Writings of the general word's body

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

New Read/s

Lots of essays, interviews, reviews - in the new, 4th edition of African Writing - and plenty of short stories. Among the contributors is Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond whose attitude laden story, Bush Girl, follows a young Ghanaian woman bent on making it as a model in New York.

When I had overstayed my visa seven summers ago, my plan was to cash in on all the “You are so striking!”s I had heard on my many long vacs to London and New York. The Plan was to be discovered. The bit of fashion that had trickled down to me in Ghana through magazines and MNET (when cable had finally hit Ghana), had convinced me through Iman and Roshumba and Naomi that the world was ready to celebrate my kind of beauty.

The summer I had come to visit Auntie Freda, the summer before I was to start my first year at the University of Legon, I knew I wasn’t going back to Ghana until I was international. I didn’t know what I would tell Daddy or how I would get around the strictures of my three-month student visa, but that was before 9/11 and back then I knew God, so I prayed.

I couldn’t go back to Ghana. Sure, Daddy had a lucrative business. A big house. A driver. A Land Rover for the unfinished roads. A Benz for evening outings and afternoon luncheons. But I wasn’t a business or science student. I wouldn’t be snapped up by Mobil or Shell or some other multinational, be paid in dollars, meet and marry a boy whose father owned a home on Switchback Road. Besides I didn’t want any of that. I wanted the big house, the luxury cars, the dollars and sterling on my own terms. And I had a plan to get them. I was going to be a supermodel.

When Daddy called to tell me the recurring teachers’ strike had resumed, I felt convinced of God’s endorsement. That very night I prayed a promise to God that I would serve him forever if he made me the international supermodel I knew I was born to be. I practically fell to my knees with thanksgiving right in the middle of the shop when Selima, then the manager at Alain et Riette, asked me in her raspy Moroccan accent if I’d be willing to work off the books. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you Lord, for loving me!

Back then I got it, but I didn’t get it. I had read in Allure Magazine that Paulina Models, then newly-opened in SoHo, was looking for girls with a “different look”. In my 19 year old mind I didn’t realize that just meant they were looking for the latest industry obsession, girls from behind the Iron Curtain.

On my first day on the job I went to four agencies on my lunch break. They all turned me down. At one agency a woman emerged from a glass office and asked me, “How tall are you?”
I answered with the truth, “Five-seven.” After all, what? Carolyn Murphy was 5’7” in flats. Kate Moss was shorter. They had both come into Alain et Riette to try on shoes. Another divine endorsement, I thought back then.

This reminds me of a story of mine in which a Nigerian girl dreams of becoming a model in London, complete with a similar line noting Kate Moss' non-model-standard height. And Ms Brew-Hammond's story has given me a new catchphrase, "After all, what?"

1 comment:

Osondu Nnamdi Awaraka said...

I think "Bush Girl" sounds interesting. The title and this excerpt have caught my attention. I will search for it.