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FIVE-FOOT-TEN, GREEN-EYED MANNEQUIN

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Most Saturdays of the year, 21-year-old Erin Ryan of Belmar stands outside LJ’s Total Man/Today’s Woman clothing store on Broad Street, doing what she calls “promotional modeling,” talking up the merchandise to shoppers.

But when it gets cold enough to turn Erin’s exposed toes purple, she takes her act inside and does a mannequin act in the store’s window.

Erin is a full-time humanities student at Ocean County College, waitresses at an Outback restaurant, cleans houses two days a week, practices photography, and is—big surprise—almost impossible to reach. But redbankgreen caught up with her at LJ’s last weekend for a quick interview.

What’s involved in being a human mannequin?
I normally do 20-minute poses, not breathing, not blinking, not anything. It gets difficult. After about three minutes, your feet go numb and your hands start trembling. And after 15, you don’t even realize that you’re standing still.

What are you thinking when you’re in mannequin mode?
Oh, you think about everything—you think about the weather, you think about what else you could be doing, what TV shows are on that night, who’s going to win Monday Night Football. Anything and everything goes through your mind.

Is it torture knowing that you can’t move?
Yes. It gets absolutely unbearable. You stand up there, and your arms are killing you, and your feet, and you feel like you can’t breathe. It’s very constricting, but it’s definitely fun.

Are there frequent changes of clothing involved?
I normally change two times a day when I’m outside, but working in the window, I change every hour. I try on everything. Even if they don’t want me modeling it, I try on all the new merchandise to see what I like.

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How do passersby react when they see you in the window?
It’s really funny, because you have the people who will just stand there and stare, and you’ve got the kids who will try to figure out if I’m real or not and try to get me to move, get me to laugh. And the punk teenagers will try to distract me. It’s really fun. You get up there and see if you can fool people. You’ll have people who will walk by three or four times in a couple of minutes to see if I’ve changed at all, because they feel uncomfortable just standing there and staring.

How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been doing mannequin work since I was 17. I do it at Ocean County College, or at fairs, like the Belmar Fair.

How’d you get this job?
I was actually eating at Mr. Pizza Slice [around the corner from LJ’s, on Monmouth Street], and Mary, from Barbizon, saw me, and she ran me over here, and they told me that wanted to hire me that day.

Are you hoping to have a career in modeling?
I would love a career in modeling, but I don’t have the time to pursue it. I work like 50 hours a week and go to school. But if someone were to discover me, that would be awesome.

You’re also into photography?
Yeah, last year I got into photography and just bought my own equipment, and in January, I’m shooting my first wedding. I’m ridiculously excited.

Obviously, you’re on your feet a lot. Which do you think is more important, good food or comfortable shoes?
Good food, definitely. I could live wearing stiletto heels for the rest of my life, but I could not live without filet mignon and crab legs at least once a week. I’m a big food person. I eat a lot and I love food.

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