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Once upon a time I was a model.  For about five minutes.

I was a sophomore or junior (who can remember?) in an all-girls boarding school outside New York City.  Like many girls that age, I was trying to discover who I was and who I wanted to be.  I’m not sure whose idea it was, mine or my parents, but I remember coming into the city to have a well-known photographer shoot my ‘portfolio’ in his studio.  It was a huge loft space with lots of natural light streaming through oversize windows, and it was also relatively quiet.  I remember it being just the photographer and an assistant.  I brought my own clothes and jewelry which included dresses from Bill Blass, Yves Saint Laurent, and Givenchy (my Mother’s), as well as my own oversized Fiorucci earrings.  I only vaguely remember the costume changes – hair up, hair down, the chair – but I do remember well taking the shoot outdoors under an overpass somewhere near the East River and my eyes welling up with tears from the sun.

With portfolio in hand, I arrived at Ford.  They immediately sent me to have my long locks cut short with bangs.  That remains the only time in my life that I wore my hair short with bangs.  I was hustled to a photo shoot where the photographer had me stand on a roll of white paper and then said, ‘go.’  Having never been to modeling school (was there even such a thing?) I had no idea what to do and was paralyzed with fear.  Neither my nerves nor my Aries charm softened the photog, who proceeded to yell at me and scream about how he was ‘used to working with professionals!’, and ‘who has Eileen sent me now?!’’, type of sentiments.  All the while, a ‘face of the eighties’ – a young girl herself – was crying in the bathroom.

So any dreams I had of being a supermodel were clearly dashed, and I’ve carried that unease in front of the camera with me to this day.  I did have a second shot at my image in the glossies nearly 25 years later when I was asked to promote Hearts On Fire diamonds through this blog, in a nationwide ad campaign two years ago.  My older self was no more comfortable in front of the camera, but was more secure in recognizing an opportunity and placing any past fears aside.  That experience was also memorable for all of the kind and supportive people around me and for the super patient and understanding photographer.

I recently rang in another birthday, and with it came the flood of memories past, the acknowledgement of who I am and who I was, and the dream of who I am yet to become.  Hopefully a model citizen.  Definitely not a model.

model stephanie johnson copy

 

I’ve sort of been off Vegas and I think I just got back on.  While I was away, they’ve built a city within the city that includes the new Aria/Mandarin Oriental/Vdara hotel complex and the Crystals shopping center, aptly referred to as CityCenter.

STAY

I was hosted at Aria by my friends at Hearts on Fire (read more  about my partnership with them!).  My room was brand spanking new and big with all the amenities you could ask for. . . flat screen, sitting area, dressing area, generous bathroom with separate tub and shower etc.  Tones tend toward the dark and natural, and bed was super comfy.

I walked across the way to the Mandarin Oriental, always a favorite anywhere in the world.  Rooms were nearly the exact finishes as Aria so no big difference unless you want to get away from the casino feel (it’s nice not to have to trek a mile through slots en route to your room).  The spa is pretty special too.

EAT

Julian Serrano tapas  at the Aria was a surprise.  Located off the lobby, it’s arguably not the best location, but that is quickly forgotten with one taste.  The ahi tuna tempura with wasabi foam was a standout.

The Cosmopolitan has a hidden pizza joint down an unmarked hallway with loud music and a tunnel of album cover photos beckoning you. . . on the third floor next to Blue Ribbon Sushi, it’s sort of like the burger joint in NYC at the Parker Meridian but brighter (and with pizza of course!).

The Cosmopolitan also boasts some favorites like LA transplant Comme Ça,  Scarpetta (there isn’t better classic spaghetti anywhere), Blue Ribbon and STK. The lobby of the Mandarin on the 23rd floor offers a view of the (replica) Eiffel Tower over classic English afternoon tea.  Recommended for the more civilized Vegas experience.

 

SHOP

Vegas is one-stop shopping.  They have everything here!  Crystals shopping center is as good as a mall experience gets and is visually stunning.  Look for escalators and giant suitcases in the three story Prada store, neons at Balenciaga, and crystal horses at Stella McCartney.  Can’t miss the lattice wooden tree house in the middle of it all.

My absolute favorite find was the Assouline store.  Worth a trip people!  In addition to their gorgeous titles, they will custom design your library for you and even deck it out with their custom furniture.  Go just to take it all in.  Gorgeous!

I was excited to see our bags in the Utique machine at the Cosmopolitan.  I love this chic new way to shop!  Worth checking out if you haven’t seen the future of vending.

Fun Fact:   cabbies in Vegas are always full of information about the latest news on the Strip.  Mine told me about the ‘death ring’ at the pool at Vdara.  Not exactly the kind of info I was looking for, but apparently at a certain point during the day, the sun hits all these reflective surfaces and really heats up their pool scene.  Guessing SPF 100+ is a must.

PACK

Looking for style inspiration for your Vegas vacation?  Check out my Destination:  Vegas collection on ThisNext.com for some fab fashion finds!

Maybe diamonds really are a girl’s best friend!  I was thrilled when Hearts on Fire asked me to be a part of their campaign and I played model for a day.  Who wouldn’t want to dress up in diamonds for the day?  When I arrived at the shoot everything was already a buzz, and the REAL models (Amy and Lays) were already in hair and make-up.  Two long tables were set-up with nothing but rows and rows of gorgeous sparkling diamonds.  The team from Hearts on Fire was smiling and sparkly just like their diamonds, and Sarah Silver (our kick-ass photographer) and her crew were gracious and welcoming.  I felt right at home.

First up:  choosing the jewelry!  I saw those diamond hoops and immediately claimed them as mine.  Each pendant was prettier than the first.  Who could choose?

Next to wardrobe, where the lovely Ann Caruso hit it spot-on with the perfect outfit. Then to make-up where the fabulous Walter gave me a natural look while sharing a laugh.  Finally to hair where Robert Lyon tortured and teased my hair (kidding. . . but for a ‘wash and wear’ girl, this was an experience!)

Sarah shot us first as a group which helped get me in the mood, and the pros seemed nonplussed by my inexperience in front of the camera.  I’m nearly 5’10” and not embarrassed to admit that they had me stand on a plywood plank next to the model goddesses!  Amy, 5’10 1/2″ and a mother of three (!), and Brazilian beauty Lays (5’11”) had clips pulling their dresses tight in the back!  Sadly, I didn’t need any clips. . . At one point Ann walked up to me and whispered that I had ‘jazz hands’ and was holding my jaw too tight.  Thank you, Ann!

Overall the day was just pure fun and I really loved the Hearts on Fire family.  I felt like a princess for a day and every girl needs that once in while!

Now it’s your chance to be pampered like a princess!  Visit www.heartsonfire.com/OTheOprahMagazine to share your Hearts on Fire story and enter for your chance to win a trip to NYC where you’ll be draped in diamonds and photographed for Hearts on Fire’s national ad campaign!  As if that’s not enough, you’ll also receive your very own piece of gorgeous Hearts on Fire jewelry!

Diamonds may be forever, but this exciting opportunity is only available for a limited time, so don’t delay!  Enter today and you could be featured (alongside yours truly!) in an upcoming Hearts on Fire advertisement. . .

Good luck!

 

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