Arabelle’s Shadows — Fleur Gaskin
Once upon a time, a girl made it into the modeling industry. She has the booming career, exclusive friends, and an elitist for a boyfriend. Thus the happily ever after? Not quite.
Told in a diary/memoir format—Arabelle’s Shadows unwraps the privy details of the usually deemed plush lives of picture perfect models. More importantly, it tackles the nasty Shadows vigilantly targeted on crushing Arabelle down.
Watching too much America’s Next Top Model, Runway Project, Gossip Girl and other fashion/modeling shows along with my fervent enthusiasm in flipping through fashion magazines (I actually have a huge collection of this Philippine teen mag called Candy Magazine but ceased into buying the moment I turned 19), I already have quite an idea how the industry works. I know a little bit about castings as the models in ANTM gets to spend a limited amount of time setting off to meet designers and exhibiting their works while these designers choose the models that they deem worthy to be casted. Some will be entitled to numerous castings, a few for some, while a minority of these models will find themselves down in the dumps. On top of that, one’s facial features will set you apart from the others. If you’re an American and looks too American, chances of getting into Italian Vogue would be miniscule; hence, do not expect to win at all. My favorite contestant so far, Allison, has this tendency of posing for awkward shots but ends up having amazing photos. She has this pretty big eyes that mesmerizes everyone (even the rapper Game who appeared as a guest in one episode), but closing her eyes in one photo made the judges hesitate to give her the title. She became a runner-up nonetheless.
Glamour plays an integral part in this industry. Everybody’s self-obsessed, has vanity issues, and overindulgent—which almost appear as job requirements. Arabelle never gets the big, high-paying commercial jobs because she looks too editorial; thus, the wobbly pour of money. Once, a photographer even gave her diet pills—said she was too fat albeit her overly lean body. She didn’t get casted on one occasion, too, as she was considered a few inches short. Modeling, as it turns out, is playing out with superficiality and flawlessness—there’s no room for any damages and defects.
But this book isn’t really about modeling; it’s about depression. At a snail’s pace, the Shadows began lurking inside Arabelle’s head and eventually endured for a stretched point in time, undeterred by her coveted transformation. Now and then, she’s convinced that she has finally prevailed over the vile Shadows; yet, as a matter of fact, they prowl unwearyingly, watchful for their next assault. Every once in a while, we, too, happen to run into these Shadows, transforming us into the crestfallen version of ourselves. It may be the huge zit on your face, deliberately taunting you whenever gazing at yourself in the mirror; it may be your bulging thighs, keeping you from wearing your favorite vibrant skirt; or probably you wish you had more money, to have an endless supply of designer clothes, ultimately dethroning the school’s queen bee. Somehow, these Shadows rupture our self-esteem, leaving permanent scars not only in ourselves but to our relationships as well. I know this; I’ve got my own issues, too.
A big chunk of this book covers the flashbacks from Arabelle’s growing up years. These are the most intense parts and hold the most heartbreaking scenes. It’s amazing how the author managed to create a realistic portrayal of someone who undergoes depression; Arabelle’s despair naturally seeps through the pages and impinges on the reader’s soul. Why not? The author recounts her own autobiography!
I love the final words from the book—I actually felt a tinge of satisfaction and pride as soon as she broke free from her old cocoon—and it very much sheds light on her career after giving up on modeling (well, not completely). To quote,
“I’m thinking that once I settle in I’ll probably go to university. Maybe study International Relations. I’m going to work hard. I’ll find a job where I’m respected for my mind. I still believe one day I’ll be famous, but it’ll be for helping people not because I have a skinny body and a pretty face.”
Very well said.
A big shout out to the author who provided me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. 🙂