Amaryllis. With a name like that, I should have known she was destined for stardom — but who could have anticipated any such thing on the Christmas morning that she arrived on my doorstep?
Tough-skinned and bulbous, she confessed that she dreamt of becoming a supermodel. I didn’t want to doubt her or to crush her esteem and drive, but I worried that she didn’t have what it took to be America’s next big thing. I tried to talk sense to her, to help her see that modeling is a world built on rejection, to help her realize that there’s nothing wrong with being a mildly attractive bulb — but Amaryllis pressed on. She assured me that she could be whatever she put her mind to — all I needed to do was to give her a place to grow so she could establish roots.
I did as she instructed. I placed her in a pot of soil, provided her with water, warmth, and light, and I carried her to my office since that’s where I spend the most time during the winter months. There we sat, just the two of us. Each day, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw Amaryllis, wearing her short green Mohawk like a verdant crown.
And then it happened. It was as if some inner mechanism had come to life and Amaryllis changed overnight. Her Mohawk stood a little taller — and by day’s end, it was taller still. Could it be possible that Amaryllis had been correct all along, that beneath her stone-like surface there lurked a beauty?
That’s when my anxiety began to boil over. It seemed that whenever I returned to my office — an hour or a day later — there was growth. A green-gray stalk eventually pushed it’s way upward, joining the blade-like foliage — and at the tip of that stalk was a tight bud. As the workday ended, I was hesitant to leave, afraid that I would miss each subtle change.
On an early Monday morning, I saw the seams of the bud had pulled apart, revealing swatches of red, tightly folded but eager to unfurl. Amaryllis was so eager to be photographed. I advised her to wait, that there was no need to rush, but she insisted. “I’ve waited long enough to emerge,” she told me and so she signed a contract for her first modeling job — as part of a Georgia O’Keeffe tribute.
Coworkers, onlookers, and gawkers arrived at the opening of the tribute — and I could hear the whispers. “Is that?” “How could she?” “How could he allow Amaryllis to do this?”
Could anyone talk Amaryllis out of doing anything? Did anyone have the strength or skill to stop her ambition? No. Simply put, Amaryllis was determined and focused. Rather than defend myself or Amaryllis, I simply chose to believe that these photos were part of her artsy phase — I only hope the outtakes do not appear in a tabloid or tell-all biography.
Amaryllis, though, understood her appeal and the wants of her admirers. They wanted more and no part of her was off limits.
As her beauty grew more apparent each day, modeling jobs lined up — and I admit, it was distracting to work with her in the same room. Time and time again, I found myself looking over my shoulder to notice what had changed. Time and time again, I found myself turning completely around to just stare. I was mesmerized. I was not only her caretaker; I was her number one fan — and I used my camera to capture each nuance.
Amaryllis loved the camera, often begging and beckoning to have every detail captured. Velvety red petals and brilliant stamens called to passersby and — to paraphrase Roxy Hart from Chicago — they loved her, and she loved them, and they loved her for loving them, and she loved them for loving her, and they loved each other. Sure, other models were jealous and tried to push Amaryllis out of the limelight, but she knew that this was her time — and she meant to relish every single second of it.
The modeling world is filled with women known by their first name: Naomi, Iman, Cindy, Gisele, Heidi, Linda, Miranda, Tyra . . .
. . . and now, Amaryllis.