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My grandmother had always scolded me for getting into the fashion industry.

We had lived with her since we were four years old. Our father had run away with a Brazilian model he met working at the hotel and my mother, not dealing with the fact that her husband left her with two kids under five in the middle of a recession… ended up having a breakdown, unsurprisingly. We were never put back into her care and lived with Gaga.

Gaga was a bitter woman. Her old leather skin reminded me of a paper bag that had had orange juice spilt on it and crumpled and stuck. She always wore a red bandana around her head and said that an old lover of hers had given it to her as a keepsake during world war one but never returned or maybe he did but just never let her know. She could never remember but said she liked it regardless. She smelt of tea tree oil and sawdust mixed into a dewy fragrance that stuck to everything.

I was fifteen when I started carrying my camera around with me. My baby sister and I would dress up and create outfits found in the backs of thrift shops and model against the white walls of Gaga’s living room. Only when she was out though, you had to make sure that you were never caught ‘wasting your time’ on fashion.

One Saturday morning, after a great haul of the shops we decided to go out to the backs of the woods behind Gaga’s house. Outfit after outfit we swapped and changed. Millie was between costumes when all of a sudden Gaga jumped from behind the tree! Screaming in shock, Millie dropped the dress she was about to change into. It was in those moments I snapped this award winning shot and today I’m at my exhibition, with Gaga’s bandana around my waist.

Story by Jasmine Wallis

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