A Bird’s Eye View of Toronto’s Fashion Week

By Ranae Teemal Thomas

It’s 2:15 pm and I’ve just exited St. Andrew station. Walking briskly towards the red carpet of a large white tent I see the words LG Fashion Week-Canada Cool in large black letters. I am quickly escorted to the backstage tent where I enter a room bustling with makeup artists and hair stylists. I grab a seat in the model section and remove my scarf and jacket. This is hot! A woman wearing a headset and holding a clipboard approaches me and with a heavy Italian accent asks, Baby Steinberg? I nod. She scurries away yapping away on her headset. I pull out my iPhone and update my FB status.

Although this is my fifth season in a row walking in Toronto Fashion Week, I still get excited every time I book a show. It is the one time a year that Toronto really transforms into a fashion capital. Celebrities and supermodels roam the city.  The air is electric because you never know what to expect, who you will meet and where it will take your modeling career.

Moments later I find myself bombarded by makeup brushes, black liner and false lashes. Once finished I am told to sit in another chair. The male hair dresser begins working on my hair while singing along to Mary J. Blige (when she was happy according to him). I thought his voice was amazing and wondered why he was doing hair?  Before I have a chance to look at my completed hair and makeup, I’m whisked away again with all the models for a quick rehearsal.

We’re all chatting loudly while putting on our heels. OMG did you hear about Yasmin Warsame’s fall? What! She fell? When? Immediately we are silenced by the coordinator and told to get in our line-up. I learn that I am number five. We each slide down the runway-the seats on either side are empty except for coordinators and volunteers busy with assignments and cleaning up. Photographers are in the photo pit (end of the runway) positioning for the best spot. Each girl hits the catwalk when suddenly I hear,  No, no,no. Soften your face! I don’t like your walk. Start again!

Finally, it’s my turn.  I take a deep breath and focus my eyes on the end of the runway. Pull my shoulder bones back til’ they touch. Lean back so my hip bones stick out and let my legs lead me down the runway. Very Good Ranae!the coordinator yells in her mic. Phewww. I’m safe for now.

Twenty minutes later I find myself half-naked in a crowded room. Cameras are everywhere. Dressers and designers assistants are scrambling. Makeup artists are busy putting on the final touches of lip gloss. It’s madness and it’s hot. A dresser asks me, Are you ok? Then runs to get me a bottle of Smart water.

I am being dressed in a white skirt by one woman, while a man from behind is creaming my back and arms with cocoa butter. Another woman is stooped on the ground and asking me to put my foot in a shoe while another is sticking double sided tape on the side of my boobs to keep my top from moving. I used to be shy about being half-naked in front of strangers-cameras no less. After a few shows the shyness disappears. Seriously,I’m more concerned about getting dressed on time.

It’s 5 p.m. Show time! We go through some last-minute choreography with the coordinator and then are lined up same as we’d rehearsed. I can hear the crowd buzzing. Then darkness.  Finally, silence.  Music starts playing. Go! the coordinator says to me. More with her eyes than her mouth. I take a deep breath and walk out onto the runway. I can’t see the crowd. Blinded by the white lights. Relishing the moment I linger at the end and then continue stage right until it’s time for the finale. It’s crazy when I think about all the effort and time and drama behind a show and it only lasts for thirty seconds. Fame. Such is a model’s life.