We’re early. Too early.

In the room marked Salon One, we find an empty space next to a pillar. Chi looks around at all the girls. Many are flipping long, touseled locks about their shoulders. Hairspray clouds encircle heads while stylists stand ready with curling, crimping, and flattening irons. Girls blink as false eyelashes are glued to already made up faces. Power dust billows. One child complains quietly, unsure of the addition. “Go big or go home,” a mother snaps.

Another girl practices her walk along the patterned carpet. Mom stands, hand on hips, a few feet away. “No. When you hit the end, pose like this.” The child huffs, starts over.

Several print starlets waltz into the room, instantly drawing looks of admiration, and of disdain. They seem oblivious to the recognition, searching out friends they see at events and shoots they’re often booked together for. These have become their confidants of childhood in the midst of their jobs as young models.  In rare breaks between hair and makeup,  they find corners away from adults and whisper privately,  play hand games, and fiddle with electronic diversion.

Most of these child models ignore the fuss created around them. Moms grow frustrated,  cutting their eyes at other’s children and pushing their own forward for touch ups. In the stylists’ chairs, tots rock, fidget, and kick with unspent energy.

As the lineups begin, one or two littles begin to pout, boredom and exhaust evident.  One clings to her mom, rubbing her freshly teased hair with abandon against her parent’s arm. Another whimpers about a bathroom emergency.

Some moms snap photos with their cells, others use SLR cameras. Those with instant connection to WiFi update their models’ fan pages. The live and times of these little stars is important news.

And here we sit, holding up a pillar and watching in awe. People pass by constantly, not even a wayward glance or hello. I check the time -mere minutes elsewhere a posing from the last look – and Chi sits close beside me, wringing her hands. “Should I get dressed, or something?” She asks as I toy with her baby for yet again. She is nervous, and, I sense, feeling as much out of place as I do. And we wait. Wait for acknowledgement, wait for a cue, wait to feel a sense of belonging that doesn’t seem forthcoming.

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