We all know the scene. We've all seen the scene. We know the story, the history behind it, and the countless mythologies of its countless legacies.
And it starts with a hero. A hero leaves her homeland, a monochromatic world of single wavelengths and expectations. She's whisked away by a powerful, cyclonic dream and dropped in a strange -- sometimes frightening -- but beautiful realm bursting with prism-splitting Technicolor. Luckily, she finds solidarity in unlikely companions and together -- united as one -- they set off on a journey to defeat a great evil and fulfill their destiny.
With pillars of fire and roiling clouds of smoke, a young girl steps forward to meet the Wizard, the stranger who has promised to take her home. A mysterious figure, the Wizard hides behind an illusory curtain. The young girl has defeated the great evil -- just as the Wizard requested -- but the triumph of the her achievement is beset by the tragedy of her journey.
A wise woman once said, the greatest paradox in life is this: if you love something until it hurts, there will be no more pain. Only more love.
And, sometimes, loving yourself is the hardest, most painful journey we can take. A lot of us understand this perfectly well, but a precious few have it inscribed across their life like a beautiful scar. And if we zoom out from that shiny, silver scar, we'll see a woman named Alexa Florez.
Who is Alexa Florez? Is she the Wizard? Or is she the young girl in the magical slippers just trying to get home?
When I sat down with Alexa to begin this column, to unearth the secrets inside of her, I thought I could see through the smoke and mirrors and pyrotechnics of flesh and lace. I thought I could lift the curtain and solve the mystery. I thought I could have my suspicions confirmed.
But in a world like Oz, there is no straight path to the Emerald City. It is a golden-paved road that twists through a radiantly treacherous understanding...
Alexa Florez is a young entrepreneur who lives in Hollywood, California. She's beautiful, of course, but that's immaterial. She got into the modeling industry at the tender age of eleven -- her looks defied her age, and so did her maturity and wisdom -- and as such, she would often sneak into ultra-modern L.A. clubs, mesmerized by the fashion and touch-and-go lifestyle. She made her first 'scene queen' video soon after and never looked back. What's important here is her vision, and the philosophy holding that vision up against a blackened sky like a ray of neon pink, dreadlocked, subcultural sunlight. Alexa Florez is that disenchanted, millennial voice inside everyone's head, quietly but efficiently breathing life into a second-wave movement of alternative modeling.
I write that vaguely on purpose out of fear that society will euphemize the latter with the former, confusing the label with flashing, knee-jerk images of softcore pornography. And Alexa's burgeoning empire -- AASM, or Alex Addicted, namely -- isn't trying to get you off. While some models in her myriad ranks may elect to strip for artistic or creative purposes (read: implied nudity), Alexa's focus is what the camera often fails to see. It's that rare, mystifying pigment of female beauty that defies tags and free-market abstracts.
Make no mistake. These are beautiful women. Some of the most beautiful women the world has yet to see, from all over the world. They cover all walks of life, from every nationality and language -- from the southernmost Americas to northern Asia, from eastern Australia to western Alaska -- and everywhere in-between. Tattooed and pierced, sporting dyed mohawks and shaved heads, wrapped in latex corsets or sheepishly tugging on cotton mesh SpongeBob panties, the girls of Alex Addicted are the feathered, niche-specific envy of their foremost industry competitors.
Moving forward, I'll be continuing my coverage of these handpicked alternative models in a bi-weekly feature. In full cooperation with Alexa, I'll be delving a little deeper and beyond their soul-deep beauty. But to kick this column off, Alexa and I have uploaded a slideshow suite of -- what I call -- The First Twenty, in no particular order. In the coming weeks, we'll spend targeted, quality time with each model, giving her the proper platform and attention she deserves.
Alexa loves these girls. She promotes these girls through various social media sites, reaching a daily audience in excess of ten thousand, stressing strict adherence to strict rules. Love is the guiding principle and, from what I could gather, perhaps the only currency. It's a love you can't fake and, while there will always be haters, it's a love that is often reciprocated. For all her thankless love and fostering, the girls of Alex Addicted affectionately call her, simply, 'Mama.'
These girls. These models. These...women. These ghost girls that haunt our living dreams. They're real. They're here, floating behind shuttered glances and flash-slave crackles.
But in a world like Oz, there is no straight path to the Emerald City. It is a golden-paved road that twists and forks through a nebulous reality: the ruby slippers are yours -- and yours alone -- and always were. From the moment you dreamed this dream, you gave yourself the one thing you needed to traverse it and, ultimately, awaken.
In a world like Oz, I'm not a player. I'm the hanging Munchkin, dangling in the shadows of the backdrop. And Alexa, it turns out she's not the Wizard, after all. It wasn't until the fire dissipated, it wasn't until the smoke cleared, it wasn't until the young girl in ruby slippers lifted the curtain did I finally understand. Alexa, she was the young girl's companion -- the brains, heart, and courage that made the journey possible. And behind the curtain was no wizard. It was just another mirror, another trick.
The young girl had the shoes on all along, and they were no less magical before or after she discovered their power. Tapping them together, the truth is ironically revealed, and it rattles the bones, saying: There is no place like home. And in case they weren't paying attention, she has arrived with all her perfect flaws, complicated simplicity, and studio strobe flux. She's here, waiting and posing, smiling and crying. And it's high time we lift the curtain.