During my second year at the Academy, the Mexican delegation at the International Handicrafts Fair in Munich engaged me as the interpreter for English, Spanish, and German. The dark interpreter intrigued those who had come to admire Mexican handy crafts. On April 24, 1962, an image of me smiling next to an intricately crafted Mexican silver mirror appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and included a few details about me. I was causing a slight sensation as the only Black at the fair, and my fluency in German became known to a larger audience. A photographer asked me to pose next to diverse items such as Chinese silks, Persian oil lamps, Swedish furniture, or Rhineland pottery. What made the greatest impression on me was that for a few hours before a camera, I was paid several times the salary I earned for the entire two weeks as interpreter at the Mexican stand. That was real money for very little effort.
With all the fuss they were making, could there be a future for me as a commercial model, I wondered? Perhaps even in fashion? At 5’7” I was not very tall. But why should my aspirations stop there? The dreams of a teen in Guatemala resurfaced with a vengeance. One thing I knew for sure: translating and interpreting… working in a cubicle passing boring political or whatever maneuvers, into another language had no charm. I caught an article about a modeling school several months later, and pointed it out to Mutti.
“This is what I want to do,” I said to her, handing her the paper. “I want to take this six week course, so that I’ll be able to find work as a fashion model.” It was time I started to explore what it was to be me, or at least start making my own decisions.
Mutti’s hazel eyes clouded over as a distraught look descended on her face. We had been here years ago, and now I wanted this sort of career again. With a worried expression she said, “That is out of the question.”
Read more: Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity (Kindle) or Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity.