My mother once told me that I was due to be born on December 2, but that I was the only one of her kids that came early; in fact, I came a full day early. That began my lifelong love of being first! I don't mean first online at the ticket counter or the bakery, I mean the first person to do things: the one who creates new ideas and innovative things. That's what I mean by "the first."
Everybody has a first in their life - the first time you go on a date, or even a first date with a new person. There are lots of firsts. I have a few firsts in my life that were really a landmark for me. Somethings I had started first and ended up being last - but nonetheless, the thrill for me was to be the first.For example, in 1990 my nephew put me on the web. Two years later ‘Wired' wrote that another model was the first on the web. "But she had just gone into the web," I lamented. "I've been on it for two years!"
Oh well, in my mind I was still the first.
I was the first of the new generation of models to do posters and calendars. I remember seeing a Farrah Fawcett poster growing up, and the Dickinson girls - Janet and Debbie - on a calendar for Suntory Beer.But I was a nobody. The only amazing thing I had done by the point I wanted to do a poster was the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated.'But I sold thousands of posters.
It was a rocky road to get there. When I did my posters, John Casablancas of ‘Elite Models' did not want to have anything to do with it. In fact, he walked out on a lunch with me. I'll never forget that - as a young model, your agent walking out on you was quite the occasion! Luckily his vice president was there, and she told me to get a manager. So I now had two firsts: 1st model to have a manager AND who self-produced five of my own posters.
I really didn't know who to go to in order to find a manager, but I remembered the Boz (at the time he was a football player) had branched out to do posters. So I called his manager, Gary Wichard at Protech Management. (Yeah, I liked the name Protech too. He was protecting the pros - I love clever names don't you?) We put together a team which consisted of Marco Glaviano as the photographer and Denise Walsh as a stylist. And we shot three posters. My later posters were shot by Kal.
However, years later I went to the agency only to see my agent's walls lined with posters of models. Kelly, Iman, and several of the girls. She turned to look at me and said, "I don't know why your posters are not here." I was stunned: I didn't know what to say to her. "That's because I produced my own because my agency wouldn't?" But I didn't want to argue with her - she was still my agent and I needed her!She also used my team: Marco Glaviano shot all the posters and Denise did all the styling.
But in the process of all the other models doing posters, I realized I had created a new line of work in a cottage industry for models and photographers and stylists. That's a really cool first!!Just because I was the first didn't mean I was the best or that I made the most money. In fact, most of the time people didn't know what to do with the product that I had created - it was sometimes disheartening. And in the time that I came up, models were models: they didn't act, they didn't produce things. In fact, when I hosted GMA several times with my own segments on fashion and pop culture, people got confused.
Today it is hard to imagine people getting confused when a celebrity branches out to do several things. Today pop stars are actors, actors want to sing, and A-list celebrities are creating or endorsing clothing lines, perfume, coffee, and alcohol. But "back in the day," a serious actor wouldn't be caught dead in a commercial. They went to Japan to do their commercials - just ask Stallone or Clooney. I know they went to other countries because all of these actors had commercials out in Italy where I was doing my acting. And I was acting in Italy because models didn't get hired to act in America. And if they did, it was a small part of a beautiful girl on some guys arm. I played Anna Karenina. I needed a challenge.
At least that's the way it was back then - in the early '80's.
But I didn't like being put into a box. I didn't like wearing a label. It might've hurt my business back then, but I wanted to do other things and be seen in many other ways. My argument all the time was if I was a waitress in high school when I was studying law, but then became a lawyer, why was I seen as a waitress and not a lawyer? I was a model and I used that money to study acting, hosting, and camera, so why was I always seen as a model even though I've done 65 films?
Jamie Lee Curtis was the first serious actress I had ever known to cross that boundary in America. In 1986 or 87, she did a Hertz commercial. When there was no repercussion because she still did movies, all the actors jumped on the bandwagon. But long before she did that, I was crossing the barrier to be in the theater. I worked with Bob Fosse on ‘Sweet Charity.' But because I wasn't as famous as Jamie Lee Curtis, it was a little ripple in a giant ocean.
But yes, yes. I was proud of another first - no matter how little it was.
Let me know the innovative and creative things you've done in your life. Tweet me @modelcarolalt and let's chat about it. It's always nice to be complimented on a first. Let me know what your "firsts" were!