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My Modeling Adventures in New York and Paris (part of my memoir…)

Updated: Sep 5, 2021



Therein is another clear recollection. During one of my several trips back east to visit my father at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital-which all took place my last semester of my senior year at University of California at Berkeley-my mother convinced me to drop by the Ford Modelling Agency. This proved to be a very fortuitous event! We went over, I armed with some loose Kodak and Polaroid photos...(Definitely, not the professional portfolio usually in hand when presenting to the top modeling agency in the world at that time!) As luck would have it, Eileen Ford was in the foyer when I walked in. She took one look at me and asked me back to a back office, and sat me down. I remember feeling very comfortable, very at ease, with her. I always felt that way with her. She proceeded to ask me about my life, and I filled her in about my father's situation and attending Berkeley. She seized this latter point and sent me post haste to Conte Naste in Manhattan, to introduce myself to Glamour and Madameoiselle Magazines. Madamemoiselle ran an annual college issue wherein they featured college students. I proved to be a perfect candidate for this project. Selected by Mademoiselle Magazine to be one of four girls representing the college population in their annual college issue, I then - at a later date - participated in a day-long shoot then ended in a beautifully done eight-page spread. (First page in evidence above in this post.) Eileen Ford was always very kind to me. When I started living in New York City and modelling, she was always cordial. I remember one time in particular that is amusing. I was called into her office so she could figure out why I wasn’t getting more jobs. She signed me on because I had the proportions perfect for modelling - the requisite proportions for wearing clothes well - and was also very photogenic. My sense is I was a bit lost, at that stage. My father had recently died and I don’t think I was fully grounded and present to this new job. I also just wasn’t all that ambitious. It’s funny. Probably a lot of the girls were invited to parties and such things, and perhaps these were helpful in getting jobs. I really wasn’t. I just didn’t didn’t seem to attract that sort of attention. I also didn’t invite sexual advances at all, which is interesting in retrospect… So, Eileen sat me down and started to inspect my face. She said, “Well, maybe it’s your nose. It’s so small. And, your mouth as well.” I am part Asian and my features are indeed not the typical Caucasian, European look. Then, she suggested I put on lipstick in such a way that it would extend beyond the boundaries of my mouth. I looked at her in amusement and said, “Eileen, I can’t do that! I’ll look like a clown!” She was actually good natured about all this, and she didn’t disagree. She was just honestly trying to figure why I hadn’t sky-rocketed. I understood that. So, I spent several months after graduating from Berkeley traipsing around New York City with my portfolio and going to “go-sees.” I would call my booker at the agency in the morning and she would send me to appointments - possible jobs - and they were known as “go-sees.” I was never really successful but, for some reason, I was not concerned. It’s funny. I was sort of oblivious to it all… I did get a call one day with some exciting news. The Ford Agency worked with an agency in Paris - Europlanning - and this agency had selected me to come and try modelling there for a month or so. Indeed, that sounded great. But, again, I myself wasn’t particularly excited about this. I was willing, of course. This was to take place the following March and, before I knew it, it was time to board the plane and head over to France. I remember there were three of us, three girls, that flew over. Paris, in March, is dreary and cold. It’s always a beautiful city, but that is not the prettiest time of year to be there. We were quickly ensconced in an apartment and soon we found ourselves going to our French “go-sees.” Life is so interesting. As it turns out, I ended up marrying somebody French (born and raised in Morocco) in my thirties. I met him at an ashram - a monastery in the Indian tradition - where I later lived for many a year. We ended up living on a French island for around three years with our older son. Our younger son was born there. And, I did end up learning French. That would certainly have come in handy during my Paris modeling phase! I do recall I got a job modeling glasses. Funny. I have worn glasses a lot of my life, though then I was mostly wearing contact lenses. Paris was dreary but I do recall, with great affection, a certain encounter during my time there. We three girls had been invited to “a summer party.” In chilly and rainy Paris, we were suppose to come to the party in summer attire. I chose my Berkeley track outfit; short shorts, track sweats, the top, etc. There we were at the “summer party,” when we were suddenly invited to join our booker, Dominique, at a night club - “L’ Elysee Mantignon.” Little did I know that this was considered an extremely chic place in Paris, maybe equivalent to New York’s Studio 54 at the time. So, we departed our “Summer Party” and made our way to this new place (for us). Dominique came to the door and was so excited. This curly-haired and affable fellow very much wanted us to meet a friend of his. Hmmm. This was curious! Down the hallway we went to an open door. And, who is standing at that open door ready to greet us but Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame! Now, Mick Jagger was probably the most famous rock star in the world, at that moment. (And, that status might be considered to continue to this day!) And, what did I do?! I remember walking toward him and saying the first thing that occurred to me. I extended my hand and, as he shook it, I said, “Hi! I hear you went to London School of Economics.” And, with that, he replied, “Yes, and they said I could go back and finish any time I wanted to.” And now with that, I smiled and responded, “I bet they did!” I need to explain that why this particular topic arose for me was due to a fellow I dated for a while at Berkeley. Mike was a tall and lovely fellow that haled from South Dakota. He grew up in a small town and it’s much to his credit that he ended up attending Berkeley to get his PhD in economics. In the course of our relationship,he happened to mention this about Mick Jagger. Thus, this little factoid stuck and readily arose upon seeing Mr. Jagger. I do look back on this exchange fondly. He was really quite nice. He opened a bottle of champagne for us and was all around very cordial. I remember his significant other at the time, was there - Jerry Hall. She was also pleasant but I didn’t really talk to her. I just remember her being there, floating around and smiling. I believe we were eventually invited to watch the Stones rehearse. It was very late that night and - you are not going to believe this - but I declined the invite. Really! I just remember feeling like it was not my scene anymore as the night progressed. Nothing untoward apparently happened but it was just the sense I had. It was very late and I wanted to go back to the apartment. I have to say, I do look back on this in wonder. But, I think I just intuited it was best I leave. That’s all I can surmise. Oh, and yes, we did dance! I have this vague memory of dancing to a Rolling Stones song and I think I was actually dancing with Mick himself! He was his energetic self, as he is want to be, as he moved around the dance floor. And, also, I think I felt quite tall as he was shorter than me. (Fair enough. I am close to 5’10”.) The next day, I saw him again at a Parisian Brasserie. We were gathered for lunch. There were several of us sitting around a table, and he happened to be sitting opposite me. Unfortunately this time he was largely incommunicado as I suspect he was high on something. (Of course, I’ll never really know. And, I hope that wasn’t the case.) I remember feeling sad about this - if it was, indeed, drug-induced - not because we couldn’t converse, but rather that this state of affairs existed at all.


Finally, I would have to say it was really a pleasure to meet him. He was kind and gracious. After about a month I was called back to New York. It’s all a bit of a blur. Paris does stand out though because, well, it’s Paris and I was afforded interesting and unusual experiences. Annie Kiyonaga

2021

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