Do the mere mortals dining on club sandwiches at The Coffee Shop in Union Square have any idea that below their feet, dozens of models – the real kind, who will walk the runways of top designers for New York Fashion Week later this week – are sipping on coconut water, having Xbox dance-offs and getting professional massages? It doesn’t matter, really, because even if they did they wouldn’t be allowed to partake in the fun. The is a subterranean private space for models to relax, gossip in their native tongues and enjoy speakers and events aimed at helping to boost their careers.
“A lot of the time editors and stylists get more privileges than the models,” says Joan Smalls, the 5’10’’ genetic masterpiece who came in at #8 on Forbes’ list of highest paid models last year. “It’s nice to know someone is thinking of the models.” And female models, specifically: men are not allowed.
Bernard Smith (who just so happens to be the boyfriend of Smalls) founded the space in 2009, and on any given day about 200 models from the city’s top agencies use their exclusive membership cards to enjoy its amenities, which are available five days a week, year round. I popped by last Friday for as long as my self-esteem could handle (about an hour, and I spent most of that time admiring Smalls’s complexion). At the time, there was a Q&A with top casting director John Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer casts for Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors and Diane Von Furstenberg, to name just a few, so the girls were eager to hear what he had to say. We were eager to hear what the models had to ask. Questions included:
How do you feel about accessories?
If you’re wearing a bright red shirt, is that too distracting?
Is lipstick a no-no?
What if a model is super beautiful but she doesn’t speak English?
Do you look at Instagram?
What separates the models from the supermodels?
Seriously though, how important is height and weight?
I left with a gift bag full of model essentials (some stain remover, tampons and nasal spray), relieved to work in an industry where my height and weight is not typically discussed. However, I must admit, it was nice to see so many really, really, ridiculously good looking people in one place.