Fat Chance RealizedBy Carol Alt / Post / May 2, 2016
I’ve always loved being first.
I was due to be born on December 2nd. My mother once told me I was the only one of her children that came early, even though my birth was only early by a day. I guess that’s where it all started, my lifelong thirst for being first. I don’t mean to say I love to be first for things like standing in line at the bakery, or at ticket counters, no. I mean I crave being the first to innovate, to make new ideas and create.
Everyone has a first in their life. Think back to your first time on a date with a new person, that first time you let caution fly and jump into the ocean with your clothes on. There’s a first in everyone’s life. I can think of several that have made the largest impact on me, and I think of them as landmark moments for me.
As many people have experienced, sometimes you start out first and end up last. A vivid first for me has been my nephew putting my name on the internet, a small article and a low-resolution photo on a message board (a BBS, if any of you remember them), in the heydey of the internet’s creation. For a while, I was the only model you could find on the world wide web. A few years later, Wired published an article about the first model on the web. Surprise surprise, they forgot about me. I remember thinking “But she had just gotten into the web! I’ve been on it for three years!”
Ah well, in my mind at least I was still first.
Remember back when everyone used to have posters of idols; when we all had models, musicians, actors and actresses all over our walls? I was first at that among models, too. I remember seeing a Farrah Fawcett poster growing up, when I was just starting out as a model. I saw the Dickinson girls Janet and Debbie on a Suntory Beer calendar, looking gorgeous. At that point, I was a nobody in the world of modeling. Don’t get me wrong, by the time I wanted to sell posters I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but I still sold thousands before anyone.
It was a rocky road to get to that point. When I finally did my posters, John Casablancas of Elite Models didn’t want anything to do with it. He walked out of a lunch with me, and I’ll never forget that. As a young model, an agent walking out on you was a hell of an occasion! Luckily, his vice president was there, and she told me to talk to a manager and handle it myself.
So here I was, the first model to have a manager instead of simply an agent, and the first model to actually produce five of her own posters. I didn’t at that point know just how to go about actually getting a manager, but I remember The Boz (Brian Bosworth) at the time had just branched out into posters, as well. So I called his manager, Gary Wichard, at Protech Management. (Side note. I loved the name Protech, too; he’s protecting the pros! Gotta love a clever name, don’t you?)
We put together what I saw as the “dream team” of management. Myself, Gary Wichard, Marco Glaviano as the photographer, and Denise Walsh as stylist, and we nailed it. We put out three posters, and they looked absolutely gorgeous. Kal came on and shot the rest of them afterwards. However, years later I went to the agency that had turned down my poster ideas, and the walls were lined with glossy posters of models. Kelly, Iman, and several other girls I knew at the time all were there. The agent looked surprised and said “I don’t know why your posters aren’t here!” I was stunned; I didn’t know what to say to her. So I went with “That’s because I produced my own when my agency wouldn’t?”
I didn’t want to push it further though, she was still my agent, and I still needed her. She also used my team. Marco shot all of her posters, and Denise took care of all the styling. However, I realized I had inadvertently created a new industry for models, photographers, and stylists. That’s a pretty cool first!
Unfortunately, being first doesn’t always mean being the best, or making the most money. Most of the time people didn’t know what to do with the amount of posters that had been created, and that can definitely be disheartening. I remember back to when I came up as a model. Models were models. They didn’t act, produce things, and in fact, when I hosted Good Morning America several times with my own segments on things like fashion and pop culture, the audience was often confused. They didn’t expect a model to branch out like I did. It’s hard these days to imagine anything but. Celebrities are everywhere and doing everything!
Pop stars are actors, actors want to sing! A-list celebrities now endorse and build clothing lines, perfumes, coffee, alcohol- you name it, a celebrity endorses it. Oddly enough, back in the day a “serious” American actor wouldn’t be caught dead in a commercial. The first one that I remember crossing that barrier was Jamie Lee Curtis, in an ‘87 or ‘88 Hertz commercial. Generally though, they’d find another country to become that kind of famous in. David Hasselhoff did it in Germany, Stallone and Clooney did it in Japan, and the list goes on. I can even relate to that. I remember seeing American celebrities on Italian television when I was overseas, and the reason I was in Italy was to act in the first place. Models didn’t act in the US back then, and if they did, it was as eye candy on some guy’s arm. I, however, needed challenge. I needed substance. I was Anna Karenina.
Ah, to think back to the early 80’s. It was such an odd time. So much has changed. And I didn’t like being put into a box. I didn’t like being labelled, and stuck in a role. It might have hurt business for me back then, but I wanted to do other things and experience life. My argument was that if I was a waitress putting myself through law school, why wouldn’t I be seen as a lawyer once I’d passed the bar? Instead, it seemed I was remembered as the metaphorical waitress. I was a model, and I used the money that came from it to study acting. I studied hosting and camera work, so why was I always seen as a model, though my résumé now lists more than 50 films. Why is that?
Anyway, one thing led to another and after one actor jumped on the endorsement bandwagon, they all did. Long before that, however, I was breaking into theater, crossing the barrier to the stage. Having the opportunity to work with Bob Fosse on Sweet Charity was a lot of fun and a lovely experience in my life. But because I wasn’t “huge” like Jamie Lee Curtis, the first of a model going into theater was just a little ripple in a vast ocean.
Yes, yes, I know. I’m still proud of my firsts, no matter how small they may seem. Let me know all of your innovative and creative firsts! Text me, let’s chat. It’s always nice to be complimented on a first, and let me know what YOUR firsts were!
@modelcarolalt on Twitter, Carol Alt on Facebook
Edited by Jake Layton