“There might be a lot of girls when you get there,” my booker warns me ahead of time. Sure enough, the elevator opens up into a room of models standing and sitting, lining up behind one another and staring around with looks of irritation disguised as patience. Great. Totally fucking awesome.
My initial reaction is to turn around, go back through the closing elevator doors, and continue on with my day, knowing that while my bank account risks the potential to suffer, I will go another few days without gray hairs and/or stomach ulcers. I used to stick around for casting like this. In turn, I used to waste a lot of my time.
When a client requests to see this many girls it means a few things. One: they’re inconsiderate of other people’s time. This requires the assumption that models are, in fact, people. While it might be one thing for them to be in this office for two hours seeing girls come in and out with their books, it’s another thing to be one of the seventy-five girls waiting for their turn. Sure, it might be our job to wait – I mean, in addition to looking decent and showing up on time to jobs, castings are really the only thing left on the list of responsibilities this career entails – but such excessive waits can be avoided. Two: the client doesn’t know what they want. When you’re standing next to a short redhead, an anorexic blonde, and a zaftig brunette – and all of you are waiting with fifty other chicks for the same job – the likelihood you’re going to be exactly what the client wants gets exponentially smaller. This is not because you are a bad model; this is because the client in question operates from a planet called Clusterfuck with no place to land their spaceship. Picking a girl out of this mess is just like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks. You can wait around and hope you’re that lucky noodle, or you can just go home, confident in your silent protest.
A friend of mine is standing in line. “How long have you been here?” I ask, groaning as she responds with an answer of “Forty-five minutes.” I look back at the elevator like a dog whose owner has just stopped into the grocery store and tied them up to a post outside. Part of me wants to be a good little mutt and stay. The other part of me wants to tear at my leash with sharp teeth and liberate myself. Against my better judgment, I throw my shit down in a chair and prepare to stick it out.
There is no sign-in sheet. This is also something that makes me mad because it means that for the next hour I am waiting, I will be overwhelmed with the anxiety that some stupid bitch is going to cut me in line. Usually the girls are pretty good about self-regulating, smiling at one another and asking things like, “I’m in front of you, right?” which is just codeword for “If you go in before me, I will cut you.” This underlying tension manages to preserve order. Still, when a client doesn’t provide a simple sheet of computer paper and a black pen for girls to list their names on, the operation looks amateurish and, well, it just makes me mad.
The girls are a strange combination of models from good agencies and models from bad ones. The majority of them wear cheap black heels – likely reading “Manmade Upper Leather Sole” on the inside – reminding me of how lucky you are to make consistent money in this business. There are girls with fat arms and lumpy asses, ones that should be models mixing around with ones that shouldn’t be. The “better” girls look more expensive than the others; they have no fat on their inner thighs and they carry designer handbags filled with Yves Saint Laurent lipstick and second-generation iPads.
As I look around the room, I think to myself that not nearly enough girls in here have eating disorders. This thought disturbs even me.
I listen to the girls in front of me talk – something I generally prefer models not do. An absurdly tall brunette likely around the age of eighteen prattles on about indescribably boring topics of conversation that seem exciting when you first start modeling. When asked by another girl what she had been up to recently, the brunette responds – with no sense of irony – “My agency’s always wanted me to tone up my stomach…so…that’s what I’ve been up to.” The girls start talking about another model they knew who apparently wasn’t working in New York or Paris (gasp) and she apparently “got sent to Korea.” The brunette makes it sound like a war assignment.
After forty-five minutes of sitting in a chair and pretending to read The New Yorker, it is my turn to stand up behind my new favorite brunette who is now making phone call after phone call on her BlackBerry. Does this chick ever shut the f up? She apparently has an impulsive need to be in constant communication, which confuses me because she never has anything interesting to say. It’s like a streaming feed of NPR, only if NPR sucked. There is something about her that makes me want to wretch; I cant decide if it’s her lumpy yellow nail polish or the bizarre scabs on the back of her neck.
Finally, it’s my turn. I lean against a window ledge as I watch some sort-of hip guy flip through my book. Flip. Flip. Flip. I listen to the pages flop onto one another as I stare out the window. The brunette with the loud mouth and the weird neck scabs and the abs that need toning is standing behind me in an Audrey-Hepburn-Made-in-China-knock-off, waiting for him to see her in it. He apparently liked her enough to have her try something on. Me, however, after my sitting and standing and waiting and being generally bored, he is not a big fan of. “Thank you,” he says, and hands me my book. Ah, well. Can’t win them all.