and sexier, I’d been invited by Johnny Casablancas, the world’s hottest model agent, to meet with his partner Christa and try out for the couture shows in July.
There was no way was I going back. Modeling was a stepping stone to my dream career as a fashion designer. Through modeling I’d meet famous designers, wear amazing clothes and make enough money to go to art college.
I hesitated and someone tapped my back.
Allez. Allez. Go, go,
I’m Katja from Amsterdam, I’m here to see Christa.
Ah oui, I’m Christa, the woman said.
I followed her upstairs and she left me behind in a small reception room.
Purple psychedelic letters that spelled Christa were all over the walls and a patent white sofa was jammed between the wall and a door. Pictures of Pat Cleveland, Linda Morand, Kim Alexis and other familiar faces surrounded me. The stale smell of Gauloise cigarettes and strong black coffee made me nauseous and again I felt the urge to leave. Maybe I should enroll at the Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam.
Behind a glass door was the bookings room and I could see four bookers working the phones from a series of desks crowded with photos, calendars and charts. They were busy talking to clients. They pulled model work sheets from a central shelf and checked available dates for each girl. On the other side of the room three bored-looking models leaned against a windowsill. One of them, she looked familiar, must’ve cracked a joke and the other two laughed. Then she turned and stared at me like she’d just spotted the ugliest creature in the universe. To my horror she moved towards me. She pressed her face against the glass door and pushed it open with her forehead. This girl was crazy and she scared me.
Hallo, I said.
My voice shook.
I’m Katja from Amsterdam. Christa told me to wait here.
Then I knew. She was Janice Dickinson – the hottest model in Paris. She was the one, the badass American, on all those covers in the stairway.
Janice grabbed my clammy hand and dragged me into the office. The bookers and the other models stared at me but no one said a word. Even the phones seemed to stop ringing.
Janice turned around and put her face against mine.
I wondered if she was going to kiss me but instead she sniffed the top of my head, my hair, my face, my shoulders, around my back, to my breasts and down every inch of my body. She stopped at my crotch like a dog and made a disgusted face. Everyone laughed. I wanted to send her flying through the glass.
But I just stood like a stupid grinning giraffe.
Honey, she announced. You’ve got what it takes! Welcome to Paris, the capitol of lonely horny models.
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