I once turned down $50,000 to walk a runway – I know it sounds really crazy that I did so, but there's always a reason for everything that you do in business in the moment that you do it. When I first started walking runways, I got $700 for the fitting and the show. One show could take many hours – you have to travel to the fitting, you have to do the fitting, you have to travel back from the fitting, you have to go to the show, hair and makeup can take two hours, then you have to walk the show, and then you have to travel back from the show.
In a business where time is literally money, $700 for show turned out to be about $140 an hour. Way less than most of my doctors charge me for their time! Well, at the time that I was walking the runway, $700 wasn't a lot. But it certainly helped me to pass the time while I was supposedly "overexposed" in my business. And in the early 80s, my business was modeling.
I actually liked walking in shows. Most of the shows were in the atelier of the designer you were walking for, one or two might have rented a bigger space because they had more people. But it certainly was not the star-studded attraction that they turned out to be in the 90s. Once I started to walk the shows, the agencies also looked at this as a new stream of revenue. So suddenly, many other girls were walking the shows.
I'm not really sure how the show was expanded from back rooms to giant venues that held hundreds of people and front row stars, but we all certainly know that it got there. Took about 10 years to make that metamorphosis. I remember when I walked Valentino as a model, Christopher Reeves came to the show in Valentino's atelier in Rome. I must've been 19. We were all so excited that there was a "star" in the audience.
By the time the 90s rolled around, what a change in the shows! I was now a big actress myself in Europe. Doing at least two or three films – well, actually, three or four films - per year. To date, I've lost track of how many films I've done. But at one point I was asked by both Gian Franco Ferre and Mr. Valentino to walk their shows. Specifically, they were requesting me to do the finale in a show (the opening or the closing is the most coveted spot for a famous person to walk in a show). Either you open the show if you're a big name, or you close the show.
I was asked to close the show by both designers. That meant I was endorsing their line. I was their testimonial face – and for that they offered me $50,000 each. The reason I turned it down was because I found it impossible to be the testimonial for both designers. I loved both men, and I wore both designers on the red carpet. And both designers had loaned me clothes for the films I was in.
So how do you choose one designer over another? So in the moment I had decided not to accept either offer.
My excuse? I was shooting a film. And in fact I probably was shooting a film, but most likely I could have requested time off to walk the show. I could've worked it out with the producers. But it certainly was easier, and more out of my control, and less insulting to each designer if I blamed the production. Even if my intentions were completely altruistic, I didn't want one designer or the other to feel bad that I was turning them down. I could either pick one or none, but I could not be the testimonial for both during the same season.
So I felt that I had done the right thing, but it certainly hurts to say no to a hundred thousand dollars! Especially in the 90s when $100,000 was a lot of money; I understand it's not so much money today. But I think it was important to keep relationships and not insult anyone – even if in the end it costs you. I believe relationships in business are everything.
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