My fascination with modeling started with my mother. She modeled in her teens and early 20s, before getting knocked up with my sister. Framed photos of her print campaigns were hung around my parents' home so I grew up surrounded by my mother’s timeless beauty. There was no hiding from it.
I have always been completely obsessed with the idea of making a living off of your looks. When I was 12, I nagged my parents to take me to a modeling agency with shitty headshots my dad had taken, to see if I had potential. They told me I did, but I had to sign up for a $700 course, which would teach me about the industry. Not being stupid, I put that dream to bed.
The lifestyle still fascinates me: these modern-day gods and goddesses who are physically superior to the rest of us, getting paid to travel and do glamorous things. I guess I’ve always wanted to know firsthand if models live a more charmed life than the rest of us.
So I asked my friend Erica Vanbriel. She started modeling at age 15 in her home country of Belgium. At 19, she moved to Paris, where she became a muse for Thierry Mugler. She recently sat down with me so I could ask her countless questions about this exclusive and fascinating world. It’s clearly something that I’m not quite able to get over, despite the fact that the dream is long dead.
Me: What was it like living as a model in Paris?
Erica Vanbriel: It was great. Lots of great parties. I worked a lot. I’d spend the day going to castings and auditions. I’d have sometimes five to 10 a day. I’d walk around and take the metro, and you’d get a couple of jobs and go on your way.
Me: What was it like being a muse for Thierry Mugler?
EV: He loves women’s shape and portrays them very sexily. Is that a word?
Me: We can make it a word.
EV: He’s an amazing artist. His clothes were finished to the nines. They were a piece of art. Every piece of clothing you’d wear of his, there was so much put into it. So much love and creativity. It was incredible. Every piece was a piece of art. His shows were phenomenal because his background was dance. So everything was big and colourful and crazy.
Me: What was your relationship like?
EV: I worked with him for five years, personally. I was also his fit model. Everyday I’d try on the clothes and they’d work on me as they finished the clothes. And I’d also do his fashion shows. I’d usually get some really nice pieces to wear. It was business, but we’d have a chuckle once in a while.
Me: Didn’t he make you a custom dress based on your nipple rings?
EV: Yeah. When he found out (I’d had them pierced) he decided he wanted to make me a dress. He said the dress would hang off my nipple rings. He said it’d be light and mousseline and flowing. And it turned out to be very nice and not heavy at all. It was a very noticed piece of his.
Me: How does it feel to inspire someone creatively, based on who you are?
EV: I don’t know. It makes me feel good.
Me: You’re not one of those people who get away with things because of your looks, are you?
EV: The only time I did try to impress someone to get something was trying to get my car through Aircare in Belgium. I wore a mini skirt. It did work. That was the only time I took advantage of it.
Me: What is the best thing about modeling?
EV: To be honest, I like the attention. You get on set and basically it’s a day of boosting your self-esteem. It feels really good to get a lot of compliments in one day.
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