A would-be supermodel takes a shot at Miamiís beauty agents

Ten years ago, while living in a civilized country (Belgium), The Bitch read a book by Coerte V.W. Felske called The Shallow Man. In what the tome-loving hound took to be outrageous, over-the-top hyperbole, Shallow's protagonist Nick Laws is depicted as a party promoter driven to bed supermodels (which he calls "thing"), comment on their lack of intelligence, ("dial tones") and then repel normally proportioned chicas ("civilians"). Obviously the book is set in Miami.

Flashing forward a decade, The Bitch was recently amused (but not surprised) to find if not a dial tone then at least a Nextel chirp seeking dogged assistance. Here's the un-Rash¬mon-like story:

Summer Berge, who is now twenty years old, came to Miami in 2004, she says, because she could "go to a good school and model." Berge is from a family of nine in New Port Richey and says she was an academic star at Ridgewood High School before being accepted to the University of Miami on a partial scholarship.

Summer Berge says there's a difference between pretty and 
model pretty
Summer Berge says there's a difference between pretty and model pretty
Arlette Souhami
Arlette Souhami

While living in the university dorms in Coral Gables, Berge began cold-calling South Beach modeling agencies. Most said "send your photos and we'll take a look." But Deco Models asked Berge to come in; she met with agency owner Noemi Rojas, who told Berge she looked great, whipped out a contract, and told the eighteen-year-old she'd need to pay $750 for makeup, hairstyling, and photographs for a portfolio. "I know there are so many girls out there who are like me. They don't know how things work. And they can get scammed," Berge laments.

"I liked her look," Rojas recalls of Berge. "But a lot of girls don't realize this is a business. It's not glamorous. It's work. You have to get up at 6:00 a.m. You have to stand for hours."

The women agree a preliminary set of photos didn't turn out well. But that's not unusual, Rojas says, pointing to a recent Perry Ellis advertisement featuring a Deco model: "It took six months of shoots to get it right."

A second photo session was scheduled, but Berge didn't make it. Then Rojas says she arranged a booking with a paying client, for which Berge also failed to show up.

Berge, who says she was dependent upon public transportation, cites trouble with the Metrorail for both missed appointments and notes she called Rojas to say she'd be late. (To the Metro-loving Bitch, that sounds lame.)

Rojas says she cannot recall the specifics of the missed booking, that she works with 50 to 100 models at a time, and this incident was more than two years ago. But she says her business depends on people showing up: "I cannot have a business if models do not show up for the castings. It makes you look bad. [Berge] didn't show up for a booking. The client was upset." Berge was fired.

Now Berge, who has returned to Florida's west coast, wants her money back. She has filed a complaint against Deco Models with the Better Business Bureau and claims to have located other would-bes with complaints similar to hers, though she declined to give their names to the nosy animal.

Rojas counters that the $750 agency registration fee is the industry norm for inexperienced models, recalling that Berge didn't even have enough money and that the agency agreed to accept $500 on the condition Berge would pay the rest later.

Rojas has operated the agency, whose clients include Verizon, Arizona Jeans, Levi's, and Perry Ellis, at 1874 West Ave. in Miami Beach since 1999. She maintains Berge signed a contract and knew the costs: "She agreed that she would pay. Bottom line: Summer wasn't mature. She flaked out. I can't work with her. I think she might be a little bit crazy."

Berge sniffs, "Deco has some pretty girls working for them, but they're not, you know, model pretty."

The agency owner says she's surprised Berge waited two years to complain, but is skeptical of the young woman's claims of naiveté. "When models say something, you can only believe one percent of what they say.... I hate to admit it," Rojas sighs.

Art Barely in America

At the Art Miami expo this past weekend, The Bitch was shocked — in a nice, almost Stendhal-syndrome way — to encounter the works of the powerhouse trio of women Surrealist painters Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, and Leonor Fini. The Italian-Argentine Fini — she died in 1996 — holds particular sway with The Bitch, who, as a puppy, was greatly inspired by Fini's paintings of powerful, destructive, passionate women with the features and fur of beasts.

The proprietor of Galerie Minsky in Paris, Arlette Souhami, spoke softly as the swooning hound stared, enthralled, at La Gouvernante. "There is no other way to describe her work but 'extraordinary,'" purred Souhami, a tawny, feline, compact, eminently Continental woman perfectly suited to curate one of the largest Fini collections in the world.

The distaff surrealists all had long, prolific careers — Tanning, who is 92 years old, recently wrote a memoir for The New Yorker — and many generations of admirers.

To None

Shoppie Seconds made heads turn during its three-year stay at 2344 NE Second Ave., thanks to an inspired combination of a funny name and a crazy-quilt collection of eye-catching tchotchkes on proud, often outdoor, display. After the furniture warehouse's lease expired in August 2005, inspiration struck co-owner Mark Scharnitz.

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