Foot model shares secrets to keeping toes in tip-top shape


When it comes to being light on her feet, Debbie James is a natural. She's a foot model whose tootsies have been featured in everything from squishy fruit to cut glass.

James, 30, a model for eight years, knows how to care for her feet. With a summer loaded with some of the hottest sandals ever, putting your best foot forward is definitely a step in the right direction, says James, whose foot modeling began when she was in a shoot for a Merle Norman cosmetics ad.

"I was on the set one day, and someone said to me, 'You have great feet.' It just kind of mushroomed from there. Later, I made up a foot and hand photo card, and I started doing ad work with those body parts. But I'm also a full body model," says James, a former Miss USA semifinalist.

A native of Colorado and University of Denver graduate with bachelor's degrees in mass communication and musical theater, James is working on a theology master's at King's Seminary in Los Angeles.

But back to her feet and, well, a soleful discussion.

Q: What shoe size are you?

A: A perfect sample size 6. I just happened to have the right size for this business.

Q: What do you do to pamper your feet?

A: I love baths. I have a little foot spa with a vibrator thing that I put my feet into a couple times a week with aromatherapy oils. I keep pumice stones in my bathtub to rub the areas of my feet where you would get calluses. Rubbing away the dead skin keeps your feet in good condition.

Q: What do you pay for a pedicure?

A: Usually $18 and up to $45 if you go to a spa and get the extras like a paraffin treatment.

Q: What's that?

A: It's called the paraffin hot wax treatment. You dip your foot into wax, and then it's wrapped in a plastic bag and kept that way for about 10 minutes. The wax molds to the contours of your foot and basically softens the skin. After about 10 minutes, the wax is pulled off, and your foot feels so good.

Q: Give our readers some more tips on taking care of your feet.

A: Don't neglect the length of toenails. You don't want them rubbing against your shoes. When that happens, the toenail has more tendency to crack, to become brittle. Keep the nails short. Also rub an oil on your nails. I use Avoplex oil. Then I apply a base coat onto them, then the nail polish color and then a good top coat, which will preserve the polish and the overall nail.

Another big tip is to use polishes that don't have formaldehyde in them. That can turn your nails yellow. If they do turn yellow, brush lemon juice on them with an old toothbrush. The toenail will return to its normal color.

And really try your best to keep your feet from sun exposure. They will freckle and lead to discoloration spots. I'm careful to put sunblock on my feet, at least SPF 30. I think people forget about doing that when it comes to their feet. But feet burn, too.

Q: As a foot model, what has been your most unusual job?

A: Well, a couple come to mind. One time I had to make my feet look as if they were delicately balanced on fruit. I had to sit on a chair and balance my feet on raspberries, strawberries, cherries, a variety of berries. I couldn't press too hard or else they'd pop. The client wanted an illusion of feet falling into a bowl of fruit.

And then another time, for a nail polish company I had to show how tough the nail polish was by walking across real cut glass. So I was standing on glass, but the surprising thing was that the cut glass felt like pebbles so I never cut my feet. They built this special device for me to lift my body off the glass between takes. That one was a full day's shoot.

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