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L'Uma Naughty - Confessions of A Supermodel

Recently, we had Fashion Week here in New York. That, combined with a news item about some dude at the Met Opera House falling off of a bizarre stage set during opening night of whatever opera it was, had me simply frothing with memories.

In the early 90s in Seattle, as a twenty-something occasional college student, my friends called me Ruth Buzzy. My short, dyed, black bob looked slightly cartoonish, and my clothes were a cartoony extreme of hipster ideals. Also, I was chubby. Thick legs, big belly - the works. The newest member to my downtown circle of hipster lushes was Heather Stone, a fashion designer from Los Angeles. She invited me to do a modelling stint for her upcoming fashion show, and I was thrilled. I was going to prove to the world that I was actually a member of the hot babe elite, in disguise.

Prior to the show I fantasized the gig would lead to Dolce & Gabbana print ads, a cameo on Saturday Night Live, several movie deals. A sexy European head hunter would be in the audience. He'd pick me out instantly and follow me backstage, handing me a business card with Miuccia Prada's phone number. "Call her now. I already told her about you," I imagined him saying, breathlessly. Then he'd ask me out to dinner.

In reality, the fashion show was a congregation of unheard-of, up-and-coming, or already-washed-up-but-in-denial designers. It was held in a large but dorky downtown venue. There was no pay, just free food and liquor. But I wasn't getting picky, this was my moment of glory. I was being paid with an ego-stroke. Knocking on the side door at noon on the big day, I uttered those beautiful words, "I'm one of the models," to the doorman. He looked at me a little funny, then let me in.

Backstage, a hippie food manufacturing company set up a snack table of healthy thin fare, and Heather set up a portable bar. We had several hours before showtime, and settled in for an afternoon of idle chitchat, cigarettes, Silver Bullets (our signature drink of vodka and champagne), and Yam and Lentil Chapati Wraps. Each designer had his or her little camp of models in various corners of the room. We eyed each other suspiciously, openly disdainful of one another. Heather's was the only group of heavy smokers and drinkers. Well, okay, it was mostly just Heather and me. She was also the only one with a campy sense of humor in her designs - altered vintage clothes decorated with an obsessive-compulsive amount of buttons. All of the other designers had self-conscious clothes and models that looked like they just graduated from Barbizon ("Be A Model...Or Just Look Like One!"TM)

I slammed down drinks at a furious pace. The nerves and insecurity increased exponentially the closer we got to show time. The other women in my camp began to treat me like an unwanted pest. By the time the makeup artists got to work on us, I was officially too drunk to do anything except be too drunk. But they put on my makeup, and I put on my black dress, the feather boa and cat's eyes glasses without lenses that Heather had instructed all of us to wear.

We lined up by a little staircase behind the wings, to walk up on stage one by one. I wanted to get out of this, but it was too late now. A few realizations hit me. I wasn't one of these people. I really was a goofy Ruth Buzzy-esque chub, whom the thin women and handsome men found appalling. But I thought they were cheesy windbags, so we were even.

It was my turn. The drag queen MC did some silly spiel while I concentrated really, really hard on not looking drunk and walking at the same time. It was a tremendous challenge. Down the little runway, don't walk too fast, don't slip, don't stumble, yes okay now stop, and turn around. The audience seemed quiet, as if they didn't understand why I was up there. So I stuck my ass out, and received a few murmurs. Almost done. Walk slowly upstage, arrive near MC, at which point I reached for her cigarette. It looked like I flipped her off. Verry cool. I did it, I'm done, I thought happily to myself. As per instructions during rehearsals, I remained up on stage by the MC for the finale. I could barely see.

The other models returned and lined up along the back of the stage. So relieved it was over, I abandoned myself to a drunken revelry dance, and then—whoops!—took a Nestea Plunge right off the back of the stage, landing on the concrete floor. My knee was dislocated.

Looking down behind her from the stage, the MC crooned into the microphone, "Oh noooo, wow, that's too bad. So, anyway..." The other models were laughing at me. Then the queen turned back to the show. Everyone kept doing their thing.

Someone came up to drag me backstage. "I'm gonna sue, I'm gonna sue!" I screamed, in tears. But I knew I wouldn't. It was my own fault. I popped my knee back in (not the first time), hobbled to the empty dressing room, and ate another yam sandwich. Someone brought me ice for my swelling knee. I felt like the world's drunkest, dumbest fat girl. Instead of an ego boost, I now had ego demolition. Not only that, Heather would cancel my membership as her friend, for ruining her show. I braced myself for the repercussions.

Finally, she came back stage.

"Oh my God, you were brilliant!" she said, not facetiously, grinning hugely. Two 'important' fashion world friends were in the audience, just to see her segment. She was with them when I fell. They were impressed, and asked Heather if she had choreographed it. I got the feeling she told them it was her idea.

For the rest of her Seattle shows I was one of her models. All of the newspaper ads, posters and flyers plastered around town were of me. I acted as her muse and kitsch consultant, and even lost some weight. But I did not fall off the stage, ever again.

-- Rasha Refaie

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