So began mission Fake It – Be Bold. I hired the same colorist as Katherine’s to do my hair (that butter-blonde wasn’t natural after all, I found out, and I could buy it for a mere $300, which was actually cheap, but two weeks of my salary). The assistant beauty editor helped me create what she called “A Look” and gave me a generous sampling of products that she assured me were “right for” me. The Closet Maven, a lovely woman named Carrie who oversaw all the clothes in and out for photo-shoots etc., occasionally held closet clean-outs and she set aside some things for me: a pair of flowing, pima cotton pants that graced my ankles and fluttered about my legs and ankles (ala Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, two silk shifts, one in “Linen” one in “Cocquillage,” a couple of tortoise shell pony tail holders, and a pair of Alain Mikli sunglasses. Then I bought one of those leather Day Planners that all the other assistants had and spent the entire ride home one night in the back of the town-car hand-copying all of the contacts from the assistant’s rolodex for Her into the book so that I’d always be prepared. And I did feel better. I was still short and fat and plain, but at least I was trying, and I figured maybe the fact that I could write made up for what I lacked in looks.
I began going to parties that She didn’t want to attend, clubs she disliked but were all the rage; I was Area, Palladium, Limelight, Saint, Nells. It was the eighties; that’s my excuse. I never once waited behind a velvet rope. As I stepped forward, enjoying all the privilege of my Conde Nast card, behind me I heard others complaining, wondering, Why her? And all I could think was Fake it. Act as if… I had metamorphosed and suddenly, I had a brief but sweet taste of what it was like to be an It girl.
Summer’s end, I departed Conde-Nast and was invited me back each year for several years. So every summer, I traveled the strange terrain between academia and high-fashion.
Then one year, it was expected I would return, but I did not. But here was my life at Conde Nast at a glimpse; the quick reference guide:
Conde-Nast Publications: Vogue Magazine
Hair: chic bobs with expensive highlights by J.; color; palest butter-blonde. No hair-accessories, unless of course, they’re those lovely tortoise-shell pony-tail thingys by YSL.
Make up: Flawless and barely detectable; also, whatever the Beauty Editor is getting rid of
Attire: Neutrals in fabulous suedes, silks and leathers. Never ever ever polyester or synthetics. Shoes that hurt and are grossly impractical for the amount of running around you will do.
Perfume: L’ Heure Bleu by Guerlain. Anything by Chanel.
Most valuable accessory: An expensive leather Day Runner with everyone’s every number and their assistant’s name.
Most valuable skill: Efficiency, speed, the ability to locate anything in the world and quickly.
What matters most: Which editor you work for; how beautiful you are.
What you learn: Humility, resourcefulness, that for as smart and cute as you thought you were, you’re just about average, at best.