Smile for the Camera: A Memoir

Smile for the Camera: A Memoir

by Kelle James

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Kelle James ran away from an abusive home at the age of fifteen to the best place she could think of. New York City. She was going to be a model, rich, famous, and she was going to find people who treated her right. She had no idea what was in store for her and within three days she was homeless and broke. What follows is her exceptional story of trying to make it on her own with nothing to her name and no one to trust. She endures a string of people, mostly men, who take advantage of her youth and beauty, many disappointments and rejections, and the most famous murder trial of the 1970s. This is the story of a girl losing herself before finding her way in the city that never sleeps.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442406254
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 11/02/2010
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Kelle James was a successful model. Her memoir is her first book.

Read an Excerpt

He’s in my room. I know because I can smell his cigarette breath. I pull my leg under the covers and pretend that I’m asleep. Whenever I do that, I always make sure I move around a little. My brother Bob taught me that. He says sleeping people roll around, fakers don’t. I always listen to Bob. He’s my big brother.

I hear the whir and click of my fan as it moves from side to side on my nightstand. Every time it passes by, it pushes my father’s air at me. I can feel him on my skin. I’m glad my windows are open.

I open my eyes just a tiny bit. I peek out. I see him. He’s standing really close to my bed. A streetlamp shines behind him, through my window. The light flares around his dark form like a halo. He’s got his gun in his hand.

I can’t stand that gun.

I realize that I haven’t moved in a while, so I make a little moaning noise and drop my arm over the edge of the mattress. My brother will be impressed when I tell him what I’ve done.

While I lie there and wait till it’s time to move again, I try to imagine I’m surrounded by a powerful force field. If I do it right, it will keep bad things from getting to me. It’s hard for me to do, though. I’m not as good at it as Bob is. Anytime I tell him that, he says, “Keep working on it.”

Lately I’ve had lots of chances to practice.

I’m pretty sure I’ve waited long enough. I think it’s safe to move again. I stretch my arm down over the side of my bed and tuck my hand between the mattress and the box spring. I curl my fingers around the short metal rod I hid there. I found it with my brothers’ car stuff. It was the perfect size, so I cleaned it up and put it there, just in case.

Maybe I’m moving too much. I decide that I can’t move again for at least five minutes. I press my face into the mattress. I lie really still.

My father starts making little hiccup sounds with his throat.

He’s crying.

I’ve never heard him cry before.

The gun thing I’m used to. He does that for attention. But the crying has me worried.

I wish I could see his face, but it hasn’t been five minutes yet. I wonder, When it comes to armed and crying fathers, what’s better, steel rods or force fields? I go with the force field, the kind that sends bullets back where they came from. The harder I try, the louder my heart thumps. The sound fills my ears. I feel like I’m at the bottom of a really deep pool. My ears hurt, but I don’t stop. I’m not a quitter.

I look out from under my hair.

My father’s gone.

I roll over and stare up at the ceiling. I can’t do this anymore. I have to get away. I just need to figure out how.

© 2010 Kelle James

Customer Reviews

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Smile for the Camera 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
verka6811 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kelle James was 16 ¿ and looked like 13 ¿ when she waved goodbye to her abusive father and set off for New York City. Hoping to make it as model, she set up shop at the iconic Barbizon Hotel for Women. One go see with Ford Models later, she was told that she was too short and would never model in ¿this city¿.Kelle did manage to get signed with My Fair Lady modeling agency, but actual jobs were slow to materialize. Kelle and fellow aspiring model Rayna bonded over their shared dreams, and equally shared homelessness, with Rayna looking out for her more innocent friend. Together, they endured living on $3 a day in a storage room of the modeling agency, crashing at abandoned and rat infested apartments and being prey to every ¿borderline pedophile in Manhattan¿.In her memoir, James recalls her experience as a young model in 1970s New York, as well as her inadvertent participation in a famous murder trial. While at My Fair Lady, she befriended Buddy Jacobson who was convicted ¿ wrongly in her opinion ¿ of brutally murdering his ex-girlfriend¿s fiance (read the story here).Smile for the Camera is a candid and honest account by a woman who persevered despite the odds, and who managed to tell her difficult story with a healthy dose of humor. At times, I had the feeling that James was relying too much on flashbacks and not delving enough into what her experiences in New York really meant. However, I appreciated any amount of introspection (difficult as it must have been) and James¿ story kept me turning pages, eager to learn her fate.
airdna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kelle James tells how, at the age of 16, she escaped from a dysfunctional family and made a life for herself as a young model and actress in NYC in the late 70s. Physical and emotional abuse suffered at the hands of her father; lewd, groping men encountered at every turn in the big city; a high-profile murder case in which she becomes embroiled -- it's a fascinating story, and Kelle is an endearing mix of wide-eyed country mouse naivete and tough girl temerity. She's savvy enough to avoid falling prey to pimps, and pulls out some fierce self-defense moves when lecherous men go too far, yet she endures a prolonged relationship with a creepy photographer who gets her drunk, takes her virginity, and insults her on their first date.The writing is simple and direct, with a wry sense of humor. She describes her boss: "He's small, thin, and tightly strung. He reminds me of a whippet. I think he's about thirty, but I'm much better at comparing people to dogs than guessing their ages." The prose is so immediate and uncomplicated that at times it feels like reading the diary of a 16-year-old instead of her memoir -- a cool and detached teenager who has separated herself from the often horrifying events she describes. In the epilogue she brings us up to date on the major characters and lets us know what she learned from the experience. Her message of self-reliance and empowerment comes off a bit didactic and self-congratulatory, but it's a good one: "...[I learned] to trust my instincts, to ask for more, to stand up for myself, and to fight for what I believe in...[men] were not going to save me. I had to save me." I wish she had made this point without hitting me over the head with it, but oh well.This will be popular with teens who like true stories about overcoming adversity. Girls looking for an insider's view into the modeling/acting business don't get to see much beyond the sleazy side of the industry.
J-DJD More than 1 year ago
one of  my favourite books 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic! I'm hooked, its great memoir! Love the story, it is true!!:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
robin_titan More than 1 year ago
I found the story to be very interesting, but I could not get used to the author's writing. It just was not for me and had too slow a pace for me to love it. Either way, I still enjoyed learning about how fascinating it was for 16 year old Kelle to go from living with a dysfunctional family all the way to NYC and to realize her dream of modeling. For her, as well as the reader, things in NYC start off very slowly, but they gradually begin to pick up. I thought it was so nice that she met her friend Rayna. I loved her quite a lot and I HATED a few of the folks because they were horrible people. What makes the book even more compelling is that Kelle met a man that ends up going to jail. His name is Buddy and there's a little bit of a mystery in the book about him. Sadly, we don't get too much information on that, just like in real life. I think the thing I liked the most about this read was Kelle's attitude. She is quite the pistol and as she says, unfortunately, she was naive when this all occurred, thankfully that attitude and way of thinking seemed to come in handy. Of course I also adore that her dream came true! That is just ... so great! -T.V and Book Addict
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Smile for the Camera is a very good book. It's the kind of book you'll never want to put down. If I could rate this book I would give it a 10/10. The main character in this book is Kelle James. Kelle is a fifteen year old who runs away from home to go to New York City. Kelle thinks going to New York will be good for her, she is thinking she'll become famous, rich, and have it all; What she doesn't realize is a few weeks after she gets there she will be homeless and having people take advantage of her. Kelle has an abusive father so, most of the time she doesn't want to mess with anyone. She finds a best friend names Rayna, they both are in the same conditions; homeless, broke, an unemployed. Kelle is a very brave girl in this book, and in life because of all the people taking advantage of her. (Since she is the author.) She has to go through a good friend being charged with murder, being in a house with rats, and starving all at once. Things do get better as the book goes on but that is just something you will have to find out for yourself. So I suggest you buy this book and realize how much you'll love it.
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