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I Lived “The Devil Wears Prada,” Part Two

Updated: Apr 16, 2024 17:15
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Hmm. Prada… or Valentino?

Miranda got away with her devilish persona because there was a method to her mania. It takes exactly zero talent to be a dick, and I do not respect unwarranted authority. By Week Four with Ħażin totali, my respect for Massimo was almost gone. I’d heard him berate contractors, clients, and crew members alike. The guy vetoed his only videographer’s impressive efforts and made him reshoot the same scene twice, maybe three times. Massimo called Florence a stupid bitch like it was her first name. “He’s just kidding,” she always said. “That’s how we talk.” The way he barked at Gia for the piece of paper in his hand the other day got me wondering if Massimo was hallucinating. Did he actually think he was Miranda Priestly?

“Oh my God,” Florence said when she saw I’d reorganized Massimo’s desk. “You touched—you moved his magazines.” 

I blinked. “Yeah. He told me to tidy the office.” And he did not specify which parts.

Late one morning, I tucked my Devil Wears Prada playlist about midway through the company’s Spotify mix. I imagined he might know a few tracks and say how much he loved the film, enough to convince me he’d modeled himself after Miranda. He hadn’t just memorized every song, even ones I skip, he sang those absent from the OST. And he did not profess his love for the music or the film. He strode about as though wearing an invisible cape, gliding by piles of unopened mail and ostentatious fixtures gathering dust. The half-built setpieces crowding his office didn’t annoy him like it used to. It’s as if the music in the air finally matched the soundtrack in his head. 

Kaskade’s “Here I Am” feat. Tamara Keenan really was made for the runway.

The single thing I did more of than Andrea Sachs was writing, just barely. The aspiring journalist took an assistant’s job for the magic it purportedly worked on one’s career. “You work a year for [Miranda] and you can get a job at any magazine you want,” Emily said. Revamping Massimo’s website took a month and three rounds of edits. In the first round I made jokes in the comments (“Had enough inferior design?”) of shared Google Docs. Nobody laughed. Round Two switched focus from telling the services we offered to selling “the story we tell.” Sifting a likeable narrative from their impersonal aesthetic proved challenging (watch a Perigold ad because they nailed it). Eventually I clicked ‘Accept’ on all his edits, since they weren’t exactly up for debate. 

As I watched Massimo repeatedly sabotage his business, I began to wonder whether any of the work I did mattered. It’s likely here that he felt me disengage. As punishment, he assigned me to unrelated tasks: sort/categorize six hundred drawer knobs (size, price, finish); move fixtures (an  enormous lampshade, a giant, generic NYC skyline-portrait) to basement; pick up dry cleaning. I started to miss writing crappy copy. Copywriting was in the contract. I also received fewer lunch invitations, Zoom links and forwarded emails about upcoming shoots and stages. Going to work became something dreadful and I could sense I wasn’t long for Massimo’s world. That’s okay. I would ride this hemorrhaging moneybag all the way to the ground.

Three bucks, two bags, one meeee!

One afternoon I found myself alone with Gia. Massimo had promised a client that he (read: she) would custom-build the three-meter-long, arrow-slit Plexiglass windows they desired. He happily took the cash and handed the task to Gia. I had questions, watching her wrap the polymer slabs in leather, mainly, “Why are you still here?” You might recall she was trying to leave Ħażin totali, only something kept holding her back. She set aside the tin of rubber cement and wiped sweat from her forehead. “Massimo’s a pain in the ass. Like, seriously. But I don’t think you know him,” she said. What’s there to know? Gia had secrets to tell. During lockdown, she explained, he lost his brother and his mother within months of each other. 

Massimo apparently dove into work to process his grief, though it seemed to me he was actively avoiding it. If you’re constantly outrunning yourself, things like grief and romance will fall behind. It explained his frenetic energy; run though you might, life will always catch up with you, and he knew it. Gia told me he didn’t lay off a single crewmember during the pandemic. Where was this saner, humane Massimo? Would I meet him in a Parisian hotel room with no makeup on, about to realize the root of all his problems lies within? Miranda Priestly came so close to real growth, only to shrink back from honest reflection and retreat into her work. It’s among the few traits of hers my employer actually possessed.

After weeks of delays and days of noxious fumes, the client rejected Gia’s improvised windows, triggering a refund. 

Imagine going to Paris and *not* getting Eiffel Towered.

The Beginning of the End

Andrea’s make-or-break moment came when Miranda tasked her with securing “the impossible manuscript,” the unpublished final Harry Potter novel. If she failed to deliver it by three PM, she shouldn’t “even bother coming back.” My impossible manuscript: squeeze a 1,400 square-foot office into an 800 square-foot storefront next door. Now when I say “squeeze the office,” I mean everything—desks, tables, books, chairs, supplies, shelving, cabinets, you name it. He assigned this project only to me. Massimo said they were busy when I requested help from the movers he kept on retainer. At least Andy got to flirt with industry hotshot Christian Thompson (Simon Baker) to secure her impossible manuscript. I was expected to accomplish this alone.

While this was happening, he also made me find the emails and personal Instagram accounts of Miami realtors and compile them in an Excel spreadsheet. Massimo thought it was a great idea to follow-unfollow/follow again until the firm’s account got attention, nevermind what kind. In the storefront, I was miserable. To-do: Unload twelve deep drawers, each containing hundreds and hundreds of fabric swatches, tile samples, paint decks and more. Arrange them on the floor by size, shape and color, then send Massimo pictures while he leases a new office in Florida. I got the same photos back covered in circles and checks of various colors. I could see him lounging poolside, tossing his phone away when I asked him what they meant. It’s the cavalier disregard for clear directions…

Then, after five days of sorting, hauling, switching and stacking, Massimo sent the most infuriating text. “On second thought, just throw it all away.”

The axe fell on a Tuesday morning. I knew it when I unlocked the door but the door was already open. An early morning meeting was winding down, another huddle I didn’t know about. Massimo dismissed his team. A stream of murmuring strangers made their way out, few of whom I’d met. I unpacked my laptop and set up my desk while the room emptied of everyone but him, Gia and Florence. “How’s the move going?” Massimo asked. Not great, Moss! It’s hard for me to lift your 500-lb. faux-marble desks. The movers still busy? (Yes.) Cool. He assigned another spreadsheet: same thing, only this time for realtors in Fort Lauderdale. Maybe I wasn’t fired?

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Massimo got back from lunch and handed me a $1,600 check. “We both know this isn’t working out,” he said. “Your direct deposit will still hit. This is your severance.” And just like that. I wasn’t upset about losing anything but the income. By then I’d made over $11,000 off that sinking ship. Near the denouement of The Devil Wears Prada, Andy comes to her senses. She doesn’t want Miranda’s life—something Miranda can’t fathom. “Don’t be ridiculous, Ahndraya. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us.

Not me, and not Andy. A year later I am once again a broke millennial struggling in the service industry. It’s a simple job with straightforward tasks and when I’m done, it’s over. 

The good news? Both Andy Sachs and I found a way into our writing careers. The independent newspaper that hires Andy after Runway seemed more than willing to give her the chance she deserved. Stuart gave me a second chance, something for which I’m eternally grateful. I’m even glad I work at the gay bar that hired me after Ħażin totali. In the end, what makes somewhere a quality place to work isn’t always the pay. It’s the people you’re stuck with, and finding ways to stomach, even enjoy the bullshit you do for rent. 

By the way, before I handed over my laptop, I deleted every row in the Lauderdale spreadsheet.

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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.