We went backstage before the fashion show last week (which airs on Channel 10 on Nov. 29) to meet the models and find out what it takes to fly down the runway in Victoria's Secret wings.

Put yourself in a Victoria's Secret model's shoes.

They're six inches high, and you'll be strutting a long, glitter-laden runway in them. You'll need to move quickly: There are 36 of you tonight, modeling 68 looks, and the pace will be driven by thumping pop music.

You'll walk into bright lights and a bank of ricocheting flashbulbs in nothing more than a bra, underwear and a potentially cumbersome costume. A reimagined oyster shell, neon wings and superheroine capes are some of the tamer options. Could you pull off sexy in what is essentially a traveling set piece?

The point is: These women aren't merely beautiful. They're pretty damned talented. For hours before this decadent production explodes onto a Manhattan stage, the Victoria's Secret models have answered sometimes inane questions (including the loathed "How do you feel?") - with enthusiasm.

Under all that makeup, hairspray and shreds of fabric is a pretty nervous human being who is exceptionally good at projecting confidence. They say we mortals can do it, too.

We went backstage before the fashion show last week (which airs on Channel 10 on Nov. 29) to meet the models and find out what it takes to fly down the runway in Victoria's Secret wings.

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It is stiflingly hot in the hair and makeup area. The room is a crush of people in black - except the models, helpfully robed in hot pink. The wilting sensation is only compounded by 30-odd blazing curling irons, makeup mirror light bulbs and a serious breakfast buffet laden with Sternos and steam pans. On this November morning, it is the only place on Earth that smells like a Victoria's Secret store and your favorite diner.

A false maneuver too close to a hair and makeup station might earn you a mouthful of hairspray.

But 19-year-old Jessica Clarke is all smiles and sparkle. It's her first time at the Victoria's Secret fashion show, and she can barely contain her glee.

"It's crazy being surrounded by so many of these beautiful, stunning people. I kind of feel like an idiot because I'm, like, staring at them, my jaw on the ground," she said.

Before Victoria's Secret, Clarke had worked with some of the biggest names in fashion, including Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Lanvin and Diane Von Furstenberg. All of those jobs involved clothing.

Like you, Clarke gets nervous before appearing half naked in front of a crowd. Perhaps unlike you, she has the confidence to do it and make it look great.

"I'm just trying to keep my head in the present and not think too far ahead so I don't freak myself out," she said. "[This morning] I just got in the cab and got here. I don't think I'll realize the pressure until just before I'm lining up. At the moment, I'm just trying to enjoy it."

She says all this while a stylist holds a scalding hot curling iron a half-inch from her head.

"This has always been one of those shows that everyone talks about and everyone knows, because it's fashion and it's everything that the other shows are, plus more. It's an extravaganza. There's so much hype that comes around Victoria's Secret. It's recognized worldwide," she said.

Nine hours later, Clarke made her runway debut in one of the evening's more modest looks: An oversized off-the-shoulder sequin T-shirt and a costume handbag shaped like the signature Pink dog. Nicki Minaj bounced up and down the runway between models and dancers. Bass thumped. Backup singers crooned. Disco balls (and disco dogs) twirled above. This quintuple-exclamation-point spectacle ended in an explosion of confetti and a shower of metallic balloons. And sparkle! So much sparkle.

Add to this music performed by people who normally appear only inside your television or iPod. And celebrities lining the front row (for the record: Beyonce, Maxwell, Deborah Harry, Russell Simmons, Stephen Dorff, Michael Bay, Carine Roitfeld, Donna Karan, Tyson Beckford, Matthew Settle, Joe Manganiello, Orlando Bloom, Cuba Gooding Jr.).

An untrained animal thrown into this environment is prone to shiny-object syndrome. There is literally light everywhere, pulling the eyes up and across. This must explain why fashion shows are filmed in staccato takes and dramatic zooms. That's exactly how the human eye sees the scene, in pupil-dilating and -constricting bursts.

This show is part rock concert, part fashion show and part Us Weekly come to life. It is a phenomenal marketing tool for Victoria's Secret. And it revolves around the models.

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Lily Aldridge, 25, began modeling exclusively for Victoria's Secret in 2010, after walking her first show for the company the year before. That makes her a seasoned pro now, and one to whom first-time models can turn for advice.

"It's always fun to see the new girls. I always try to introduce myself, because I know how nerve-racking it is," Aldridge said.

Seconds before taking the stage for the first time in 2009, Aldridge felt her legs turn to pillars of cement.

"I didn't think my legs were going to move - no joke," she said. "And someone was like, 'OK, Lily. Go.' Your heart kind of stops for a minute, but then you go out there and it's so much fun. It's so much adrenaline."

Experience might have blunted those feelings, but they don't go away completely, she said.

"I always get nervous. It's good to have nerves. It makes the adrenaline better," she said. "It's not like nervous scared; it's just nerve. I can't explain it. This is the one. The other ones, it's no big deal, but this one … it's just such a big production."

The show transforms the 69th Regiment Armory, a stout and dusty old building on Lexington Avenue that is very much on active duty. That explains the guy in fatigues strolling into a room equipped with a backdrop and photographers' lighting. In the heart of the building, in what is normally a cavernous open space, is a made-for-television set and runway flanked by luxurious risers for spectators. The lighting is all dusk and blue and purple. Musicians perform sound checks, sending an eardrum-itching pulse through the building.

One piece of evidence that things are not as usual at the armory: By late morning, a small pile of glitter has already deposited itself on a staircase near the entrance - many yards away from the runway, its intended destination. Otherwise, nothing on the ground floor clues a visitor in to what's going on upstairs.

So how do models prepare? Much was made of model Adriana Lima's all-liquid diet in the days leading up to the show. Clarke stuck to established routines: No new face creams or beauty products. First-time model Cameron Russell, 24, picked up a book.

"I go to school part time, and I balance that with crazy modeling jobs," Russell said. "Today, I woke up at 7 and I was reading a book by Lani Guinier, who's a law professor at Harvard. I thought that was a good balance to doing this show."

Like Aldridge and Clarke, Russell pointed out that she's athletic and healthy and that she takes good care of herself.

"I was a pretty big tomboy, so when my friends see this on TV, they're not going to believe it's me. They're gonna be, like, you're really nerdy," Russell said. "But it's so exciting to do it. And it's totally crazy. And when I'm a mother, I can imagine telling my daughter. And she'll be, like, 'No way.'"

That's probably true: Any kid would be floored to learn her mom once walked one of the world's most sought-after runways in a white feathered bolero and corset, with unchecked confidence and a knowing look straight into those flashbulbs.