It was Thursday around 2 p.m., the onset of the weekday post-lunch stupor, when Alyssa picked her eyes up from her computer to announce that, guys, wait: Kanye West (with the help his frequent creative collaborator Ian Connor) was holding an open casting call for his Yeezy Season 3 show on West 26th street. Right now. Friends, opportunities like this don't come along very often; when Kanye calls, you chug some water, shake off the desire to sit at your desk watching YouTube videos for the duration of the afternoon and come running.
I wasn't the only one with revised afternoon plans after learning about the tryouts. (To be clear, I was only going to report.) A tall guy named Fritzgerald, fresh out of the casting, says he saw photos from the open call and immediately changed course to stop by.
"I was actually coming from work. I was scrolling Instagram, and somebody posted a picture of it. I was already on the train home, but I took the train back uptown," he says. "People have always been telling me since I was young I have the height, I have the look for [modeling]. So you know, so I thought I might as well try."
West tweeted on Thursday that tickets to the show — a joint release of his new album and collection — sold out Madison Square Garden within 10 minutes. Acknowledging that the rapper would hold everyone's attention that afternoon, Adam Selman and Marissa Webb rescheduled their shows, originally slated for adjacent time slots. But for all the buzz around West's presentation, the mood in the hallway outside the casting was no more turbulent than the atmosphere in a high school while classes are in session.
Every few minutes, a swarm of young people spilled out of the elevator and trailed down the linoleum toward a large studio. For once, professional models (identifiable by their leg length and portfolios tucked under one arm) were in the minority; the rest were amateurs, mostly male, and more than a few wearing silky green bombers like the one in West's Yeezy Season 1 collection. They could just as easily have been dressed for a Kanye concert. Which was, of course, the end goal.
Perhaps anticipating a flood of potential models, the casting team reduced the audition process to filing into two lines by gender, stepping up to the camera and posing for two photos. No catwalking, no conversation, no trying on clothes. Some people were in and out in 25 minutes, a shock for a few models who were used to waiting much longer during New York Fashion Week castings. Those signed to agencies also got to skip the line, a nice perk.
"I was mentally prepared to stay for at least an hour, hour and a half. I've been at a casting for eight hours before. That was the worst," says Courtney, a signed model who declined to give her agency's name due to strict rules about talking to press.
For one young man, who asked to remain anonymous because the company he works for is also tight on press, the process was even quicker. Not in a good way.
"I got in the line, and the [casting] lady came up to me after a few minutes and was like, 'I don't want to waste your time. You're not going to be right for this,'" he says. "It's fine. I have a job, so that's totally fine."
He really didn't seem too bothered. What can you expect when submitting yourself to critique by the team backing the world's most determined, fastidious rapper-turned-fashion-designer? While some people seemed cautiously optimistic about their prospects, for others, the casting was not much more than a funny thing to do on a Thursday, a good story to tell over drinks later.
"I didn't have anything to do today, so I was like, I'll just come and check it out and watch people. And the second I walked in, they were like, 'Get in line,'" says a young woman named Althea, laughing.
Wait, she wasn't even planning on auditioning?
"No! I'm, like, going to Pilates in a minute."