Behind the brown door near the bustling intersection of Wisconsin and M streets is The Model Store.
It's a four-person, one-room operation headed by Ann Schwab, a 36-year-old former model and talent scout.
("Yeah, I know," she says. "You don't have to go to L.A. to be discovered at Schwab's.")
She is interviewing a cappucino-colored young women maned Sonya who -- like all females who ever flipped through a copy of Glamour -- wants to be a model.
"Just plain eight?"
"Well," Sonya whispers, "8 1/2. But just a little half."
She giggles. Schwab rolls her eyes.
"Those pictures aren't too good," Sonya says, watching Schwab go through her official model's leatherette portfolio. Schwab flips through the book, shaking her head. "Your hair isn't good here. And your makeup job looks amateur."
"The best pictures are still at Dart Drug," says Sonya, nervously. "They haven't been processed yet."
No matter. Schwab discards all but two of the photgraphs and slips them carefully into the plastic sheets.
Sonya is 21 and earns $12,000 a year as a secretary at the Internal Revenue Service. If her career takes off, she could be pulling down $30,000 to $40,000 a year by next tax time. But the odds are against it.
The phones ring constantly. Good morning, The Model Store. . .
Sonya says she was recently named "Miss Smirnoff" for the Baltimore-Washington area, and will pose for 36-by-22 publicity posters to hang in liquor store windows.
"I feel fantastic about it," she says. "I used be very shy, but now I'm ready. I like to stay our front now. I'm not embarrased."
Sonya has been sent to The Model Store by the Hecht Co., one of Schwab's best customers in Washington. If she works hard, shows up on time for appointments, remembers to bring what they tell her to bring, keeps her weight down, doesn't complain about the hot lights and the lonely nights, she might succeed.
"People think this is all glamor," says Schwab, the hard-boiled pro. "But only a small part is glamor. The rest is a lot of hard work and rejection."
Sonya packs up her portfolio. She is scheduled for a "go see" (an unpaid, initial meeting with a client) the next day. She is anxious, and giggles a lot. Finally, she goes to the closet for her coat. It is a full-length black mink with a designer label: Norell.
"I got it at I. Magnin," she says.
Sonya exists, long brown curls bobbing against the black fur.
Ann Schwab has seen them come and go. Sonya, she says, might have a chance of making it. But it's slim.
She sighs. "There are so few people with perfect bodies."