I've been wanting to share this for over a year now. Fortunately, my contract is up and now my stories are mine to share.
It is only now, a year and so many lessons later, that I can see how God has used these experiences to open, and sometimes close, the doors that have completely changed my life.
Here's how it happened.
It was March of 2015 when I got the call. The wingspan of my furrowed brow measured approximately one and a half inches across as I hacked at my college algebra assignment. I’d been left home alone for the week and had been wearing the same pink whale pajamas and North Lake Wrestling T-Shirt for a good portion of that time, dining on tuna out of the can and playing my music a little louder than my neighbors probably appreciated.
My already sticking-out hair stood even taller as my cell phone broke up my quadratic function and Adele’s blaring chorus. I scrambled out from the jungle of textbooks, dissatisfied cat, laptop, and chargers, knocking over a potted plant in the process, while trying to turn off the music and grab my buzzing phone that read “Los Angeles, CA.”
By this time I was hanging halfway off the couch with one hand in a heap of potting soil, the other working to answer the phone, offering an exhausted “Hello?”
“Hi, I’m looking for Kate Miles,” an enthusiastic valley-girl voice stated.
She went on to introduce herself as Sammy, the owner of Mystic Art Pictures, producer of shows such as “Dance Moms” and “Teenage Newlyweds.”
She explained that her team was getting ready to launch a new show, a kids version of Project Runway, and they were looking for a teen fashion designer’s story to help sell their idea. Apparently they had come across my story in a Huffington Post article from Vancouver Fashion Week a few weeks earlier.
Minutes later, I was the rest of the way out of my chair, laying on the floor, my legs a tangled mess of computer cords, cat sprawled across my chest, in the middle of a conference call with Sammy and my mother.
Mom had been traveling with my brother Andrew, so she was almost as caught off guard as I had been.
“We still need you to apply like everyone else, but we really think your story is going to be perfect for our show,” Sammy said. She went on to explain the application process and timeline for the show. They were going to fly mom and I to New York for the filming in July, but the show wouldn’t air until September.
We didn’t say yes right away because there was definitely some research and praying to be done, but I could feel that that phone call had just changed my whole life.
A few days later after the potting soil had been swept up and my whale pjs had been thrown in the wash, mom and I were up to our ears in contracts with jargon such as “in prepatuia of the universe,” and applications with questions such as “which lunch food describes your personality?”
We had decided to give it a shot.
After a full phone interview, online application, Skype interview, video presentation, 57 emails and 32 phone calls, I had been cleared as a semi-finalist and was ready for the next step.
I got out of school on a May afternoon, and immediately after, mom and I were on a south-bound plane for Los Angeles, my dress-packed vintage suitcase in tow. The next morning my blue suitcase and I were ushered into the cafeteria of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising where the semi-finalist casting for the show was being held. The room was full teenage fashionistas with racks of clothing and sleepy-looking mothers.
"I could feel them sizing me up, taking in my denim shorts and rickety suitcase. I felt out of place next to their leather pants and crisp white garment bags, but I knew that it was what was in the garment bags that mattered."
There was a boy with makeup thicker than the tension that had filled the space around us, and a girl with stilettos higher than the plastic fork she used to pick at her spinach salad.
We stood in silence, awaiting our turn with the judges, getting the last wrinkles out of our garments and avoiding eye contact with one another.
I could feel them sizing me up, taking in my denim shorts and rickety suitcase. I felt out of place next to their leather pants and crisp white garment bags, but I knew that it was what was in the garment bags that mattered.
So far, what I’d seen hadn’t given me a lot to be worried about.
When it came my turn for the interview, I wheeled my rack of freshly steamed gowns into a small room of cameras and bleach-blonde women with manicured nails tapping at their computers. There were two “celebrity stylists” sitting before me with a row of security guards stationed in between the lighting screens and us.
The interviews were being set up to see what the semi-finalists looked like on T.V. and how they could handle criticism. After seeing other kids leave the room in tears, I walked in fully prepared to be ripped apart.
The stylists reviewed my portfolio and asked me questions about the garments I had brought with me.
I waited for them to tear into me.
“You’re good, kid,” One of the men sat up in his chair, pointing to one of the photos in my portfolio. “I want to see more of this on the show.”
And after that I was escorted out of the room and stripped of the tiny microphones and wires that had been hidden in my clothes. The rest of the afternoon consisted of other recorded interviews and a lot of sitting and waiting.
We weren’t supposed to talk with other contestants, but in one of the waiting rooms I started chatting with a girl with tight dark ringlets and vintage pins adorning her cream leather jacket.
"For the first time I was able to share my heart without editing the 'Kate' out."
Before long we were quoting Audrey Hepburn movies and in deep discussion about how much more brilliant colors are in silk. We talked about Elsa Schiparelli’s mysterious beetle-inspired designs of the 1930’s, and the timeless works of Edith Head.
For the first time in my life I felt like I could breathe. It was so liberating to be talking to another teenager about the things that I’m passionate about. She didn’t ask me which sports I played or how many deer I’ve shot. For the first time I was able to share my heart without editing the “Kate” out. We weren’t allowed to exchange information, but I just had a feeling that I’d be seeing her again.
We arrived home to Scio exactly 28 hours after we had left. When my feather and sequin laden dresses had been put away, I took my FFA jacket out from the closet, traded my leather wedges I’d worn in Los Angeles out for my humble black cowboy boots, and I settled back into “real life.” A few hours later, I was headed back out the door with an artificial insemination glove under my arm, ready for an agricultural project day for my high school FFA program.
"... I stood up to my ankles in cow manure, my hair still curled from the day before..."
That day I stood up to my ankles in cow manure, my hair still curled from the day before, and I had to laugh.
My mind swirled with the whirlwind of my day in LA. I didn’t know what was going to come of all that, but I knew God had a plan. And I suspected that plan was going to change my life, what I didn’t know was that what was about to come next was going look a lot different than I thought. And it was going to hurt. It was going to hurt a lot.
But, oh, it was going to be beautiful.