“F-O-R-D!” 1992

You gotta know someone to really know them. You gotta know where they came from. It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. The bitter and the sweet.

For some, there’s a little more bitter than sweet. Bitter like mine don’t settle for no ordinary sugar. That’s what I told my modeling agent, Randy Mottsinger, after six of the seven NYC modeling agencies I interviewed with accepted me on the spot. But Ford, the only agency I wanted—the only one I’d accept—told me to come back in six months with more print work.

At forty-one I’d been modeling over half my life, but that was my first trip to the Big Apple. But New York is a curious city. For every dream it allows and fulfills, it crushes thousands more. Turns them to fantasy and—soon—terrors in the night. The adventure becomes something those who don’t make it won’t talk about in future years. But, I decided not to allow this to happen to my dreams. This city would give me my dreams.

Even if I had to steal them … by keeping my secret. And goodness knew I could do it. New York City—with its high-rise buildings trimmed in gold and windows that reflect the sun-like mirrors—didn’t know how far out of the pit I’d had to climb.

And here I was, in New York, with six more-than-acceptable agencies wanting me right then, quibbling over the only one that said wait.

As I sat there, basking in a high only adrenaline can offer, it no longer mattered where I’d come from. The only thing that mattered right then was where I was going.

“So which of the six do you wanna go with?” Randy asked me. He raised his right hand to smooth the lengthy ponytail hanging straight down his back.

“I don’t want none of them, Randy,” I said, my voice a little louder and a whole lot more Southern-sweet than the New Yorkers were accustomed to.

“I want Ford!”

“Can you wait six months?”

I put my fork down and glared at him. “I’ve waited this long, haven’t I?”

Randy cocked an eyebrow, reminding me he was every bit as feisty as me.

“IMG is nothin’ to sneeze at, LeeAnn,” he said. His words drawled like mine, his from North Carolina and mine from Alabama.

“None of them are. And they want you now. Are you sure you wanna risk those offers for somethin’ that isn’t guaranteed?”

My eyes blinked rapidly. Whatever in this world had possessed Randy to form his mouth to ask me a question like that I did not know.

“F-O-R-D,” I said.

Randy paused, looked at me a bit more purposefully. I returned the look with resolve. His eyes grew wider because, after thirteen years as my agent, he knew that look. Our feline tails switched behind us until, finally, Randy acquiesced. “All right, LeeAnn. If you’re sure. I’ll set you up for a test shoot with a photographer when we get back to North Carolina.”

He stabbed at his salad as though that day was an ordinary day, we were in an ordinary restaurant, having a conversation about something as mundane as the weather. Or the price of tea in China.

“I’m thinking Lou Freeman,” he said around the spinach leaves in his mouth. “She’s one of the best, and she’s right there in Atlanta.”

I gave him a half smile. Victory, thy taste is sweeter-n-honey. I picked up my glass of water and raised it toward him in a mock toast. “I’m all over it.”

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By LeeAnn Jefferies with Eva Marie Everson

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In her decades-long modeling career, LeeAnn Jefferies represented such companies as Bobbi Brown, Avon, Princess Cruise Lines, Marks and Spenser, Modern Bride, and the Home Shopping Network. As an in-demand model for Ford Modeling Agency, she traveled the world and “rubbed elbows” with celebrities. But her greatest career accomplishment has been opening dialogue about Bipolar Disorder and its accompanying diagnoses, providing hope for millions. LeeAnn and her husband Kenneth make their home in North Carolina. They are the parents of two grown children and have been blessed with two grandchildren.

Eva Marie Everson was born and reared just outside of Savannah, Georgia, in the charming small town of Sylvania. She has a southern accent which gets a little more southern every time she crosses the Florida/Georgia state line. She loves hiking in the great outdoors and enjoys pushing herself to new heights, both physically and spiritually. Eva is an ex-nurse and a seminary graduate. She and her husband have been married since 1979 and have three of the greatest kids ever and the most amazing grandkids. When she’s not writing, she’s editing. When she’s not editing, she’s running Word Weavers International, an international membership group of writers who, using the art of critique, become iron sharpening iron. Eva is also one of the two directors of Florida Christian Writers Conference. She speaks at writers conferences across America and to women’s groups as well as to congregations.

About Be the Light Editor

Martin Wiles is a minister, author, freelance editor, and English teacher who lives in Greenwood, SC. He is the founder of Love Lines from God and is the author of Grits & Grace and God and Grits, Gumbo and Going to Church. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions (www.christiandevotions.us) and Assistant Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He and his wife are parents of two and grandparents of three.