Inside the Mind of a Fashion Week Model

Trust Fund Boyfriends! Marshmallow Fantasies! Lecherous Photographers! We invade a Ford Models mixer to find out what exactly is bouncing around in those beautiful noggins.

Last night Gawker slipped into a private party at Rose Bar to mingle with Ford's most beguiling catwalk creatures. The darkened confines of the Gramercy Park Hotel hotspot, a lounge that is to model-gazing what the Serengeti is to spotting lions, was an obvious choice of venue. We came to this sexy safari equipped with a tape recorder, a camera, and an imperviousness to the embarrassment of asking tall, skinny girls with perfect bone structure silly questions. Because that's what we do.

Inside the Mind of a Fashion Week Model

If there is a rising star among the Ford fillies, it just might be Indian supermodel-in-training Lakshmi Menon. Only in the biz for a few years, Lakshmi has already graced the cover of Indian Vogue and Dazed & Confused, and is owning the runway this week at Rosa Cha, Carolina Herrera, Jason Wu...Oh, you want more? Trust us, you'll be seeing her smoky pout all over the place. But despite her surging career, all was not well in Lakshmi-land.

"There is stress in being a model," she confided, somewhat darkly."These days models are a little
undervalued, unlike in the '90s, when you had Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss. They called the shots. But now its not so much about the models, it's more about the designers and the photographers and the art directors...."

OK, that's great and everything, but what we really want to know is, how does a guy get to romance a super-specimen like yourself? Would he need to own a private island or something? A gold-plated Cessna? Or at least a really nice yacht?

"He needs to be a good human being," Lakshmi said. "He needs to be loving, caring and above all, he needs to have a good sense of humor. I don't care about money because I'm making my own. To me, being rich is a turn-off."

Inside the Mind of a Fashion Week Model

This revelation was like a sucker punch straight to the beanbag. Was it true that some models were actually offended by the existence of incredibly rich dudes? We approached a stunning six-foot brunette to find out. Her name was Nika Lauraitis. She was 19, had bangs that grazed her eyebrows, and recently bagged a Moschino campaign. She was discovered when she was 15 at a Chicago mall. She laughed easily. And she was refreshingly honest when it came to potential boyfriends.

"If they tell me they're rich, I'm immediately interested," she said. "I like the trust fund type." Are there any dealbreakers? "Guys who are shorter than me. You've got to be over six feet." So you would never date a dwarf, even if he was your soul mate? "If he was rich!"

Had she ever been propositioned by sleazy photographers? "I've had my fair share. There was one guy from a magazine I won't name who came onto me. He was speaking Spanish. I didn't know what he was saying, but I knew it was dirty." So game was Nika, in fact, that Gawker operative Stephen Kosloff suggested she pose for an arty shot while lying on the pool table. She tentatively agreed. But a male friend of hers, a floppy-haired blonde dude who appeared to know his way around a runway himself, convinced her to nix the idea. Thanks a lot, buddy.

Inside the Mind of a Fashion Week Model

Then there was 19-year-old Polina Sova from Norway. She recently walked for Givenchy in Paris, and was scheduled to strut today for some line that she couldn't recall. It was late and she was tired. When Polina was done with Fashion Week and she didn't have to worry about fitting into tiny designer frocks, was there anything she really wanted to gorge on? "I would say marshmallows in the fire," she said in a thick Norwegian accent. "I'd eat a whole bag."

Karolina, a 25-year-old Polish model who looked like a young Natassia Kinski, used to starve herself so much that she'd have dreams of chasing pizzas. You may have seen her staring down from a Target billboard in Times Square dressed as a "little school teacher, really cute and hot, with thigh-high red boots." Karolina was kissing off the catwalk this year. "I'm going for the money jobs," she said. "Not too many shows pay. It's a lot of running around and competition. When I was a little younger I did it." And why did Karolina think that she was getting those money jobs, anyway? "I'm unique and I have a look that not a lot of girls have. A lot of photographers say I'm more like an actress. I like to go into character."

Did she miss those days as a struggling teenage model scrounging for runway gigs? "No," she said. "I lived in a model dorm when I was with another agency There were 6 girls in one apartment. We'd all have to share the bathroom. There'd be one in the shower, one in the mirror, and one on the toilet. We wouldn't forward each other's phone calls and we'd throw pillows at each other."

Inside the Mind of a Fashion Week Model

By this point, most of the girls had left to get up early for another round of castings and shows, the open bar was closed, and the Rose Bar regulars were trickling in. Russell Simmons, in a baseball cap and sweater vest, posed for a Polaroid with Mollie Gondi, 29, who was slated to walk in Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. show at Milk Studios today.

She had short black hair, some tattoos, and was from Tampa. "I play drums and I curate art shows," she told me. "I'm not some robot girl walking down a runway. It's exhausting and tiring, but being a model is in no way hard. It's long days and you don't sleep much and there's a lot of drama. But you're traveling and shooting for amazing magazines. I mean, come on! This is a pretty good life."

Photos by Stephen Kosloff. You can see more of his work here.