Marquita Pring, Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine and Robyn Lawley--all "plus" size models--are the stars of Vogue Italia's June issue. Whereas Pring was once relegated to Vogue Italia's "curves" section online, this month she's just another model in a smoldering black and white 10-page Elizabeth Taylor-inspired editorial for the mag shot by Steven Meisel. Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine and Robyn Lawley grace the cover.
"Never before have four curvier girls been in a spread shot by Steven Meisel with no specific purpose at all," Pring said. "No size issue, no color issue. Just beautiful, normal Italian Vogue."
Pring kept a diary during the two-day shoot. She chronicled everything--her nerves, emotions, the clothes, the makeup (the makeup artist uses what she calls the "Naomi kit" on Marquita which is usually used for Naomi Campbell), and how it felt to get naked for Steven Meisel--minute by minute.
The shoot, Pring says, was "one of the most incredible experiences of my career/life." But she almost missed out on it.
A Forward from Marquita Pring's team of agents at Ford: You are about to read about a model’s amazing shoot with Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue in an incredible, groundbreaking story with four curvier girls aka "plus models." What you do not know is the FRANTIC back story about getting Marquita Pring to New York in time for the shoot. Marquita was in Africa with no way of contacting her. She was on safari and her phone had died and she had no charger and so we had no way of calling her to tell her about this career changing opportunity. The amazing Delois Ursini of Steven Meisel’s studio had been talking to us for about a week going through castings and sending Polaroids, videos, anything they needed to get the girls on the job. We explained Marquita was not available for the casting but we would get her back in time for the fitting and job. Meanwhile…NO MARQUITA in sight! We had left messages on her phone (hundreds actually), then countless emails and even an SOS on Facebook. At one point, we thought we had a lead and ended up leaving a message at a random yoga studio in Capetown. Meanwhile, Delois is completely assured Marquita is fine and would be at the fitting. We were determined to have her there if one of us had to fly over and scrounge through every bush, village, hotel, any possible place she could be. WE WERE GETTING HER HOME!
We booked a flight without hearing from her, because there was no way we were going to fail and tell Delois we couldn’t find her. The day her flight was scheduled to leave, we heard from her. We calmly (the level of intensity would be relayed to her later) gave her the details of the flight and told her she was to go directly to the fitting, feeling refreshed and as if nothing had happened. (We did tell Delois the hilarity of the situation afterward and while in hindsight it is funny, this team did not sleep--literally--for three days.)
That being said, the rest is a history and here is and account, right from the ever calm, cool and collected Marquita Pring.
5:45am--Wake up way too early. This always happens to me when I’m dying of excitement the night before, this time the feeling is heightened a thousand fold.
6am--Lie in bed researching Pat, Guido, Steven, and Elizabeth Taylor (what I am told is an inspiration for the story).
7:10am--Head to the train. As I pass a corner store, I see Elizabeth Taylor on the cover of a magazine. Sold!!
7:15am- The journey begins. I flip through the magazine passing every story until finding the tribute article. I try to soak up every bit of information on her. So graceful, so passionate, so elegant. All qualities I hope to embody today.
7:29am--I look around at all the morning commuters on the train with me. No one has any idea I'm about to embark on one of the most incredible experiences of my career/life. The thought makes me giggle.
7:35am--As I'm walking up from the subway I get a call from Robyn, one of the other models on the shoot, and she asks me if I'm as early as she is. I am. We meet up and exchange stories about how thrilled we are to be experiencing such a monumental shoot together. We both can't believe this opportunity is here!
8am--We head into the Waldorf Towers and go upstairs. We're definitely on the right floor because we’re immediately greeted by men with headsets running around with heavy equipment and beautiful props. We find the wardrobe room to put all our stuff down. Tara and Candice arrive soon after. Robyn, Tara, and Candice are all good friends of mine. Experiencing the next few days with these girls makes the experience even more incredible.
8:10am--Let the exploring begin! It seems like we have the entire floor to ourselves. So many beautiful rooms with such grand furniture and fixtures. So much to look at. The perimeter of our wardrobe room is surrounded by racks and racks of clothing we tried on at the fitting. No wall is left bare. Under each rack are rows and rows of the most impressive shoe collection--everything from vintage Blumarine boots to Manolo Blahnik kitten heels.
The next room over was the jewelry room. Never before had I seen such a site! There are at least 10 people stuffed in the tiny room guarding their jewelry. They are all from separate vendors and each had to guard their collection. I cant believe I'm going to be wearing some of these beautiful pieces later.
8:15am--Sandy, Guido [Palau, the hair stylist's] assistant notices I have a mess of curly hair on top of my head. She immediately starts touching it to decide whether or not she needs to get started on blowing my hair out immediately. She decided I’m allowed to get breakfast first and then come back to start.
8:30am--We walk back into the hallway turn right and stumble upon the kitchen. Breakfast is all set up. Trays of bacon, eggs, potatoes, breads, fruits, yogurt, Danish, and cheeses cover every surface. My eyes quickly fall on the juicer in the corner and then on all the beautiful vibrant fruit, peeled and everything! We prepare our feasts and head to the chill room with juice in hand.
8:40am--Breakfast is done. Head to hair and make up. We each get told who to see first. Robyn and I get makeup first, Tara and Candice get hair.
I sit in Erin's chair. She's this adorable little blond with a pixie haircut, hat, and tattoos covering her arms. I get the sense I'm in good hands. Erin doesn't waste any time getting started. She starts with my foundation. She uses the "Naomi Kit." The kit is in a little plastic case, it has everything you could ever need for darker skin tones. I ask if this is really the kit Naomi Campbell uses. She laughs and says "Yeah, but she usually brings her own." I ask Erin what the inspiration for the make up is. She tells me it's classic--like an old Hollywood movie star.
Pat McGrath and Guido Palau walk into the room. They say hello to all of us and start making the rounds seeing that everything is going as planned.
Pat comes over to Erin and me. She kisses Erin and then me. I cant believe Pat McGrath just kissed my face. She tells Erin that every one of the models today is stunning. In fact, her exact words are "You see love, this is what the real supermodels used to look like. Such natural beauty." With a statement like that I had to take a minute to try and not scream with pleasure at the top of my lungs. It's surreal to hear such a compliment from the makeup guru that is Pat McGrath.
After about an hour and a half of makeup Erin decides I'm done for now. She's so meticulous I can already tell I'll be seeing a lot of her today. I take a peek in the mirror and realize why Erin is so precise--my makeup is absolutely flawless.
9:30am--I switch chairs with Tara. Hair time now! I start getting my curls brushed out. They give me a big fluffy fro.
Right as Guido is telling Sandy how he wants her to handle my hair, Stephen, the producer comes in. I sense a bit of frantic-ness about him. He says "Um, we need to get these girls in robes and slippers and looking as decent as possible. Mark wants to meet them." He grabs Robyn and me, the two that seem the most ready. We're led into the main hallway and asked to wait. Robyn and I look at each other wondering what's going on. Candice and Tara join us. They have no idea what's going on either. We start joking about how official this seems, so formal. Stephen comes out and tells us we must be quiet. Things just became way more serious. He leads us down the hall. We come to a big room and wait outside the grand doors. Stephen sends Candice in first. I quickly, softly, ask Stephen what is going on. He looks at me with a smug little smile, completely aware of the utter shock he is about to hand to me on a silver platter: "You're about to meet Marc Jacobs," he says. I feel like falling to the ground.
Tara’s next. Robyn and I exchange “Oh sh**” looks. Tara’s out. My turn. As I round the corner my eyes immediately focus on Marc Jacobs. He’s standing there in a beautiful kilt and blazer. He looks exactly as I imagined--such a beautiful man. I shake his hand and introduce myself. I notice Pat and Guido to my left and then....Steven Meisel across the table. I haven't met Steven yet and have only seen a few pictures of him, but I know immediately it's him. I lean over and introduce myself. He’s so mysterious, I wish I could read his mind. As I walk away I think about how I just stood in front of four of the most creative people in the fashion industry. I cant help but feel fortunate.
10am--Back in the hair chair. My hairs been soaked in water and Bumble and Bumble and the blowing out process begins. Three people attack my head with blow dryers and rollers. Next my rollers are replaced with pins. Done.
Manicure now. Hot red, my favorite. Erin decides to take me back to her chair to perfect my face even more.
Candice is the first finished. Stephen tells her to run to Edward. The rest of us are left anxiously waiting in the hair and makeup room.
Robyn and I jump on Candice when she gets back into the room. She looks amazing--seriously resembling Priscilla Presley. She's surprisingly calm. She mentions that Steven's really sweet and easy to work with. Good to know.
Tara’s up now. Still anxiously awaiting my turn!
Time...goes by...so slowly...
Day One continued...
12pm--Lunch time. Damnit, the wait continues.
After lunch in the chill room we hang out for a while until someone is called. Me! It's finally my turn, a wave excitement washes over me. My mind starts racing wondering what I'll be doing.
12:30pm--Erin touches my make up makeup and I head to the wardrobe room where Edward greets me. He has a purple dress and colorful striped heels waiting for me. Once I'm dressed he calls for trays of jewelry to be delivered. A vendor brings in a few of her trays. Stones in colors I didn't even think were possible. He chooses a delicate necklace and bracelet combo with a fat purple ring. Stunning. Lastly, Edward throws a bright green fur over my shoulder. I'm ready.
I find Steven in the chill room. He greets me at the door and says he'd like to see me stand at the window. I walk over to the window and look out. It's a beautiful day outside. I look back and Steven snaps a few shots. He ask me to sit on the couch comfortably. I do. A few more snaps. "I'm coming out" by Diana Ross is playing on the radio. I can't help but sing along and think it all seems too perfect.
I lean back and get nice and comfy on the couch. Edward styles the fur next to me and hands me a clutch completely covered in jewels.
Steven starts clicking. More than just a few shots. He must like this positioning, I start to move some more. After a few more shots he reviews the film. He looks at me and says "Marquita, you are so beautiful you don't have to do anything." I take a moment to pick up my jaw from the floor. My mind has officially been blown from this whole experience. He clicks a few more and says "thank you.” Time for the next outfit.
1:30pm--As I walk out I am surprised by how effortless that whole experience just seemed. So much work goes into just one photo yet when it came to achieving the perfect shot it seemed to happen in under 10 minutes.
Back at the wardrobe room I get undressed and wait for my next outfit as Edward consults the big whiteboard of options. The whiteboard of options is an assortment of pictures taken from the fitting yesterday. Dozens of outfits were tried on. Dresses, furs, lingerie, skirts, bathing suits, vintage, and shoes like you wouldn't believe. The biggest studio at Splashlight Studios was packed with hundreds of options for Edward to choose from. Quite an overwhelming experience after a 20 hour flight from Cape Town.
2pm--I'm in my next outfit, a button up Gucci dress and heels. This time things feel a bit more rushed. Steven is getting impatient with everything taking so long. Understandable. Edward sends me out and will accessorize me out there. We head to the main room. Steven asks me to go look out the window. A few clicks. He brings me to the other window. More clicks. He has me walk across the room. More clicks. Now to the couch. I sit back. He looks for a minute. Asks me to lay down. Few clicks, and asks me to play with my hair. He asks Edward to unbutton my shirt a little. Eventually we take the shirt off and shoot me laying down in my bra playing with my hair. I manage to see the screen. The photo looks amazing!
Steven says thank you and asks for the next girl. My heart sinks, I never want this moment to end. Robyn is in for a real treat.
3pm--As I enter the room Erin is the first to attack. She wants to know everything. As I explain the experience Candice and Tara come over. We still can't believe this is happening.
4pm--Someone takes Polaroid of my makeup and puts them next to the other girls' photos. Apparently they're reference photos for tomorrow's makeup.
We wait for Robyn to finish--once she's done we are all released until tomorrow.
5pm--We get dressed and head back to the wardrobe room to get dressed. As I head home I think about how incredible today was. I'm so curious what tomorrow will be like. I feel exhausted but don't think I'll be able to sleep. I stop by my friend Monique's place so I can continue to talk about this surreal experience.
It's almost 7am and I'm the first one here, along with a few assistants setting up. We have to be here an hour earlier because of an early fitting. Steven wanted more options to chose from.
Everyone's here now and the trying on begins! The furs and lingerie are endless. Literally. Bags filled with clothing are delivered one after the other. While the other girls are still trying on more outfits, I duck out to find some breakfast.
As I walk towards the kitchen I think about what we'll be doing today. I consider the thought that Steven himself may not even know. Watching him work is really so fascinating. He leads you around the room until he feels inspired by something. You have no idea what’s going on in his head until he politely requests something of you.
I reach the kitchen. Breakfast is beautifully laid out again. Huevos rancheros! My favorite.
The girls join me with their breakfast. I ask Candice if she's bummed about missing her vacation for this shoot. She looks at me with a blank stare for a moment. "Are you kidding me!?!" she laughs. That was a stupid question to ask considering every one of us would have given up just about anything to be able to have this experience. Tara mentions that this is such an historic moment. Never before have four curvier girls been in a spread shot by Steven Meisel with no specific purpose at all. No size issue, no color issue. Just beautiful, normal Italian Vogue. I can't help but smile.
Sandy, Guido's assistant, comes and grabs us. Time to get started!
I sit back in Erin's chair. Pat McGrath walks in, filling the room with her booming personality and incredible perfume (she really does smell amazing). She tells her girls to look at the Polaroids taken the day before and to do the exact same face they did yesterday. Erin grabs the photos, flips through and says "Done!" I'm really impressed by the relationships Pat and Guido have with their assistants. They're like the parents of a big family.
Erin takes out the Naomi kit and gets started. First my base and then my brows. I'm very impressed by how perfectly Erin sculpts my brows and I make her teach me. Hair didn't take nearly as long today. We were told not to wash it considering there are extensions glued in.
Tara’s ready first! She heads out to Edward. Robyn and I are getting antsy a little too early on. Candice gets called almost immediately after. Doubles I'd imagine.
Robyn and I are ready to shoot. Now we just have to wait to be summoned.
Robyn's called next, still no sign of Tara or Candice. TRIPLES!!!!!!! Now I'm really dying with anticipation. I would do anything to be in that room with them now. I sit wishing, waiting, wondering.
After lunch we get touched up. I think I'll lose it if I'm not up next. Erin senses my anxiety. She assures me I'm next.
She's right. I can breath again.
Once she's done with me I go straight to Edward. He's waiting for me with black tights, a Gucci skirt, and a La Perla bra. I can already tell the shoots gone in a different direction than the way it seemed the first day. Much sexier. I get dressed and Will, Edwards assistant puts some Manolos (two sizes too small) on my feet. Edward reveals the coat--a beautiful cropped black fur. Next the jewelry. Two gold and diamond bracelets with a massive emerald necklace. Needless to say, I feel expensive.
I walk out with an entourage following closely behind. Stevens waiting in the big room. He sees me and decides my outfit is not right for this room. The two of us walk to the next room. He tells me to lie comfortably on the bed. I do. He snaps a few shots. He decides something's not right. He tells me to take the fur off and to put it next to me. I do. Few more snaps. Still not feeling it. He asks someone to ask me if I would be comfortable taking my top off. I am. I do. He asks me to get on the dresser and to get on my hands and knees. I do. More test shots. Nope, something's still not right.
Steven says he's not at all inspired by the clothing and to bring me back in something amazing.
Things seem to be getting a little frantic now. Edward is scrambling to find the perfect outfit. He refers to the white board and comes to a navy blue swimsuit. It's a classic 1950's halter top bikini and the bottoms are high waisted. I get a pair of shiny black patent leather kitten heels and a massive floor length gray fur coat. And, of course, new jewelry. A gigantic gold and diamond necklace and several bracelets.
As I walk down the hall, entourage still following quickly behind, I notice Steven is back in the big room. As I enter the room Steven tells me to stop at the door. I do. He asks everyone to clear from the background. He tells an assistant to cast a shadow on me using a light and a plant. Genius. The shadow casts such a dramatic affect. Steven gives me a few directions and snaps away. He seems pleased. He says he wants more. He asks someone if I'm comfortable getting naked. None of my front will be showing, just my back side. I think for a moment. Not about the nudity. That doesn't bother me. I think about how this particular experience is the epitome of what I've always imagined these shoots to be like. The progression to this absolutely perfect shot and how the previous photos were amazing but this, THIS is why he was always so unsatisfied. He knows there is something far greater that can be achieved. I duck behind the door, strip down and cover myself with the massive fur. I step out, back side for the world to see. Pat starts covering me with oily body spray. I feel like a shiny Barbie. She adds a black cat like mask to my face. The photo has completely transformed again. An animalistic surge runs through me. A few more clicks of the camera. We got it.
Steven says he wants me in my next outfit.
Edward grabs me and we run to the wardrobe room. His assistants are ready and waiting for me. I hand them the fur and the jewelry. They hand me a super tiny bandage dress and a vibrant red bra. I put them on along with patent leather pumps and a few bracelets. We run back to the big room.
Steven asks me to get on the table on my hands and knees and reach for the food tray in front of me. Click-click. Someone hands me a cigarette to hold, but not smoke. Click-click some more. He asks me back up a little and make myself as big as possible. I back up, bum in the air. Few more clicks and we go it!
Steven wants another outfit. When I get back to the wardrobe room I see Candice dressed. Doubles!
I meet Candice and Steven in the big room. She has a skirt on that’s only held together by pins and black bra. I'm wearing tights with high waisted lingerie and no top. Steven asks Candice to take off her top too. We sit on the couch together. I'm handed another cigarette and asked to smoke it this time. Steve snaps away. A man brings out a tray of the most perfect looking petit fours and places them on the table. While he does that Guido slicks my hair back into a tight bun. Pat puts a mask on my face.
Steven asks everyone to clear the set. He snaps some more. I lean forward, Candice leans back. Steven asks us to with our backs to each other. He doesn't like it, back to our original positioning. I'm handed another cigarette. More shots taken and we've got it!
Time for Tara now. As I walk back to the set I feel confident about that last burst of shots we did. I can't wait to see these photos!
Erin jumps on me again when I enter the room. She wants details. She said she managed to take a peek quickly and loved what she saw.
The end of the day is rapidly approaching. I don't ever want it to stop.
Just as I start wondering if this is the last shot Edward calls for me. We walk to the big room where Tara is laying on the floor in a black silk robe with champagne perfectly placed beside her. I'm asked to disrobe and given another mask. He asks me to walk towards the door a few times. Nope. Next I sit on the couch "like a dude" says one of Steven's assistants. I'm handed another cigarette. Several more shots are taken. Tara's champagne is rearranged, the big table replaced with a small table and I'm asked to sit in another chair whilst smoking. A few more shots and we've got it!
Back in our robes and to the makeup room to see what's next! Erin touches up my makeup just in case I'm needed for another shot. But right as she starts putting my lipstick on Stephen comes in and says thank you very much to all of us. I can't believe it's actually over! I want more! This whole experience was such a rush! I can't possibly be over.
We all head back to the wardrobe room and put on our boring normal real people clothing on. One of Stephens assistants opens a crisp white box in front of us. In his hands he holds the prints from the past two days. He quickly flips through them giving us a little teaser. I melt. It's all so beautiful I can't believe I was a part in creating this story. We kiss Steven, Pat, and Guido goodbye. I can't help but feel like I'll he seeing them again.
This experience has surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. In fact, I'm at a loss for words. All I can think about is....WOW, I am blessed!!! Oh yeah, and wouldn’t more shoots like this be amazing!!! ;-)
A closer look at the finished product: **All photos by Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue. See the full spread here.