“No way! I’ve had enough!” I felt like writing, but my pink fingernails didn’t stray from my usual proper language.
“Thank you. I look forward to seeing you then,” I replied. Another audition fixed. How many is it going to take?
By now I knew the drill pretty well. Scouts would approach me and tell me how perfect I was for a particular piece in their magazine. Or they would grovel in front of me begging to get the opportunity to represent me as their agent, while bragging about all the famous models they worked with.
All of this would usually result in a few photo shoots per week and eventually some pictures here and there in fashion magazines, to the immeasurable envy of my childhood friends back home. They thought I was already a famous star only a year after leaving “Cabbage Land,” our rural home a two hour train ride north of Tokyo that was known for nothing except for being one of Japan’s top growing areas of cabbage. Little did they know how underpaid I was and how frustrated I had become. Where was all this leading? Was this all that was to become of me?
“Watch it!” a sharp, high-pitched voice called out right in front of me. I took my eyes off the phone and looked up, convinced I had done nothing wrong, guided by my infallible peripheral vision.
A posh couple not much older than myself had just stepped out of the Louis Vuitton boutique and almost bumped into me, him proudly carrying a giant shopping bag on one arm, and her clinging on to his other arm like a puppy having just come from her trimming, craving his attention. She was the owner of the voice.
My eyes first met her boyfriend’s for an instant, just long enough for her to notice. I showed no emotions towards him because I felt none; my friends back home would have called this my “stone-face look.”
She immediately seemed to tighten up and directed all her attention towards me, dropping her puppy look for something that reminded me of a professional boxer sizing up her opponent from top to toe before a match.
I met her gaze, and we exchanged looks of mutual resentment, as it was instantly apparent that we were worlds apart in everything. She was in her natural habitat, Omotesando, the mecca for luxury fashion brands and snobbishness, and I was taking a shortcut through her domains to get back to Harajuku where I belonged, the capital of avant-garde youth street fashion and obscure subcultures.
She kept her eyes fixated on me while turning her head just a bit away from her boyfriend as if to hide the display of contempt, maybe even hatred that shot out of her sharp, black eyes and engulfed her otherwise pretty and elegantly made-up face. Was she intimidated by me? Did she think I was going to take him away from her? Probably.
I was used to being stared at. I usually didn’t care and just minded my own business, but her look triggered something inside of me similar to the feeling you get when being turned away by an arrogant waiter at a restaurant for being underdressed. I wasn’t going to let this affront pass unchallenged, although I was not on my home turf.
I held my gaze steady for a moment on the girl, who would have been taller than me hadn’t it been for my high heels, raised my chin ever so slightly, ever so cockily, and then turned my head forward and strode off.
My perfectly timed and delicate move was enough to make her release a clearly audible clicking sound from her mouth, followed by a comment to her boyfriend, “What’s her problem?” He gave her no reply. A smile came across my face as I straightened my posture to perfection and walked off with renewed confidence and grace.
The whole exchange between us had lasted only for a couple of seconds, unnoticed by the world around us. It didn’t matter. This was a battle between me and her. I had been victorious and she knew it. A feeling of satisfaction and even joy boiled up inside of me, and full of renewed self-esteem, I strutted off towards Harajuku Station.
As I arrived and reached into my bag for my train pass, a soft male voice behind me said, “Excuse me, do you have a moment?”
I assumed it would be just another scout, but the tone was much more polite and formal than I was used to. I turned around and laid eyes on a pleasant-looking man maybe in his mid-thirties wearing a suit and tie, already bowing slightly to me.
“Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Suzuki. I’m in charge of new talent development at Star Agency,” he said, bowed deeper and held out his plain but elegant business card with both hands to me.
Startled by his gracious tone and manners, I awkwardly bowed just as deep, took his card with both hands while saying my name, just as my sharp left thumb nail accidentally poked one of his fingers in the process.
“I’m sorry,” I said, looking at him as he broke into a warm smile.
“My fault completely. I didn’t mean to surprise you,” he said, and went on to explain with an almost apologetic tone that he had been following me for a while, and wanted to ask whether I was represented by any model agency.
I lied and said “No, not currently,” which is what anyone being handed a Star Agency business card would have done.
He invited me for coffee nearby and went through everything I needed to know, answering all my questions. There was no name dropping of models and actresses they represented, and there was no need for it; everybody knew Star Agency.
The meeting finished and he asked me to visit their office the following day to meet his boss in order to finalize things. After thanking me again with a deep bow, he picked up the check and left. That was it! Finally the break I had been waiting for! The chance I had been working so hard to get!
I stepped out of the coffee shop almost in disbelief of what had just happened, and feeling drunk with joy, I nearly tripped up on my high heels and bumped into a couple passing right outside.
I gasped when my eyes met the sharp gaze of the girl from outside the Louis Vuitton boutique again.
“I’m so sorry…” I stammered and took a step back out of their way, bowing apologetically.
When I looked up at her again, she was still staring coldly at me.
“…I mean, I’m sorry also for what happened before,” I added, as suddenly a sense of guilt came over me.
It struck me that I had taken advantage of her, hurt her pride, and shattered her self-confidence only to selfishly get myself out of a hole of frustration. I had used her to regain my own self-esteem and hadn’t even thought twice about it! She had made me shine again, so much so that Mr. Suzuki had noticed me, my confident walk, my pride, and my beauty.
She nodded slightly to me, looking confused as if she wasn’t sure whether I was actually referring to our previous encounter.
I walked away, and so did she in the opposite direction, one hand on her boyfriend’s arm. After a few steps, I turned and looked back at her in the same way you do after you greet someone looking familiar on the street without quite remembering who the person was. She also turned at the exact same moment, and our eyes met again. I nodded and smiled at her, and then watched to my surprise as she also broke into a wide smile full of compassion that soon engulfed every corner of her beautiful face. It lasted only for a second or two, but the warmth she radiated filled me with happiness from the core of my body all the way out to my fingertips.
I nodded again to her and formed a “thank you,” with my lips. She nodded back, still smiling, surely not understanding what I was thanking her for, but it didn’t seem to matter.
We both turned and went off in opposite directions, still knowing nothing about each other and would most likely never cross paths again, but the smile on my face remained as I walked through the ticket gate.
For more information about Alex Lund and his books, please visit: