A Model Summerby Paulina Porizkova
Only a handful of women in the world have experienced what Paulina Porizkova has--being whisked away to model in Paris while still a teenager, reaching the pinnacle of the profession before her schoolmates had even/strong>
An incisive, beautifully written first novel by a former supermodel that explores the glamorous and gritty world she inhabited
Only a handful of women in the world have experienced what Paulina Porizkova has--being whisked away to model in Paris while still a teenager, reaching the pinnacle of the profession before her schoolmates had even graduated--and fewer still have the insight to capture it on paper.
In her first novel, Paulina tells the story of Jirina. A tall, scrawny fifteen-year-old girl from Sweden, she's much more accustomed to taunts and disdain than admiration and affection, whether from her classmates or her own family. That all changes when her only friend, Hatty, asks to practice her makeup and photography skills on Jirina. Almost before she knows it Jirina is on a plane to Paris, where she will spend the summer in a milieu entirely alien to her. Living at the home of her modeling agency's owner and constantly subjected to blunt physical assessments, catty and often cruel fellow models, and womanizing photographers--and, miraculously enough, while sometimes feeling truly beautiful--Jirina embarks on a journey beyond her wildest imaginings. Between photo shoots in Italy and Morocco and parties with models and musicians, Jirina manages to make a few friends, fall in love, and, eventually, feel the very adult pain of betrayal and heartbreak.
Told with the grace, simplicity, and accuracy that can only come from real-life experience, A Model Summer is both the debut of a notably talented novelist and an unusually well-informed look behind the scenes at a world many people fantasize about, but few really know.
Set in 1980, this smooth, predictable first novel by model, actress and children's book author Porizkova tells the story of Jirina, who arrives in Paris a beautiful 15-year-old aspiring model. A Swede of Czech background, Jirina escapes teasing classmates when she's discovered and shipped off to a well-known modeling agency. Leaving behind divorced, unsympathetic parents and a beloved little sister, Jirina moves into the apartment of agency head Jean-Claude; his depressed ex-model wife, Marina; their neglected baby daughter; and another Swedish teen model. As household tensions rise, Jirina strikes out on her own, befriending the famous model Evalinda (also from Sweden), a gay makeup artist and a rich, cultured man who worships her—all while nursing a crush on a dashing Australian photographer. Jirina slowly gains confidence; meanwhile, those around her abuse drugs, have abortions, attempt suicide, get gay-bashed and die tragically. Jirina loses her virginity, finds disappointment in love and learns to use sex to forward her career. Her drive is palpable and her voice believable, but Jirina isn't much fun (others, bien sûr, are downright mean), and you can see the plot points coming from way down the runway. Too many loose ends make for an unsatisfying finale. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Read an Excerpt
A MODEL SUMMER
By Paulina Porizkova
HyperionCopyright © 2007 Paulina Porizkova
All right reserved.
It's not as if I'm scared to fly.
Even after the divorce, my mother usually scraped together enough money to take us on a reduced-fare vacation each year. But this trip is different. My mother, her ever-changing boyfriends, and my little sister Kristynka are still snugly ensconced in our small apartment back in Lund, while I am on my way to Paris, alone.
Well, alone except for Britta, whom I met less than an hour ago here at the airport. After introducing ourselves, we immediately sized each other up. Britta, with her long golden hair, dark eyes, and soft curves is nearly my exact physical opposite. I have straight brown hair cut in a bob, pale green eyes, and am as tall and flat-chested as the guys in my ninth-grade class. That I got selected for the high-fashion world of models not only confused my classmates, but also made me suspect I was the target of some elaborate joke. I still half expect someone to pop up from behind a hidden camera and laugh in my face, like on that AmericanTV show.
"Flight 343, final boarding call," a female voice announces over the loudspeakers.
I look over at Britta. She is standing with her mom near the security gate, hugging tearful good-byes as I wait on the other side. My own mother had full confidence in my ability to make it to the airport by myself, though the trip entailed three buses, a ferry to Denmark, and an additional bus ride to the terminal. "If you can't get to the airport on your own," she said, "how are you going to model in Paris all by yourself?"
"WHAT WOULD YOU LADIES like to drink?" the stewardess asks with the kind of smile all flight attendants seem to spray on before starting their shifts. "We have a nice red Jacques Dubois, Beaujolais Village, and a crisp white Burgundy."
My jaw drops to the vicinity of my knees. This is the first time anyone has taken me for a grown-up. I nudge Britta. She may be my modeling competition, but right now, she is also my only potential friend. What better way to break the ice than to share in the bounty of a stewardess who has mistaken us for alcohol- worthy adults? But Britta looks as though she's fallen asleep.
"What?" she moans, and opens her eyes.
"Drinks," I tell her, wide-eyed, nodding toward the wine bottles held up for our inspection.
The stewardess, seeing my expression, retracts the bottle and her grin, and grabs a can of Coke. "A soft drink, perhaps?"
We each get a Coke, Britta completely unaware of our missed opportunity.
She sits up and rubs her eyes. "Sorry, I must have dozed off-I had a late night with Lars yesterday." She sighs. "He's worried I'm gonna forget about him or something, you know, being around all those gorgeous French male models and stuff. But I told him-'Look,' I said-'I'm sixteen and you're twenty; if we find somebody else, then it just wasn't meant to be, right?'"
I nod understandingly, as if I ever had a real boyfriend. Bengt hardly counts.
She pops her can open and pours the Coke into her plastic cup. "So, how do you pronounce your name, anyway? My mom and I couldn't figure it out from the spelling."
"Yee-ree-na," I tell her, mangling my actual name, Jirina, in the familiar Swedish way. The correct pronunciation, Yee-r-shi-nah, I hear only at home. My name has always been a sore spot for me. Why my parents cursed me to navigate a world of Anikas and Gunillas with a name that so clearly indicates an immigrant background (a communist background at that), was, and still is, incomprehensible to me. To top it off, there is also my last name: Radovanovicova. It's a mouthful even in my parents' native language.
"Wow, is that, like, Russian?" Britta says. I think I can detect a slight wrinkling of her nose, a common reaction to my "communist" roots.
"No, Czechoslovakian." Not that that's much better. "My parents are from there. But I was born in Sweden," I quickly clarify, "so I am Swedish."
Britta looks at me with raised eyebrows and I'm immediately afraid she doesn't believe me.
"You want to see my passport?" I offer.
But she just shrugs. "I believe you," she says, and takes a gulp of her drink. "So, how did you get discovered?"
Relieved, I babble on about my best friend, Hatty, to whom I owe this outing in the clouds. It was her obsession with fashion and makeup that led her to find an ad in the local paper for a modeling seminar, run by a "famed modeling scout to the most exclusive modeling agencies in the world," whose only requirement was a fee of twenty-five kronas. Hatty seized this as an opportunity to offer her services as a makeup artist to a bunch of model wannabes and convinced me to tag along to keep her company. The class was held in the living room of the famed scout, and we turned out to be her only clients.
Malin, an older woman with dyed-red hair set in waves, pale, papery skin, and arched, black, stenciled-on eyebrows, looked like a nineteen fifties glamour shot that had been crumpled into a ball and smoothed out. Her living room was a mess of photos, many of which were old modeling shots of herself. They consisted of hand and foot ads from ancient newspapers. She removed her brown sneakers to let us admire her famous feet and I noted with a touch of horror that her toenails were long, filed pointy, and the same dried-blood color as her fingernails. Malin fluttered her hands about her as she went through stacks of magazines, clicking her nails against glossy pages. "Did you know Mia is missing a finger? No, you wouldn't because of the way she has learned to hold her hands. Do you see this smile? How real and inviting it looks? That's because this girl is really smiling, inside. Do you understand? You have to feel the smile on the inside." For three hours, we sat on her couch, nodding politely as she shuffled through page after page of models with perfect teeth, abundant hair, and never- ending smooth legs, while she pointed out their poses and expressions with a steady torrent of words, of which I retained about a third. How to merge this information with my life remained a mystery. At the end of the so-called seminar, Malin nodded at me and announced I had definite possibilities. She didn't specify, and as Hatty and I walked home, she was convinced Malin was talking about modeling. Yeah, right. Only a few days before, my classmate Pelle had whacked me over the head with his history book to "kill the lice," though my hair was, as always, spotlessly clean.
I don't tell Britta this part. Instead I describe my meeting with Jean-Pierre-the owner of Sirens agency in Paris-which Malin had set up right before my fifteenth birthday. The meeting took place on a bench in a mall and lasted all of five minutes. Jean-Pierre complimented me on my pretty skin, told me he appreciated conservatively dressed girls, and asked me if I wanted to model in Paris over the summer. As if I'd say no. Britta finishes her Coke and orders another.
"Hey, are you gonna eat those nuts?" She eyes my pack of peanuts. I put them on her tray. I haven't the slightest hint of an appetite.
"How about you?" I say. "How did you get here?"
"Well, I was shopping at the mall with my mom and they had this contest thing. So my mom signed me up, they took a Polaroid of me, and I won the contest. The prize was meeting Jean-Pierre, to see if I would fit in his agency." She pops a handful of nuts into her mouth and chews with relish, her mouth open. My mother would slap me if I ate like that. "What did you think of Jean-Pierre?" Britta asks, munching away.
"Uh, he was nice. I didn't really hang out with him," I say and try to ignore the squelching sound of nuts and saliva.
"I think he's hot. My mom said he looks like Alain Delon."
I compare my impression of Jean-Pierre's cow eyes and overbite to the dashing French actor. "They both have dark hair," I concede. "But isn't Jean-Pierre kind of old-like thirty or something?"
"I like older men," Britta says with a wink. "My mom thinks it's because my dad died when I was a baby."
My Coke burns my throat. "I'm so sorry!" I'm suddenly no longer resentful of her loud chewing. At least I have a father, even though his presence in my life is as intangible as the Holy Ghost.
"It's okay," she says and pats my arm. "I don't remember him at all."
She shakes the last morsel into her mouth and pulls out her Walkman. It's the new model, bright yellow and waterproof. If I had the money for one, I'd definitely get the smaller metal one.
Britta puts her headphones on, shutting me out. I take my book out of my backpack: Kafka's The Castle. My father's only comment about my summer plans was to voice his fear that my IQ would shrink to my bra size. He handed me the paperback before I left, making me swear I'd write a twenty-page book report to hand him upon my return. The cover of my book shows an ominous silhouette of a castle set against a deep red background. I open it, but after the first paragraph, I space out. My hopes and anxieties are as high as my current altitude. I lean my head against the window, which is warmed by the high sun and vibrates like a purring cat. I'm on my way to Paris! Me, the girl with an unpronounceable name, second-hand clothes, and a smile that reveals wide-spaced front teeth. When Hatty informed everyone at our school of my summer plans, it was greeted with the same disbelief as if she had just announced I was a secret love child of King Carl Gustaf. I stood at my locker where someone had scribbled in black magic marker, "Hot chick NO, hot chicken YES," a few months back. Despite my vigorous attempts to remove it, it remained imbedded in the orange paint; a clear, if somewhat faded statement of who I was. But now, I was someone different. I was someone to be envied. I straightened my back for the first time in nine years, and felt the unaccustomed warmth of self-confidence. That is, until Kristel slammed her locker next to me and, with a toss of her hair in my direction, exclaimed, "Well, if that can be a model, then even Fatty Hatty stands a chance."
Hatty, to whom I owe this outing in the clouds. Of course, her name is not really Fatty, or Hatty for that matter. Her Egyptian mother named her after Queen Hatshepsut, which forever condemns Hatty to people "sneezing" her full name and shouting, "bless you!" I must admit she's a bit on the pudgy side, although she has the most beautiful, black, almond-shaped eyes. We bonded immediately on our first day of school, since I had the dubious honor of bearing the other unpronounceable name and questionable background.
The engines of the plane suddenly switch from an even purr to a heavy rumble. My ears pop. I know this signals a landing and my stomach twists into knots. With a sweaty palm, I shake Britta.
"Wake up, we are about to land."
She opens her eyes and, for a fleeting moment, I think I detect in them a hint of panic mirroring my own. She removes her headphones and leans over my lap to look out the window. We are floating through dark rain clouds. Drops of water streak the window. The noise intensifies and I yawn to unclog my ears. "Are you scared?" I shout to Britta, who has resumed her position.
"Gosh no, what is there to be scared of?"
BRITTA HAS A NICE, sleek suitcase with polished metal locks, but it hits the luggage carousel at the very end along with my lumpy orange duffel. So much for my theory that nice luggage travels faster.
We get in line for a taxi and inhale French air, which seems mostly composed of cigarette smoke and diesel fumes. It's a little past noon and the flat, leaden sky threatens rain. My stomach lurches uncomfortably. At this point I'm not sure if it's due to hunger or nerves.
By the time we get into a taxi, sharp raindrops tap the windshield. The car also smells of cigarettes, but if I roll the window down I get wet. Windows up- I can't breathe. So I alternate between the two as I watch Paris approach.
At first, the city is an indistinct mass on the horizon. Soon, we leave the billboard-littered plains behind and enter upon avenues lined with trees and the elegant, haughty buildings of the city. Magazine stands grow from cement like pointy green mushrooms. A red blur of a woman walks her poodle. In outdoor cafés customers peruse newspapers under burgundy awnings. A man with a beret huddles against a wall, trying to light a cigarette. A stone wall drips with blooming lilacs. Short women in perfect shoes clutch thin baguettes under their arms. Eventually, the avenues become small twisted lanes overflowing with boutiques, gourmet shops, and bakeries.
Our taxi comes to a stop and we get out in front of a large green door. It leads into a courtyard, set with cobblestones, where a brass plaque hangs on the smoky glass doors of a carriage house. The engraved letters, darkened by time, announce SIRENS.
I wonder if anyone would notice if I puked into the nearby potted palm. I fall back a little, so Britta walks in first. The people who gather around us in the square white room are at first indistinct, but then I recognize Jean-Pierre. True, his eyes are large and rich brown, shaded by lashes any woman would kill for, but Alain Delon he's not. I smile at everyone with my lips closed, so as to not reveal my teeth, though pretending I'm mute doesn't seem a viable long-term option.
A pretty brunette with a pug nose eyes me suspiciously; a blond woman with very short hair and an Asian guy both wave hello. "Bienvenues" and "Bonjours" are exchanged.
My stomachache has intensified; I am in immediate need of a bathroom. It's located behind an L-shaped white Formica desk with four chairs. From within, I overhear the smatter of rapid-fire French and realize that if I hear them, they certainly hear me. I flush obsessively, unsure of which is worse, the explosive sound of troubled intestines or the repeated rumble of someone trying to cover it.
When I finally exit-closing the door firmly behind so no offensive odor escapes-Britta is being shown around the office. In truth, there is not much to see. The desk takes up most of the room and the white walls are lined with black-and-white checkered posters of passport-size heads, which on closer inspection don't bear much resemblance to actual passport pictures, since every person exhibited is too gorgeous for real life. I glimpse a few faces familiar from magazines and Hatty's sermons: Evalinda, the blond Swedish goddess; redheaded Mia who, according to Malin, is missing a finger.
We are shown the intricacies of the desk, where the three people I've just met, "bookers," sit all day, taking and making phone calls, booking jobs. When they get a call for a girl, they fish around for her chart from a deep round bin set in the tabletop, a sort of Rolodex set on its side. The charts have a month's calendar printed on them with cryptic words scribbled in ink or pencil across the days: Confirmed, On Hold, Second Hold, Booked Out.
Our charts are pulled out, blank and clean.
But my name is there!
All conversation is conducted in English, which is a relief. I, like everyone else, have had English classes from third grade on, and am by now perfectly comfortable with the language. My French, started in grade six, is still on par with a three-year-old's. I understand the small exclamations that litter the booker's English, the "ah bon's," the "ça va's," and the "comprends," but unless they ask me for a yellow pencil that just so happens to be on the table, I will be out of my depth.
The pug-nosed brunette introduces herself as Anne, and pulls out a tape measure.
"We must now see your sizes, so we can write them on the chart and also on your composites," she says.
I have no idea what a composite is, but there is no time to ask.
Anne winds the red-and-white strip around Britta's chest, waist, and hips with a slight frown. "Dis donc," she says. "You are a little fat. Have you gained some weight since Jean-Pierre saw you last?"
I'm shocked. Britta has a perfect hourglass body.
Britta blushes. "My mom hasn't had the time to cook lately, so I've been eating a lot of pizza."
Jean-Pierre sidles over to her and puts an arm over her shoulders. "The pizza no more. Tu comprends? Only the healthy French food now and you will be fine."
Britta laughs with obvious relief. Her measurements, thirty-six, twenty-five, thirty-five, are noted, as is her height, five-eight; hair color, blond; and eye color, brown. This does not in any way do her justice. Why not describe her hair as gold with hints of champagne, and her eyes as chocolate?
Excerpted from A MODEL SUMMER by Paulina Porizkova Copyright © 2007 by Paulina Porizkova. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Paulina Porizkova is a former political refugee, an accidental model and an occasional actress. She was chosen twice by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world, in 1990 and 1992. American Photo magazine in its premiere issue declared her to be the model of the 1980s. She continues to do an occasional modeling job, including her recent television advertisements for Fresh Direct.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I couldn't put this book down. It was smart, gritty and uncomfortably honest. Cheers to Porizkova for an incredible debut novel.
If you like silly love stories then you'll enjoy this.
Captivating and interesting... worth every penny
A friend gave this book to me an i was skeptical about it but i started to read and got swept in i love the reality and all of the realiness of it it was breath takeing i cryed multiple times.
I found this book to be very detailed and it did keep my interest all the way up to the ending... however, once i reached the ending i was pretty disappointed. The story just comes to a complete hault & it's done. I think it's worthy of being a beach read.
I loved this book, I couldn't put it down, the main character is presented very realistically, she's very endearing even when she makes me mistake, and as a matter of fact, it is when she does make mistakes is what makes you root for her even more.
Author/supermodel Paulina Porizkova has beautifully written an engaging tale about a 15-year-old girl's whirlwind summer spent modeling in Europe. The story begins as Jirina is discovered by a Paris modeling agency. Growing up quietly in a troubled home, she is a naive, insecure girl when she enters the glamorous, yet cruel world of modeling. She succumbs to the drug and alcohol infested lifestyle, and endures humiliation, criticism and hostility as she struggles to survive on her own in Paris. A romance with a famous photographer leaves her pregnant. This fascinating story ends with a true sense of hope. Ms. Porizkova is a brilliant storyteller who completely captivated me with her cast of intriguing characters. Her candid depiction of the modeling world was riveting. As entertaining as this story was, it did include important lessons about life, friendship and what it means to accept oneself. In addition, it demonstrated a valuable message about never giving up. I absolutely loved this compelling story of survival and hope and I highly recommend it!
I really enjoyed this book. I definitely recommend this book for individuals who appreciate and / or have an interest in the modeling / fashion industry. I honestly haven't read any other book like it. Intriguing. Although I liked the ending, it leaves me hungry for a continue of the story or for another book like this one.
I loved the book, I could never put it down it was addicting. I was always imaging it because it was so detailed. I wish there was a second bok to it because the ending was very flat compared to the rest of it. It had alot of drama and the characters played each part of the book.
''A Model Summer'' is one of my favorite books and always will be , it was so touching and plus dramatic because of all the stuff Jirina went through as a young teen . Also to be truthful , i was crying throughout the whole book . The book also tells the secrets the Model Industry hides , and trust me , things are not all perfect in the model world .
I have to be honest, i began reading this book with a grain of salt, however, paulina has written a touching tale of how a child forced to grow up rapidly in the demanding world of modeling. The modeling world is so glamourized, we forget its true darkness. One has to wonder if she faced some of the same trials as jirina... The story brought me to tears and is quite endearing. Paulina's writing flows smoothly from one page to the next... I cannot wait to see what she will write next.
This book takes place in the world of the European fashion industry, but it's really about the emotional journey of a young girl forced to become an adult over a summer. I really sympathized with Jirina--she's so vulnerable and confused. She wants so badly to be accepted by her parents, her friends, and the modeling industry, and all of those influences conflict and contrast in interesting ways that add layers and depth to the writing. I won't give away the ending, but I'm hoping for a sequel...I want to know what happens to Jirina next!
supermodel's life are? Read this book... Besides its a good story about a teenager developing to a young woman. Its one of the most fascinating books i ever read. Write another book Paulina!!!
There are no words to portray how amazing and well written this novel is. It made me laugh and cry, and gave me goosebumps. I wish Paulina Porizkova would write another book. She is very talented!
Ever since Paulina was a model, I always admired her for her grace and beauty. I was even more delighted to find out she wrote a novel about the modeling world. I was always so curious about it. I always assumed that it was always so glamourous and even easy, but I was wrong! It's tough and competitive world out there and it can be cold and lonely. I could not put this book down! The characters are so realistic and you could feel for them. The main character has a big heart but in the midst of her modeling career, she forgets who she really is until she meets a special friend named Hugo who reminds her how good of a person she really is. It is funny how we always want something we can't have and the wonderful things we have we take for granted. A good reminder to us all!
I've always dreamed of becoming a model but unfortunately missed the mark by being too short. After reading this book, I feel like maybe it was for the better. What a story! The things those girls are subjected to on a daily basis are astounding. I read way past my bedtime, but couldn't put it down.
Wow. If you have a teenage daughter, or know a teen who thinks the world of professional modeling is glamorous and fabulous, get her this novel (warning--there is some mature content, so you may want to read the book first or make sure she can handle the content). The author knows of what she writes, as a former model herself, and she deftly captures the experiences of a teenage girl whisked from her humble world into the glamorous, over the top environment of the beauty business. This is an industry that eats young girls alive, and the intelligent, inexperienced narrator is put to the test by people who attack her self-esteem and treat her horribly. Thank goodness, not all of her experiences are bad, and the reader goes along for the ride as Jirina learns to be self-reliant and navigate this decidedly adult world. Porizkova captures the voice of an intelligent--but not as mature as she'd like to think she is (like most teenagers!) young woman who gets more than she bargained for out a whirlwind three months away from home.
Not only was this book entertaining it gives you a great look inside the curropted modeling world. I recommend this book to everyone.
i admit, i'm fascinated by the fashion/modeling industry. and i've never read a book that goes so deeply inside the life of a model, without resorting to the salacious, gossipy expose-style writing that most former models use. it's incredible to think what young teenage girls are put through in the industry, and paulina lays it all out there, no holds barred. it's not apologetic, and it doesn't make it seem all glamourous. loved it.
What a fun, entertaining book! To be led inside the world of super-modeling by a knowing eye and gifted storyteller, was delicious fun. I loved the characters in the book and enjoyed watching them develop. It was definitely a vicarious thrill!