I met Dora during a photo shoot. I was doing a spread for Buttons & Bows, featuring the notorious Gizelle. True to form, Gizelle showed up late, and in a mood. Gizelle's beauty is all on the outside. Her skin is smooth and the color of burnt sugar. Her wild hair is an angry cloud. She stands six feet tall, and is as skinny as a sapling. Even off the runway, she knows how to walk, and by walk I mean glide. Gravity is her bitch, and she owns it. The charm stops there.
Gizelle smokes Gitanes like she's auditioning to be Mount Vesuvius. She's as fond of abuse as she is of free designer clothing, and spouts more malapropisms than George Bush Jr. "Put the cabbage on the spotlight," she'll say to me. Or gab on her ever-present cell phone about how she gave her boyfriend an "old tomato" or she'd leave him. All is spoken in some faux continental accent (Dutch? French?).
Dora was hired as her makeup person. Dora is a dwarf, compared to Gizelle. She's maybe 4'11, but she's built. Her skin has a smooth olive sheen over it. Her hair is dark, long and slightly greasy. A mole, as intricately cratered as an asteroid, sprouts from the back of her neck. When she walks, she waddles from side to side as if she's in an earthquake. Gravity is her enemy. She never wears makeup.
When Gizelle sits in the make up chair, like an elegant mantis, and makes imperious demands, Dora sculpts her face, daubing lipstick, foundation, blush and powder with deft, graceful movements. In less than ten minutes, Gizelle turns from wild harpy into honeyed nymph. Gizelle looked as if she had been born to wear the Vacon gown we were advertising.
The shoot went pretty well. I transformed my studio into a verdant, fairytale forest, with vegetation and exotic plants from a store on the East Side. The albino deer we ordered pooped on the floor, and didn't like Gizelle at all. It nipped at her fingers. Unbidden, Dora appeared from backstage, and soothed the doe in way that the animal trainer couldn't.
After the shoot, I invited Dora out for a drink.
The place we went to was uberchic, and sold martins with currant juice, mangos and decorated with jewels. I drank a scotch and soda, Dora drank some concoction of lavender-infused Vodka and blue Curacao.
"Dora," I said, when I was drunk enough, "do you ever wear makeup yourself? I bet you'd look..."
"Pretty," she said.
"No, I meant cool. You are pretty..."
"Nestor, stop. I know what I look like." She spun her sapphire liquid in its martini glass.
I stopped. Her olive skin glowed in the dark of the club light. Her hair had iridescent glints. Her mole was a tiny planet that floated on her skin.
"You have no idea what you look like," I said.