The Time I Definitely Didn't Go On Reality T.V. -- Part Two
“What did you do this weekend, class?”
Some doors close, but that doesn't mean that others won't open. In the previous post I started to share about my exciting, but short-lived affair with Project Runway Junior. Here's what happened next.
It was a week after my 16th birthday, and I was sitting in math class on a Monday morning. A few students, far too peppy for a Monday 8 a.m., shared some of their weekend happenings.
One had hosted a Memorial Day BBQ, another had been to a monster truck rally, and a third had completed three seasons of The Walking Dead.
“What about you, Kate?” I climbed out of my slouch, wiping the sleep from my eyes. What had I done that weekend?
“Well, yesterday I preg-checked heifers and, uh…” I started to respond, but stopped to think.
White letters on a hillside, spiky palm leaves, and camera flashes flitted through my mind. It was like the first moments of morning, when you wake from a dream and try to pull the fragments of reality from a whirl of dragons and fairytale mist.
Only this time, when I’d finished collecting puzzle-piece bits of reality, the merfolk and fairies came too, and I realized that the finished puzzle before me was a complete picture of what had really happened.
“… and Saturday I went to Portland.” I finished, smiling to myself. I had gone to Portland after all; PDX from LAX.
I had signed a confidentiality contract, forbidding me from telling anyone about my involvement with the T.V. show for a year. The next few weeks consisted of full-time paperwork, interviews, and even medical exams. My friends were frustrated with how much “homework” I had all of a sudden. Early June is full of end-of the year high school activities, but I was so busy I missed them all.
Then summer rolled around. I was back at the farm working for my brothers and as a waitress at The Cowboy Dinner Tree. Mid-July I put a months worth of casseroles in the freezer for the boys and told the Dinner Tree I was done for the summer and returned to Scio to prepare to be gone for 5 weeks. Two days before I was scheduled to fly out, I was sitting on the floor in my bedroom, trying to figure out what I was going to wear in front of the United States of America, when mom got a call.
I could hear the disembodied voice of Sammy, the productions manager, through the phone in the other room.
“Kate’s been cut.” I heard her say.
Sammy said that at the last minute, the creative directors had cut me out. “I have no idea what happened,” she’d said. “Kate’s been our top pick from the beginning.”
Mom came in a few minutes later, completely in shock. “We’re not going,” she said.
I had quit my jobs. Mom had quit watering the lawn, we had found a house/cat-sitter, I had turned dress clients away, and rushed through other projects to be finished because I thought I was leaving for New York.
I had worked 22 hours a day at the farm, cooking all day, waitressing in the evenings, and driving haying equipment all night so that I would have enough money to make up for the five weeks I would be gone.
The only emotion that I felt that I could put a label on was betrayal. I felt like I had been lied to — and by people that I had really grown to love in the months since that initial phone call.
I had been excited to go on the show because I knew that for the first time in my life I would get to be around other teenagers with passions similar to mine. I wanted to talk silk with the girl with dark ringlets. I wanted to ask the boy with flawless makeup what brush he used to contour his cheekbones. I wanted to have this experience so that I could get feedback from people in the industry who could really help me strengthen my skills and grow as a designer.
But I’d been cut.
It would be untrue for me to say I wasn’t disappointed, but more than that I just felt such a sickening sense of confusion. Was this God’s way of telling me that I needed to put my scissors down and go pick up a basketball like a normal teenager?
But who was I to question God? I spent the rest of the day unpacking my things and putting back the pieces of my packaged-up summer.
That night my dairy-farmer neighbor and dear friend, Michele Ruby, came over for ice cream. Originally she’d planned to come bid us farewell, but when we told her the news over our dessert, she sat for a moment in silence.
“Well,” she said. “No one treats my friends that way and gets away with it.” She thought for another moment, scooping out the last bite of ice cream. “You’re going to go to New York, Katherine. I have connections that will be even better than any silly old reality show.”
I was encouraged by what she’d said, but as she slipped on her muck boots to head out the door I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth she was going to make it all come together.
The next day, I drove 200 miles back to the farm, where my bosses graciously accepted me back to work.
Earlier in the summer, I’d received an email from an agent for Once Upon A Time Actress, Matreya Scarrwener, requesting a custom design for an upcoming black-tie awards event in Vancouver, Canada.
I told her that I wouldn’t be able to take the job because I would be out of town.
Now that I wasn’t on an East-bound plane, I called her back to see if she still needed a dress. The event was happening six days from then, so I wouldn’t have time to make anything new, but one of the samples from Vancouver Fashion Week had caught her eye, so I sent it to her.
“You know, you can come to the event if you want,” she offered in one of the emails.
So I went.
From there I was invited to be featured on the event’s hosts’ T.V. show “eveRIAthing".
So I went.
Then I was invited to a networking event in Portland that was to take place while I was supposed to be in New York for filming. I wasn’t in New York though.
So I went.
From there I was invited to show at both Portland Fashion Council’s Rock the Runway and Portland Fashion Week.
So I went.
A week after Rock the Runway I was on the 20th floor of a high rise building on Fashion Avenue in New York City, shaking hands with the global merchandising director of Calvin Klein. My neighbor, Michele, had set up a week of appointments in the Big Apple with names such as Converse, IZOD, Nicole Miller, Ralph Lauren, and Salvatore Ferragamo — all through her connections with the dairy industry.
So I went.
From there I was offered internships, friendships, and invaluable advice.
So I accepted it.
The doors continued to open and I continued to walk through them, going to show after show, meeting after meeting. I walked though them slowly at first, checking every frame to make sure I wasn’t going to get my hopes dashed again, but soon I was running as fast as I could. Sometimes my face slammed into quickly closed doors, but now I knew better than to force an entry.
So I’d dust myself off, staunch the nosebleed, and find a different door.
Some doors were bright and exciting, but closed. Others were dark and narrow, but cracked open enough for me to crawl through.
One of the most important open doors came in the form of an egg. A hardboiled egg, to be exact (but we’ll get to that in the next blogpost).
There were rides in pink stretch limos, but there were also 12 page college papers to write. Some doors brought camera lights and glittering gemstones, but others brought lightning flashes and boulders so heavy I could hardly carry them on through to the next door.
But I never had to carry them alone.
My family, my friends, and my community were there every step of the way. Whenever I felt my feet slip, someone was there to lessen my load.
So what am I getting at here?
Project Runway Junior was a door that I thought God had opened for me. It was a door I wanted to walk through. It promised scholarships, job opportunities, and connections that would make my future in fashion so much easier. When the door slammed in my face, I was confused. I had been so convinced it was the right thing to do that I had spent a tremendous amount of time and effort moving in that direction.
It wasn’t fair to close the door when I was two short days from getting to go through it.
After I’d been cut from the show, I told God I wouldn’t be upset, so long as He would just show me why He’d let the door close in that way.
And boy, did He show me.
And all of those doors that have opened for me in the past year? From dressing an actress for red carpet events to standing face to face with Nicole Miller — all of those doors?
They all opened because I hadn’t gone to New York for Project Runway. I may have fallen on my face, but the dreams that God was dreaming for me were so much brighter than anything I could have gained from a spot in the superficial realm of reality T.V.
At a moment when I’d felt so betrayed and confused, I’d wanted to throw things and I’d wanted to be angry. I decided that while it's fun to dream for myself, how much bigger can my life be if I let the Maker of the stars dream for me?