It’s a sad, sad day. Sad for many, but uniquely sad for those of us who work as models at the New York Studio School. Royalyne Ward-Davis, our dear model coordinator, passed away last night after a hard-fought battle with cancer. I don’t even know how to approach, let alone begin, this post in her memory. I’m probably writing it too soon, since I only found out the tragic news a few hours ago. Even though we all knew this was imminent, after watching her waste away for months, it doesn’t alleviate the grief. I last saw her, spoke to her, and hung out with her on an unseasonably balmy night on 8th street in Greenwich Village a few weeks ago, at the opening reception for her art exhibit at the school.
Royalyne was as wedded to the New York Studio School as a person could be. She started there as a student many years ago, then a model, then the model coordinator. In other words, she painted there, posed there, and administrated there, her heart and soul inextricable from the school itself. She carried out her model coordinator duties, doing bookings and organizing models’ schedules, up to the last day she was capable of doing it. It was only several weeks ago that I answered my cell phone to hear Royalyne’s distinct raspy voice and north Florida accent at the other end, calling to inquire about my availability. We discussed it, then discussed chemo, then discussed the school, and then a little bit of life itself.
She was blunt, she was honest, she was genuine, she was funny as hell, she loved art with every fiber of her being, and she understood art models and their “issues” like no one else. One time last year, Royalyne and I had a verbal argument about bookings. She was being stubborn, I was being stubborn, and in disgust I slammed my planner book closed very hard in front of her face, like a giant bitch. (really wish I could take that back). When I saw her the next day, it was like the whole altercation never happened! Royalyne made a very funny joke (which I won’t share because it’s between her and I), laughed, and beamed her contagious smile (which never changed in spite of hollowed cheeks and an ashen complexion). It made me smile and laugh back. We roared in her office over our respective temperaments, the oddities of the school, and the art modeling profession in general. And we bonded in that indescribable way that models bonded with her. i can’t really explain it accurately, I’m sorry. It was just Royalyne. She was an individualist. She was memorable. She was a singular person in every way. Her personality was unlike any other.
Royalyne posed for artist Joe Santore, her longtime good friend. I have posed for Joe as well and I am profoundly honored, and humbled, to follow in Royalyne’s footsteps. I didn’t ask Joe for permission to post this image, but I highly doubt he will mind, since it is in tribute to Royalyne. And we are all very, very sad that she is no longer with us. Just trying to cope.
Royalyne, by Joe Santore, 1995:
But Royalyne has gone home. Safe trip, friend. Safe journey. Your pain is gone. Rest in peace . . .
Crying. Missing you. I’m booked at the Studio School on Wednesday. Will be there at 9 AM sharp 🙂