NEW YORK — “My name is Sunny Blaze and I was Marilyn Monroe in a past life,” a blonde bombshell said, then burst into her rendition of “My Funny Valentine” in the window of H&M’s Fifth Avenue flagship last Thursday. Sunny was one of 30 singles selected to perform at the store’s “Expose Yourself on Fifth Avenue” Valentine’s Day event after open-call tryouts earlier in the month.
Apparently, my engagement ring hadn’t fazed the judges at my own audition — a reading from Cameron Tuttle’s book “The Bad Girls Guide to Getting What You Want” — since I also got the call-back. Making a fool of myself had its perks; all of us were given $100 to spend on an H&M outfit to wear in the window. As we waited to take our turns, we stood on a raised platform that made it all too easy for onlookers to ogle us in our H&M get-ups. But then, I guess that was the point of the exercise.
First up: Linda, a tall, thin girl with long braids. Sporting sunglasses, a lace top and skintight jeans, she shimmied away to throbbing club music, and stopped passersby dead in their tracks. Soon, a crowd formed on the sidewalk, and if the rest of us had been nervous, now we were terrified.
I was fifth in the lineup, following on the heels of Karmen and her dog Chloe, both dressed in red-and-black lace. The dog’s role in this production was to play fetch with a stuffed heart tossed around by her mistress. I asked her what would happen if Chloe refused to cooperate. But Karmen had more practical concerns. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” she replied. “But hopefully she won’t have an accident in the window.”
Despite my own anxiety, when my turn came, I decided to just go for it. Decked out in a long denim skirt and white-collared shirt, I started reading from my book and, to my surprise, it seemed like the crowd was into it. At least I got a few laughs. At this point, the store was jammed — both inside and on the sidewalk in front of the windows.
“What’s extraordinary about this event is the courage of the people to really put themselves out there,” observed one onlooker. Okay, so maybe that lady made us sound more like war heroes than a bunch of girls and boys in mini-Ts, but doing window time did take a certain nerve. Consider Dan Lynott, dressed in a red button-down shirt with cut-off sleeves and black spandex briefs. His mission: to give the crowd a five-minute yoga lesson. Exercise routines, in fact, were a popular choice. Two young girls, Connie and Nakitia, did an aerobics bit that included yoga and kickboxing set to dance music. Julio Diaz, known as “the dancer of the subway in NYC,” cha-cha’d to salsa music with a life-like mannequin as his partner.
Veronica and Sophie, two cute, trendy girls, came out dressed in identical red trench coats. “We are exposing ourselves — literally,” said the pair, hinting at their plan to strip down to the corsets and miniskirts they wore underneath, while dancing to music by Craig David and Mis-Teeq, the U.K.’s answer to Destiny’s Child.
It’s still too early to know whether finding true love in the window was anyone’s destiny. But if the plan was to make Valentine’s Day a bit more fun for New York’s unattached, then H&M played cupid perfectly.