I had a highly successful career in the modelling industry and worked with many companies in the country. However, my dream was always to walk during Fashion Week, especially the New York Fashion Week. Even though I had heard scary stories from other models who had worked abroad about how they were treated, I still dreamt of Fashion Week every day. When an opportunity came to travel abroad, I grabbed it without thinking twice not knowing that it was a trap and I would work as a foot model for an adult website.
It started with an email I got out of the blue. I had been emailing many modelling agencies abroad but my efforts to get them to sign me bore no fruits. For nearly two years, I applied without giving up hope and kept checking my email every day to see whether they had answered any of my numerous emails. There was nothing. Still, my career was going well and I was getting a lot of jobs locally. One day while I was relaxing after a long day of work, I got an email notification. I didn’t think much of it but when I read it, my knees went weak and I nearly fell to the ground.
“Dear Francisca, we’ve received your email and we’re quite impressed by your portfolio. We would love to meet you at your earliest convenience. We will cater for all your travel and accommodation expenses. Best, Lillian.” The email read.
I think I read it ten more times just so I could confirm that I wasn’t seeing my own things. When it finally hit me that it was real, I composed myself and wrote a reply accepting their invitation.
“You won’t believe what just happened,” I said to my then-boyfriend.
“A modelling agency in the US reached out to me. They want me to meet them and they’re paying for everything.” I said excitedly.
“Oh my God, that’s amazing. I’m so happy for you.”
We talked for about an hour before I ended the call.
“Don’t forget about me when you get there.” He said before hanging up. “And be careful. I don’t want to hear that you’ve become a foot model.”
He was joking but these words played over and over in my head after that conversation. It wasn’t unheard of that many models had been exploited and forced to do things that they didn’t sign up for especially foot modelling. It was something I always told my boyfriend about but promised that I would never do even though it was big business. When he mentioned it, I started getting scared.
“What if something goes wrong?” I wondered to myself.
As the days got closer, the nervousness went away and I felt ready for the new experience. I had waited for that moment for too long for me to waste it.
My family escorted me to the airport and I left the country for the US. When I got there, I was greeted by Lillian herself. She was the lady who had emailed me informing me that their agency was interested in my work. It almost felt like a dream as we drove through those beautiful streets of New York.
Finally, we got to the hotel and she helped me check-in.
“Get some rest. We have a long day tomorrow.” She said then left after settling me in and ordering some food for me.
I slept like a baby and woke up early the next day ready to go and meet everyone at the agency. Lillian came to pick me up around 9 am and we headed to the office.
“They’re all so excited to meet you.” She said.
“I’m so excited too. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”
The building looked nothing like I expected. It was in a different part of town that looked and smelled horrible. I looked around trying to figure out if we were in the right place then Lillian signalled me to come out of the car. I stepped out, pulled down my skirt and clutched my bag as we headed into the building.
“Is this the place?”
“This is where we have the shoots. He’s a really talented photographer.”
“Umm… I haven’t even seen my contract.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll take you to the office. I just want you to see if you’ll be up for the job.”
When we walked in, we were welcomed by a man who walked us through the dark studio. I noticed the pictures of models on the wall as well as pictures of feet.
“Do you work with a footwear company?” I asked naively.
“No, those are my foot models, darling.”
“What? I didn’t agree to be a foot model.”
“Relax. That’s not why I brought you here.”
“No, you’re just a regular model.”
Lillian walked me through my requirements and I was happy about them. We then went to her office and I signed my contract making me part of the agency. I had a three-month contract but if things went well, they would renew it. So I had to be on my best behaviour and get along with everyone.
I spent the week settling into my new job and getting to know my colleagues. Things were really good at first then things took a turn for the worst. Lillian asked me to go for a shoot at the first studio that we had gone to. I agreed without thinking much about it. The photographer was friendly as usual and the shoot was successful.
“I’m Noel, by the way.” The photographer said.
“That’s such a beautiful name.”
“What are you doing later tonight?”
“Can I take you out to celebrate joining the agency?”
Sure. Plus you can show me the nice restaurants now that I’ll be staying here for a while.”
After work, I made my way to a restaurant close to the office where we had agreed to meet. Noel showed up looking dapper which was very different from the t-shirt and jeans he wore in the studio.
“You look good,” I said
“Thanks. You look beautiful as always.”
We talked for almost 4 hours without realizing how fast time had gone. He offered to walk me home which I accepted since I wasn’t comfortable taking an Uber alone in the middle of the night.
I invited him in for a few drinks and that was where things got weird.
“You have very beautiful feet. Can I touch them?” He said as we sat on the couch.
“No!” I said firmly then got up to pour myself a drink.
“Have you ever thought of being a foot model?”
“No. I promised my boyfriend I wouldn’t do it.”
“Boyfriend? That’s so sad. You really have a lot of potential, especially in the foot modelling business.”
“Thanks but I’m not interested.”
“Well, you don’t have much of a choice. That’s how we make money.”
Noel changed his tone from sweet and warm to harsh and threatening. He moved close to me and pinned me against a corner with his big frame.
“I’ll see you in my studio tomorrow.” He said.
I tried to tell Lillian what had happened but she insisted that I had to go to Noel’s studio. Then I found out that the modelling agency was just a cover-up of the real business that Lillian and Noel did. They ran a secret business selling as a foot fetish category. Everyone in the office was in on it yet no one said anything to me.
Once it hit me that I wasn’t going to get out of the agency and I had no other way to earn a living, I accepted my fate and worked as a foot model for two months. I made good money and Lillian thought that it would be enough to entice me to stay. However, I packed my bags as soon as I got the opportunity to leave and never looked back.
The experience traumatized me since I had big dreams of walking the New York Fashion Week yet there I was, working as a foot model. In fact, when I got back to my country, I quit modelling and started a business with the money I had made abroad. I also ended my relationship shortly after because I couldn’t keep lying to him.
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