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ESSAY

Does This Guy Look Like a Model to You?

In Buenos Aires, an American finds that his look is more naive than exotic.

By Ben Brazil
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page P05

Most people who travel love seeing foreign places.

This is obvious. What is less obvious, but equally true, is that we love what those places do to us. They make us feel different -- adventurous and free-spirited, dashing and romantic, cultured and urbane. Men become Harrison Ford in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Women become Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca."


The author poses (at his Atlanta home) for the camera, which wasn't so kind when he was duped by a photographer in Buenos Aires.

And if the place we visit is truly exotic -- not just an isolated enclave of American luxury on a foreign beach -- then we become slightly exotic there ourselves. We speak with an accent. We wear different clothing. We become suddenly and unexpectedly attractive. And then we become international models.

Or maybe that's just me.

I should begin by saying that I was not considering a career in modeling when I moved to Buenos Aires in 1999. I went there with a childhood friend named Grayson and several of his friends from the University of Richmond, all of us looking to postpone life and have an adventure. We had no jobs, no apartment and almost no contacts. We simply got on a plane and moved to a different hemisphere.

About two weeks after our arrival, I was reclining in our new apartment after a long day of job hunting when the door burst open. I whirled around to see Grayson standing in the entryway, his strawberry blond hair backlit by the hall light, looking like a messenger from God.

"Brazil, get your clothes!" he barked. "We're gonna be models."

Grayson and my other roommate, Rudy, walked inside.

Following them was a man with a leather jacket, greasy hair and eyes set so wide that he reminded me of a hammerhead shark. Grayson introduced the hammerhead as Alec, from Ukraine. He had come to help us pick out clothes for our shoot. Then we would immediately return to the studio.

I had no idea what he was talking about.


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