It’s A Family Affair (originally published April 2014)
Winona has worked hard promoting Yumi, a fresh, young model with the agency, and lands the exotic beauty a six figure contract with ZEBRA, a superhot hair care line. But Yumi’s mother Kyoko demands that her daughter turn the contract down. There’s one thing Kyoko should know. When you mess around in Winona’s business, prepare for Winona to make a mess of yours.
I have hustled like a street pimp to promote the lovely Yumi. And today is the big payoff. In my office, I produce a magnum of champagne to celebrate her magnificent multi-ethnicity and my persuasive negotiating skills. As the new face for ZEBRA, currently the best-selling bi-racial hair care line on the market, my little princess—an Ethiopian/Japanese blend—will receive a cool half-a-mil per year for the next three years. Not bad for a sixteen year old, right? And it’s a sweet little coup for the agency, too! Financially it’s peanuts but it creates buzz. And I like buzz.
Yumi’s mother, Kyoko, is a model also. While very beautiful, she’s never made it beyond Bloomingdale’s online shopping site. Who knows why? But that’s her main gig. With the news of a contract for Yumi, bitterness and envy flash in her eyes. I see it. She slams on the brakes. “I’m not sure I want my daughter identified as bi-racial,” she says. Really? Really? Just how has she identified up until now?
Later in the day Yumi and I speak again. She’s waffling now, unsure if she wants the contract. I can’t believe it! This morning she was weighing her investment options. But Kyoko takes her home and works that bitter Asian mama hoodoo on her, twisting her daughter’s head around with fears and doubt. Well, I’ve got a newsflash for both of these bitches. I want this contract. Me. And that’s my bottom line. They can just thank me later.
The first thing I have to do is stall the ZEBRA group. I make up a family emergency for Yumi—a sick grandfather in Japan—and promise them her return with a signed contract in two weeks. No problem. They insist on sending her a gift basket. How considerate! I suggest they send it here, in care of Winona, Inc. We crave gift baskets around here! Then I dial Grayson Pugh’s number. A senior VP in the advertising department of Bloomingdale’s, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me. Especially if he thinks he’ll get something out of it.
A few days later we meet for a quick lunch. Still fine af, Grayson was a very popular model way back when, snagging the cover of GQ three times in one year. And then, out of nowhere, he writes a tell-all book. It’s a big seller, too. But when the dust clears, there are no modeling jobs for him. Anywhere. Finally Bloomie’s take pity and they give him a shot in the ad department as a copywriter. And now, twelve years later, he’s a VP. Not too shabby. Grinning at me from across the table, he phones the online store director and instructs him to cancel Kyoko. For everything. Yes. Even the shoot scheduled for tomorrow morning. After the phone call, he takes my hand and insists we have “dinner” very, very soon. Oh yeah? Alright, fuckboy. I’ll play along.
Next up is Marc, the Winona, Inc. office manager. While Terri, Curtiss and I keekee in the background, he phones Kyoko’s agent and pretends to be a casting director. “I’m interested in booking Kyoko. What’s her schedule for the next two weeks?” I bet Marc a hundred bucks he won‘t get it—agents never release that kind of info—but you should hear his Jean Luc Picard impersonation. Very sexy. And very intimidating. With hardly any resistance at all, he gains access to her entire schedule! For the whole damn month! And that, children, is why he works for moi. Kissing his cheek, I hand over the emergency benjamin I keep stashed in my wallet. He clicks send and shoots her schedule over to me.
Kyoko’s schedule is pretty dismal. Now that her bi-weekly gig at Bloomingdale’s has suddenly dried up, all she has for the next two weeks are a couple of fashion shows for Lord & Taylor and three days as a fit model in Calvin Klein‘s showroom. I almost feel sorry for her. Not! She’s a fool to let her jealousy kill this deal for Yumi. And a bigger fool to piss all over my efforts. You know I’ve got the connects, right? At L & T’s and Calvin Klein’s showroom. I guess Miss Kyoko doesn’t know about me. Maybe she should ask somebody…
Two weeks later Grayson Pugh storms into the agency, brushes by Curtiss and takes the stairs two at a time up to my office. He’s lucky Cee doesn’t cut him. Grayson’s breathing hard and he’s in my face, pissed about me blowing off our “dinner” for the third time. Finally we drop the code-speak. He calls me a devious ‘ho. I call him a married man. Who’s about to catch my Jimmy Choo all the way up his ass. He’s glaring at me when my phone rings. It’s Kyoko.
“Is the ZEBRA contract still on the table for Yumi?” she asks.
“Gee, Kyoko. I hope it’s not too late,” I say. “Let me get back to you.”
Mission accomplished! I blow a kiss in Grayson’s direction as Curtiss shoves him back down the stairs. And to think, I was planning to send over a case of his favorite 21 year old scotch. But running up in here calling me names? Now I’m not sending him shit.
Three days later Yumi is floating on air as I escort her and Mama Kyoko to ZEBRA’s Brooklyn office for the contract signing. And the strangest thing happens. Just as a company rep opens the magnum of Veuve Cliquot I sent over yesterday, Kyoko gets a phone call from her agent with great news. She’s been booked for a four-day photo shoot with Saks, a two-day shoot with Nordstrom’s, and a go-see with my buddy, event planner Mr. Gigi. Remember him? That hookup can lead to runway shows every day if she wants. Kyoko gives me a sly side eye. I shrug. “You know this business, doll. Sometimes just a single phone call can make all the difference.”