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The Non-Expert

Model Behavior

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we share some tips for a young reader who wants to take her strut for a walk down the runway.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: Dear Non-Expert,

I want to become a model, but my parents do not approve of it. I even got offered to model for a really big agency that just recently went world-wide. I asked my parents. They said no and made up a bunch of excuses. How can I get them to at least give me a chance and make them realize this is what I love? I’ve tried talking to them; it does not work.

People all around me tell me I should be a model, even random people I do not know. I’m scared my parents will never let me do it, and I do not want to hate them for not letting me live my life. Can you help?


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Answer: Dear Debbie,

I met a model, back in Boy Scouts. (Take note: No one will ever write that sentence again.) One day my scoutmaster came to our troop meeting and announced that he was engaged. Moreover, he said, she was a nurse—and a model. My first thought was, “Phew, now I don’t need to worry about peeing in front of him on next week’s camping trip.” The second thought was, “What? A nurse and a model? Clearly God’s way of paying him back for being a scoutmaster.” But then some smartass assistant scoutmaster—whose wife, I seem to recall, worked the night shift at a waste disposal site—cracked wise. “Yeah, a hand model,” he said. Haha. We laughed, and kept laughing, and my scoutmaster just sat there and took it. But a few weeks later he brought his intended to a meeting, and, well, yeah—drop dead. Haha—now the joke was on you, Mr. My-Wife-Stays-Up-Late-and-Monitors-Garbage.

Becoming a model is a great career path. If you’re lucky, you’ll even marry a scoutmaster.A few years later, when I was home visiting from college, my parents had my scoutmaster—we’ll call him Allen, to protect him from the fact that he was once a scoutmaster—and his wife over for dinner. Even better, I got to sit across from said wife, who was not only gorgeous but also funny and smart. The dinner went well, until, sometime toward the end of the salmon with béarnaise sauce, Mrs. Model began telling a story. It involved directions, and she began waving her hands around, pointing. As I watched, semi-entranced, I noticed something—she only had three fingers on her right hand. Her pinky and ring fingers? Just not there. Not even stumps.

A few thoughts came at me, all at once. The first, of course, was the tussle between “Eww” and, “Actually, that’s kind of hot, in its own unmentionable way.” The second was, “Wow. Hand model. Ha … ha.” And then, finally, because really the joke wasn’t our fault, “Asst. Scoutmaster My-Wife’s-Job-Involves-Trash? Christ, what an asshole.”

There are a few lessons here, Debbie. The first is, becoming a model is a great career path. If you’re lucky, you’ll even marry a scoutmaster. The second is, non-models will always try to keep you down. Garbagewoman-Fucker couldn’t stand that Allen’s wife didn’t come home smelling like rotten diapers. Your parents, while perhaps not waste-disposal managers themselves, are just jealous.

Big agencies are good. For example, the best will only put you on an all-celery diet at 95 pounds—no 90-pound sticks for them.But screw them: We need to work on you. First of all, no model goes by Debbie. I think Debbie, I think Debbie Gibson, and then I’m thinking women in berets and double-breasted bright-blue suits, and eh. Instead, you need something vaguely Eastern European. All Eastern European women are hot, until they reach 30, at which point they all look like Madeleine Albright. You don’t actually have to know any Eastern European names. Just change all the I’s to Y’s and stick a bunch of “ina”s and “ova”s at the end. Debbie Kramer, for example, becomes Debyna Kramova. Now that’s smokin.’ I’d definitely buy $400 jeans from Debyna Kramova.

Second, I’m a little worried about these “people all around me” telling you to be a model. Who are they? And what are they really saying? If it’s an 11-year-old who sidles up to you at the Applebee’s bar, it’s probably on a dare from his friends. If it’s a 45-year-old who sidles up to you at the Applebee’s bar, it’s probably on a dare from his mom. If it’s your guidance counselor, she really means that you’re not quite cut out for college, but you’re not ready for working construction, either. If it’s your friends, it means they secretly loath you with jealousy. If it’s your sister, ditto. And if it’s your brother—setting aside the ick factor—you’ve got to ask yourself: Does he have a steady job? If not, is it possible he’s watched too much E!, and that he has been sold on what is honestly every man’s dream—milking off his wicked-hot sister’s tragic celebrity arc?

Fortunately, you’ve got a big agency in your corner. Big agencies are good. For example, the best will only put you on an all-celery diet at 95 pounds—no 90-pound sticks for them. And they’ll make sure photographers can only feel you up—everything else is strictly hands off. They’ll even send someone to pick you up in the alley out back of the Pink Elephant after you’ve downed one too many jäger bombs and woken up on the floor of the men’s room. And if you’re lucky, your agency will let you work for up to three whole years before cutting off your anorexic, coke-addled ass.

Debbie, you’ve got to live your dreams. You go, girl.


TMN Contributing Writer Clay Risen’s first attempt to build a website fell apart after he learned that risen.com had been bought by a hardcore Christian rock band. Clay is a senior staff editor at the New York Times and the author, most recently, of The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act. He lives in Brooklyn. More by Clay Risen