Thursday, March 31, 2011

We are NOT an escort agency.

When I'm not working for international development organizations, picking up the occasional fact-checking job, or completing a writing contract, I work as a brand ambassador. There's simply no use in hiding it any longer--I'm one of those perpetually perky individuals who hands out over-packaged samples of useless products when you're just trying to make it to your doctor's appointment on time.

I first got started as a promo rep almost 10 years ago, when I was hired to dress as Gandalf for the DVD release of Lord of the Rings. (I spent the day handing out trading cards at Walmart to 10-year-olds. The only way I survived the barrage of pickup lines from nerdy prepubescents was by daydreaming about the date I was going on later that night. It was a successful strategy until my date showed up on his lunch break to buy the DVD. I was both mortified and thrilled that I had opted not to wear the beard that had been provided with my costume.) Throughout my undergrad, I worked with a number of companies, and today I continue to supplement my income by working the occasional community event. It can be soul-sucking at times (trade shows are the worst) but I always meet really interesting people and have fun. Plus, for mindless work, it pays well.

On the job in Dundas Square during NXNE 2006.

So in December, leading up to the Toronto car show, I began applying for every worthwhile "promotional representation" or "brand ambassador" listing that popped up on Craigslist. That's when I got this email:

On 15 December 2010 08:30, Amanda K. wrote:


My name is Amanda, and I help run an agency in Toronto that handles models for specific encounters/events. I came across your contact & we're hiring right now, so I thought perhaps you might be interested! If you'd like to know more, simply get back to me here...



The subject line read "modelling." I'm hardly a model, but in the wake of winning the People's Choice, I felt invincible. And although random ellipsis and ampersands in any other professional circumstance would usually turn me off, I've worked with marketing agencies long enough to know that it's often interns or assistants who are in charge of hiring.

Excited and flattered to be contacted, I replied.

Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 13:43:52 -0700

Subject: Re: Modeling

Hi Amanda,

Thank you for your email. I'm definitely always interested in picking up work--on top of 10 years of serving experience, I have over five years of experience as a promotional representative, so I'm definitely familiar with working events.

What kind of events/encounters do you typically hire people for? And what other information would you need from me? (Resume, headshots?) Out of curiosity, where did you get my contact information from?



Her reply was surprisingly prompt:

On 15 December 2010 14:21, Amanda K. wrote:

Hi Jessica,

Appreciate your reply :)

Were a new upstart operation in Toronto catering to specific events, encounters and rendezvous & we're looking to hire our initial team of girls for positions starting in the new year.

Would it be possible for me to see a portfolio of your pictures?

Also, I should note, while there's absolutely no nudity required on your part - our events do cater to a mature adult crowd, so I'm hoping that type of scenario is something you're comfortable with. If you've got previous modeling experience, I'm sure you understand.

We do have a number of events already scheduled and I'd be happy to send over a more formal list of interview questions if you can get back to me in regards to the above, should you still be interested.

I'm sure you're wondering about compensation - but it varies - from $80 - $2000 depending on the event and what's required.

Thanks & look forward to hearing back from you.


p.s. Your email was passed along through a colleague of ours in the industry who had previously posted an ad on Craigslist for a talent position. I apologize i can't say for certain what that project was, and I hope you don't mind the "cold-call"

The "no-nudity" bit, in retrospect, should have been a red flag. Why would I be worried about nudity? Should I be worried about nudity? It hadn't even crossed my mind.

Providing my photos, on the other hand, wasn't an issue. Although it's completely in violation of employment standards to ask for pictures, this is often required for marketing gigs. Oftentimes they don't even want to see a resume--just what you look like and your previous experience itemized in the body of an email. So I quickly sent back an email with pictures from my "portfolio"and further clarified to Amanda that I'm not a "model," but do have extensive promotional experience.

On 15 December 2010 14:53, Amanda K. wrote:

Hi again Jessica,

Thanks so much for the quick reply & for the pictures. If I need anything else from you by way of images, I'll certainly let you know!

I'll start by giving you a little but more info on our operation, as we're pretty unique in terms of our business model. While we mainly focus on events (and we do have a lot already scheduled for the new year), we do also arrange specific/tailored encounters between our roster of women & our very exclusive set of executive male clients. Typical encounters include dinner/dancing, a first class night on the town, or some type of pre-approved private modeling. NO nudity & NO sex is ever expected or implied! We are NOT an escort agency. More to follow about events.

With that said, please do answer the following questions when you have a moment.

1. Your Name
2. Your Age
3. Your Vital Stats (Weight/Height/Measurements)
4. Your 3 BEST Features
5. Please state briefly your previous modeling/promo experience
6. Are you comfortable modeling fetish related items?
7. Are you comfortable modeling in adult-oriented 'sexual' settings? Both in private & semi private venues?
8. Would you describe yourself as an expert 'conversationalist'?
9. Are you capable of entertaining very high end, upscale, male clientele for the evening? (No nudity, no sex!)
10. What is your availability? Can you work week nights? Week ends?

Thanks for getting back to me. Once I have these answers I can go ahead and forward you more info on our upcoming events, and we can see if there's one right for you!

If you have any more questions at all, feel free to ask! Best to be upfront.
But as I assured you above - we are not an escort agency! But a promo/modeling franchise providing exclusive companionship for some of the cities richest guys!..and they tend to tip really well :)

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

Thanks & Best,


At this point, the thing that I found most unsettling was the speed at which Amanda was replying to my emails. (Yes, that's what I found most unsettling. Question number 6? No problem. But the fact she was replying to my emails every 20 minutes? Absolutely unnerving.)

Okay, I'll admit--her insistance that they were NOT an escort agency (despite the fact I had never accused them of being one) was also a little concerning. But hey, I'm bored and unemployed! Why not see where this goes?

So I replied. (My answer to question number 6: "Maybe. Fetish is a pretty broad definition so it definitely depends on exactly what would be required.")

On 15 December 2010 15:22, Amanda K. wrote:

Hi again Jessica,

Thanks for your quick & detailed reply. Glad to see you're comfortable with virtually all of what I've asked.

Since event modeling is fairly self explanatory (a few hours at a specific location promoting a party/product or event), I thought it might be best to detail more about our private encounters service, which tends to bring our girls significantly more revenue. Although if you have any questions about events, feel free to ask.

While many of our male clients use our service to spend quality time with a truly beautiful girl over dinner/drinks or a night on the town, a large portion of our users also come to us to have very specific non-sexual fantasies/fetishes role-played out for them. Think of us as a one stop shop for the high-class executive male who wishes to script out his fantasy relationship! I must reiterate though, we are NOT an escort agency and NO nudity & NO sex is ever expected or implied!

Perhaps it might be best for me to forward over the profile of some of our past clients, as well as a profile of a client we're looking to service in the next week. Your feedback will give me a better idea of what type of gigs would be best for you, or if this is something you think you could handle.

Please do ask ANY questions you have regarding these profiles/encounters!

Previous encounters PROFILE:

1. James, 28, Successful Real Estate Manager

James contacted us in in early November looking to meet with one of our models for the purpose of financial domination. We set him up with Brooke (24, 5ft6, 110lbs, 34C), and James decided he wanted to take her shopping, for mani/pedis, and for a massage at a local spa. He allowed Brooke to keep one of his credit cards for 2 weeks, and through us, authorized her to purchase sexy items for herself which she then modeled for him 2 weeks later. James thoroughly enjoyed his experience, and we've booked him again with Brooke for early in the New Year.

Brooke was paid $400 in cash + she kept over $1000 in merchandise she bought with James consent.

Fetish: Financial Domination/Female Superiority

2. Rick, 27, Software Technician

Rick contacted us in mid November looking for us to provide him with a sophisticated girl capable of satisfying his unique desires. Rick describes himself as submissive, and wanted to set up an encounter whereby he'd be 'outted' for his 'deviant desires' by a truly beautiful woman. We set him up with Ally (25, 5ft8, 120lbs, 34D) for what on the surface was to be a 'traditional' dinner date. With all going well, the 'couple' proceeded back to his luxury condo, where over a glass of wine, she happened to 'notice' Rick was wearing women underwear! Rick tried to 'change the subject' but Ally pressed on, 'forcing' him to show her what he was wearing. After stripping him down to his 'panties', Ally began to 'laugh mercilessly', teasing and tormenting him. After some light bondage and humiliation, Ally was instructed to leave him there...completely turned on, instructing him to 'NEVER' call her again!

Ally was paid $300 + tips in cash for 3 hours of company.

Rick is in continual contact with us, and is currently shaping how he wants to evolve his own personal storyline with Ally, and she looks forward to their next encounter.

Fetish: Female Domination, sissification

As you'll see from the above, by acting as the medium between our exclusive male clients and our roster of female models, we have the power to make this experience as seemingly 'real' as possible - with NO sex or nudity required on your part!

We've also got a number of male clients, who as I mentioned, are looking for an encounter in the very near future!

Below you'll see the profile of one of our return clients who is looking to meet with a new girl. I'm thinking perhaps it might be a good first encounter for you to see if this is something you can handle!...Let me know


Alex, 26, Successful Writer/Producer

Alex is a return client with a very interesting, albeit unusual fetish. He's very good looking and successful, with no problems attracting girls, yet admitted to us he bears great shame and humiliation as a result of the fact he has a very small penis. The type of encounter Alex is looking for is very basic - he'd like to meet for dinner + drinks, where you two would 'connect' on seemingly all levels. Once he sees how 'incredibly interested' you are in him, he decides to ask you back to his midtown condo for a follow up glass of wine, which you enthusiastically accept. Once back at his place, he begins to question what you like sexually in a man. You admit your proclivity for men with extremely large 'members', reiterating you can't settle for anything less! He begins to get sheepish, at which point you inquire to what he's packing. With a little prodding, you discover that he's small - at which point your feelings completely change, and you give him a heavy dose of verbal small penis humiliation. Completely non nude on your part!

Fetish: Small Penis Humiliation, Female Domination, Female Superiority

If this is something you think you could handle, I'd be happy to discuss compensation. He has met with one of our girls in past, and said he was quite a gentleman despite his shortcomings :)

I hope this info helps! If you have ANY questions PLEASE don't hesitate to ask, as now would be the time :)

Do you think the Alex gig is something you could handle? Your feedback or any info pertaining to your experience with a fetish of this nature would be great. Is it an encounter that coincides with your personality?

Thanks & Look forward to your reply,


I couldn't bring myself to reply--but not because this clearly wasn't a brand ambassador job. The truth is, I was seriously considering it. (Perhaps I had a burgeoning career in Gonzo Craigslist journalism? Joining an escort agency would make for a fascinating story.)

No, my problem was much more specific. It was the fetish: small penis humiliation? I don't think I could intentionally be mean to a guy for that, even if it's what he wanted. I really didn't think that it "coincided with my personality."

Despite the speed at which we'd been emailing back and forth, I decided to sleep on it.

At 7:30 am the next morning, I got this email:

Hi Jessica,

Hope you had a good night! Just wanted to make sure you got my last email containing the profiles of some of our previous clients, as well as the profile of a client were looking to service in the near future. If you have any questions whatsoever, please don't hesitate to ask! :)



After all was said and done, it was Amanda's sense of urgency that turned me off. Our relationship was moving forward too quickly. I just wasn't ready to commit.

But I didn't want to hurt her feelings after she'd invested an entire day trying to recruit me. So I let her down gently by letting her know that it wasn't her and it wasn't me--it was my boyfriend that was standing between us.

Hi Jess,

That's too bad! I think you would have been able to do a fantastic job and do really well for yourself! I do however, respect your decision.

However, in life, things change, so should you find your sans boyfriend in the next while, or simply decide it's something you want to persue regardless, feel free to let me know!

So you know, the gentleman I was going to have you meet with has met with 2 of our girls, twice each over the past 2 months. After his second encounter with Chelsea, he gave her a $500 ring from Tiffany's. For the other girls, since he works as a successful tv writer producer, he was able to land her a guest spot on an american tv show where i was told she made a couple grand! I mention this not because I'm hoping it will help tip the scales, but so you see how this service can be beneficial to you by providing amazing networking opportunities! Thoughts?

As for events, we expect them to start picking up in the new year with a few already on our plate. Holiday season is usually very big for our private encounters service, so that's where most of our focus currently resides - but I will get back to you with info on events as they unfold. But please do let me know should you reconsider the private encounters - as I said we can have you on a gig immediately!

Thanks & look forward to hearing back from you!


Ooo! A real ring from Tiffany's? That changes everything!

Unfortunately for Amanda, I am not a girl who is easily wooed by bling.

I never heard from her again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Hazing

Maybe I was silently disapproving and didn't say anything--this is the way I want to remember it. (These are the kind of games my memory is playing on me. Did I provoke it? Uncertain. Did I deserve it? Maybe. But was I guilty of the crime? No.)

It's eighth grade. Gym class.

The locker room is divided in two--the front room for those who belong to sports teams and have lockers (the popular, the loved), and the back room for those who do not (the unnoticed, the undeveloped). I change in the back, near the showers. (On an unlucky day, those who change in the back might return to find their clothes in the shower, soaked. Better the shower than the toilet, though.) We pull on our matching gym uniforms, silk-screened with our maroon school letters, ripe with weeks of sweat and fear.

From the front room, there's the smell of smoke. A lit cigarette. No--lit cigarettes.

This is where my memory falters. (Surely, I said something? I had a sharp tongue, strong opinions and little foresight. I want to believe I was silent, but it's unlikely.) Shoes untied, I leave the change room, smoke wafting out the door behind me. I join the class sitting cross-legged on the gymnasium floor and wait for direction.

I won't rat them out. Jenny B, who I love and admire, is amongst the smokers. (Only two short years before the change room divide, we would take my red wagon into the woods and pretend to run away. We would share a bed at her grandma's house in Crane Lake, squealing when the pet pig charged after us. We are friends, I think.)

I won't rat them out, but someone else will.

After class, I'm cornered. They are suspended from school and I am to blame. (Jenny B tries to defend me, but it's useless.) I am innocent, but there's no way to prove it. I'm the obvious suspect. I am the sitting duck. Me and my big mouth. Me and my strong opinions. Me and my complete lack of foresight.

What they don't understand is that I don't follow the rules because I'm a brown-noser--I follow the rules because I want to be different and it's the only way I know how. Their brand of rebellion is inconsequential to me.

Maybe the daily threats to beat me up start then. Maybe they start earlier. But after school, they begin to follow me in a pack, teeth bared and profanities echoing down the street. They finally have a reason to bite.

One night I decide to walk home from school and get caught up in flirting with Justin along the way. When I finally arrive shortly before dinner, my mom breathes a sigh of relief. She was certain I had been jumped and left in the ditch.

These are the memories that I've forgotten to remember. (Or maybe they're the memories I forgot to forget.) And suddenly, they're coming in waves and I can't stop them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Queen of the Nerds

It was the kind of spur of the moment decision that only teenagers have the luxury of making.

Over homemade cinnamon buns and hot lattes, Janet told me that I would love it--it being the Seminar for United Nations and International Affairs (SUNIA). She had been a camp counsellor there once. It would be a week of intellectual stimulation and flirtations with politically savvy peers. It would be an escape from the monotony of slow nights at the Harbour House and slower days spent with Kenny sucking on popsicles outside the 7-11.

It would also undoubtably be a nerd camp. After all, who willingly signs up to attend a political camp in the middle of summer? It would be my last chance to feel popular before I returned to the torment of having food thrown at me daily in the school agora.

Four months earlier, I had attended the Forum for Young Albertans, a model provincial legislative exercise, where my fellow attendees admired the audacity with which I shredded apart my mandatory pantyhose during lectures. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

SUNIA would be no different. It was the summer before my grade 12 year and I had a penchant for Sailor Moon inspired hairdos (pink-tipped hair piled high on my head in two spiky braided buns) and matching outfits (pink tank tops embellished with silver stars and jean mini-skirts). It would be nerd camp and I would be be queen of the nerds.

At the Forum for Young Albertans, April 2001. (I'm the one with the pink hair.)

Only five minutes into the bus ride to Nordegg, I realized that I was horribly mistaken. Everyone else had been signed up months in advance and sponsored by their student unions. (My parents paid out of pocket to send me.) They were city kids, who came from schools that had their own model UN and debate clubs. (My school barely offered a French class.) They came from the kind of schools where drama club was something you had to audition for and high marks were a bragging right. They were beautiful, smart and athletic.

It took only five minutes to realize that I was the only nerd at nerd camp.

By mid-week, I called Kenny and my parents crying. I was exhausted and didn't have any friends, really. Everyone had come in groups from their schools. Every event, activity and meal was an exercise in solitude. There just wasn't room for me in the pre-formed cliques. I didn't have dreadlocks, I wasn't athletic, I wasn't experimenting with my sexual orientation and I didn't belong to a Model UN. I was nothing.

I made just one friend that week--on the bus ride home. It was one of the longest weeks of my life.

Laying in bed two weeks ago, this was all I could think about. Every time I sign up for something like this, the anxiety returns. It was going to be SUNIA all over again. I was going to be spending a week in the Dominican Republic supervising 275 high school students. What if they somehow knew all this? Teenagers know. They can smell it on you.

Relaxing in Punta Cana on a very rare and much-deserved break.

As soon as I arrived at the airport, the anxiety intensified. Based on their complete lack of acne, private school education and ability to afford a parent-approved trip to Punta Cana for March Break, I could only assume they were the popular kids. And I had the added uncool disadvantage of being the adult who had to play bad cop to their planned debauchery.

I sat down beside a group of boys in the departure lounge, nervously flipping through my staff binder and trying to look busy. Glancing over at the boy beside me, his passport was open to his photo page. And there, in plain font, was the solution to my anxiety. Date of birth: 1993. A decade was sitting between us.

This week wasn't the best week or my life or even the longest week of my life. But it was the week I needed to realize that that bus ride was over 12 years ago.

I wish I could into the details and stories of all the hilarious, awesome and awful things I witnessed in the past week, but unfortunately, for the sake of professionalism they'll have to stay locked in the vault. (Although I'm happy to share in less public forums.)

This week I also learned that I really do want to continue working with youth in some capacity. I hated the long days, the late nights and the trips to hotel clinic, but I loved all the students. For the first time, I was actually able to see the results of the work we were doing and from that, I got the kind of satisfaction that a steady paycheque has never been able to give me.

I'm beginning to realize too, that Year of the Deal isn't so much about saving money. Instead, it's a deal I've made with myself to experience as much as I can this year. The students kept asking me what I do for a living. It wasn't an easy question to answer. I'm a freelance writer, I guess, but I also fact-check, work with international development organizations, clip coupons, join beauty pageants, travel excessively and talk about my feelings way too often.

Even though I'm poor, it's the best deal I've ever made.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Point: Me

Here is the culmination of my worklifeexplosion: tonight I'm catching a flight to Punta Cana. For work. I'm busy and can barely catch my breath, but feel like I'm winning at life.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Deal or No Deal?

In addition to discovering the wonder of personal finance and frugal shopping blogs, Year of the Deal has also introduced me to something else that I had never considered blogging about: organization. And yet, organization blogs are probably on par with personal finance blogs in terms of popularity.

Although I considered becoming a personal organization at one point during my pre-layoff career crisis last summer, it's beyond me why anyone would want to read about anyone else's organization methods.

That is, until I got this question in an email:

"How do you transport your coupons? I always find myself going to Shopper's or Metro spontaneously and discovering all the stuff on sale and wishing I had my coupons with me."

A lot of friends have also been asking me how much time couponing takes me. The answer is next to none. Here's how I've been maximizing time and savings, not to mention ensuring that I never leave the house without my coupons:

The Expandable Folder
I use an expandable folder to carry my coupons. It fits neatly into my tote bag, so there's no excuse not to have it on hand. Added bonus: it's marginally less embarrassing than carrying a binder. (You can read more about different methods of organizing coupons here.)

Coupon as You Go
Much like everything else I do in life, I search for and file coupons using my "clean as you go" life philosophy. So basically, I coupon as I go.

I order coupons online every couple of weeks and file them as soon as they arrive in the mail. (My mom also sent me a HUGE package of coupons a couple of weeks ago, which was amazing.) Most coupons are perforated, so "clipping" doesn't even involve using scissors. Time spent per week: Maybe two minutes.

Coupon What You Need
Since I just shop for two, I've been focusing on stockpiling pharmacy items. What this means is that my coupons are organized into really straight-forward categories in my coupon folder. They are organized by the aisles you find each item in. (For instance, deodorant and razors are typically in the same or nearby aisles.) Here are the categories I'm currently using:

-Dry Food
-Cold Food
-Cleaning Supplies & Toilet Paper
-Deodorant & Razors
-Other Pharmacy & Tampons

Shop By Aisle
As I walk down each aisle, I quickly review the coupons I have available in that category. Then, I review the shelves for sales. If I have a coupon for Colgate and it's on sale, I'll do the math to determine if it's a good deal. (And I'm getting a much better idea of the "good deals" by tracking everything in my spreadsheet.)

If it goes into my basket, I'll pull the coupon out of its category and put it into the very back of the folder. At the till, I'll simply pull out all the coupons at the very back of the folder and hand them to the cashier. Easy.

And if it's not on sale, I don't buy it. Basically, I'm not learning how to coupon--I'm learning how to buy things on sale.

Read the Blogs
Most bargain blogs like MrsJanuary or SmartCanucks will look through the flyers and find the best deals of the week for you, complete with links to the appropriate online coupons. I check them quickly at least once a day to see if there's any new coupons available or good deals for the taking. (You could go overboard checking frugal shopping blogs because there's tons out there. Most have similar information and posts so one or two is enough.)

Find the Lowest Common Denominator
As previously mentioned, I've been tracking all my purchases in a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet (with the exception of food). This is what takes the most time per week. Part of the problem is that I shop primarily at Shoppers and their receipts don't itemize the "regular" prices. What this means is that as I shop I have to write down each "regular" price systematically as I go. It's annoying. And it takes me twice as long to buy stuff. But I'm getting quicker.

Filling out my spreadsheet takes probably about 30 minutes per week, but if you become a couponer, it's an optional activity.

Basically, if you want to start couponing, prepare to spend a bit more time shopping, but also to save a lot of money.

Year of the Deal: First Month in Review

Pharmacy Spent $222.72
Grocery Spent $393.26
Total Spent $615.98

(I spent a lot of money this month. But now have about three to four months' supplies of dish soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent and toilet paper. March will likely be similarly expensive, but I expect to spend considerably less from May onwards.)

Total Value of Coupons Used: $46.25
Total Saved by Shopping Sales & Using Coupons: $155.36

Lowest Prices to Date (aka Why I Will Never Pay Full Price Again)
Colgate Toothpaste: 0.99 (I know you can get toothpaste for free, though)
Aussie Shampoo: $2.24 (I'm sure I can get it for cheaper)
Tide Laundry Detergent (26 loads): $2.50
Sunlight Dish Soap: FREE
Dove Deodorant: $2.50 (I'm confident I can get it for cheaper)
Kotex Tampons (18): $2.99 (ugh, so much wasteful packaging)
Royale Toilet Paper: $2.99
Colgate Toothbrush: FREE