Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Power Of Two

Working with IMAN, Thierry Mugler Fashion Show

I posted a comment to my article, Too Much Information, from a certain Juan Miguel. He replied, stating that he is thrilled and he would never have imagined that I would highlight his opinions and include them in my blog (Van Gogh Ran through A Xerox Machine). Juan Miguel's post resonated with my message, rounding off and completing my argument. Though his letter had a different flavor, his editorial voice is congruent to mine. By sharing it with the readers, I hoped that it would facilitate further understanding of what I was trying to say.

I have always believed that it is stronger or much more powerful when there are two. I came to fully understand the 'power of two' concept from working with the other models. And, it is not only in modeling that the power of collaboration will apply, but every facet of our everyday lives. If we have the same goals, let's work together...not against each other.

Walking solo down a European runway is a feat that requires presence, projection and courage. For a good minute, you are alone on an 80-to-100 feet runway and all eyes are on you. You muster up all the energy that is inside you, keep it whole (as opposed to scattered energy), and walk out like a queen. Not all models can do this; that is why there are ‘catwalk divas’.

In the runway, some girls just go about being a diva in the wrong way. They try to upstage another girl on the catwalk, to their detriment. I find that this never works because the audience is not fooled; they see the negative energy of models whose only intent is to put themselves forward without regard or respect for the other models on the catwalk.

I remember walking down a Chloe show and here comes a very famous model swinging a shoulder bag, twirling it around like a baton, on her right side. Upon passing her, she hits me by accident (There are no accidents, according to Freud) and the next model behind her, a beautiful brunette named Antonia, sees the whole incident. When Antonia comes off of the runway, she is livid and tells everyone what this famous model did to me and swears to me that she will hit that model or push her offstage, the next time she ever gets on stage with her.

The really devious models just stand in front of you when you are already posed, just to get the center spot or to get noticed. What they do not realize is that the audience sees everything. The audience senses models’ attitudes and demeanors onstage and they are turned off by these shameless and sly moves.

Most designers are explicit on how we should go down the runway. "There are 3 of you together. Anna, you are in the middle." An unscrupulous model will always find a way to change things around. Even though we are posed in triangle and suppose to move down together in a triangle on my cue, some jumpy ones will move before me and jockey for the central position. I try not to get fazed by these guileful actions. When I am working, I am always thinking of the big picture. It always has to be a good balanced picture for the audience, the videographers and photographers. As models, our sole purpose is to show the clothes. The clothes won’t be seen to their best advantage if you have one model on top of the other, vying for center stage.

What do I do? I even it out; I go to the other spot that the girl has vacated so the flow of the show does not get disturbed. My instinctive choices turn out for the better because in the long run, I gain the respect of the designer, the photographers and the audience.
It is called professionalism. I might be a catwalk diva but this is the designer’s show. Not mine. I cannot put my interests above the designers'.
Anyway, I believe if you are really good, it does not matter where you are placed. The eye will go instinctively to the strongest presence or the most beautiful.

When a model tries this trick once too often, I have to give them the signal not to do it ever again. So when I am sure it will not disrupt anything (For instance, when we are out of the range of the video cameras and there is already another group of girls at the bottom of the runway getting the limelight), I give the errant model a taste of her own medicine. I blatantly stand in front of the said model, in the fiercest pose I can conjure, just before exiting backstage. The audience and photographers closest to where we are standing are smiling and winking at me - intimating that I am correct in setting the boundaries. I just wink back with a naughty smile on my face. There are ethics on the catwalk and sometimes you have to draw the lines for some impudent models.

Sometimes, it works in your favor not to be threatened by the other divas but to work with them. If you have a strong presence and you work with another strong presence, the result is really powerful and beautiful. When diva meets another diva, an explosive mixture in itself, there are times when it is not ‘one-upmanship’ that ensues, but glorious fireworks.

At a Mugler press show, we had these gold lame siren dresses and we had a cornucopia of accessories on (heavy earrings, tiaras, bracelets, wigs) that could fall any minute. And to make things more precarious, we had gold platform shoes with laces tied across the length of our lower legs up to our knees. I opened the scene and Iman was to close the scene. We had to walk very slow as the clothes were very tight and the 4-inch platform shoes with laces were very difficult to walk in.
I am walking back as Iman is coming down the runway and I observed that one of her shoe laces has come undone. She would have to drag the one shoe held only by her toes, with the long laces getting in her way and possibly tripping her. She still manages to walk down but I could sense her difficulty. Iman, whose style is to walk very slow and contained, was in a hurry to get this number over with. I decided to wait for her midway, so at least I can support her if she falls. When she got to where I was waiting for her, I extended my arm to help her, but still in character. We walk back slowly, like 2 princesses, but then Iman stops, faces me, moves awfully close to me, shoves her right leg through my legs and uses my body to support her. She proceeds to bend as far back as she can like the petal of a flower opening. I immediately got her drift and proceeded to bend slightly back, not all the way like she did - just enough, so we did look like a flower. The room exploded with thunderous applause and from everywhere the shouts of “Brava! Brava!”. Everyone was calling both our names and the flashbulbs went wild when we were on this pose, for this surely would make a great photograph.

From then on, whenever I am in a group with Iman, and we have to go down in pairs, Iman would say, "I am walking with Anna Bayle." Iman knows I am not there to upstage her. She knows that I would work with her.

With great models, you will find that there is always competition, but I will sincerely say that I would not have been the model that I was, if not for some models that others perceived to be my competitors.

Synchronicity with DALMA
Oscar dela Renta Fashion Show

In healthy competition, everyone strives to be better. Each competitor raising the bar and it pushes everyone to do well. You feed off each other’s talent and in the end, everyone wins.

I don’t think I would have pushed myself as much, if not for the great Dalma - the beautiful Brazilian model who always conducted herself with elegance and dignity. When I started to work in New York, we would find our racks always close to each other. In the line up, we were always beside each other. Even though we have different builds and different styles, we are able to work together in healthy competition.

Dalma had a fast and energetic walk. I have a walk that was particular but I could speed it up or slow it down depending on what was asked of me. Despite our difference in walking styles, we were often asked to walk together. But when we did, it was completely synchronized; it was as if we were joined at the hip. We worked off each other,.... never against.
It seemed that we were always 'in tune' with each other; our movements are together and precise. There are no hesitations. Whenever we walked out on the runway, it is ‘boom..boom..boom’ and we are out of the stage in seconds, delivering a powerful impact. We always get the applause. It is for that reason, we are always booked together and we do the same shows.

People think of us as competitors but in reality, we have mutual respect for each other. Over the years, Dalma has given me solid advice and hopefully I have been a friend to her, as well.
Sometimes, Dalma would get a dress too big for her frame. It is the same exact gown as I would get, but her's is strapless while mine had spaghetti straps. Since I had a bigger chest frame (not necessarily bigger bust), my body could hold a strapless garment but it would surely fall on her while she was walking. Dalma would ask to exchange dresses and I would agree immediately. We would not bother telling the design team anymore. When they called Dalma, I went forward and when they would call Anna, she would stand in my place on the line up. That way, the designer would still have the right sequential appearance of the garments in the fashion show.

A very powerful publisher, trying to plant seeds of intrigue, once said to me,“ I don’t know who spins better - you or Dalma.” I replied, “I am sure we are both just doing our jobs to the best of our ability.”

Lately, I have been doing research for my TV show and I have been watching these model searches. I see the models competing with one another, each entrant badmouthing the next. It is deplorable and not how it should be. During my time, there was a lot of camaraderie. Maybe that is the reason we enjoyed working together, despite our competitive natures.

The funny thing about conflict is that we should not really fight things or people we encounter, but go with it. We should use another person’s strong energy to make us stronger and make it work. The result of collaborating is not only double. Sometimes with great elements and the right chemistry, we can make gold.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ms.ana bayle.....!ang galing mo!you inspire people.no matter what profession we may be,your philosohies,principles apply.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no wonder the crass and flash of the likes of Janice Dickinson in the fashion (modelling) industry has lost their respect to her...not even Tyra banks can stand her (at least in the end)...soon Naomi Campbell is next...

1:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Anna

I am so honoured to be able to write to you.

I have been a huge fan of yours since I was a teenager back in the 80s. I watched Videofashion so much back then and it was the period when I first started loving the fashion world and all the great great models such as yourself.

I recall so many magical moments on the catwalk with the great girls like yourself, Dalma, Pat Cleveland, Jerry Hall, Ines de la Fressange, Kirat, Sonia Cole, Toko Togashi, Marpessa, Veronica Webb etc.

I particularly loved you and Dalma best. And what you said is true: I do recall the moments when the both of you were paired together and the both of you worked and walked so well together! I recall a particular passage for Comtesse Jacqueline de Ribes, where the both of you really seemed as one, seamlessly sashaying down the runway in perfect synchronicity.

I have not seen this with other model pairings.

I miss the old days and the girls like yourself. It is all different now, the world of high fashion; the way the girls walk, the fashions, the designers, the way the shows are produced, the kinds of girls chosen to be models...it has certainly all changed and not for the better I feel...

warmest regards
Konwae Lin

5:23 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Anna! Great site...great story...great life:) Forever a fan...Dani S

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think I've read a better explanation of the subtle psychology of the catwalk performance.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Anjhula said...

You write with a lucidity and positivity that is rare in the fashion world. As someone in this industry two decades later, I wish I were walking in your time.I look forward to more experiences analysed.

11:36 PM  
Blogger theoryg said...

Hola Anna,

I was very impressed by your story. I am not the fashion business but I could be. I used to sneak to FIT when I was at Pratt in Architecture. There I would always look at this 83-83 Yves St. Laurent show. I used to be in sheer awe looking at it. It was like a form or hypnosis or meditation. Right now as I write this I am going to research plane fair to get to New York FIT again to see this show. In it are all the Jubilee models from the late seventies early eighties. I think you were in the show but I am not sure. I became aware of you looking at video fashion monthly tapes at the school as well. At any rate the models today are a total laugh compared to your generation. i dont know what it is but I always say I can find a girl like that on Dixey Highway near Chicago. There are just a tragedy. The Chic is gone for now- LOL

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tres interessant, merci

4:16 AM  

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