Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Art of Dignity

No photos will be attached in this blog post nor anything lighthearted will be expressed by me as my heart was sunken by the words and action of cruelty that no one ever spoken it out, as publicly as I do now. Hence I wonder, is silent the only way to treat with this kind of unjust in the field I have passion with?

"Are you able to do either the runway nor the fashion installation for the show?" I was asked by one of the interviewer that interviews me for the upcoming show. The words of "fashion installation" somehow cracked the miserable memory that I buried deep down inside and I remember the exact same phrase being asked on that interview for a show by the same company, just last year.

I'm always passionate in what I do. I do whatever I can to fulfill, to get a slight chance to succeed in the field of modeling. Whenever I see a chance, I grab it, I hold it real tight because I could not let anything slip away from my fingers else I'll feel I never did enough. Rightaway, I agreed to be included in either one of the category for the show, same month last year, and I got the job. For I do not know what's awaiting upon me, I gleefully boarded the bus which bring us to the venue of the show, on a mountain top.

There are so many models on that day, some I met before some I done, mostly are Caucasians because that how our fashion culture is, use all the Caucasian models because they look better in clothes and able to bring an "international" feel to a brand. Anyway, met some new friends, and reunited with some, I'm looking forward to my part as I know it was a show of grandeur and it will be a great experience.

After arrival and placed our belongings to our assigned rooms, we were called to gather at the show venue for a rehearsal. We were divided into 3 groups, and mine, was the "fashion installation" group. By then, hopes and expectations are high, I literally can't wait for our turn of rehearsal. From 2pm, we waited for others to done rehearsal until 12am that night. We were forever told to be wait for our turns because others have not done yet. We were neglected because our part wasn't that important compare to the others, because we were just the "fashion installation".

Asians like me, who are local, dare not disobey the order given by the person-in-charge, that's how we are, no matter how unjust we're being treated, we swallowed the bitterness into our tummy and never make a sound. We only dare to whispered among us, dare not voice out our confusions, because if to find that we're disobey, we will be labelled "problematic", and will be band within the industry. We will not be use for shows or whatsoever jobs, at least not the major ones, because we are "problematic". But not for the Caucasians. They voice out what they want, what they feel unfair, they voice out their opinions, some in rudeness kind of way, but they are always being hired, even some of them disrespect the people working with them, but still, they are always the golden girls who get the jobs.

Some Caucasians started to make noise of the never ending delay of rehearsal, some of them leave the venue even though we are told to wait until further notice. In the end, person-in-charge seems to unable to hold us there anymore, they decided to let us return to our hotel room, but told us we will be the first group who will rehearse the next day, early in the morning, as a return of the "kindness" they let us back to our room and rest earlier than other groups who are still rehearsing. It's just sugar coated poison as we all knew, but none of us voice out about our stand on this issue. As usual, we obeyed. We returned to our rooms immediately, and slept, without knowing that another round of negligence await us.

We rose as early as we could, had our breakfast and return to the venue sharp at the time we're told. No one was there, not a single soul spotted. We dare not roam around, just gathered together and started chit-chatting with each other. After 2 hours plus of wait, finally, person in charge arrived, and started the rehearsal with other group, and told us that our rehearsal will be commence at 5pm. I am speechless when being told, their unprofessional way of handling us is beyond words. I cannot think of other than feels like being disrespect as a model, as someone who believes in dream and hold on to what she can to make things work. But what can such a helpless girl do to make others realize their fault in handling others in such an unprofessional way? Nothing. Some of us return to rooms and rest till the time comes.

5pm, we were told no more rehearsal could be done anymore as the show will start in 3 hours time and there will be no rehearsal for the "fashion installation" group. I was shocked. We directly proceed to the hair and makeup section and start powdering up for the show which we do not know what is our role. Second by second, minute by minute, we were not told by anyone what will we be doing that night, as well as our working time. Some of us, getting frustrated, finally brought the person-in-charge to where our group gathers, and assigned tasks to us whom she refer as "talents". Some of us will be walking lamps, some of us will be vases, some of us will be statues 2 meters plus tall, some of us will be portraits of sorts.

Words cannot describe that what we're assigned was indeed "unfashionable", and such a disgrace to us who some of us hold titles of Miss in pageants. My friend, who were assigned to be portrait cried after she knew what's her role. She was asked to sit behind a wallboard, and there are two holes to let her leg through. She's gonna showcase some shoes with only her legs being portray to public. She's afraid that guests who attend the show gonna touch her legs as to curiosity, and some unknown reason. She say she felt like a prostitute instead of being respect as a model. Our rights as a model were being violated and yet we can't speak what's on our mind, honesty were treated as problematic and rebellion.

As for me, I was in no better state, but a much more comfortable situation compare to others who being trapped in the vase, requested to sit on a stool as high as 2 meters or those portrait girls who are being shine on with two strong spotlights direct to their face. I was a table lamp. I sits inside a cabinet and lampshade were being installed on my head. The show starts at 830pm, but we were told to be at our station from 745pm. We can wear no watches, hence we do not know how slow nor fast the time passes, but I cannot forget the faces people saw me as a table lamp. They were shocked, some curious, some face shows how eerie it is to have a table lamp on a head, these expressions I could not forget, hurts the dignity of a model inside of me. I held my head high, trying to be the best human table lamp I could, but tears flow inside my heart for that a part of me was dead. A fraction of my dream was dead, being crumpled by the hands of people who called themselves one of the pioneer in Malaysia fashion industry.

Our rest time were just petty 30 mins. After being told is my time to rest, I went to backstage look at other group's models dress and undress for their rounds of fashion show. I could not tell how envious I was, nor how sad I was for being assigned to be a table lamp. Deep inside my heart, I wish I never agreed this job, never agreed to take this humiliation by my own hands, but I got no one to blame but myself. Not long after me resume my work as a table lamp, "fashion installation" group was retrieved back to backstage for an unknown reason. When I look at my friends faces, they were tired, some sick, some in pain, mostly facial expression were numb. That night's work had killed something inside of us, I am sure of that. Then, I heard the person-in-charge walking towards where we are with furious steps, and that's when I know we're in trouble.

We were accused for not doing our job perfectly, some were missing from their station, some had long rest time, some didn't wear the full attire, some were talking to each other etc etc. These were the feedback from the management of the company to our person-in-charge who are lashing out on us about these. Most of us were speechless, no words were utter, they are tired. Some of us, like me, being wrongly accused and treated unjustly is totally unacceptable. Me and some girls try to make the person-in-charge understands our situation and feelings. We wanted to be a part of fashion, not a part of this fashion installation which seems like a joke to us. We did our designated job, we speak no words of objections throughout the days even we are being mistreated. Yet, in the end, we were being compared to other groups of models who were praised of doing their part perfectly, good quality models who do whatever they were told to do, and we were just a bunch of irresponsible people who never do our task. We told to go back to our rooms immediately, and were not allowed to go to the after party like other group of models were allowed to, as a compliment of their hard work.

We did not fight furthermore. We surrendered, admitted our defeats, that we are not as good as other models who showcases designer clothes on that night. We walk back to our rooms with bitter smile on our face, telling ourselves that it's okay, but is it so? Is it really okay to have people such as this, misuse the name of fashion and do whatever they want, even humiliate them in such a way? Trample on dreams of others, telling they will never be good enough compare to others who have different roles and work tasks? We grabbed whatever chances that are presented in front of us, and this is what we get in return. Malaysia fashion industry is such a gloomy place to be in, it is full of backstabbing, favouritism, comparison of local models with Caucasians, worship of Caucasian models. chances were not given to local models as they see no good in us than those from abroad. Yet, we struggled in this huge stormy waves, every single day, not knowing when will be the time to give up.

The incident of "fashion installation" seems just yesterday, and I was being asked again the same question this year. To my horror, I asked using such a blunt word: Is it something like last year, that looks like a circus? The change of facial expression of the interviewer, I couldn't forget. First he looked shocked, then he defended that it was not a circus rather than fashion. Another interviewer looks puzzled, I assumed that she wasn't present last year when the incident happened. They started to explain that it might or might not be the same, depends on the 70 over designers from around the world, pieces they designed, are they sort of what the "fashion installation" group had encountered last year. I nodded in agreement, didn't further asking any questions. After a cheerful thank you, I retreat from the interview stage to the reception where I place my bags.

Writing this piece of blog post doesn't make me more successful than who I am now, but rather expressing the desperation of needing a chance to success in this industry. I knew deep down in my heart, I might not even get the chance to be in the upcoming show, even as a "fashion installation" model after asking such ignorant question, but it's okay, because I know, I retained the dignity of a model in me by telling what others dare not to, and I make peace with myself and the miserable experience that I do not wish to encounter again in my life.

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