I tried not to stare as Jen shimmied out of her sundress. She was probably used to being stared at, being a famous model, but she was also my long-time friend. I knew her as a charming, bubbly girl, the kind of girl you could go to brunch or to the movies with, while the rest of the world knew her as the queen of glamour, a runway natural with a face worth killing for and lush blonde hair that was the envy of many.
“Don’t be nervous, Jade!” Jen smiled sweetly as she hung up her dress, wearing nothing but high heels and a pastel blue bikini that clung to her narrow frame. “I know there’s a lot of big names at this party, but you’ll fit right in. Plus, every model who’s been invited brought a friend, so not everyone here is famous.” She flashed that million-dollar smile of hers as she gently helped me out of my clothes and undid my thick, strawberry blonde braid, letting my hair tumble down to my waist. “You look gorgeous.”
I couldn’t help but blush; I was loath to admit it, but I’d had a crush on Jen since long before her modelling days. I took some deep breaths as she fussed with the ties of my yellow swimsuit, hoping she’d think I was just getting myself psyched up to meet the other models and the big industry execs who were mingling outside, around the pool.
I’d seen a few big mansions and elaborate homes from working as a realtor, but this one blew me away. It took Jen and I what felt like forever to get through the labyrinth of beautifully decorated halls and into the backyard, which was enormous and landscaped to perfection. The patio could have fit three of my childhood home on it with room to spare, studded with little tables and roaming waiters bearing trays of bright-coloured cocktails.
The first part of the party was a blur; Jen had a lot of people to say hello to, from fellow models who squealed with delight as they hugged her to execs who patted her warmly on the back. A few of these older men took an interest in me, more than one of them wanting to touch my hair. I didn’t think anything of it at first; the whole point of bringing non-models to this party was for the execs to look for new talent, so I’d come prepared to have my body looked at and scrutinized.
Then I started to look at the other non-models, most of whom were sticking to the side of a famous woman the way I was with Jen. They were all dressed in bikinis and heels, like every other woman there. More interestingly, they all had stunning hair; one had a striking lemon-blonde pixie cut that made her blue eyes pop, one had an afro that rose up to the heavens, another had a curtain of ruler-straight dark locks that fell almost to her knees.
As the party progressed and we took in more and more cocktails, we started to gravitate towards each other. A few execs came up and talked to us, mostly to play with our hair. One of them, a tall, imposing man with a buzzcut, came up behind me and started rubbing my scalp.
“You’re hot stuff…” He murmured in my ear. “You’ve got what it takes to make it big, little lady.”
“I– I do?” Jen had told me over and over that I had the right figure, but until now I’d never really thought about modelling.
“Tell you what,” the exec stroked the top of my head “I’m working with a big designer on a collection that’s gonna turn the fashion world on its head. You’re exactly the type we’re looking for on that runway. You in?”
I was caught off-guard, but I decided to stop second-guessing myself. I’m pretty, I might as well own it! I turned around to face him, grinning. “I’m in.” I had to look up to meet his gaze; even in my heels, he was tall.
“There’s just one condition, little lady.”
“You mean a contract?”
“We’ll sort out the paperwork later, this is about styling.” His hand was at the small of my back, guiding me to the centre of the patio, where everyone could see us. “You see, this is a revolutionary runway, the clothes will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. So we need the models to look like that too.” He offered my a low-backed chair, and I gratefully sat down. By now, a handful of other execs had their eyes on me. Unsure of what was going on, I scanned the party for Jen, but couldn’t see her.
Another exec got up and stood behind me; I could feel his big hand carding through my hair. Suddenly I heard a crunching sound, then choppy strawberry blonde strands were falling into my lap. I started to panic, my face going red. Who did these men think they were? You can’t just cut someone’s hair without telling them!
And yet, the crunch of scissors happened again, dangerously close to my ear this time. Another handful of my beautiful, hard-earned hair dropped into my lap. The exec with the buzzcut was grinning down at me.
“You’ve got pretty hair, but you’ll be a much better model without it. I don’t know about you, but nothing gets me going like a nice cueball in a bikini.” He pulled a pair of clippers from his pocket, and, without warning, plunged them into the uneven mess at the top of my head. My heart raced as they roared, peeling the hair from my scalp. Soon, I was practically drowning in a puddle of my severed locks.
“On your feet, baldie.” The buzzcut man playfully rubbed my head, turning me to face an older man I hadn’t noticed before. He was sitting at the centre of the patio, flanked by a couple models with familiar faces I’d seen on billboards and in magazines. He looked me up and down, then beckoned for me to come closer.
My legs were shaking as I stepped towards him, keenly aware of all the eyes on me.
“On your knees, don’t be shy.” I could have tried to run, but, oddly compelled, I sunk down to the ground before him, my head at a level with his stomach.
His hands were cold and clammy as they meticulously felt up every inch of my sheared scalp. I hadn’t seen my new look yet, but I could tell it was very, very short, shorter than a buzzcut. So it came as shock when the man shook his head, looking down at me with a sour expression.
“Not short enough. I want them all skin bald.”
All of them? I didn’t realize what he meant until I heard the roar of clippers turning back on behind me. I looked around to see the girl with the blonde pixie cut in the chair where I’d been placed. The same pair of men were looming over her, and the one with the clippers had shaved a stripe right down the middle of her head, leaving odd-looking tufts on either side. There was no way she could turn back, her hair would have to be completely shaved.
I was reeling, such a potent mix of shock, confusion, and, dare I say it, odd arousal coursing through me that at first I didn’t notice the familiar voice in my ear.
“You’re doing great, Jade. You’ll make such a lovely bald model…” Something cool and damp touched my scalp. I looked up to see Jen, holding a safety razor and generously emptying a can of shaving cream all over my head.
Despite myself, my bikini bottoms were soaking wet, a thrill coursing down my spine. Jen’s perfect thighs were so close to me, I could lean over and kiss them if I wanted to. And yet, I was too stunned to move as she scraped the razor over my head again and again,
“She’s smooth as glass!” The man in the chair grinned, reaching out to touch my newly bald head. He made me kiss his hand, then rubbed something cold and slick that stung a little into my head. I was shaking as Jen guided me to my feet, pressing my thighs together, hoping no one could tell how wet I was.
“Go on, baldie.” It was the first time Jen had ever called me something aside from my real name. “Feel how smooth and shiny you are.”
As I moved both hands up to my head, shocked by its perfect smoothness, the pixie cut girl, or, well the formerly pixie cut girl was moved down to between the man in the chair’s legs. She was red in the face from crying, and there were still a few tufts of hair behind her ears; maybe she’d struggled and the men with the clippers hadn’t quite subdued her. Behind her, the girl with the afro was seated stalk still as her thick, cloudy curls piled onto the ground.
I was guided away from the party, to a small room in the depths of the mansion. Jen smiled sweetly as she helped me out of my shoes and my bikini. “Be grateful they didn’t take your eyebrows, baldie.” She petted my scalp. “This will make you so, so famous, you really ought to thank me…”
Before I could figure out how to react, she left me. All I could do was stare at myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirror. Except for my brows and lashes, I was completely hairless! How would this ever work on a catwalk? And somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to be angry at anyone involved. This was certainly a change of pace for me, and whatever it was, it wasn’t boring like my regular day-to-day job. Whatever the future had in store for me, whatever happened with that new fashion collection, I was willing to go through with it and see where my newly hairless life took me.