Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Top Five, Part 4 (or My Second Best Show Ever)

In 2012, at the tender age of 31, I got into modeling. Actually, it was my best friend, Andrea Faith, who originally got me into it, when I was in my twenties. She was the first person to ever take a good photograph of me, when I was about 20. I was a young snow white, holding an apple, staring at the camera with my big eyes, asking the camera if it wants to bite the apple. Prior to that, everyone told me I was just not photogenic. I agreed with them, until Andrea changed my perspective and, really, my life, in this way.

Still, I didn't exactly know then how to parlay this into a living. I worked myriad minimum wage jobs, let the occasional lecher take my picture and played music at restaurants in exchange for free pizza and beer. Then I moved back to my hometown to live with a photographer boyfriend for a while. We dated for a year and he featured me in his gallery shows in local bars and coffee houses in Spokane -- until a nude photograph of me showed up in a coffee house I was performing music at, without my permission! It was classy and artistic but still, not what I wanted someone focusing on when they're supposed to be listening to my music.

There were some other artists I met along way who I modeled for, not for pay but in the name of art and friendship. There were a few random craigslist gigs for a small amount of beans. And then one day, just before I left for a six month long music tour, when I was 31, I realized that I needed to get serious about modeling, so that it could be my day job, while I lived on the road. It turned out to be the perfect day job: I could set my own hours and rates, I could shoot during the day and play my music at night, and I could find modeling gigs in every major city, and some smaller ones, too.

Flash forward four years: At age 35, I was modeling almost full time, on top of doing social work full time, and as for my music... I guess you could say I worked part time as a musician, but lived and breathed music all the time. I went to New York three times last year. Even after supporting myself for six months with modeling on my music tour in 2012, and going back to modeling on nights and weekends five weeks after I had my son, and making a really good living at it for the last couple years, I still never imagined that I would be in New York one day, modeling and playing music!

My friend Rosalee was another instrumental figure in my modeling career. I met her two years ago at a photographer's home studio near Seattle, but she turned out to live in Portland, just like I do. She attached to me quickly as she did not know many other models in the area, but I, on the other hand, but was intimidated at first by her beauty and also her street smarts about the industry. We did become fast friends though, and she has been more generous with her modeling contacts than any other model I've met. Whenever she works with a photographer that she likes, she tells them about me. So it was her idea that I should come to New York with her, in February of 2016, to meet and work with people that she knew there. Everyone she knew turned out to be unavailable to shoot with us, but we made some new contacts. I got to shoot in my lingerie on the Brooklyn Bridge and down on the streets of Manhattan in the early morning hours on a windy, chilly winter day, but I knew that I'd get a shot or two that would make it all worth it, and I did.

I looked for a music gig for months before our trip and finally found a venue that was willing to host me, with a caveat: I needed to book three other artists and build the whole show myself! Though this was daunting at first, I didn't balk because I had done the same thing in other towns like Seattle and Olympia, where I don't know many other musicians, but was able to find contacts by doing my research on

Rather than searching for popular artists in New York in general, I refined my search and looked for singers specifically in Brooklyn, where I'd be playing. I met several popular Brooklyn-based artists online and, if they couldn't play, they referred me to other people whom I should talk to. Eventually I got my dream bill together: A pop goddess with a great following, an indie folk hero who had been featured on a popular late night television show, and a nationally touring artist who arrived just in time to headline after her band had finished opening for Ozzy Osbourne!

Rosalee was working as a promo model at a party that was running late that night, so she couldn't come to the show with me. I took the subway and ate a giant slice of pizza on my way to the show. I wasn't sure if anyone would be in the audience, if patrons would file in later to see only the artists that they had already heard. But the room quickly filled up as I was plugging in cables and gearing up for soundcheck. Damn, I should've taken a beta blocker but now it's too late in the game, I realized. Neurotic as ever, I started my set promptly at 9 PM. The room was one of those pin-drop quiet scenes, and a dark sea of faces with white shining eyes was facing me, hands clapping and then quieting so that their ears could hear more. Voices laughing in just the right spots on the funny songs, faces somber but sympathetic during sad songs. Right where you want them. My stomach felt a punch that wasn't unpleasant, like a rush after you've taken a pill and you know that intense euphoria is imminent.

Euphoria finally settled in as I heard the final round of applause, unplugged my instruments, and headed to the bar for a whiskey. The stage fright had nowhere to go but away. I didn't have to worry about fucking up any longer; all I had to think about was relaxing, listening to the other artists, sipping my whiskey and getting offered more whiskeys - along with compliments - from the denizens of the bar.

It was only after I returned back to the hotel that I realized that I had been buzzing all night from the adrenaline of playing a great show and connecting with audience members. The hotel room was so much quieter than the loud, dive bar, with my girl friend sleeping and the air conditioner humming. I suddenly felt exhausted and I figured that it was from expending so much energy at the show, adjusting to East Coast time, having a few whiskeys. Plus it was after midnight when I settled into my hotel bed to rest before I would wake up in the early morning hours for the aforementioned Brooklyn Bridge shoot. Little did I know, I was coming down with strep throat. But somehow I made out at six in the morning, with my weak cup of hotel coffee, into the February cold and hailed a cab, like it was no big deal.

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