She looked right at me with one eyebrow cocked and sniffed, "you've lost weight." What a bitch. In the real world most people would think of this as a compliment, MOST people would smile and say thank you...it might even make their day. But in the world of plus modeling this was the ultimate insult, and this girl, this other woman was making it clear right there in the lobby before our mutual audition that there was no way I was gonna book the job. She was right.
See, they don't tell you much when you sign on as plus model, even with a well-know and successful agency. They just take your signature, cut your hair, throw you out into the world with only exactly TWO pieces of advice (and here try to imagine the typical LA accent of a large blonde agent who detests her own kind) "yeah, try and act like you've done this before, nobody likes a FOB." Wait did she just say "Fresh Off the Boat?? "But, but..." I stammer, thinking but this IS the first time I've done this when she ovverides me with a very stern "and whatever you do, DON'T. LOSE. WEIGHT."
Fast forward some months, and after the bitchy remark by my fellow model I realize that I could be dropped by the agency because I have indeed lost a bit of weight. Not a whole lot, but I started eating healthier and moving around and one dress size just sort of slid it's way off of me over the course of a couple months. A dress size that I couldn't afford to lose since I was already on the smallest possible end of the plus spectrum. I had overheard some girls at a job once talking about their "pads" and so I did what anyone would do in my situation: I Googled "FAT PADS FOR PLUS MODELS". The only real lead was a company in Long Beach with an all-pink website that was geared toward crossdressers but I left a message in their little box and soon got a reply from "Lady Carmen" saying that she may be able to help me. I make the drive from Venice Beach and soon find myself down a tiny littered alley, staring at a garage door with absolutely no signage. I hesitantly knock and after a pause a very small, pockmarked man with a buzzcut ( I mean one of those severe flat-top buzzes from the fifties) and gray sweatsuit steps out and looks around as if to make sure the coast is clear. I can't remember what he said his name was, but I shook his hand and when he gave me a shy smile I knew somehow that this was Lady Carmen. We entered his garage through a little side door and immediately I was surrounded by rows and rows of metal shelves containing chunks of foam, shoes, pantyhose, and other bits of things I assumed all went into making men look like women. He seemed as nervous as I was, and showed me a picture of himself in full military regalia. Apparently he had been in the Marines back in the day. Hence the haircut that he still hadn't let go of. He showed me a signed picture of RuPaul and told me about making pads for Harrison Ford and many NFL players including a few from the Dallas Cowboys. Yep, according to him, Han Solo like to wear hose on occasion, no big deal. I relaxed as he told me his story and showed me the machine on which he coaxed giant hunks of foam into perfect round derrieres. I realized he was lonely and wanted somebody to listen and so I did. It was interesting and surreal, like many things about my new job.
Then came time to try on my new butt. He held up a tiny pair of black spandex shorts and picked out two medium size foam butt cheeks from a shelf. He then held up a bra containing two silicone breasts so that my top would match sizes with my new bottome, and told me that it could be very difficult to get the butt on and to call him for help. I grunted and squeezed and tried every possible way to wiggle myself into that ass but there was just no way and I shrugged-I was used to gay men dressing me for runway shows and having their hands all over my parts, part of the job-so I called out to him for help and help he did. This tiny man, a foot shorter than me, ran over and stretched those shorts out and took one of my cheeks in his hands and stuffed it just so and then grabbed the other cheek and was about to stuff it and he chose that exact moment to start talking about women, about how much he loved women and how great his girlfriend was....AWHAAAT?? I didn't hear the rest of what he said because I was too busy picturing the headline in the newspaper the next day "FAT MODEL FOUND DEAD IN TRANNY GARAGE IN LONG BEACH" and how my mother would read it all the way up in Norcal and weep. I had been so naive, such an IDIOT to assume that this man was gay...did I think I was an expert because I played rugby in college and most of my friends were gay?? What did I know about gender issues and men wearing dressed and all that-NOTHING. I think I stopped breathing for a whole five minutes while he finished stuffing me. I was alone with a strange man in his windowless garage in Long Beach in my bra and underwear, a position I would have NEVER EVER been in under any other circumstances. There was some awkward silence for a minute, maybe he sensed that my breathing had changed or something because he got pretty quite and just pretended to assess the ass he'd just stuffed me into. I just wanted to pay and get the hell out of there, but then he did something remarkable. He looked me right in the eye and said, "you know what? I usually charge around $400.00 for this package, but you have been very kind. I want to give you the pads for $100 and you can just have the bra." Then he put it all into a bag and started looking for more to give me- "here, you need some pumps, EVERY woman should have a pair of basic pumps...and these, garter belts, you just take one and wear it for your boyfriend, men go CRAZY for these they never go out of style.." And on, and on. He looked at this starving fat model, about to shovel up rent money for a foam ass, and filled a bag with his own generosity. When I protested he said that all he wanted was a signed card to remember me by, for "when I made it big." I left that dark garage feeling sheepish and yet somehow changed. Thank you Lady Carmen, thank you.