It’s A Family Affair (originally published April 2014)
Winona has worked hard to promote Yumi, a fresh, young model with the agency, and finally 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, though. 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. She meets Yumi at the agency and I share the fabulous news. “Your daughter is the new face of ZEBRA!” And I see it. Bitterness and envy flash in her eyes before she suddenly 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 before her mother showed up Yumi was weighing her investment options. It was adorable. But Kyoko takes her home and works some of that Asian mama hoodoo on her. She’s twisted baby girl’s head all around. Well, I’ve got a newsflash for both of these wishy-washy bitches. I want this contract. Me. And that’s my bottom line. They can just thank me later.
The first thing 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 Grayson. Anywhere. Finally Bloomie’s take pity and they give him a shot as a copywriter in the ad department. 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. Alright, fuckboy. I’ll play along.
Next up is Marc, the Winona, Inc. office manager. While Terri, Curtiss and I keekee in the background, Marc 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, Marc gains access to her entire schedule! For the whole month! And that, children, is why he works for me. Kissing his cheek, I hand over the emergency benjamin I keep stashed in my wallet. He clicks send and shoots me her schedule.
Kyoko’s calendar 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 feel sorry for her. Not! She’s a fool to let her jealousy kill this deal for Yumi. And a bigger fool to cross-cut 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 to my office. He’s lucky Curtiss doesn’t cut him. Grayson’s breathing hard and he’s in my face, pissy 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 in 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 down the stairs. And to think I was planning to send over a case of his favorite 21 year old scotch. But to run 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’ve sent over, 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 with as much fake innocence as I can muster. “You know this business, doll. Sometimes just a single phone call can make all the difference.”