Ayana Dinha’s POV
I peered through the lens of my camera at the two models engaged in multiple poses; working every angle of their faces and bodies. I quickly glanced out the window, hoping I would finish before losing natural light. Miko and Klaudia were here in my home studio participating in a shoot for a new feature in S.H.E, my online magazine. Ekko and Sade, the other models, were sitting along the wall whispering in a hushed tone among each other. Occasionally, I heard a small snicker escape from Ekko’s mouth. Whatever little negative jabs they were shared between the both of them, seemed to bolster Sade’s amusement.
I’d worked with them before during my own days in front of the camera. Each girl had a different skin tone, so I had to be careful about the light and colors that bounced off their skin from my blue background. Ekko had a light caramel skin with warm undertones. Sade’s skin was a creamy dark coffee complexion. Miko whose Korean skin was more yellowish, but she was slightly lighter than Klaudia with her inherited dark Eastern European features. The ladies each had a unique look about them that stood out; they were perfect for the vision I had.
I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I worried that if I didn’t have every single detail perfect, not only would this project fail, but my entire magazine would cease to exist. “How did the fabric feel?” I called over to Miko. “Good. It’s wearable; nice structure,” she replied. “Some of these designers have come a long way since their early collections. Charo and Parazzo are finally spending the money on better quality fabrics,” snarked Klaudia.
Today we were shooting a nude clothing look with an array of pieces from multiple designers. I had to struggle for months to set up this feature with Taylor Wheland, the executive director of the San Myshuno Nu Model Management branch. She didn’t take my calls for over a month until Ekko asked her mother, former supermodel Aoki Takashi for a personal favor. Taylor worked with Aoki over two decades ago and was mostly responsible for catapulting her career and cementing her as the most successful Asian American supermodel. She considered my magazine small-time compared to the major players she dealt with on a regular basis. Taylor worked with the best, not to mention supermodel legend, Reagan Leeds-Powers.
The nude feature probably wouldn’t have taken so long to organize if I’d gone with Parminder’s suggestion of hiring popular Instagram models. I didn’t want to go in that direction because my brand is traditional classic modeling. So many formerly respectable publications have been bowing to these fake social media models instead of keeping fashion modeling what it should be: authentic real supermodels that are household names. Not your everyday round-the-way girl with ass shots, lip fillers, and fifty pounds of weave. That’s just on the more urban side of IG fashion girls; I can’t say most high-end magazines are turning to, but reality stars who are only famous for being famous are front and center in Vogue, Elle and walking for some of the most prominent fashion houses during fashion week.
Sade and Miko were industry friends of mine. I’ve known them for years. We walked some of the same runways at fashion week all over the world. Ekko is my friend outside of the industry, and we see each other with some frequency outside of work. After a break in shooting, I was busy trying to change the lighting for Ekko and Sade when Sade stormed over to Parminder Patel and complained that the pieces she chose weren’t flattering on her skin tone.
“Why would give me something this fucking drab?” snapped Sade. I looked at Parminder, who looked like she wanted to slap Sade across her face. Sade’s diva-like attitude was nothing new.
“We’re doing a nude colors shoot. The tone varies from shade to shade. I wanted to try out different swatches on you. I believe the pieces I gave you, work well,” answered Parminder through gritted teeth. Sade scoffed. “You’re obviously wrong, sweetie. When it comes to knowing your job, you are a novice. Ayana, what the hell am I supposed to do with this shit?”
Parminder’s face grew more distorted as Sade continued to berate her. I signaled with my head for Parminder to take a breather. While I considered Sade to be a friend, she was also an unbelievably demanding and domineering diva. “What is the problem, Sade?” I asked, trying to hide the exasperation in my voice.
“Your assistant is the problem! Why is she styling your shoot if she’s just an assistant? Can I get my fucking Starbucks I asked for over an hour ago?” demanded Sade. Ekko and Klaudia snickered. I rolled my eyes. “For one, we all wear many hats around here. Parminder is another editor and helps with most of the functions for my magazine. Fetching coffee isn’t her job, Sade, but a courtesy. Can we just get back to this? I think we can do away with the lighter nude shades and choose one that with more browns in it. The truth is, all the shades go nicely with your skin tone, Sade because it contrasts so well.”
Sade knew Parminder was no “assistant” in the traditional sense. Not only was she my best friend and roommate, but Parminder was the Editor-at-Large of S.H.E magazine.
“Fine,” said Sade; angrily grabbing the garments from me to try on. Ekko, Miko, and Klaudia remained mostly quiet throughout Sade’s latest outburst, except for a few shady giggles directed at Parminder. I breathed a sigh of relief when Sade went to go and change into her jumpsuit. All I wanted to do was finish the shoot.
One thing I have noticed since conducting my shoots is that it’s much different when you are behind the camera as opposed to in front of it. I photographed most of my shoots for S.H.E myself, which saved me money when I could. That meant no camera assistant and many times it was just me styling the models. Parminder helped out when she could, but she had several other magazine responsibilities. I worked with other photographers and used stock images, but for specific features, I preferred to use my personal shots.
I needed capital to hire a proper staff and not have to play makeup artist, stylist, photographer, lighting guru, creative director, and photo editor all at the same time. Until then, it is something with which I must contend. I virtually had no money from the extras and tools I needed to grow S.H.E, so I was stuck with cutting corners where I could and robbing Peter to pay Paul each month. I did what I had to do to keep S.H.E alive. But I could only live on my savings and the money Parminder generously gave me that she had received from her parents.
I don’t think Mr. and Mrs. Patel would approve if they knew a considerable part of the allowance they sent Parminder each month went to paying S.H.Es bills, but what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, she claimed. At least Parminder had her parent’s assistance. The last thing I could ever expect from my mother and father was any financial help. They never approved of my career in fashion. Once I decided dropped out of college to pursue modeling, the checks dried up.
For the rest of the afternoon, Sade continued to complain about one thing or another. Either the clothes weren’t fitting right, she wanted a different outfit either one of the other models was wearing, or the shoot was taking too long. Sade was an up-and-coming Naomi with an attitude to match.
I turned on the stereo and raised the volume as high as I could stand; to drown out her whining.
Oooh, baby, baby
Get up on this!
Salt and Pepa’s here, and we’re in effect
Want you to push it, babe
Coolin’ by day then at night working up a sweat
C’mon girls, let’s go show the guys that we know
How to become number one in a hot party show
Now push it
Ah, push it, push it good
Ah, push it, push it real good…
Yo, yo, yo, yo, baby-pop
Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed
Can’t you hear the music’s pumpin’ hard like I wish you would?
Now push it
Once we wrapped, I couldn’t get the models out of my studio fast enough. Now I could look forward to having a bit of quiet while I went over the film. I spoke too soon. “Sade is freaking rude. I don’t see how you can be her friend,” said Parminder, walking into my office. She stubbornly folded her arms across her chest, ready to put up a fight if I were to respond in protest.
I didn’t have the energy to get into an argument with Parminder after what had been a draining day. I had tension in my neck and I could feel the pounding of a migraine coming on. I ran my hands over my face and stood silently for a moment as I tried to piece my words carefully together.
“She just likes things a certain way. Ignore her, and she’ll shut up.”
Parminder gave me a doubtful look. “That will never work with someone like Sade. She thrives on drama and acts like she’s the only one who matters in the room. The next time you choose to work with her, I don’t want to be involved. I won’t deal with her ass anymore.”
I didn’t need this from Parminder right now. She knew damn well I didn’t have a lot of funds to hire outside help for most of my projects. She was only thinking of herself. I swear it was like I had to do everything with zero support.
“Ayana, we need to talk about the expenses for the month. Every time I bring it up, you keep putting me off,” said Parminder, her eyebrow raised, as if she were challenging me. I could feel my stomach turning as a sense of dread swept over my body. I anticipated this conversation with Parminder for weeks, but I continually put it in the back of my head.
Every month it was the same thing. Parminder liked to tell me that S.H.E was barely breaking even through the advertising revenue and bills and other expenses.
“Can’t we talk about this tomorrow? I am editing film right now,” I said, attempting to put off discussing money. “No, Ayana we need to talk about our financial health. I know you’ve been dipping into your savings and paying bills on your credit cards. Getting money from my father, usually isn’t a problem, but he’s starting to question where all the money is going since I have to ask him for it a lot more these days,” said Parminder.
“It’s not like I ever asked you to get money from your dad,” I replied, turning away from her.
“Maybe not, but how else would we have been able to pay for the new camera equipment and the millions of other things we’ve needed? You also won’t take my suggestion and start featuring my social media starts and models. I know you want S.H.E to be a classic fashion and lifestyle magazine, but unless you’re Vogue or another major magazine, that mentality doesn’t work these days. We need to expand our presence on social media. We need to broaden our reader base,” said Parminder.
I finally turned around to face Parminder. I took a breath in an attempt to calm my nerves. Every time we talked about social media; things got heated. “Look, I’m not trying to cheapen my brand by inviting the latest skinny tea pusher to be featured in my mag. I was a real authentic high fashion model. I worked with some of the top designers in San Myshuno, New York, Milan, Paris, and London. These fake build-a-body, waist-trainer sales girls don’t do anything but take selfies and that over-inflated bought asses and pose with the latest rapper they’re screwing. S.H.E will never be that.”
Parminder rolled her eyes. “I am not talking about those IG thots, but a lot of them have huge a follower count. Instagram has a lot more models than the ones you just described. There are several of fashion blogs that got their start on Instagram as well. Right now, S.H.E only has two hundred thousand followers; it should be at a million or more by now. We need to reach out and collaborate with other people, the girls with a million plus followers to push the magazine. We can’t do this all alone, Ayana. I know this is not your vision for S.H.E, but the bigger we get, the more we will be able to do. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things to get ahead.”
I shook my head. Not because I disagreed with everything Parminder was saying. Some of what she said had a lot of truth to it. I just didn’t want to be a hypocrite and turn my magazine into something I hated. I’m all about class, style, taste, elegance. If I started inviting social media models and personalities into the S.H.E fold, I would lose a lot of what made me, me and what made S.H.E the magazine it is. This shit industry of social media famous models needed to die and true models needed to take back their reign.
Trying to create a successful magazine was beginning to take a toll on my psyche. I’m not usually a snappy person. But I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety due to the stress of running S.H.E practically on my own. I was in dire straits. The bleaker our financial future looked, the more I knew something would have to give, and soon. I couldn’t go on like this.
****Author’s Note: If you want to read more about Ayana’s background, check out her character biography here.
****You can check out S.H.E magazine online here. I created it in 2016 as part of another story I was going to write for Ayana at the time.
My further commentary: Ayana feels the same way real life supermodels, and people in the fashion world do about the rise of “social media modeling.” A lot of people believe it cheapens the institution of high fashion altogether. But others have recognized that many popular blogs got their start on social media, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ayana will have to realize she needs to get with the times if she wants to see S.H.E become a success. In other words, this is Ayana’s view.
***and yes, I have IG Sim model characters who will take issue with Ayana and her stance on what “true modeling” is.
****Lyrics credit to Salt n Pepa
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