What I Learned from Working with Male Models

It wasn’t all just blue steel

“Mademoiselle, tu es la plus belle femme que j’ai jamais vu.” (Translation: “Mademoiselle, you are the most beautiful girl that I have ever seen.”)

I glanced at him, not saying a word. Way before swiping right, invoices, and all that comes with modern dating, I lived in Paris where men hit on me the old-fashioned way; with catcalling and sexual innuendos. I had been living in Paris for a few months and at this point, the incessant catcalls had now become almost like white noise. Men in New York were certainly prone to catcalling, but French men took it to a whole other level.

He had been sitting two seats away in the metro and moved up to sit right across from me.

“Est-ce que tu peut comprendre ce que je dis?” (Can you understand what I’m saying?)

I shook my head no.

“Es-tu sourde?” (Are you deaf?)

I nodded yes.

“Si tu es sourde, pourqoui tu peut comprendre et repondre?” (If you’re deaf, how come you can understand and respond?)

FUCK. How could I be so dumb? Obviously deaf people can’t hear. You would think I would remember than after I learned how to sign “We Are the World” in elementary school.

“Je suis Americane. Je parle un peu de français.” (I’m American. I speak a little bit of French.)

“Oh, why didn’t you say that? I speak English,” he replied.

Ugh. Some guys have a hard time taking a hint. French guys never get the hint.[1]

Studying abroad in Paris was pretty fucking awesome and one of the best decisions I ever made. Being separated from my family and the Indian community made me feel like Cinderella after she leaves her evil stepmother and goes to the ball. Not only was I free from their restrictive shackles, I finally fit in. No one was there to shame me for finding the opposite sex attractive, wanting to do it, not wanting to be a doctor, or just generally being alive.

I don’t know why people say the French aren’t friendly. Some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met were in Paris. Some of the things people said to me were:

“Nice rack.”

“You’re so fucking sexy.”

“We totally need to make out now.”

“Come over here and sit on my lap baby.”

And that was just at work.[2]

I started assisting at a male modeling agency in the heart of Paris. It was an activity that I found far more compelling than attending class. Between the hour and a half lunch breaks, champagne in the office, cigarettes, weed, and the cute guys, the agency was the closest thing to heaven I have ever experienced. And no one seemed to care who slept with who. Because, again France, duh.

There was Jacques, the sweet but totally clueless French guy who possessed jack rabbit-like moves, Xavier who didn’t have any moves, Thomas who was gorgeous of course but had shit for brains, Rob who was extremely skilled in every way, Giorgio who got so pissed after I didn’t want to go out on a second date he took to calling me fat, (bitter much?), Sylvan who was constantly asking me when we were going to sleep together, Mika whom I made out within the office bathroom, Alexander, who confessed his undying love to me after 4 months, and Paolo, the hot Brazilian with the monster-sized penis.

None of them really interested me enough to date[3]. But I did want to taste all the flavors. Why am I telling you this? No, it’s not so I can sound like the Leonardo DiCaprio of male models. The experience of being a ho taught me something important.

Confidence is key.

I know you’re thinking, “duh, obvs everyone knows that.” Yes, most people know that intellectually, but they don’t know it in practice. Before I started interning in fashion, I was just an insecure girl trying to fit in with sorority girls at school and gain the attention of a cute guy. Any cute guy to be exact. I had all the self-esteem of Miley Cyrus during her tongue-out phase combined with the standards of Khloe Kardashian. In other words, I was trying way too hard.

When I started working at the model agency, I didn’t bother trying to get any of the guys’ attention because a) it was work and b) I figured they were all way too hot and out of my league. So I was just my normal chirpy self. I wasn’t nervous around them because I could always talk about fashion. And what do you know, they all wanted my attention. This was a massively huge surprise to me since at the time since I presumed had all the sexual appeal of Ronald McDonald. As it turns out, I did not. Attitude is everything. If you feel like you’re the shit, others will too.

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[1] Not all French guys obvs. Just all the ones I’ve met.

[2] I realize all of this sounds horribly inappropriate for the workplace, but I was a) working in fashion b) working in Paris c) this was before Me Too d) no one was intimidating me or making me feel uncomfortable, they were legit flirting e) I highly enjoyed it and flirted back. Ironically, the one person who was harassing me was the very gay agent (who was also my superior) who continually tried to grope and demean me when no one was looking. Intention is everything. The models just wanted to flirt and bone. The agent wanted to intimidate me. I eventually helped get his dumb ass fired. That’s a whole different story.

[3] That’s a bald-faced lie. I was totally an avoidant and ran away from relationships like Trump runs away from the truth.

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Rachel Khona

Sex Humor Wellness Writer @ Playboy, Allure, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Cosmo, WashPo. Follow IG: @rachelkhona