Secrets of the Model Dormby Amanda Kerlin, Phil Oh
Welcome to the model dorm, where you're not mad that your roommate, Christiane, is hooking up with a Brazilian male model on your bunk, but that she's wearing your Dior heels while doing it; where the alcoholic Kylie leaves stains from her Metamucil martinis on the carpet; and where you help Svetlana, the Ukrainian cokehead, clean up after her very public nosebleed. You're all beautiful girls, dropped in the middle of the most exciting city in the world, crammed together in a ten-by-twelve bedroom, and you've made the dorm your home -- for better or for worse.
Eighteen-year-old Heather Johnston knows she has been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when she is signed by a premiere New York modeling agency. She leaves her small Virginia hometown dreaming of Vogue spreads and a luxurious loft with a glorious view. Arriving in Manhattan, she is instead given the key to a one-bedroom apartment furnished with bunk beds and IKEA floor samples. Her roommates are girls who are new to modeling, new to the country, or who just aren't making enough money to pay rent anywhere else. Despite their humble quarters, they form an unlikely family. By day they shuttle between castings and shoots. At night they really come to life in the VIP rooms of New York's hottest clubs.
While this world is fast-paced and fun, Heather questions whether modeling is the fairy-tale she imagined it to be. When she gets a part-time job at a prestigious gallery and discovers a passion for art, she starts to reconsider her future. Is she ready to say good-bye to her dreams of wealth and celebrity and follow a different path?
Fun, campy, and ultimately full of heart, Secrets of the Model Dorm takes you behind the scenes of the world's most glamorous industry and exposes all its dirty little secrets: backseat blow jobs, nasty drug habits, thousand-dollar bottles of champagne, wealthy club managers from France, backstabbing roommates, haute couture, and all.
"A breezy, beach-ready read that reveals what it's really like to be piss poor, underworked, and gorgeous."
The Village Voice
- Atria Books
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Read an Excerpt
Tom Ford yipped from inside the bedroom, his tiny claws scratching against the door. His whining was the last thing I wanted to hear after a long day of castings.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Kylie said, sloshing around a half-drunk martini.
"Why?" I asked, turning the handle of the bedroom door. Tom Ford bolted from the room, his little legs carrying him as fast as they could. I immediately regretted not heeding her advice: My sixteen-year-old roommate's long, thin model legs were splayed out to each side of her bed. On top of her was a man, pumping away and shouting in a South American accent. Our poor dog, Tom Ford, had been trapped in the bedroom terrified by their cries of pleasure; he'd been desperate to get out.
The metal frame bunk bed creaked so loudly that they didn't hear me come in. I stood in the doorway, dumbstruck. Not because I'd walked in on my sixteen-year-old roommate getting drilled by her Latin lover. That in and of itself wasn't so shocking. What did catch my attention was the fact that she was entirely naked except for the pair of Dior heels she had strapped to her feet. My Dior heels. The guy quickened his pace, and the heels started banging against the bottom of the top bunk. Shit, that can't be good for the shoes. I debated trying to sneak them off without her noticing, but decided that after her fun I'd just give her a little talk about how we ask before we borrow people's things.
I closed the door and left them to finish their business.
"I told you not to do that," Kylie said, taking a sip of her drink.
On the couch, Lucia was crying again. All six-foot-one of her was laid across the cushions, her face buried in a throw pillow. She peeked her tear-soaked face at me, reached mournfully to the coffee table, and pulled another Kleenex from the box. Tom Ford licked her hand, trying to comfort her, to no avail. After blowing her delicate reddened nose into it, Lucia threw the Kleenex onto the pyramid of other used tissues. She was quiet for about a second, then her skinny body started shaking again as the sobs came. Kylie, who was sitting in pajamas on the chair next to her, looked annoyed. Lucia's crying was distracting her from the television just as her favorite character was getting voted off the Survivor
"Shut up, Lucia. . . . Shut up! And watch it you're getting makeup all over the couch," the redheaded Kylie said in a slurred Australian accent in between chugs of her drink.
I should have asked the Slovak what's wrong, but I probably
already knew the answer she was depressed, so pretty much anything was liable to send her waterworks spurting.
Usually either: a) she was missing her home, family, and cows in Slovakia, b) she missed her photographer ex-boyfriend who had dumped her for a younger model, c) her older married man had canceled a hotel date to spend time with his wife, or d) some interesting combo of the previous three.
Kylie drained her martini glass and hiccuped a bit. She stood up, all wobbly from vodka, and took her empty glass into the kitchen for a refill. She measured out two spoonfuls of Metamucil Orange that she then mixed with straight, chilled vodka to make her specialty the Metamucil martini. It was a sad fact that Metamucil and vodka were about the only things we had in the kitchen.
I sat down on the armrest, next to the sniffling Slovak, and looked suspiciously at the bedroom door. A couple of the girl's banshee wails crept out, and I feared for the safety of my Diors.
Lucia started to pull herself up a bit, having gotten over whatever was bothering her. Her lip still quivered as she looked in her compact mirror and tried to clean up the mess her tears had made. She was wearing a very revealing Dolce & Gabbana dress her married boyfriend had bought her it looked like she had been on her way out before falling prey to a case of the weeps.
"Heath Ledger supposed to be at Marquee tonight, Svetlana said," Lucia told me as she applied damage control to her face. "Lucia like Heath."
"Isn't he married, too?"
She didn't seem to hear me.
Soon Lucia was ready to go again. She stood up, smoothed her dress, and looked at herself in the mirror on the wall.
"How's my makeup?"
"Don't worry, you look beautiful, Lucia," I said.
"Really," I answered. She smiled at me. And I wasn't lying she was beautiful. I guess we all were, or at least were considered interesting-looking enough to be offered New York modeling contracts based on nothing but a dream, our complexion, and slender bodies.
"I will get Heath's number," she said as she snatched her fake Prada bag and walked defiantly out the door for the club, where she would never meet any A-list celebs, but instead another sea of desperate investment bankers with too much money, too much cocaine, and too little sex in their lives.
Just as soon as Lucia left the apartment, Kylie shot past on the way to the bathroom she'd had one too many sips of her Metamucil martini. Slamming the door shut, she began puking a little more violently than usual. I sighed, took off my flats, walked over to the bathroom door, and knocked.
"Are you all right, Kylie?" I asked through the door.
"Uh-oh," I heard her say as soon as she stopped heaving.
"What?" I asked.
"Who the hell left their bloody Manolos next to the toilet?" she said.
At this the man emerged from our bedroom, half-dressed, his dark skin glistening with a postcoital aura. I recognized him from the party circuit: The latest victim of Christiane's boundless libido was a Brazilian male model. Inside the bathroom Kylie started barfing again. The Brazilian walked to the door and pointed at it with a worried look on his face.
"Will she be long?"
Now all this may seem strange, but it was utterly routine to me at this point. You see, I had lived in the model dorm for almost six months by the time Lucia went on her wild-goose chase for Heath Ledger, Kylie puked on the $700 heels Svetlana got from one of her Russian mafia boyfriends, and the hot Brazilian came out of our bedroom, oblivious to the fact that he'd just had incredibly loud sex with a sixteen-year-old. It all came with the territory.
Just arrived from Eastern European countries with names I sometimes couldn't even pronounce, from cow towns in the Midwest, from the rough favelas of Rio, we were all aspiring models, landing in the dorm with visions of Vogue spreads and Fashion Week runways dancing in our heads.
The model dorm was where the Agency stuck the new girls. Girls who were new to modeling, new to the country, or who just weren't making enough money to live anywhere else. For $2,000 a month we had the privilege of sharing a bedroom with three, four, or even five other girls in bunk beds in our "very own" one-bedroom apartment in the lifeless Financial District, in far downtown Manhattan. Since none of us were regularly landing well-paying modeling jobs, we couldn't afford to pay rent on our own, so the Agency charged it to our accounts, which meant that any money we earned would go directly back to our Agency before we even had a chance to spend a nickel of it. The money covered the room, no board, a small weekly stipend, and naturally unlimited access to the gym several floors below.
We were merely girls, the oldest of us only twenty-two, all of a sudden leading grown-up lives with no supervision save for the weekly measurements at the Agency. We weren't going to college, but this was our own university instead of classes on Plato or
biochemistry, we had to learn how to walk properly and survive on two calories a day. We were dropped in the middle of the most exciting city in the world, crammed together in a ten-by-twelve-foot bedroom. We made the model dorm our home. This book is the story of that dorm: high treachery, backseat blowjobs, cocaine diets, illicit pregnancies, $1,000 bottles of champagne, wealthy club managers from France, tears, couture fashion, and all.
Like most young girls, I occasionally fantasized about strutting down the runway, a supermodel, next to Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, or Christy Turlington. I'd flip through the pages of my mother's fashion magazines, entranced by the beautiful women in their beautiful clothes, a glossy world that seemed to be another planet altogether. But I never thought that a modeling career was in my cards, especially after beginning that sadistic social experience known as junior high. As a result of an early growth spurt, I towered awkwardly over my classmates, teetering down the school's hallways, not quite in control of my limbs. The other kids teased me constantly especially the popular girls. My school day basically became an exercise in trying to keep as under the radar as I could, which wasn't easy, considering that my lanky body made me instantly recognizable in a crowd. It also didn't help with the boys. It seemed like I was a foot taller than them I'll leave it to you to imagine how we looked when slow-dancing at school functions.
Then, over the summer between eighth grade and high school, something happened. It was like my body told the rest of me to hurry up already, and things filled out, my knees were no longer quite so knobby, my face seemed to take shape gracefully, and I was ushered into the early stages of womanhood. I was still taller than everybody else, but my first day in high school was a revelation. Boys started staring at me as I passed in the hallways. At first I thought maybe there was something really wrong with me, but I realized quickly that their gawking was a positive thing. The girls were still mean, but now it was because their boyfriends were paying attention to me. It was the good kind of attention.
One day at the beach, the summer after my freshman year, I noticed a man with a camera gazing intently at me. My friends teased me about it, and I blushed red. All of a sudden, they stood up and ran into the surf, laughing shrilly and leaving me alone. I looked through my bangs and saw the man walking toward me. I didn't know whether to run off too, but before I could decide, he was beside me.
"Hi, I'm Greg." He put out his hand, wearing a disarming smile that put me at ease. "I'm a professional photographer. Have you ever thought about being a model?"
Not seriously. But the seed was planted, and soon that was all I was thinking about.
Greg put me in contact with a local agency, and I started doing small-time work, shoots for local department store catalogs, fashion shows at local malls. I started getting used to the nuances and quirks of the industry, and smelled the bigger, glamorous world out there, much more exciting than Saturday-morning trips past the food court on makeshift runways. New York was never far from my mind.
Now that I was a model, almost overnight I went from serving as the butt of my classmates' jokes to being the girl everyone said was pretty and stuck up. Everyone except my parents, that is. Not that they thought I was ugly or anything far from it it's just that they didn't want me to get carried away by this dream. They wanted me to be more than just a pretty face, more than just arm candy to some ex-PGA player who had retired to our suburban Virginia town and ran a series of flashy car dealerships off the interstate.
My parents pictured me shuttling off to a well-respected college when I graduated high school, my transcript stocked with A.P. classes and my spirit shot through with a burning passion for the courses in English literature or political science I'd be taking I can smell the ivy now, just thinking about it. Because for them, that was it college straight off or a life scooping ice cream at the Dairy Queen, living in a trailer with three kids from two different fathers (one of whom was in jail), scratching lottery tickets all day in hopes of winning it big.
Well, I didn't even finish high school. I had a different idea. I was going to be a model.
Copyright 2007 by Model Dorm Productions LLC
Meet the Author
Amanda Kerlin first signed to a top international modeling agency at the age of fourteen, and spent most of her teenage years in Paris, Milan, Cape Town, and New York. She has appeared in magazines such as Elle, Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Marie Claire; been featured in advertisements for Abercrombie&Fitch and Naturalizer Shoes; and modeled for John Galliano and DKNY. She is now an art history major and lives with non-model roommates in Manhattan.
Phil Oh graduated from New York University with a degree in history. He now runs a global street fashion website called Street Peeper, occasionally DJs, and spends his time traveling to far-off lands. He met Amanda when he was a guest in the model dorm and now resides in Brooklyn.
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Walks back to my dorm.
"Oh, I was, too. Wanna walk with me?" He offers.
I expected so much more from this novel. I believe it had really good potential but instead of filling the reader with imagery and making them feel like a part of this novel it was just really blunt and predicatable.