This is the third part of Ali’s story, courtesy of her mother Patty (tFS user modelmom). Ali’s journal chronicles the beginning of her modeling career in Paris at 15 years old (which was in 2002). Patty’s comments are italicized and the format has been edited.
We met a girl named Tatiana from Russia today. She’s 19 and had been modeling by herself since she was 16. She speaks English! She was so nice and could probably see that my mom and I were a couple of lost sheep. I had a casting for Harper’s Bazzar the next day and I asked her to go along with me. She said it wasn’t on her list but I talked her into going with me. She booked the job! (They took one look at me and said they were looking for a pro.) I was happy for her.
We went to lunch with her …it was so nice to find a friendly face. She warned us to look out for the gypsies in the Metro. She told us they make a living by stealing from the tourists! We went downstairs to find a phone tonight. It’s daytime in the US and I wanted to call my boyfriend. My mom had a cow, she thinks I am going to be kidnapped.
I was laughing at her until a young man walked up and licked the phone booth!!
Today I am in another country but I am thinking about the USA. The date is September 11th and it is the one year anniversary of 9/11. I am proud to be an American even if I am half way around the world. I would rather be back home with my horse and my friends but my mom seems to think that this is such a great opportunity and I don’t have the heart to tell her any different. I know we have spent a lot of money since we arrived here but my mom says not to worry about it.
I have a casting today for Madame Figaro and another test with a photographer. I think one of the reasons they wanted me to come to Paris is because my book is so weak, but at this rate it should be full in no time. We walked so much today that my feet have blisters. I wore my heels to all the castings, which was dumb. I finally figured out that most of the models wear comfortable shoes and change at the casting. It’s all the little things that you don’t know that drive you crazy. It’s all common sense, but we are learning little by little.
Michelle, our landlady, is a model with Ford too. She is older and is away a lot working in Germany. She has a cat named Luca that I adore. He can play fetch like a dog and likes to sleep on my bed. I went into the agency today and sat in line to use the only computer that the models can use. There are models from all over the world signed with my agency, and most of them have been really nice. My mom talked to one of the agents today to see if I had booked any jobs but so far I haven’t.
I have been away from home a week today and it seems like a year…not to my mom, she loves it. I bet she would stay here if she could. My mom says I want so much, (horses, a ranch and a new pickup truck) and have been given the opportunity to achieve it, but I’m beginning to think that all the hype from my agents back home was just wishful thinking. She wants me to stay positive and not give up so soon so I’m putting on a good face outside for her.
We went on 6 castings today. My mom wanders around while I go on my castings, but you can bet she’s not far away. We talked to my agent from back home today, she ask how things were going. She told my mom that we needed to stick it out here till I turned 16 and then things would get better. That’s almost a month away!
The traffic here is crazy. You are taking your life in your own hands if you step into the crosswalk. Cars do not stop for the walk signs. It seems they always have the right of way. There are motorcycles zooming in and around traffic and up on the sidewalks. My mom says a lot of them must be couriers or messenger people. We stay lost most of the time. I miss castings because we can’t figure out which metro to take. We walk everywhere because it’s easier to find streets and addresses.
We went on 6 castings today. A lady from Marie France wants to use me for an article but has to call the agency to see if I am available. They are talking about sending me to Milan, a casting director wants to see me but my mom says we are staying here for now. If it was up to me, I would go home. This all seems like such a waste of time.
I think my mom is starting to realize that my agency at home made a big mistake by sending me here before I turned 16. The Paris shows are in a few weeks, so I am going to get the doctor’s certificate that I need to work if I am going to be able to book any shows. Great, just what I want to do—see a doctor I don’t even know!
We saw the Eiffel Tower today. My mom said when it was first built the people of France hated it. Today it is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. It is beautiful, even if it is all rusted. We spend a lot of time sitting on the steps of L’Opera, people watching. It is right across the street from the agency. We play a game trying to get people to smile. Is it just me, or are a lot of people unhappy about something? The only people we usually get to smile are the children.
One of the reasons I ask Ali if I could post her journal is because of all that is going on with Ali Michael, not so much the weight issue but the fact that you are just a dollar sign to most agencies. Just like a lot of people, we always assumed that if you signed with an agency they would be there for you. I can’t speak for all agencies but I can assure you that when we went to Paris, we were on our own. Until the time Ali was very close to being 16 and was put on option for French Vogue, any interest in her welfare was handled by me.
This may sound like a pity party, but I wish when Ali was asked to go to Paris that someone had said the chances of a 15 year old working during show season is very rare. This all changed later. I know of several 15 year olds that walked shows the season after we left. I’m not sure how it happened, whether birth certificates were altered or they were just told to lie about their age.
I live for phone cards. They are not cheap but they are my only connection to my friends and family back home. I miss everyone so much. I have made a few friends at the agency and I am starting to go on castings with them. At first my mom freaked out, but one of the girls talked her into it by saying she would watch out for me. I was so embarrassed.
We have to use phone cards to stay in touch with the agency too. We check in at noon, and again at the end of the day, when we pick up my castings for the next day. Then Mom and I sit down at night and try to map out our travel plan.
My mom almost had her wallet stolen today, just like Tatiana had warned us. We were looking at a Metro map and another family walked up to us. My mom pulled her map out to look at it and a little boy darted under it and reached into her purse. All at once a lady ran up yelling,” Attention Madame Attention!” The family took off and the lady looked at us like we were stupid and walked off. My mom tried to thank her but she was long gone.
I can’t even imagine what would have happened if they had taken the wallet.
Part 4 coming soon…