Star Alyssa – By DLBARGRILL
Mary sat in the chair and wondered how she got here. Back home she had always been the star. She was the homecoming queen. Everyone always told her how great she looked. She set the fashion trends.
Two years ago, a local modeling scout spotted her at the mall. While Mary knew she could be a model, she never gave it much thought until then. She didn’t take it that seriously. It didn’t matter. She became the most popular model in Duluth for runway modeling and department store catalogs. She was a natural, a star. And she knew it.
Mary didn’t have a plan for after high school. She wasn’t interested in school, but she assumed she’d probably go to the local junior college. Maybe she’d just continue modeling. All that changed when someone from a big New York modeling agency arrived to check her out. He wanted to sign her then, but Mary told him that he would have to wait until after graduation. He waited.
A week after graduation, Mary was in New York. Everyone was envious. Some people were going to college. Some were going to Europe. Mary was ahead of all of them. She didn’t need a plan. Everything was going to work out great. She had been a star in Duluth and now would be a star in New York.
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It hadn’t quite gone that way. First they told her she needed to lose 20 pounds. They said here breasts were too big, she wouldn’t wear the designers’ clothes that well. Losing a few pounds might do the trick. Mary had always been thin; everyone thought so, especially the boys. She loved their attention, but there was only one boy she cared about, Billy. He loved her body, especially her breasts, the way they were.
Now they had her in the hair salon. Mary knew there was nothing wrong with her hair. Her hair was great. Everyone wanted to look like her. When she cut her hair to her breasts with long layers, girls all over school followed.
But now it seemed Mary was no longer a star, she was no longer perfect.
“Your hair very bad. Broken. Dry,” said the stylist. He was from some European country Mary didn’t know and she could barely understand him. Nikki from the agency was there with them. Nikki explained that Mary would have her hair cut exactly like the stylist recommended. Mary needed the right look and she didn’t have it yet. Mary now knew what she was in for.
“Your long hair. Scraggly. Your face, very beautiful. Your hair does not help. Terrible. Cut. Become healthy.” He gripped most of it in his hand.
“Yes. We cut it.”
Mary put her hand just below her shoulders.
“This is the business,” the stylist told her. “We fix your look. You need something fresh. Original. If you want to make money.”
“But everyone thinks this looks great.”
“Not a big time model with this hair,” the stylist said. “You want to make photos?”
“You’re not going to make photos with that hair. Never.”
“But I’ve never, ever had short hair.”
Nikki asked the stylist if she could have a minute alone with Mary. “Here’s the deal. Mary is a pretty 18 year-old girl from Duluth. Homecoming queen. Dates the boy next door.”
“But that’s not…”
“Be quiet,” Nikki said. She put her hands on Mary’s cheeks and pointed in the mirror. “I see a supermodel in there with this face, but only on my terms. If you want to be a supermodel, you agree to everything I say. If you want to be Mary, walk out now.” Nikki walked away for a full minute and Mary sat. “Good. Now I talk. You listen. From now on, Mary is gone. The boy next door. He’s gone. Your middle name is Alyssa, right? That’s who you are now. Alyssa will lose the 20 pounds. I’m going to set you up with a New York Giant football player. That will raise your profile around town. Get you in the Post. That’s whom you’re dating now. I’m moving you out of that apartment you’re sharing with your friends. Until you make enough money for your own place, you’re living in an agency apartment on the Upper Westside. As for the hair, it goes now. Do you understand, Alyssa?”
There was a long silence, as a pained look came over Mary’s face. “Yes,” she finally said.
“Who is saying ‘yes’?”
Suddenly, there was a look of confidence from the girl in the chair. The confidence a supermodel has when she walks down the runway. “Alyssa is saying yes. ”
The stylist came back. “We decided?”
Nikki took a step back. Finally, someone spoke. It was Alyssa. “Please get rid of my hair. It’s ugly.”
With that, the stylist gave a knowing grin and plunged his scissors into Alyssa’s hair at her cheek. He hummed as he cut. As the hair fell to the floor and a bob formed at her chin, Mary slowly died away. Mary’s long hair was gone in almost no time. The stylist didn’t bother to section any hair or do any layers. He just decimated it. More than a foot of hair was released with each strand that was cut.
Alyssa thought he might stop there, but the stylist just paused for a few moments. He combed her hair so that it was tangle-free. He then cut a diagonal around her right ear, exposing it in no time. Starting at the middle of the ear, he cut diagonally again toward her face, leaving a rough jagged sideburn. Almost haphazardly, he gave Alyssa bangs for the first time in her life, as he cut her hair to her eyebrows.
She wanted to scream, as she couldn’t believe how the stylist was destroying her hair. She didn’t. It was Mary who wanted to scream and she made her decision. She wasn’t going to be Mary. She was going to be Alyssa. Once that decision was made, there was no turning back.
When the stylist repeated the cut around the ear, then up with the sideburn, she smiled. She checked to see what Nikki’s reaction was and she could see that she too had a smile.
The stylist took sections of the top of her hair, methodically bringing them back, then cutting the hair to 3-4″. The hair on the sides was also overdirected back, but he cut it shorter, no more than 2″. The stylist made sure that he got every section of the hair.
The back of Alyssa’s hair was at mid-neck, much longer than the sides. The cut looked like one of those awful 80’s bi-level styles. Alyssa was glad to see he wasn’t done. The hair above the occipital bone was combed out and everything longer than 2″ was cut off. While the top and the hair below the occipital was longer, everything above it, on both the sides and back, was now 2″.
The stylist then took the longer hair below the occipital between his fingers, and applied scissors over comb. Section by section, he reduced it to less than an inch. Where the long hair once obscured Mary’s hairline, the stylist was bringing it out. It was even, ending in a point at the nape. In a minute, maybe two, all the hair below the occipital was 3/4 of an inch and the nape was heavily tapered.
The cut was almost done.
The stylist carefully measured out the bangs and neatly cut them so they fell to the middle of eyebrows. These were no wispy, barely-there bangs, but heavy, striking bangs. He then measured the hair around the ears, and cut it even shorter, although he made sure that the hair above the ears matched the 2″ at the occipital. The last touch was on the sideburns. They were cut into sharp points
It had been only ten, maybe fifteen, minutes since the cut started. No one spoke the entire time. The only sounds had been from the scissors, the hair hitting the floor, the blow dryer, and the stylist’s incessant humming. Finally, the stylist put the blow dryer down and said, “All done. Good? Yes?”
The woman in the mirror wasn’t the girl who sat down. Her hair was very short, almost boyish. You wouldn’t call this boyish though. Sure, her hair was above her ears, but Alyssa’s face really stood out. It was strikingly beautiful, no longer hidden under the damaged hair. The lines were clean and crisp.
Alyssa wanted to respond, but instead looked to Nikki. Her smile was ear-to-ear. Finally, Alyssa said, “Good, yes.”
She thought it would be difficult to get used to the short hair, but it wasn’t. None of the changes were difficult. She stopped taking Billy’s calls, and then sent him a ‘Dear John’ letter. She didn’t call her parents and when they called, she was distant. Through a combination of appetite suppressants and starving herself, she lost the weight. Her breasts were smaller. She dated the fullback Nikki set her up with, but dumped him for a rock star she met at a club.
Mary had long hair and a boyfriend in Duluth. Within a year, Alyssa was making $12,000 a day and was on the cover of Vogue. Mary’s identity was gone, replaced by Alyssa. Alyssa didn’t notice. She only vaguely remembered her life before.