“That’s the business, Iris. It’s a ruthless industry. People’s love lasts but one season.”
In a novel that is fiction meets memoir, Eugenia Melian (who has worked in the industry as model, agent, producer, and music supervisor in Milan, Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles) tells the story of former top model in Paris, Iris, who has to make the choice to extract herself from her greatest love, Gus and the industry itself. We meet her present day living in La Arboleda on a ranch in Northern California, a far cry from the thrills and noise of the city. Single motherhood has fit her well, raising Lou all on her own after tragedy, a teen girl who looks and carries herself as gracefully as Iris, her life feels full enough. Maybe she doesn’t quite fit in with all the moms walking around in their yoga pants, but this is the calm her soul thrives on. The past eleven years, this has been paradise, peaceful, quiet until shocking news comes screaming that Gus, the father Lou has never met, the famous art and fashion photographer Iris once was muse and lover of, has died! She hadn’t even known he was sick!
Long ago, escaping that life, that admittedly was thrilling, fulfilling for a while she never imagined normal wouldn’t be so easy to attain. Loss after loss followed, and here now Lou blames her mother for ‘never marrying my father’, blames the man who never bothered to know his girl so how is she expected to feel anything, she doesn’t know him!, Worse still, how is she to come to terms with knowing she will never know her father Gus now? Isn’t fury a normal reaction? In fact, Lou badgers her, wanting to know why she won’t go back into modeling, who is dumb enough to give up fame, money, admiration of men, Paris, New York? Iris is too scared to reveal the real reasons, the dark side of that high life. Settles instead telling her there are dangers in modeling. Making matters worse, Gus has left his photographic estate to Lou, and Iris is the executor. Being forced back into the chaos of Gus isn’t what she wants, memories of her childhood with her successful, often distant French mother consuming her as much as the abuses of her past, when she was so young and beautiful, a hot star on the rise. The drugs, the parties, the transgressions, but too there are memories of the intense bond, the passion between she and Gus. It had been amazing, for a time, where their love seemed ‘invincible’ until it soured, things moved too fast, she had to jump off that wild ride to survive, afraid of becoming something shameful.
Gus spent his entire life running away, towards something that was never enough, that took him further from Iris and Lou. But he was there in the beginning, for the rise of Iris as much a big part of her fall. Fellow models weren’t living with the easy luck, the shine that Iris was, the stark reality being girls disappeared, people took advantage, beauty wasn’t a deterrent to brutality, to the gritty streets. Beauty doesn’t keep you safe, in fact it seems to cry out for defilement. Money can be poisonous too. Power often leads to bottomless appetites, where better to feast than in the glamour and glitter of the modeling world? Young girls and boys eager as a puppy to be something, someone, willing to do anything, and if not… so much the better.
Now a dangerous enemy has Iris in their sights. In order to give Lou everything Gus intended, the only real thing she will ever have of her father, Iris has to meet his conditions and retrieve the missing collection in Paris. If that’s not bad enough, she is being threatened with photos by a tabloid, a shameful past that haunts her. No longer the ingénue, it could well be that she has been underestimated, and it is time to confront the past, and strike back. No more can she allow anyone to take power away from her, not when she has her own beloved daughter to protect! It is through her love of Lou that she finds immeasurable strength to stop being a victim!
With the headlines of today, it’s not so shocking (isn’t that sad) that people abuse the young, knowing people will do anything for fame and those who won’t can be forced, manipulated by any means and those in power always have means, be sure of that. Iris was a natural, really good at what she did, loved it but couldn’t, wouldn’t accept the underbelly and more often than not that is the choice. Her own mother’s career, betrayals she stomached, sacrifices she made even hurting her own family, all the fair weather friends is ‘just the way the business goes’, life’s a jungle and it often comes to nothing, in the end. People (men and women) don’t talk about the things that happen to them in such industries, those in control know how to blackmail, you shut your mouth and take it if you hope to remain on top, or you leave quietly if you want to survive at all.
The images may be beautiful, but the reality isn’t a dream for most.
Publication Date: Out Tomorrow September 20, 2018
Fashion Sphinx Books