Monday, December 6, 2010

Vanity Is Not Just a Nightclub In Vegas - Part One

"So, tell me something interesting about yourself. Something that you don't normally tell people that you've just met." 

I've been on enough dates to have gotten this question more than once. 

I have a few answers actually. Which one I gave usually depended on whether or not I was comfortable with the person I was with and if I wanted to see them again. If not, I usually came up with something silly like "I am a spelling bee champion. Two years, actually - 5th and 7th grade. In fact, in 7th grade, I was the alternate and someone got sick. So, I stepped in and won the whole thing. Picture in the paper and everything." 

This is completely true. My mom still has the framed article to prove it. 

If I like the person, I give them the "fun" answer. The one that will engage them and keep them interested. 

"When I was 18 years old, I took a third job as a fully nude stripper." 

Yeah… that's a good one, isn't it? 

This one is true too, which is why it makes it so fun to tell. It's not that I'm proud of it, necessarily. It's just that…. it's interesting. Not exactly something you hear every day. 

The high school I went to was a four year school - 9th through 12th grade. Each year, there was a project that was due which was specific to the grade you were in - i.e. a Freshman Project, Sophomore Project, Junior Project and Senior Project. In retrospect, these projects were my favorite part of high school. We were given a lot of freedom for each subject and actually got to study things we were interested in. 

For our freshman year, we were supposed to design and put together a scrapbook that belonged to a famous person in history. I had to do a bit of lobbying, but I finally convinced my teacher to let me do a scrapbook on the late Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee. It was quite amazing, if I do say so myself. It really captured the short, beautiful life he led and how his tragic death led to awareness on movie sets and the increased safety of stunts and weapons. It received one of the highest grades in the class. 

Sophomore year's project was a little more complicated. We had to prepare an entire magazine based on a time period in history. I chose the Renaissance of Italy because of my passion for art and my interest in how modern art has continued to progress based on major movements such as that one. It wasn't as impressive as it could have been. I relied a little too much on current events and recent pop culture and it ended up landing me a A- on the project. What can I say? I'm a perfectionist. 

During my Junior year, we were assigned a project that involved hours of research and contemplation. We were supposed to pick a subject that was controversial, look into both sides of the argument, write a report reflecting multiple opinions and, finally, make a presentation in front of our class that included our own opinion, based on what we had learned. Once again, I had to fight a bit in order to move forward with my project. The subject I chose was the legalization of prostitution. 

My position was that it should be legalized based on the fact that it's the oldest profession known to women, it's fairly easy to monitor and tax, it's one of those laws that will continue to be broken no matter how much we spend in trying to stop it and by legalizing, we can massively reduce minor prostitution as well as increase the awareness of health risks and help to keep STD spreading to a minimum. I received an A and an "atta boy" from my teacher. 

Our Senior Year project was no joke. We basically had free reign to do whatever we wanted, as long as there was a minimum of 30 hours of work put into it, a mentor assigned so we could be held accountable, a paper written on what we were up to and a presentation of some sort to inform everyone of what we had learned/created/etc. 

I decided I wanted to put on a fashion show. I can't remember where I got the idea, but it was this project that changed my whole life. 

When I was little, I wanted to be a dance choreographer. Paula Abdul was MY American Idol at the time. I used to get all the neighborhood girls together and we'd put on dances in our front yards or "perform" at barbecues and such. I even entered a talent show once with my friend, Melissa, and put on a dance to Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise." Um, we did NOT win. 

As I started to develop what I wanted my fashion show to look like, my old choreography "skills" came back into play and I decided to incorporate more than your typical fashion show strut of walking down the runway, turning, and walking back. I wanted to have some fun with it. 

My theme was "My How The Times Have Changed." I decided to take my audience on a journey through time, using fashion. There were five different eras that I focused on: Victorian, the 50s, the 60s "Flapper" look, the 70s and finally, the 90s (no one wants to be reminded of the 80s, do we?) I had specific music chosen for each era and three or four models that would be showing off the clothing. 

At that time, I was working at Subway in Bonney Lake, Washington and my boss, Lori, became my mentor. I researched costume shops and found once in Seattle that had real vintage clothing that I could use for each era. So, one morning, Lori and I drove down there and I picked out clothes, accessories, the whole thing. I think I remember rental costs being around $400. Lori ponied the money for me as I was planning on making that back and then some with the fashion show itself. I was going to charge $5 at the door and donate all of my proceeds to my school's Special Olympics program. 

The outfits were amazing. Absolutely perfect. 

Three days a week, I held rehearsals at my house. No fashion show comes along without some drama with the models - somebody got pregnant, another got sick and yet another just quit showing up. I was actually juggling models all the way to one week out of the performance. I ended up asking an old friend that I hadn't spoken to in years to help me out as well as one of the school's most popular cheerleaders. Luckily, by that time, my show was getting so much buzz that they both jumped on the project and helped me pull everything together. 

I held my show on a Saturday during winter break. I haven't a clue why I went with this date. In retrospect, it would have made more sense to do it on a Saturday where school had just been in the day before. Instead, I gave everyone a full week of goofing off to forget about my show. 

On top of that, the morning of the show, I woke up to about half a foot of snow. By the time the show actually began, this was closer to two feet. 

I stressed, I panicked, I was hauling clothes back and forth from my friend's Toyota Tercel to the school's auditorium. However, set up went pretty smoothly. I had friends helping me left and right. They were doing makeup, costume checks, hair, lights, music run throughs, ticket booth set up, you name it. I had so much help and support that there was no way I could fail. The models were having fun - we ran through the show at least five or six times with one big dress rehearsal just an hour before doors opened. 

This is how the show was designed. I was standing at the podium, dressed beautifully in a black evening gown, hair done up as if I was heading to Prom afterwards. I would give a brief introduction about the time frame that they were going to see and a little background into the history of the fashion back then. Basically, this was to be the presentation part of my Senior Project. Then, the girls would come out and perform a strut type dance to a song that I chose to represent that particular time in history. After they were finished, I stepped back up to the podium and started the next set. 

After I introduced the fifth and final set - the 90s - I hopped backstage, did a quick change of clothes myself and became one of the models. The 90s set was my big grand finale where all of the models - including the two boys I had helping me out as well - would strut around to that crazy song, Barbie Girl and we would pose together at the end for a big round of applause. 

Sounds pretty cool, huh? 

Actually… it was. 

$5 at the door plus a Special Olympics donation bucket
were closely monitored by Megan
My backstage "posse" in charge
of hair, makeup, tickets and wardrobe
It's the 90s. Boys get eyeliner too.
Keelia was the queen of the Good Hair Day
Lori was the perfect mentor

Not the best photos but the dresses
for the Victorian era were amazing

The flapper dresses were so much fun
to pick out

I know it's a bit obvious, but the
70s set was done to I Will Survive
It doesn't get more 90s than bare midriffs and vinyl pants

I had a bigger turnout than I expected - my family was there, many schoolmates I didn't plan on, teachers, even my ex-boyfriend drove over 35 miles to see it. I made enough money to pay back Lori for the costumes and the Special Olympics team was able to buy all new basketball uniforms for their upcoming season. I was a success. To top it all off, during our Senior Assembly later that June, I received an award for Best Senior Project. 

So, when a representative from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising came to my school towards the end of the year for recruiting, everyone immediately thought of me. I sat through the presentation and by the end, my head was already in San Francisco. I was going to be a fashion show coordinator. I had found my calling. No more community college and then University to study journalism. I was going to California to live the big life! I applied, interviewed and was accepted. 

That was when I found out how much it was going to cost. Somehow, I didn't think my hours at Subway were going to cut it. I started applying for scholarships, grants and began paperwork for financial aid. I actually did get enough in scholarships and grants to cover about 90% of the first year (it was a two year program). However, I still needed the money for my second year as well as some starting cash for an apartment and living expenses. 

The summer after my Junior year of high school, my friend crashed her car with me in the back seat and my other friend up front. Distracted, she let the car drift onto the soft shoulder and then tried to overcompensate her mistake by jerking the wheel to the right. She lost control of the car and we did a nose dive into the grassy median between the four lane freeway. The car flipped end over end and landed upside down just feet away from oncoming traffic. Luckily we were all okay. Seat belts, people, seat belts. Like… all the time. I did end up in the hospital with a very minor concussion and had six months of chiropractic care to fix up some whiplash. 

My point of this story is that as I was putting together all of my eggs in order to make this move to California, my settlement check of $4,000 came in. My moving expenses and first three months of rent were covered. Just $16,000 more to go to get that second year paid. 

I went back and forth with financial aid services however, ultimately I was denied because my parents made too much money. Unfortunately, they weren't giving me any of it. This caused me to be… frustrated. I openly admit that, especially at that time, I was what some people would call a "spoiled brat". Just shy of foot stomping, I threw a bit of a fit that my parents weren't helping me out in my newfound dream of becoming a fashion show coordinator. I mean, I was going to California! I was going to live the life of a star! Couldn't they see how important it was to me?

Why were they denying me my DESTINY?!?!

I had already picked up a second job working at TCBY three or four days a week. But, in an effort to retaliate and cause a bit of a stir, I waited until my parents were out of town on a summer vacation, put on my skimpiest dress and had a friend drive me to a gentleman's club a few cities over. The sleazy manager brought me in his office for an interview, was actually nicer than I expected, gave my body a once over glance and hired me to work four nights a week. As he walked me out, he asked if I had chosen a stage name that he could put on the schedule. 

Why yes, I have. My name is Vanity.


  1. Why'd you have to stop there??? LOL! I'll be waiting on the edge of my seat for the conclusion to this cliffhanger, Miss!

  2. lol... oh dear. The other day at work the boys decided my stripper name would be Showtime. I'm not sure if that's a compliment or insult, but I'm fairly certain Vanity & Showtime need their own show....

  3. I'm impressed that you remember all that!