Before I came to Istanbul, I felt incredibly anxious at the idea of sharing an apartment with other models. My fears were misplaced. All the girls I lived with were friendly. Besides, we were too exhausted to be dramatic after work.
I especially liked a girl named Andrea. She was a sassy spitfire from Bosnia, just a few months shy of turning 18. She always saved me a window seat in the model mobile and shared her small supply of fruits and nuts.
One evening, our group of girls found ourselves in a sterile, cramped media office awaiting our 11th casting of the day. Even the always-energetic Atti looked like he was at the end of his tether. A new girl, Bianca, had joined our group for the day’s long tour. She was a larger girl—by no means fat, but not the typical model build.
Bianca sat by Andrea and me. She boldly asked us, “Do you girls think I’m fat?”
I mumbled a non-answer about how we all fitted a demand or market. Andrea calmly waited for me to finish evading the question. She looked Bianca in the eye and said, “You aren’t fat. You’re just too big for runway or editorial. I’m sure you do well in like, lingerie or bikini though.”
Bianca, to her credit, didn’t get offended. But I noticed she didn’t try to argue with Andrea either. The whole conversation and moment was very much a female National Geographic moment—two lionesses circling and eyeing the other, sizing each either up.
Although we were all competing with each other for the same jobs, there was never a feeling of personal competition in the apartment. Well, at least, not for long. I came home from a photo shoot one evening and walked wearily to my room. As I was taking off my boots, Bianca came breathlessly into my room.
“Come out with Andrea and me!” Bianca had been determined since day 1 that I would be her party friend –normally a role I’m happy to fill. But after 10 hours of work, one just wants to curl into a ball and dream of a time where one doesn’t ever have to wear stilettos again.
“I’m so tired Bianca, my bones are so stiff. I need to relax, drink a whiskey and fall asleep before 11:30 and watch as much Breaking Bad as possible in this small window of time,” I explained.
“But it’s Andrea’s last night!” returned Bianca.
“What do you mean? I thought she was here for another 10 days!”
“She’s going to Milan tomorrow!”
And then a weird, anxious feeling that I had never felt before appeared in my stomach.
“Milan?” I repeated softly. I got up and went to find Andrea, to say congratulations and wondering why my mood had changed all of a sudden. I had gone from happy exhaustion as a result of a hard day’s work, to sour, and a little emotional. I found Andrea packing in her room.
“Andrea! I hear you are going to Milan tomorrow! That’s crazy girl, congratulations!” My voice sounded cheerful and supportive, properly concealing the hollowness I felt.
I was envious, plain and simple. She was jetting off to Italy in the morning, and I would be stuck in grey Istanbul. In a tiny, dark, cheerless apartment. Waking up every morning and sitting in Atti’s grey van. Same miserable routine, same miserable castings. As she would be running around Milan for runway castings and meeting relevant photographers, I would be waiting in windowless rooms, trying on sad pajamas that had “Party Girl” or “Destined to be Beautiful” printed on them.
My father always told me that there was enough success in the world for everyone. Just because someone else was successful, didn’t mean you had to be or bitter. Their success was not related or connected to your own success journey. Under normal circumstances, the success of a friend always made me exceedingly happy and proud.
But at this moment, I felt the pang.
“I’m going to miss you too, you have no idea. I’m so glad we met here. We’ll keep in touch, k?” Andrea smiled at me, and then gave me a hug. We both knew we probably wouldn’t keep in touch.