There have been only a few instances in my career as a model/actress/voiceless human in which I have been actually excited when emailed a casting. The first was for YSL showroom, and I was excited only because it was the first casting I had ever been on and I had no idea what showroom modeling was. That excitement began to evaporate quickly as I realized this glamorless job entailed standing on my feet for seven hours in excruciating heels, my blood vessels stressed to the point of visible red dots on my legs. Other job opportunities have come and gone; some I have booked, most I have not. The years passed, and I became increasingly jaded about clients and jobs. But this week, I was emailed a casting that got my blood flowing.
The casting was for a Chanel commercial to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Despite the fact that my instinctive awareness of my role in this industry caused me to immediately envision myself positioned against the furthermost wall, my face obscured by another nameless body, while Angelina Jolie or some supermodel got the real camera time, I could not help but even be enthralled with the opportunity to be involved in such a production, however small and meaningless that role might be. Just knowing that Martin Scorsese was going to be forced to watch my audition tape really blew my mind. My image reflecting off of his glasses, under big eyebrows and opinionated chatter. Maybe he’d say something like, “Her nose is too broad. Next.” or “Interesting use of body language. Is she nervous?” No matter what, good or bad, Martin Scorsese would be forced to think about me in some capacity for just a matter of seconds. The same could be accomplished by cutting someone off in traffic and then watching the ensuing reaction occur in your rearview mirror. It’s really fascinating to see the amount of time someone will dedicate to being mad at your poor driving.
It is perhaps possible that Martin Scorsese has been forced to think about me before, once again on a very small scale. The night before the Oscars a few years back, I partook in a Armani Prive runway show for A listers in a tent below the house of a grocery store billionaire. Although I did not know precisely who these A listers were during my actual walk in front of them, I found out soon enough after Googling the event when I got home. Had I known I was sashaying in front of George Clooney, Beyonce Knowles, Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, Helen Mirren, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese, I would have made a more concerted effort to slip purposefully on the black plexiglass: falling in front of these people and being pulled up by the elbows with George and Martin’s assistance would have made for a much more interesting story than the one you are reading right now. Alas, I did not fall. Sigh.
Back to the casting. I looked hip and casual, per the instructions given to me by my agent. My version of hip and casual involved some shockingly short, bleached cut-off jeans and a lace shirt I thought Karl Lagerfeld would appreciate if he was forced to make an opinion about me as well during the casting process. Paired with some black opaque tights and some men’s boots, I was feeling quite 90s flashback.
I had read earlier on a fashion blog that Scorsese was set to direct this commercial and it was rumored that Chanel was veering away from models and looking instead to “pretty, real girls.” I tried not to take offense to this. “Pretty” is fine and dandy under normal circumstances, but “real” in the modeling world implies an accessibility that is not necessarily desirable. “Real” girls sell cans of Fanta while dancing in hot pants. I don’t want to sell Fanta, I want to sell Chanel. As a model, you want to be perceived as otherworldly and unattainable – not because you think so highly of yourself (although some certainly do) – but because you’ll make more money. It’s the simple law of supply and demand. You want clients starving for your “look” because there is a shortage of it on the market. If this sounds stupid, it’s because it’s modeling.
Outside the audition door was a sheet of copy – instructions for what we are to talk about inside. In summation, they wanted us to talk about an event with an ex-boyfriend. I assumed they wanted an “ex” to fuel some sort of hatred fire. They didn’t want warm and fuzzy, syrupy, nauseating puppy love. But could Chanel possibly want outright anger? Were they just testing us to make sure we weren’t insane and wouldn’t cause trouble on set? I couldn’t imagine ranting and raving about the five years of being disastrously single in front of a stranger and a video camera like it were a therapy session: the boys who dropped off the face of the earth, the boys who got back together with their ex-girlfriends days after our first date, etc. I couldn’t possibly allow that sort of tirade to pour from my mouth and into a chic Parisian office where Karl Lagerfeld listened to my horrendous dating history while staring at the clusters of silver rings on his fingers.
The truth is, aside from the now-forgotten single girl anger of my past, I didn’t have much experience with ex-boyfriends. I had only ever broken up with a real boyfriend once, and it wasn’t necessarily worthy of story telling. That audition would have gone something like this: I moved to New York, got really depressed, and fell out of love with him. The story is too pedestrian and boring for anything more than a diary.
Instead, for dramatic flare, I opted for embellishment of truths and exaggerations of specific non-truths (ahem, lies). I opened with how my sort of fake ex-boyfriend (actual current boyfriend in real life) and I met and how on our first date we drove around in a 1970s brown Mercedes with four doors and a broken rear window going 10 miles per hour through Hancock Park while listening to classical music. I thought that maybe I could leave the story at that, but the casting director apparently wanted blood.
“How long did you date?”
My automatic, non-pause lie: “Eight months.”
Eight months sounded committed, but not too serious so that if I had to lie about how we broke up (which I did three minutes later), I could make something up like “I hated how his bathroom was always dirty” or “He would never throw away brown bananas.” Once you start veering into dating over a year, I’d have to start lying about our conflicting religious views or how he couldn’t deal with my daddy issues.
“Why’d you break up?” he prods.
I lied and said me and this guy broke up after a 10 hour drive to Thanksgiving last year because that sounded plausible and reasonable and didn’t necessarily make me look insane. To make up for my lack of detail in the story, I used my hands a lot and rolled my eyes in emphasis and tried my best to sound like a credible and believable ex-girlfriend – the boy savant I never was…a girl who has frequently left men in her wake, all of them weeping and begging for more. Which is, of course, a complete and utterly custom-made fallacy crafted specifically for a man who makes his living telling stories as well. This one’s for you, Martin.