Whenever a friend introduces me to someone new, they usually lead with “He was in Kanye West’s fashion show!” The questions then usually proceed from there:
“You’re a model?”
Well, yes, I am. There’s really no un-conceited way to say that. It started because I was a fill-in for a charity runway show at the Short Hills Mall, my friend was the photographer, etc. It was just for FUN. Well, photos of the event surfaced on the internet, and that weekend I was on a bus to Boston with an email on my iPhone from a modeling agency in New York asking me to come in for an appointment. The rest of my modeling life is kinda history, but once that’s out in the air, I can usually answer the rest of their questions without blushing.
“Oh my God. Did you meet him? Who else did you meet?”
Listen, i’m not a name-dropper, but the Kardashian “Klan” is like American Royalty (especially in New Jersey — the state known for it’s infamous reality shows). I met Kanye, Kim, Kourtney, Drake (who told me I had better style than him…. WHAT IS LIFE?!?!?), Tyga, Jaden Smith, the list goes on. I was actually paired up with Kylie during the rehearsal walk, but a last-minute outfit change lead to our separation. She even “introduced me” to Kendall (as if I didn’t know who she was).
“What are they like?!”
That’s sorta the funny part. Kanye was in control of all the media that day, and there were no cell phones allowed. The only cameras allowed were HIS cameras that were attached to the live stream globally. When you take away the cameras, they ultra famous crew was nothing more than just people. Sweet people. Do I dare say regular people? I do. We were all there for the same reason; to work and to and bring Kanye’s vision to life. The pressure was on, and everybody felt it. It didn’t matter if everyone in the room knew your name or if this was your first runway. Everyone involved mattered the same amount. Of course I was starstruck at first, but 50 hours of work with no sleep, a slew of train rides, cabs, subways, phone calls, emails, fast food, and red bull numbed the sense that I was working with the people that I watch on E! religiously every week. We were told by assistants to get over that part fast. Most people think that’s difficult cause like, “it’s KANYE”, but like, let me tell you — it was just work. Hard work too! Models need to sleep too!
“How was Kanye?”
As a member of the “industry,” and a few fashion weeks under my belt, I can hands down say he is the most passionate designer I’ve ever worked with. He dressed, and undressed, and redressed, and undressed, and redressed, and then double checked every single one of the models. I’m pretty sure he saw me in my underwear more than my mom has in the last year. He stood right behind the walls where the models came out for the runway and fine tuned exactly what he wanted before we hit the floor. He might have dressed us like Hunger Games participants, but he had a vision like no other. Floor to ceiling mood boards with multiple pictures of the 60 of us lucky elites, all separated and organized by lightness of hair and skin-tone coordinated with the level of coloring on the clothing and unbelievable shoes. It was extremely creative, extremely thought out, and the ultimate end-all-be-all was a final approval by the man himself, Mr. Kanye West.
“I heard all of you got to keep a pair of Yeezy’s…”
Even though the tabloids say so, I’m still waiting on mine to be “rushed to my door step” like they claim. Long story short, we did NOT get those Yeezy’s, but my feet are definitely still dreaming of those glorious things.
Long story short…
Yeezy Season 2 also happened to be the absolute coolest 19th birthday present ever. With my phone being locked away for the day, and my non-disclosure agreement signed, and working for 50 hours straight, I wasn’t even really sure it happened on my birthday. My sense of time was gone. Nobody knew why I wasn’t answering their “Happy Birthday’s”… but I think it’s clear now. This one definitely goes down in the books. Think what you want about Kanye’s collection, but being a part of it bumped up my name in the industry, and how I hold myself now as a model. It humbled me, and none of us could have done it alone. It helped me learn that nobody’s ACTUALLY royalty. Everyone is a human being before they’re anything else. I’m a person before i’m a model. Kanye’s a person before he’s a designer/artist. And because of that sense, I don’t always have to feel like such a small fish in a big sea.
— OMJ Trendsetter Stephen Carlstrom is a college student, New Jersey native and professional runway model.