Tash (short for Natasha) and Sue work at clothing store in town called Soul Clothing. It’s that sort of modern, Abercrombie/Express type store that caters to an upper market crowd. Tash owns it and every year participates in Wanakafest, a town festival of performances, shows, and other festival-type things.
One night, soon after I first met Tash, Garth asks me over to the corner of the bar where he, Tash and Sue were chatting. He said that Tash wanted me to be a part of the fashion show that Soul Clothing is involved in every year during Wanakafest. I, as it turns out, was about to become a model.
Months later, as Wanakafest kicked off, Tash called and asked me to stop by the store to try on some outfits. Her theme this year was “metallic”, so we ended up going with a pair of dark jeans, a black shirt and a thin white tie. The “metallic” aspect of the outfit was kinda lost on me, other people had more metallurgy-inspired clothing, but hey, what do I know.
My runway-strutting partner was going to be Jenny, one of Tash and Sue’s close friends. And in that pairing there’s another example of that strange Wanaka-ness: When I first came to town and stayed at The Lodge, Jenny was working part time there as a housekeeper. Garth was also participating, as he did last year, and his partner was his then-girlfriend (now-fiancee), Kirsten.
On Wednesday, the day before the show, we got together at the town center and practiced our catwalking. The girls lined up backstage on one side, the boys on the other. Each pair would walk out, meet at the center of the stage and pause just before the runway, walk down the platform and pause again, turn, walk back up to the main stage and out to the wings, pause again, back to the center of the stage, pause one final time and then walk off stage. Just as the exiting couple was disappearing behind the curtains, another couple would emerge. When the last couple made that final pause, instead of walking offstage, they would walk back down the runway, followed by everyone else. We would reach the end and turn outwards and walk back up, past our fellow models. Then we would all stand together in a line on stage before exiting. It wasn’t as complicated as the description.
We practiced a few times and then had to get off stage to make way for another group.
The next night was the big night, and I was actually quite nervous. As good as I am with public speaking, I still get some serious butterflies right up to the final moment. Garth was running the small cash bar there, so I came early and had a few drinks with him before we suited up.
Finally, the moment arrived and we were called backstage to get lined up. As the fast-paced, electronic, techno music started pumping, my heart raced along with it. I mean, what the @#$%?! Modelling?? Really?!
Garth walked out first and got a great reception, with a bunch of whoops and whistles. Jenny and I were the last couple (hey, gotta end on a high note, right?), and soon it was our turn. I took a deep breath, and stepped out.
I managed to put a rather calm, smirk on my face to counter the feelings of total astonishment, and I think it worked quite well. Jenny and I met at the center stage and walked down. I must have had some fans in the audience because people were shouting, whistling and clapping. We did our little turns on the catwalk (oh come on, you know I had to …), and before I knew what was happening we were all standing shoulder-to-shoulder and making our grand exit.
After the show we took some pictures in the changing room, had a couple more drinks and I headed back to work. With the purchase of a fashion show ticket, you were entitled to a free drink at Barluga, so there was going to be a serious rush soon.
Maddy and Jess were working the bar and they doodled some “pictures” of me doing my modelling thing. There was the obligatory reference to “Blue Steel”, of course.
We got slammed by people after a free drink, and the night quietened down aftewards. The next day my friend Sam texted me saying there’s a picture of me in the newspaper from the fashion show. I stopped by the store and picked up a copy. The Otago Daily Times (a regional publication) had done a special pullout section on fashion, and there was a large feature about the Wanakafest fashion show. And, sure enough, it included a very large picture of me in the center. Ladies and gentlemen, I had become a published model.
So, in Wanaka I have been a gardener, builder, fruit picker, warehouse clerk, garbageman, bouncer, bartender, and now, model. What next? A very drunk girl at the bar one night asked me if I would be a stripper at her friend’s bachelorette party or, at the least, a topless bartender.
Relax, although the money would be very good, I declined the offer … ahem, yeah … I declined.