Monday, September 18, 2006

“MORE” Fun Than Usual Today

(This post was started on Saturday, September 16. I wasn't able to finish until today.)

As I approach my mid-40’s, I find myself in a place where I didn’t expect to arrive while traveling on this road called life. But the journey, with all of its detours, brought me to a destination that I’m becoming more comfortable with every day. I think I’ve finally come home. And that home is in my own skin.

Today, with the encouragement of my husband and the supportive company of my two daughters, I decided to trek into New York City and enter the MORE Magazine Modeling Contest. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, for someone like me, who grew up with no confidence, this was quite the big step. I don’t know why I never believed in myself growing up—or as an adult, either. It wasn’t like I had parents that were always putting me down, or abusing me in any way. I don’t recall a major incident happening in elementary or junior high school that would have scarred me for life, such as throwing up in the middle of a chorus concert or walking around with my skirt tucked into my pantyhose. Whatever this “curse” is, my 60 yr. old brother has it as well. And for all I know, this alleged “curse” could’ve been the reason why my dad had a problem with alcohol. But whatever the explanation is, entering modeling contests is just not something that someone like me does. Until today, that is.

I want to be an example to my daughters; a positive example. I want them to have dreams and desires for their lives that they are not afraid of reaching for. How can they learn these important lessons of life with a mother who is constantly afraid to take that chance, a mom who persistently waits for everything to be “perfect” before she can act on her ideas? They can’t. I realized that I needed to enter this contest for them as well as for me. I was breaking this “curse” once and for all, and I needed them to be with me to experience risk-taking at it’s finest.

You see, I am short. I’m not too short, but I only stand about 5’2” (well, maybe a little over that…I stretched it a bit and put 5’3” on my registration form). Models, as we all know, are tall and thin. Amazon tall and reed thin. As we approached the offices of Wilhelmina Modeling Agency on Park Avenue, I noticed that there was a very long line of hopeful, over-40, would-be models, and quite frankly, most of them were towering over me. And, I might add, most of them were very, very pretty with attractive figures to match. Although the contest rules state that height and weight are not considerations, I noticed that all of the former winners prancing around outside the agency were at least 5’6”, which is probably short by Wilhelmina standards, and they did not weigh much more than 120, if that. Okay, what am I doing here?

I internally calm myself down so as not to externally paint an insecure picture to my girls, all the while trying to tell myself that I really do have a right to stand on that line, even if I didn’t actually believe it. After all, I am over 40. There were, um, about three other women who were about my height. And although I’m no Angelina Jolie, I don’t really think that I’m a dog. Okay, maybe I can fake this…stand up straight. Take a deep breath. Be social, turn around and talk to the six-foot tall, gorgeous blonde woman behind you.

As my girls were taking pictures of themselves modeling in numerous poses with the ever-important backdrop of a New York street and all of its activity, I decided to turn around and face the competition in back of me. The six-foot blonde was talking to a beautiful black woman, not much shorter than she was. They stopped their conversation, and directed their attention towards the tall, dark-haired woman in front of me…and then looked down at the diminutive little woman that they failed to notice, almost with a look of, “Oh, how cute!” on their faces.

We engaged in some small talk about the unusually hot September day we were experiencing, and how we hoped that our makeup didn’t melt off of our faces by the time we made it up to the front entrance of the modeling agency. Since we were around the corner and couldn’t even see the entrance, we knew our chances of keeping our faces intact were pretty slim. We began to loosen up a bit, and proceeded to complement each other on how nice we looked, and how great most of the women on line kept themselves for being over 40. “Well, I’m not really ‘over 40’, I’m ‘over 50’”, the 6-foot blonde announced. My girls, who were by this time sitting on a window ledge next to the line comparing their “modeling” photos on their digital cameras, looked up for the first time in the half hour since they plopped themselves there. “You’re not over 50,” I sternly scolded this clearly delusional woman. “There’s no way.”

“Yes, I am! I’m 56, I’ll be 57 soon!”

“No, you’re not.”

“No, really, I am!”


Yes, I was speechless. Okay, she looked like she might have had just this much work done. But 56?!? Her body looked like Elle MacPherson’s! Her hair was long and golden like a teenager’s! Where were her wrinkles?!? Wow, I thought, she deserves to at least place in the top 10 finalists. But then she announced that she had entered last year, and nothing happened. She also lived in California, and planned on entering out there as well when she got home from visiting her friend here in New York. I began to wonder again what in the world I was doing on that line. If a six-foot, beautiful blonde who’s 56 can’t even make it to an honorable mention in a modeling contest solely for women past middle age, well then, I sure have a lot of nerve even standing there.

Eventually, one of the reps comes by and gives us our forms to fill out. If we don’t have a picture, she states, they will be more than happy to take one for us once we get in. We wait a little longer, and now the six-foot blonde is talking to another very pretty blonde behind her about—I knew it—Botox. The smaller blonde states that she will never live without her Botox, and the six-footer agrees. I asked the smaller blonde if it hurt (“Yes, very much”). I asked her when was the last time she got it done (“Well, I’m actually due to go soon, but I don’t like how it looks when I first get it done. I wanted to come here and have a little…I don’t know…” “Expression?” I blurted out. “Yes! That’s it!” she replied). I asked her how old she was (“Fifty-four”). I decide at that point that I will probably dump my “Frownies” by age 54, and take up Botox. These women look great. As for the cost of Botox versus “Frownies”, well, I’ll just pull a Scarlett and worry about that tomorrow.

Finally, we get closer. The entrance to Wilhelmina is now a lipstick’s throw away and I’m feeling relieved. A very nice man comes out and announces that anyone who wants to have their makeup touched up by professional makeup artists should stay in line, and anyone who doesn’t, up to ten people, should come with him. I tell my girls that we should go for the whole experience, and we decide that I should wait just a little longer to see what it feels like to actually sit in a makeup chair like a real professional model, and be “made beautiful”.

We arrive inside the building and are immediately escorted up the elevator to the second floor. When we walk out, there looks like a mardi-gras going on with balloons everywhere, gift bags from one end of the room to the other and beautiful displays of prizes that you could win from a drawing of tickets that we filled out earlier while on line. We are informed that whoever wants a touch-up needs to stand to the right; whoever doesn’t can go into another open room, pay their registration fee and have their picture taken. By this time, my girls are having a blast. My older daughter, who wants to be a magazine editor, points out an office cubicle and says that she wants to work in an office “just like that”. Both she and my younger one are still taking photos, and when I finally get into the makeup chair, I feel like I’m part of a fashion shoot with all the flashes going off.

The makeup artist blots me a little, and proceeds to put the slightest bit of bronzer on my face, and then some blush. She thinks my eye makeup is fine, but decides to put some berry-colored gloss on my lips. Oh, no. Do I really want lip gloss? My makeup looked so nice when I left my house, and now she’s putting gooey glop on my lips, and it’s not even clear. It’s berry-colored. I start panicking to myself that I’m going to look ridiculous, but my girls are loving every inch of my lips (well, every millimeter, anyway). I leave the chair, thank the adorable young makeup artist, and walk toward the next line, the final frontier of the day’s agenda.

I watch now as women from every walk of life traipse back and forth from registration to “photo shoot”. I don’t quite know when it happened, but at that moment I realized that I wasn’t nervous anymore. Yes, a lot of the women were tall, but there were definitely some that were not. There were some that were heavy, and some that were probably great-grandmothers. They were every different color and shape, and yet everyone was the same in that room. We were all asserting our inner being who guided us to this point in life where we could say, “I’m okay with myself, and I can do this.” I am willing to bet that at least half of the women there, myself included, would not have gone on this cattle call in their twenties. Cattiness has been replaced with encouragement. Jealousy has been replaced with admiration. How far we have come as women. How far I have come from the self-doubting, insecure person that I was. I allowed myself to take a chance and enjoy an adventure just for the fun of it, all the while showing my girls how important it is for your self-worth to take risks. It doesn’t matter if I win the contest; I’m a winner already just for having the nerve to show up. And I’m darn proud of myself for that.

I’m called up for registration. I pay my entry fee, and off I go to have my Polaroid taken. I stand in front of the camera, and allow myself to experience the joy of being right where I am at that moment. I smile, and the camera flashes. Before I leave, I wait just long enough for the picture to start developing…

My girls and I had a wonderful time today, an experience not to be forgotten. We got to see the inside of one of the world’s most famous modeling agencies, we chatted it up with interesting people, and we just had plain, old fun doing something completely out of the ordinary for us. As for that Polaroid…well, let’s just say that it may not resemble Cindy Crawford, but staring back at me was someone who was truly, sincerely happy in her own skin. What’s not beautiful about that?


Kacey said...

It sounds like a wonderful day, Lisa. I'm sure your girls had a ball with their "over the hlll" mom. I clicked on your picture to nmake it bigger and I think you'll be a winner whatever happens. Your skin is beautiful, not to mention the rest of you. Let me know when they want almost dead ladies --- I'll lose 40 pounds and come to NYC and join you. I'm glad you took the chance!

Lisa said...


Wow! You're fast! I had just posted this, and was trying to figure out how to put pictures from that day on it, albeit unsuccessfully.

Thank you for the lovely compliments, that photo of me was taken at my 25th reunion this year. It happened to be a really good shot, I don't usually take pictures like that. As a matter of fact, I liked it so much that I cut two other people out of the picture!! How mean is that?!?

Kacey, you are beautiful. I love reading your posts, you are just full of life, and an inspiration. Anytime you're in NY, let me know! We'll go down to Wilhelmina just for the heck of it!

Summer said...

Lisa, i have been checking your blog for any new posts until tonight..glad you posted this wonderful article. sounds like a fun day with your daughters in the city. I am pretty sure that your daughters had a wonderful experience with you and you were successful in conveying your message to them by being confidant at any age, they will remember it for life!
I thought at More they would have rules against Botox usage! I know that you are a winner no matter what the pageant people think! I know you are not there for the win as much as for the experience...Best of luck and I will be reading about you winning on More!! :)
PS: Isn’t Kacey’s writing wonderful?? Glad you read her post, she is a wonderful human being with great sense of humor.

Lisa said...


Thank you for your kind words (and for your help). I really didn't enter to "win" in the sense of a modeling contract, I really just wanted to see what goes on inside that world and give myself some life experience after being "sheltered" on Long Island for so long! Also, I thought that it would be so interesting to write about. I didn't realize how it would affect me, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I told my daughters on the train that this would be an experience that they will always remember, and we were lucky to have such a beautiful day weather-wise and excitement-wise! Just being inside the Wilhelmina Agencey was thrilling for them.

Honestly, I can tell you that there were at least 5 women there that, in my opinion, were just perfect modeling material and who should make the finals, but this is only in NY! The contest is going on all over the country, so who knows what will happen. But there are an awful lot of stunning women over 40, and it's such a great statement about how far we've come since our mothers and grandmothers time!

...And yes, Kacey does write beautifully! Thank you for "introducing" me to her! She seems like a great lady.

Carine said...

good for you lisa! it sounds like you had quite a wonderful experience!!!

Teri said...

Dear Lisa...what a wonderful post, wonderful experience for you and your daughters, and what a sharp, sharp point you make! Truly inspirational.

Ciao bella...

Lisa said...

Dear Carine and Teri,

Yes, this really was a wonderful experience, as well as educational! I think the most fun I had was just being with my daughters and "bonding" over things that we get a kick out of: makeup, fashion, New York City, even the train ride. I didn't even mention the huge outdoor dog show we passed on our walk to Wilhelmina from Penn Station...what a hoot (...or should I say "a howl")! It was a great day that I'll always remember.

Take good care,

Big Dave T said...

I agree with Teri--an inspirational tale told well. But I'm not sure it's going to inspire me to sign up for a modeling contest myself, or do the male equivalent.

When I embarrassed myself trying to enter a soccer tournament this past month, at age 53, a friend of mine quoted Clint Eastwood. "A man has to know his limitations."

But it sounded like this worked well for you and HAD to be fun for your girls as well. Congrats. BTW, you should check out Little Miss Sunshine if you haven't seen it. The movie provides a different perspective on beauty contests for kids.

Lisa said...

Thank you Dave for the kind words! I did see "Little Miss Sunshine", very funny but pretty scary...I don't particularly understand the mentality of making our girls look and act much older than they are. I just don't get it!

I'm sure you didn't embarrass yourself, and probably did fine! At least you tried, good for you!

I'm off camping, I'm sure this will be an interesting post next week!

Take good care,

Shoshana said...

This is an awesome experience!

Lisa said...


Yes, it definitely was one we won't forget! Thanks for viewing.

Take good care,

Holly said...

Good for you! keep it natural! Beauty isn't in the botox although if I had ooodles of money I can't say that I wouldn't try it :) Enjoying your blog.

Lisa said...


My sentiments, exactly! I told my husband just the other night that if I had the money, I'd plump up my lips a little, and Botox my forehead! He proceeded to tell me that he hates "fake (expletive)", and that he would be very disappointed if I did that. Easy for him to say with his little baby face!

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read! I really appreciate it!

Take good care,