It’s the summer of 1991. I’m on my summer break from university and generally having a good time. The phone rings. It’s one of my mum’s best friends on the phone. Her sister works for an English-speaking magazine in Paris and they are looking for an ‘english rose’ to model in a new fashion show, the Défilé des Debutantes to be held at the Crillon Hotel in Paris in a few weeks time. And would I be interested in being the english rose model?
ERR YES. I’M UP FOR MODELLING IN PARIS. WHERE DO I SIGN?
First-off, I’m invited to Paris for fittings of the designer clothes. Then it’s back again to Paris a week later for the main event. The day of the show dawns. I am buffed, blow dried, blushed and preened to within an inch of my life. The dresses are for 6’ catwalk models and are pinned tight to fit. The bodice of the evening dress is so big socks are being stuffed down my front! But hey. I’m modelling in Paris and this makes it feel all the more real.
The producer of the show Kate, an ex-model, is English and we hit it off – I’m sure this was helped considerably by the very Parisian debutantes were primarily concerned with who was wearing what in their personal hierarchy of designer clothing.
The event is a full-blown debutantes’ fashion show. Even Paris Match are there covering the event. I very happily and with much swagger strut my stuff down the Crillon catwalk to a bit of Right Said Fred. No prizes for guessing the song! I am having a blast.
The biggest surprise of the evening is the prize giving at the end. I am awarded the top prize on the night and crowned French Debutante of the year 1991! It was only when the dust settled afterwards and I reflected on how this had happened and realised it was all due to the power of networks – not mine at this time. But it was a lesson I took to heart. How to find a model 3 easy steps:
MARGARET IS ENGLISH BUT WORKING IN PARIS FOR AN ENGLISH-SPEAKING MAGAZINE. SHE IS ASKED TO FIND AN ENGLISH ROSE MODEL TO TAKE PART IN THE EVENT. SHE CALLS HER SISTER, JUDY AND ASKS IF SHE KNOWS ANYONE.
JUDY, IMMEDIATELY THINKS OF ME AND RINGS MY MUM AND EXPLAINS WHAT MARGARET WANTS.
MY MUM ASKS ME IF I WOULD BE UP FOR MODELLING IN PARIS.
And the rest as they say is history….
What it made me realise at this very early stage in my career is that you can find solutions if you reach out to your networks. I’ve used this approach to solving problems for most of my career and I’m generally known by my friends and networks as a connecting person so I’m regularly asked ‘do you know anyone who can [insert task / role here]…?’
Your networks can open-up opportunities to you that you could never possibly have imagined. And great things can come from them.