It is with a heavy heart that I prepare this blog post. As many of you have probably heard by now, one of SL's greatest young design talents has decided to close her shop and will not be spending the time she once did in SL.
I of course refer to my dear friend and wonderful colleague, Potnia Theas of Ora Trei Designs. Sadly, SL is losing a truly great young designer. And, an even better person!!
I had the good fortune to first meet Potnia in the Spring of 2009 when her creations were featured in a graduation show at the UVogue Modeling Academy, where I was the agency Marketing Director. I slipped quietly into her shop one morning, picked up a couple of things.. then slipped out before contacting her. I worked with Pot to draft a first "boilerplate" a brief description of her shop, styles and a little about her personally. That initial meeting she was sweet, polite, funny and oh-so enthusiastic.
Then in the Fall I tried out as a model for the Next SL Fashion Designer (NSLFD) competition at Model with Curves Agency (MWC). I was a new model to MWC and didn't really know anyone. We had to walk a runway unfamiliar to me for a group of designers most of whom I didn't know. I did my walk as best I could and left.
In this 10-week-long competition, the model selections were going to be important. The designers had to make a new outfit each week, based upon a specific weekly theme, and the model they selected would be the one styling and wearing that outfit on the runway for the weekly judging.
Each week one of the 10 designer's and their models, would be eliminated. Part of the competition was how well the model presented the design, so model selection mattered some.
A couple of days later a notice went out with the designers and the models they had chosen, one male, one female. I scanned the list, thinking no way I was chosen, but OMG!! there was my name. I had been chosen by the designer from Ora Trei Designs, Potnia Theas.
Over the next couple of weeks, the models practiced, while Potnia designed an outfit, and before the first show, she TP'd me to her design studio high above the shop and we went thru skins and make-up, hairstyles and accessories. Then I looked thru poses and carefully planned each pose for each stop for the outfit. I tried out different walks, wanting desperately- nauseous with anxiety - to do well.
Sunday night rolled around. I was back stage a bundle of nerves when in came Potnia, taking her place along the runway with the other designers. That first week the challenge was to make both a men's and a women's outfit that would be worn by a RL/SL jazz group called the "Sugar Dames." The winning design would be the outfits worn by the group at their next in-world gig. The show started, and I recall, wanting to step thru that curtain onto the runway and strike a pose that was at once, powerful and sexy.
That first show, is a bit of a blur. I know I was as nervous as I had been in a fashion show in a very long time. I always want to do well in any fashion show. Try and show a designer's creation in their best light, fit the "mood" of the design, capture its essence and make people in the audience say "Wow!! That is fabulous, I want to go buy that."
But this was different, Potnia was relying on me and that was a bit unique in my modeling career. The show ended, we all came out on the runway for the finale and everyone waited holding their breath for the judges decision. I was on the runway by myself, but I wasn't alone. There was someone talking in my ear. Telling me how well I'd done, how proud they were of me and squeezing my hand as we waited. It was Potnia, encouraging me, supporting me and telling me we had both done our best and if we were eliminated, than we had at least tried our best.
Well we didn't win that week's competition, but we weren't eliminated. We would live on to face new challenges. And we did. I spent hours in Potnia's studio, we chatted almost daily via IM about the competition, the week's challenge, life, gossip, and almost invariably, NO information about the outfit until I showed up for my fitting!
I would arrive at the studio and be handed a box.. I would open it.. and start putting on prims and pieces, clothing and shoes then onto the pose stand to adjust and fiddle with this or that. All the while Potnia and I would chat about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, family, friends and babies. The kinds of conversations that at the time seem so mundane, but in retrospect, ones that form a basis for friendships and genuine care and concern for another. As I write this, knowing Potnia – while not leaving SL – won't be around as much as she was, makes me happy for those times, and sad they will be less frequent in the future.
Week two we had a new lease on life and a new challenge. When the challenge was announced it was an "Historical Figure." When I arrived for my fitting on Saturday I was floored!! The design was called "Marie Antoinette" and it was, and is, one of the most beautiful gowns I have seen anywhere. True to it's historical design features, textured in rich golds and creams, this was no ordinary gown, from this century, or any other. We played with some prims.. and I think Potnia even made a second skirt during that fitting. She made a couple. :)
Potnia TP'd me to a hair shop. This gown needed something special and she had a hairstyle in mind. She of course, graciously offered to buy me the hair, but I was so happy and proud to be her model and was getting 1000L or more worth of clothing every week. The very first copy in SL, so was only too happy to buy my own hair. But that was classic Potnia. Always generous and thoughtful, helpful, kind and sweet. And funny. OMG we did we laugh allot during those fittings.
Then we found a skin that was very cool, but that I seldom wore. I put it on just to see, and Potnia immediately said "That's the one!" So I wore Nikita Fride's "Elements Skin- Earth" with my Marie Antoinette gown. We chose the poses.. selected the walk.. fitted the hair and gave the whole outfit a once over. It had been a long week and Potnia worked very hard and put in allot of time on Marie Antoinette. Tomorrow the judges would have their say.
Around we went, each model in turn and I recall during my walk, that I felt good, nervous of course and anxious not to screw up – to do well for Potnia – but I felt confident in Marie Antionette. As I stepped backstage again my inbox lit up. It was again praise and encouragement from Potnia.
Out for the finale and we lined up on the runway while the judges gave us a final look. I felt the squeeze on the hand; and the nervous banter back and forth, was reassuring. A decision. The judges announced the designer that was eliminated, and then announced that week's winning design: Marie Antionette, Potnia Theas, Ora Trei Designs!! We won week two!! There would be a week three.
Week 3 of the NSLFD competition was a bit surreal. The design challenge was "Fantasy" and could only imagine what Pot would come up with this time?? I logged on one day and there was a box from Potnia labelled "Succubus." So it seemed Potnia envisioned me a soul-stealing, force-copulator.. a man-eater... a succubus. What a great outfit!!
Succubus is a lace catsuit adorned with red wings, these awesome open-toed boots, horns, and a set of gloves and a matching stack of bangles. There are also a couple of skirt options. I tried them all but decided the little belt version with the big rose that barely covered my most.. intimate secrets.. was the right choice for week 3.
The thing I noticed, and which I commented on to Potnia, was how perfectly the lace lined up between the underlying clothing layers. It was PERFECT! And I hoped the judges would notice too, because fine texture matching like that – especially with something as complicated as lace – is a big part of what defines truly great design work in SL.
I arrived at MWC's runway and was backstage getting ready for my turn. I had a couple of challenges with the design. Specifically the big, red flexi wings that moved as I moved, but again I had selected 6 great, powerful poses; a mixture of animated and static, to show off the movement of the design, and, to allow the judges an opportunity to get a good look at this amazing work.
I felt good and felt we really had a chance again this week with Succubus. After the first walk, just as the second model was stepping out onstage, my world went black.
I couldn't get back on, couldn't get back into the sim and I was NEXT in line. I was frantic. But.. after a couple of deep breaths, I did get back on and learned, we crashed the sim.
It was talking forever for the sim to reset and in the end the decision was made to move to an alternate location. A runway I had never seen and one significantly shorter than the MWC runway. This wouldn't be a 5-pose walk. So I picked two. One static, one animated – both fierce – and strutted onto the runway. I recall hearing allot of chatter from the somewhat smaller crowd now in this alternate location, and felt I had done well, showed Succubus off and that the crowd, and hopefully the judges, were pleased.
Backstage, a sigh of relief, and another pat on the back from Potnia and it was time to line up for the finale. Out I went.. standing about 1/3 of the way down the runway.. I posed and squeezed Potnia's hand and posed and posed. It seemed to take forever, but decisions had been made. A designer was eliminated and a winner announced. While we didn't win week 3, I felt Succubus was one of the best outfits in the challenge. We hadn't won, but we weren't eliminated. On to week 4.
Again, Potnia was pretty quiet on the plan.. she just went off to her studio and dreamed up something and then put that dream together.
Design a gown for the red carpet. Potnia designed a gown she called "Golden Globe" in honor of that week's RL Golden Globe Award ceremony. I vividly remember unpacking that gown, and even more vividly recall putting it on. OMG, it wasn't like any gown I had ever worn, in RL or SL.. it was a work of art! I loved it and I really felt the judges would too. But it was a tough competition with several excellent designers all doing their best to win. The gown called for the right make-up and hair, elegant poses and an elegant walk. Potnia and I chatted, selected a skin and make-up, the hairstyle, and poses. While nervous, I felt confident that again, we had prepared well and that Potnia had really created a masterpiece with Golden Globe.
The show went smoothly. We were down to just 7 models, each wearing one outfit, so the show wasn't too long. I just remember loving the gown and thinking it was certainly one of the best designs that night. I felt confident but, as usual, nervous. I wanted to do well. We had won Week 2 but we could be eliminated at any time.
I remember being very nervous as we stood for the finale, but once again that calming voice was there, holding my hand, praising me for the job I'd done and hoping with me that we wouldn't be the first name announced. We weren't. But, we were the second. We won week 4!!
Week 5 was a more urbany / street feel and Potnia created Party Girl in Pink. What a wild outfit and once again we were off to the hair shop!! Together we shopped and laughed and just enjoyed being together. We were on a mission and I didn't want to take up allot of Potnia's time. She had been working so hard on the challenge as well as designing for the shop. Teaching photoshop and fashion design in-world. The holidays were rapidly descending on us and she had a baby tugging at her sleeve. We made some selections went back and got all my prims fitted up, picked a skin and I decided we needed some poses that were a little "over-the-top"
"They" say we as models are not supposed to use "over the head' poses. Well to all my many great teachers and mentors, "Party Girl" deserved them. So I selected poses I have not used in a show before and I think we nailed it. Again the other designer's had worked hard, their models prepared well and it was another tough week. But this week, we didn't hear our name. We survived another week. We didn't win, but didn't get eliminated.
Week 6 was a men's only competition, and for the first time in about 7 weeks I had a free Sunday night. But Potnia didn't. She made a great men's outfit that was modeled by GeorgieBoy Juliesse. Once again Potnia's designs were among the best and she survived again to face the final challenges.
It was now down to just 3 final designers. The challenge was to create an entire wardrobe, not just simply a single outfit or two, but 7 - 15 complete outfits that would be modeled by all of the models originally selected as part of the MWC NSLFD Challenge.
The designer's were given 3 weeks to create their outfits for the finale. I spoke with Potnia several times over those weeks, but knew she was busy working away. I seemed to have failed to mention. On those weeks we won, and most weeks when we didn't, even tho it was Sunday night, a whole group of us from the show would go out after and dance and party and laugh. Potnia was usually leading that charge, tho usually encouraged by her accomplice, err.. I mean, Ora Trei executive, Kat Msarko.
Potnia loves a party. Perhaps because she is usually the life of that party. When she told me about her decision to close Ora Trei Designs and that she wouldn't be on SL much anymore, I said to her, that when she would log-on, I would always smile and even if we didn't talk, that it made me happy to know, that out there... somewhere... Potnia was raising hell.
Potnia had assembled a great team of shop models. Some of SL's very best modeling talent are Ora Trei models. But the thing about the Ora Trei models, is that they are all truly wonderful people. Ora Trei is a happy place, with a fun vibe, full of serious and dedicated people. Serious about fun, dedicated to having as much as possible. But I wasn't officially an Ora Trei model. I was just made to feel like one, and always heard them yelling for me and Potnia every week, and always having fun and chatting me up at the many after-parties. It's a great group, and I believe a reflection of Potnia's philosophy, of working hard, doing your best and never losing sight of the big picture and the things that truly matter. Friendship, honesty, integrity and family. The Ora Trei models were one big family and I was welcomed with open arms. Thank you!
The finals rolled around, and in the intervening weeks we'd all been busy, but when I arrived for my fittings, I was handed two outfits. One casual, Melting Snows, and the other a gorgeous electric-blue gown adorned with incredible flexi details, and a mask. Ice Masque.
As I tried on the outfits, I never lost sight of the fact that we had come all this way and the finals were upon us. That Potnia could win this competition. She had done her part with the two designs i was putting on, and all the creations I put on in that studio. I also knew, that while several models would be wearing her designs that night, many OTD Models, I was the "anchor leg" on this relay team. I would be wearing the final casual and the final formal outfits. It would be my walk in Ice Masque that would be the final image the judges had of all of Potnia's weeks and weeks of hard work. I HAD to be perfect.
The mask, a bit central to Ice Masque, I felt, was a bit of trouble. I tried hair after hair after hair and none was working. If you remember the bald girl waking thru hair shops wearing a fabulous silver-blue mask, that would have been a model on the hunt for just the right hair. I tried about 30 demos and considered a few, thinking well I can just move that piece and that piece out of the way and it should work OK, but in the end, I went into my inventory for the hair and it probably was the right choice.
The night of the finals, all the models arrived as normal about an hour before the start of the show.
The plan was that each designer's models would essentially do a fashion show, of each designers work, then the next designer's models, and finally the last designer's models.
We would be second. I sat backstage as nervous as I have ever been before any show, as nervous as I had ever been before just about anything! I had prepared carefully, had all my poses planned and scripted. I was using a normal walk with my first outfit and a "two-handed walk" for the gown. As I waited I couldn't resist looking to see who was in the crowd and watching each model, looking at each design thru the eyes of the judges, and hoping to God I wouldn't screw up. Well, I did.
During most shows, the girls that have modeled with me know, I tend to fidget a little. I walk back and forth backstage, testing the lag and trying my poses. Visualizing my walk, the stops and which pose I will use at each one. I want to see how quickly my poses engage and disengage.
It was a pretty packed house and with all the people, and models, and prims, and scripts. It was a little laggy, but it seemed nothing any worse than I had encountered at shows in the past and felt I could do my walks and change OK.
I lined up with the other models. I would be the last out in both casual and formalwear. As my turn approached I did a last check of myself. Made sure everything was ready and prepared to step out onto the stage.
When I did, it was like running into a brick wall.
I made the mistake of "camming" around and sitting basically thru a fashion show before my fashion show; I was lagging badly. This wasn't any old lag. This was far worse. It was intermittent. When I would try to walk, I couldn't, then the lag would ease up and I would shoot ahead, get to about the stop, bang into more lag and guesstimate where to stop and pose. The posing itself went OK.. but then to walk again was awful. I made my lap around the runway, hitting my stops OK and hitting my poses fine, then it was backstage to change and get ready for the second walk.
Once backstage the lag eased up pretty dramatically, I sat on a "clear cache" box, but it was still a bit weird. I was a little out of sorts because of the first walk but was determined that second would be better. It had to be, Potnia was counting on me.
As I prepared to step out again, I again tested the lag walking back and forth and timing how long it took for poses to engage and disengage and building that delay into my planned repertoire.
The routine had a stop right in front of the curtain for the first stop, then up to the end of the runway before it split into a large fluer de lys shape. I stepped thru the curtain and again was hammered by lag. Again it was intermittent. I tapped my walk trying to find a balance between making headway and blasting off into the stratosphere. Before I knew it I was at the second stop. Having blown right past the first, I posed.. my pose order already thrown off by this "hiccup." I actually doubled up my poses because this was the best spot for the judges to view the outfit and I had planned a pose that would accentuate the gown, while also giving the judges the best view of it from their box above the runway. The lag seemed gone, the poses clicked on and off instantly, and I thought "perhaps??" but was soon disappointed when I attempted to take my first step. I wandered like a drunken sailor.. staggering around the runway in the worst lag, the strangest lag, the most sinister lag, of my career.
When I finally got backstage I was inconsolable. I collapsed on a couch backstage and exploded into tears. I was so embarrassed and felt I had completely blown the chance for Potnia. The last images the judges would have of Potnia's masterpiece, Ice Masque was some drunk wandering aimlessly around the runway. I was crying so hard. I was just devastated.
Potnia IM'd me. And it makes me cry again thinking about it now. But she thanked me. And told me she was proud of me. She said she was so happy and proud that I had been her model for this competition. All I could do was cry and apologize.
I had to sit through the final designer's collection, and the entire time I was crying so hard i didn't see any of it.
Anyone that was at MWC that night knows what happened next. And I feel this is a good time to perhaps set the record straight.
Third place went to designer Jenni Eros. Jenni had made some really fabulous outfits over the course of the competition. She' a young designer, but one with a very bright future.
It was down to two, Potnia, and designer Hotla Hoodoo. Hotla, too, is an excellent young designer. She made some fantastic outfits throughout the competition, and in the finals, even some of the skins the models wore.
It was Hotla, or Potnia. I couldn't help feeling my drunken stagger was going to be the deciding factor in this competition and it was killing me. I was crying so hard, my throat ached and my chest hurt. I was breathless, wracked with guilt, dying inside. I sent Potnia an IM and apologized again for ruining her chance to win. And there was that familiar hand, holding mine, consoling me and telling me it would all be alright.
And finally, THE decision. The grand prize winner, The Next SL Fashion Designer: Potnia Theas!! I was so happy for Potnia. I felt she'd earned the title but I think that announcement only brought more tears, but many people probably don't know, or understand, what happened next.
I walked out on stage in Ice Masque. Potnia and I had been thru 10 weeks of this competition. We had won a couple, and now, had won it all. I had walked in 6 shows up until that one and always felt, regardless of lag or whatever else – and I had definately made some mistakes – that I had done my best. That I had given Potnia and her designs a good, clean presentation. I didn't feel that about Ice Masque. So I did my walk. I walked the runway in Ice Masque and I hit every stop perfectly, hit every pose I had selected for that stop, and I gave Ice Masque the presentation it deserved. Thru my tears, I was determined that that awful walk would NOT be my final walk in this competition.
It was never my intention to gloat, or anything else. I did that walk for me and for Potnia. To allow everyone there to see Ice Masque as Potnia and I intended. After all every one associated with that competition – organizers, judges, designers, & models – went thru, I simply was not leaving that competition with anything other than a perfect walk.
But I was still heart-broken about what I saw as a huge failure on my part. I felt I'd disappointed her and myself. I felt I'd disappointed Jennifer Warden the owner of Model with Curves Agency and disappointed the judges because they couldn't see Ice Masque as it should have been. For all of those reasons, I HAD to do that walk.
Needless to say we all went out that night. There was a party at the headquarters of the SL Enquirer. It was a long hard competition. But it was also a great experience. I was honored to have been Potnia's model for NSLFD, and will cherish all the time we spent together and the fabulous designs she allowed me to wear. But what happened at the party that night was perhaps an even bigger honor. I was invited to become an official Ora Trei Model. :)
I relate the story of the NSLFD competition for a couple of reasons. One because, it is truly my proudest achievement in modeling, my proudest achievement in SL, and think always will be. But more importantly, to honor my friend, and to show you all, the commitment, the friendship, the goodness of her heart and the cheerful generosity of spirit that is Potnia Theas.
Yes, we will all miss Ora Trei Designs. It is a tremendous loss for the entire SL fashion community. We will all miss the crazy OTD parties, the models group, the gestures, Bish!!
But I will miss a treasured friend that stood by me and held my hand, week in, and week out. Thank you Potnia!!! I wish you joy and happiness, health and prosperity. And know, there is always a hand to hold whenever you need it!!
Thank you Potnia!! I love you!!!!!