This evening the spotlight is on HOT Couture, the funky fashion and of course the super sexy models who will be ripping the runway. And while most of the attention will probably be on the girls, the guys are pretty impressive too. During a break in shooting last week, they shared some of the pitfalls of being male models on a small island, rife with gossip.
Cornelius Green, 25, is a bit of a veteran in the group. He has been modelling since the age of 19, after a suggestion from a friend.
He has enjoyed his career in the industry but admits certain aspects can be challenging; like the automatic assumption that he is gay.
Green candidly shared that he has received Facebook messages from other guys expressing interest in pursuing him. He politely declines but expressed irritation at those that remain aggressive. Green is also disheartened by the stereotype that being in the industry evokes. Even in terms of dress.
“Some people think I’m gay because I always have colours on me. They cannot deal with the colours. I mean why dress like every other person? Life was meant for you to stand out, not to fit in.
” Things became even more difficult after last year’s show, where the guys were decked out in lipstick; breaking the unspoken guy code. Green was not amused when first presented with the idea.
“I go dead serious. I tell them “you joking.” Because I never expected that. We did refuse until after a while. The show has to go on, you know? But I’ll not wear a dress though. I’ll not wear high heels.”
Reaction to the fashion statement was mixed in Green’s circle.
“Well my friends didn’t have a problem. As you say, “friends”. But people that just know my name and when they see me talk to me, well they have a problem. “Oh that’s batty man thing. Blah, blah, blah.” They don’t understand the industry. St Lucia’s not ready for something like that. They see it as the gays trying and introduce their lifestyle onto normal people.”
One of the other models, who wished to remain anonymous, echoes Green’s frustration. He also encountered backlash. Unfortunately it was his own family who became skeptics, particularly a close cousin.
“He heard that I put on the lipstick. He said, “Oye what going on? I heard you were wearing lipstick. What’s up with that? How you end up in that situation? I feel insulted. Anybody who questions me I feel insulted. It could be a stranger I feel insulted. But the bad thing about it is once the word starts going around the damage is done already.”
The young man sees no point in engaging in the inevitable back and forth.
“You just have to reach a point where you don’t even fight it anymore. Just let people say whatever they want. In situations like that, you stay quiet, they believe what they want. You try to defend it,
they take it as defending your guilt. So you’re stuck. I went through that once. And I vowed, for more money, I could never do that again. It’s not worth it. Because when you walk the streets and you cannot hold your head up high because your confidence is low? You’re wondering, “What is this guy thinking?” Or whereas in the past you would see a girl whispering to another girl. You would say that chick probably likes me. Now you start thinking this chick’s probably saying, I wonder if this guy is gay.
Trust me it affects you, your confidence. It took me months to recover. There was a point in time if I had an opportunity, if I didn’t have responsibilities, and I could have just disappeared from St Lucia, I would have. Because I was so sick of the society. I looked at everybody like an enemy. Why are you spreading rumours about me? Why are you saying things to destroy my reputation? I just saw everybody as people who were trying to attack my character.”
One of the newbies in the group is Arkim, 18. It wasn’t a path he had even considered in the past.
“Someone approached me and they told me about the HOT Couture show and interview. And I said ok I’ll just try it out. Maybe it’s something I’ll like. When I started doing rehearsals I realized I am actually enjoying it.”
He has heard the stories but thinks he is well prepared to deal with any negativity. “I know I’m going to encounter it. I still want to pursue it because people asked me these questions already. But I think I can handle it.”
Junior Charles, 20, is also a HOT Couture rookie. He turns a deaf ear to the idle chatter.
“I don’t listen to what people say. I have my own perceptions of how things go. They always say I go by the books but personally, I wouldn’t have a problem with anything that I feel comfortable with. If I wasn’t comfortable, I wouldn’t do it.” Amidst the glamour is a slippery slope, but even our anonymous contributor is determined to put it all aside and step out onto the catwalk confidently once again. With a few caveats.
“This year I am modelling. People can say whatever they want, I am just modelling.”
With a colourful Island Vibe theme, Saint Lucia HOT Couture starts tonight at 7.00pm at The Johnsons Centre. Tickets are available from the usual Jazz & Arts Festival outlets, or online at stluciajazz.org.