I’m not a model. I don’t model. But for free clothes I’d do about anything.
Olivia, another IFSA student, has within her host family an aunt who works in publicity and marketing, and last week she was looking for “models” to show off some clothing from the Italian/Peruvian company Ritzy Italy. Olivia introduced this aunt, Rocia, to the three IFSA boys (aka los divos famosos del quinto piso), and she said she would take us all. We went to Rocia’s house, part of a military compound south of Lima, tried on clothes, and Friday morning we were off to the TV station.
So it was that at about 10 AM Friday morning, Oscar, Juan and I were crammed together behind the stage of “Hola a Todos” in a hallway that measured two feet wide by six feet deep, along with two other models and three assistants (including Olivia), all of us loaded in before being launched out onto the catwalk.
Because there were only five models and eight outfits, three of us had to change clothes mid-show. There we were, seven people with no wiggle room, and I had to strip down to my boxers because my second outfit required a change of everything, even shoes. In less than a minute.
Then, if I hadn’t already embarrassed myself enough with my inability to smile naturally in front of the camera, I forgot to stay on-screen after my second run. Luckily, they didn’t give me a microphone, because I shouted, “¡Mierda!” when I remembered, having already returned backstage. I did a quick turn around and, as you will see in the video that follows, walked back out onstage.
What you don’t see is the bit that followed the modeling, in which loud electronic music pumped through the speakers, and a giant cuy ran around the stage in a convulsive fit sometimes referred to as “dancing.” We “models,” already awkward, shifted back and forth to the music while lights flashed, confetti rained down and cameras flew around the set.
Our second experience was more memorable, more troubling. We arrived at Channel 4 around noon and, after they straightened my hair and put make up on all of us, we had to wait an hour and a half before going back on. In the meantime, we saw the filming of the reunion between a cumbia singer and a child he fathered unknowingly. The boy, in his early teens, had a mental disability and was not in favor of being in the spotlight. Backstage he was crying, occasionally fighting with his mother/caretaker (if you can call what she does taking care of somebody) while saying, “hello” and being otherwise friendly to those of us waiting around. When it was show time, his mother/person locked his arms behind his back and marched him forward. Nothing like exploitation to drive those ratings up!
If that wasn’t too much, then the numerous dolled-up and plastic calatas put “Lima Limón” over the top. Girls in bikinis or lingerie strutted their stuff on camera every few minutes, only reinforcing our realization that this show is based exploitation of every kind. What show features celebrity appearances, Jerry Springer-like encounters, girls in lingerie and Father’s Day fashion models? It’s the exploitation of fame and sex, it’s voyeurism, and it’s product placement all wrapped into one two-hour long train wreck, trash. I’m sure it’s not the only one of its kind, but it’s the only one I’ve ever had the displeasure to see, backstage or on TV.
Afterwards, disillusioned and feeling that we’d compromised our morals, we were all happy to have our payment – four free pieces of clothing from Ritzy Italy. We took off with everything – sneakers, sweaters, and shirts along with jeans and khakis.