News & Politics

First Person: Too Old, Too Fat?

I was a “mature” model with an “athletic build.” They’d never pick me.

Photograph composite by Erik Uecke.

Sweet Cheeks was running her perfectly glossed mouth about being in a runway show during Paris fashion week. She went on about how hard it was to be a teenager being told what to do by a designer and to fit into size-zero dresses, but at least the dresses were beautiful and the food was good–she “ate a ton of it.” Right.

Sweet Cheeks and I were with about 200 male and female models at the Willard Hotel, vying for five spots in a Versace runway show at the Italian Embassy. It was my first casting with a DC modeling agency, and I was required to put together my “book,” a collection of pictures to show what I could do. I didn’t know it wasn’t cool to show up with a book of photos your mom took in the back yard.

I looked at the other women. Some were like Brazilian deer: lean, tanned, big brown eyes. Others appeared to be wood nymphs. At six feet and 135 pounds, I was not only obese in comparison but ancient at age 24. A “mature” model with an “athletic build.” We waited with breath held tight–partly to keep our stomachs flat–as everyone took a turn in front of the judges. Then each model made one of three moves: (1) walked out of the judges’ room in silence, (2) made a joke to her girlfriend about, duh, who thought she was going to make it anyway, or (3) came out holding a pair of Versace pants. They were black leather, cropped at the ankle, the smallest you’ve ever seen. If your book made a good impression on the judges, you got a second chance by being asked to try on the Pants and make another appearance before them.

Sweet Cheeks was up. Her miniature body and ghostly aura glided into the judges’ area with her book. She came out holding the Pants, feigning shock, then went to a back room and emerged wearing them. They fit like a pair of driving gloves. No, wait–the leather gaped in places. Yes, it actually managed to be loose on her. After looking through her book again, the casting agents thanked her.

I looked down at my thighs. Then I heard my name.

The judges smiled a smile that said, “We’ve seen a thousand of you today, but you’re bigger,” and flipped through my photos. Flip, look, whisper, nod, judge, flip. The lead judge seemed more forgiving. Either that or she had sudden-onset dementia, because she handed me the Pants. I walked past the models and imagined gossip ripping through them like a fashion virus. I agreed with every doubt. I found a closet to change in. “C’mon, baby!” I said as I wiggled the Pants up my quads. I twisted my face, contorted my hips, and–ah! My fingers were injured, but the button fell into place. I looked like a hot dog with a twisty tie around its middle. As I walked back toward the judges, the Pants squeaked. I did my runway walk, and they asked me to do it again, then dismissed me. Gazing down, I made my way back to the closet, peeled myself out of the Pants, and breathed. I returned the garment, moist and sticky.

Two weeks later, I found myself at the Italian Embassy being fitted for the show. I seemed to be the only model whose mother hadn’t checked her out of fifth-period English class. Sweet Cheeks wasn’t there. House music bumped and cameras flashed as I walked the runway–old and with athletic build. I had defeated the odds. And the Pants.

Taylor K. Durant is a counselor and coach. Her website is

This article appears in the March 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.