Ezra Alanis 
Illustration by Charlotte Muth
03 July 2019

Her eyes were the most piercing blue. She called me forth and for a second the world around me disappeared. No lights, no sound, just her eyes. A thin curtain stood between me and my fear, and she beckoned me to inch closer.

My heart had been racing for hours in anticipation for this moment. Her eyes grew to a smile. She spoke a soft, “Good luck!” Then with a hand signal and the sweep of a curtain, the world around me returned.

In the blink of an eye, the blue eyes of the stagehand, that signaled my cue to begin, were replaced by the eyes of hundreds of spectators. Familiar and strange eyes now lined the wide corridor and shaped the catwalk. The bright lights blinded me and dragged me out of the comfortable darkness protecting me . . .

My Mom told me that I started walking earlier than all the other kids my age. She said that I waddled and tripped and fell constantly but always got right back up. A part of me feels like maybe it was destiny herself training me for my future modeling debut. A talent my mother always attributed to her glamorous side of the family.

Often, she would say to me “Mira!” as she pulled her skirt up, ruffled her hair, and walked side to side. As a closeted 10-year-old boy, I didn’t take too well to those lessons; I hated them in fact. I wanted to be masculine and rough, a real boy’s boy.

I guess in a funny twist of irony I did become a boy’s boy. I departed from the need to be a hyper-masculine man and embraced the “effeminate” sway in my hips, the “girly” bounce in my step, and the “dainty” swing of my hands. I slowly introduced all those lessons imparted by my mother into my physical vocabulary.

Suddenly my world had changed. Every street became a catwalk, every step became a strut, and every look became a gaze. My headphones kept me locked in this world of extravagance. The music would flow through me and set the stage for a dance between me and the pavement:

And now . . . dancing to “The Anthem” by Pitbull . . . Ezra!

Step right, shift weight, lift left. Step left, shift weight, trail right. Balance. Shoulders back. Shift weight, left arm back, twist and let a person pass. Step left, catch up with right, pivot right, shift weight. Turn. Left step, smile, gaze.

These daily set of choices became my nature. An unconscious and ever-present style of walking, a talent. As a petit guy, I believed that I would not be walking for a major house any time soon, until an opportunity happened to surface. A call for models of any shape and size to walk a real catwalk showed up on my Facebook feed. I slammed the “interested” button, auditioned a few days later, and got casted!

Walking for FAST (a student led fashion organization) was my first exposure to the coveted fashion “scene”. As an “aspiring model”, BARE writer, and future fashion industry ghoul, I was living for this opportunity. After a lifetime of walking, months of fittings, days of run-throughs, and hours of hair and make-up, I finally took my first step as a fashion model.

My designer, Isa Garcia, dressed me in a sheer flamingo pink tunic with a turtleneck and long billowing sleeves. Around my waist wrapped a hand-crocheted crimson corset with lines of sequins and big puffs of cotton hanging all around it. My bleached blond hair was curled into structured twists and tiny loose braids. Two large bursts of sparkly red eyeshadow framed my eyes. My black underwear was visible through the sheer fabric and matched with my black faux leather combat boots. I looked like Eros himself.

Everything was in my favor; I was talented, practiced, and immortal. Then everything changed when I took that first step. My eyes swelled with tears, my limbs turned stiff, my smile faded, and my muscles melted. All those strange eyes, just staring at me.

I started to drown in the spotlight I had craved so much.

I did a half-hazarded pose at the first stop and tried to suffocate the flight response emerging inside me. It was then that I met a set of familiar eyes. They came with smiles and tenderness in that see of sharp glares and distant subjectivism. My friends sat on the front row. Their faces brought me back to earth and I couldn’t help but laugh. I broke my model stoicism and embraced the attention.

I rounded the turn and slowly brought life back into my movements. I looked down the hallway where my opportunity for redemption waited for me. I held my arms out and let the long voluminous sleeves hang on either side. Then, I just walked.


I strutted. I swung my hips. All the confidence I could muster rested on my eyes and on my pursed lips. I smiled as I twirled from pose to pose. I turned another corner and posed one last time.

Once I passed the curtain again, my smile burst into laughter as the embarrassment, tension, and excitement surged out of my chest.

After the show, I went to meet my friends for post-runway drinks. In my street clothes and with a full face of makeup I began to strut down the empty street. My unconscious yet iconic walk returned to me. Everything I had hoped to do during the show I was doing mindlessly, without a single person to witness my mastery.

I became annoyed with myself. It was difficult offering myself to be seen, when all I have trained myself to do my entire life is blend in. All in the hope that I could avoid the possibility of rejection and the impending voice that says, “YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.”

It was then that I remembered my mother’s lessons again. It struck me that maybe she wasn’t just teaching me to walk funny; instead it was her own quirky way of telling me that I should welcome attention. That blending in was not an option because I had inherent (and inherited) value meant to be seen and experienced.

Modeling gave me a new lens through which to see myself and is summarized by the words of the icon Naomi Campbell, “I don’t think I was born beautiful. I just think I was born me.”