It will be fun and exciting is what I thought a day of modelling would be. I was wrong as it was so much more than fun and exciting. It was every positive adjective I can think of.
At the beginning of the year, I got a call from Breast Cancer Care telling me I had been picked to be one of the 32 models in the 2018 Fashion Show. To say I was shocked is an understatement I was so shocked all I can remember is telling the lady not only did I have bunions, but I snored as well.
A few months later all the models – 32 of us were invited to the Breast Cancer Care offices to meet each other, Hilary Alexander (former fashion director of the Daily Telegraph) and Choreographer Deborah Britz, Bal Nanray (a model from last year) and someone from Vidal Sassoon and Estee Lauder. First up we had to stand up and introduce ourselves. I do not know why I get nervous – it’s not as if I am going to forget my name or age? I remember one girl called Kim very clearly as she had tumors on her lungs and consequently no voice. However, she was so excited to have been chosen as a model, and her enthusiasm was so palpable and infectious I wanted to bottle it. We were put into groups and then pairs. My catwalk partner was to be Suzanne.
I found I was incredibly emotional and lost my brain entirely to the extent that when Hilary Alexander asked me where I shopped for clothes ( and I love clothes shopping), I could not think of one shop. She was encouraging and said “Marks and Sparks”? To which idiot I, shakes my head and say’s “Marks and Spencers.”I stupidly held my tummy in when Deborah measured me – not smart as of course months later the clothes chosen for me were all slightly tight.
I had to read two lines from my application to be a model – and I could not read them without crying. What the heck I was six years post-diagnosis and I was an emotional wreck. Following the introduction day, we soon bonded over Facebook and began to get a glimpse into each other’s lives. We bonded not only because of cancer but as future models as well.
A few months after the introduction day we had our fitting day and of course because I had held my tummy in all those weeks before the clothes chosen for me were too tight. Spanx Spanx Spanx was what I was told I needed; fewer carbs is what I told myself was needed.
Over the weeks a couple of ladies had to drop out however Kim was determined despite being very unwell that she was going to join us come what may on the catwalk and Breast Cancer Care were supporting her wish. Hilary had sourced a beautiful dress for her to wear in the finale.
Finally, the day came. Our day started early, and I can only describe how I felt as having excited butterflies in my tummy – in other words, I was excited and nervous. First stop for me was having my hair done. However, within minutes we were all called together and given the very sad news that Kim had passed away that morning. We all cried because Kim had made a significant impact on all our lives – I cannot speak for my fellow models, but I found her to be one of the most unique sassy ladies I have ever met.
Sadly as cancer survivors, we have faced death and uncertainty; however, it is only now while writing this does it occur to me to wonder how the predominately young hairdressers and makeup artists felt when we returned in shock and crying. However, the show had to go on, and as a group, we had decided we were going to strut our stuff on the catwalk in honour of Kim. Kim would have partnered Julie one of my fellow models on the catwalk.
Julie was incredible as not only was Kim due to having been her partner they were also good friends. She chose to step out for both of them and step out she did with sass and smiles.
I sat on the chair feeling my age – wrinkles, double chin, frown lines, however, thanks to Ali Davis makeup extraordinaire I came out with a renewed confidence and feeling I was 21 – the wrinkles and frown lines had disappeared, and my double chin was still there but cleverly hidden. Ali is a celebrity makeup artist to the stars. She was a star and made me feel like a star.
Next came the dress rehearsal – thank God the Spanx and the two weeks of very few carbs worked as I was able to fit into the clothes without feeling sick. It was all very exciting rushing off stage, being helped dress and undress by a dresser back into the queue to model the second outfit, back out to change into the third outfit and then the fourth. The fourth walk and outfit came with the bonus of extremely good-looking young men to escort us. Deborah and Hilary told us where to go and where to stand. Easy I thought…
I presumed I wouldn’t have my hair done again – how little did I know of the modelling world – straight after the rehearsal I was recalled to have my second hairstyle of the day because the first was ‘too flat.’ I had wondered what we would do until the show but the time went so quickly. If we weren’t having makeup or hair done, we were chatting to each other. We heard the guests arriving and it suddenly for me began to be real, and no longer was I imagining how I would feel I was in the queue waiting to go on.
Hair and makeup were on standby so not only were we dashing to change we had our hair, and makeup touched up seconds before going on.
All too quickly I was on the stage with Suzanne strutting our stuff. We made mistakes and went the wrong way, and in the grand finale most of us stood in the wrong place but hey we did it, and I hope our smiling faces and joy will give hope to people watching the video that there is life after cancer. Bal (model from last year ) was with us throughout the day had repeatedly told us to enjoy ourselves and that the love and warmth from the audience would lift and motivate us and she was right.
We had a couple of hours off between shows, and although I had presumed, I would join my friends for a cup of tea they all had to go which was a blessing as I was tired and needed to recoup. I had a fantastic massage from Ruth Joy Purchase (massage therapist for BCC) who volunteered her services all day.
My hair was re-done (style number 3) as by this time it looked like I had had an electric shock and soon it was dinner and a much-needed glass or two of prosecco.
Victoria Derbyshire came in to see us all – of course; we were all star struck and wanted photos of her and with her. Vanessa Feltz also came backstage to see us as did Joe McElderry. Thank you all for giving up your time it meant the world.
The time flew, and in no time at all, we were back on stage. Suzanne and I were not as brave as the girls walking in front of us who sashayed and twirled. However, we did high five each other and this time went the correct way.
I am known in my family for tripping up; even if there is nothing in the way, I will trip over my own feet. So managing the catwalk without slipping or tripping was a bonus until I came off stage after having received a bouquet of flowers and…. tripped over a chair that was sticking out.
This is an extract from a post my son wrote, and I think sums up what the BCC Show and Breast Cancer is all about:
“…… However still for so many people Cancer is a killer. It can be easy to slip into thinking that cancer has the awareness it needs already, but after last night you learn how many close calls there are. How many accidental lump discoveries there are and second opinions that save lives. The quick chat over coffee, the poster on the wall, the advert on TV – it all makes a difference. The work that charities like Breast Cancer do is critical.”