When the designer you love…doesn’t love you

 

 

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Take a field trip over to Lady Clever for another one of my posts on modeling. Excerpt below:

Black cashmere dress, black jacket, black boots. I look narrow and nondescript, a luxurious blank slate. I brush my hair, flick my lashes with a coat of mascara, slide a coat of Chapstick against my lips. The mirror reflects back an appealing version of me. He’ll like me, I think. READ MORE.

 

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2 Illegit 2 Quit

The email for the casting says specifically “do not be late.” I imagine my booker sitting on the other side of the computer writing this, wagging her finger and squinting her eyes menacingly. Must be important, I think.

I wake up at 7 and wait til 9:30 to get ready for the casting at 11, which I’ll have to leave my apartment for at 10. I spend the morning incapable of getting anything done. That’s how it goes; when I’m modeling, everything else falls to the wayside, as though my brain has to prepare itself for not being used, has to start the slow process of stifling the frequencies. Flight attendants, please prepare the cabin for landing.

From about 8 til 9, I watch Radiohead’s “Lotus Flower” about twelve times and crawl around the floor of my bedroom, wondering if the neighbors beneath me have any idea what I do with my spare time.

When I arrive, there are already three girls ahead of me on the list. The client isn’t here yet. So much for that previously mentioned urgency.

I stand in the hallway.

I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I squat against a wall, talking to a girl who has obviously been modeling for a handful of months not yet amounting to a year. She still has that dumb, fruitful excitement that I recognize in myself as being three or four years dead. She’s babbling about some test shoot she has that afternoon, about modeling in Miami, about getting into a row with her mother agency and redoing her book. God, I hate these conversations.

Music from the late nineties is playing overhead. Soul For Real “Candy Rain.” Mariah Carey “Fantasy.” I’d say something to the tune of “This song reminds me of 3rd grade!” but I’d be dating myself. Most of the girls in here were still crawling when all these songs came out. They have no vivid memories of Mariah Carey rollerblading on a boardwalk wearing denim cut-offs and wrist protectors, singing into the camera with lips painted brown, her eyebrows tweezed into insignificance, cheeks covered in matte, shine resistant powder.

Shoo do do do do do do do yeah…

The client arrives. Twenty minutes late. By now, there are thirty of us flanking the walls, waiting patiently because that’s part of our job. Waiting. Waiting and looking pretty and being thin. That’s about it.

The first girl goes. Ten minutes later, the next one follows. It’s 11:40 and we’re only on the third model. I look around the corner to see what’s going on. The client, a man, is talking with a model wearing gray jeans. I can tell immediately, without even hearing him, that he is insane. He’s talking too close and too much. No one talks with a model this much at a casting. In fact, you are hardly spoken to at all. She stands there nodding her head, not having the foggiest idea as to what is going on.

“I think this guy is a lunatic,” I say to Betina, the model sitting next to me. “Just look.” Betina crawls over my legs, stretching her long pale neck to catch a glimpse.

Eleven minutes of straight talking later, the victim emerges, bewildered.

I walk in and place my book down on the table, trying to convey a sense of urgency because I’ve decided to wear heels all day and I don’t feel like standing here for fifteen minutes.

“Tell me who you are?” he says.

“Jenny Bahn.”

He scrolls down a list on his smart phone, telling me he needs to see who he has written down and who he doesn’t.

“I’m assuming you know about this job,” he starts, “which is to say, you know nothing.”

I resist the urge to tell him that’s pretty much how it always is. Show up now, find out later. I don’t give a shit about what I’m doing; I just care about the money. You could have me dancing around with three hundred monkeys in a trailer park wearing fur and carrying an assault rifle and you wouldn’t have to tell me what I was doing ahead of time. If you pay me, I’ll do it. This is where the line between modeling and prostitution becomes a gray area.

“So the show is on Saturday. We’ll have a rehearsal on Friday from 6:30 to 9. It’s 100 dresses,” he continues. “Have you ever done runway?”

“Yes,” I say.

“For who?”

I list off a handful of designers.

“Okay, you don’t have to say anything else,” he responds, my answers somehow validating my career. “So ordinarily, there are only 30, 40 dresses in a show,” he continues. “And we’re going to have, like I said, 100. To keep people from getting bored…”

He starts drawing out the staging formations he has planned for the show with a bejeweled pen, moving his hand over the table like he’s making up football plays. Part I is this. Part II is this. Part III is this. He says something about a hair change.

By now, I am highly disturbed, because everything that’s happened over the last four minutes indicates that this person is not professional and has never casted anything in his life. And yet here he is, standing in my agency, meeting models, taking their names, shaking their hands. There should be background checks before we go on these things, some sort of security procedure to keep us away from psychopaths and pedophiles.

But there’s not.

He explains to me that he’s a press photographer during fashion week. Indeed, a laminated press pass hangs around his neck. But it’s not fashion week anymore, and I find this highly strange.

I look at his hands to see if there is any evidence of his possibly being homeless. He’s a rumpled thing, this man, and anything’s possible. He reminds me of this other photographer who stands outside the Starbucks on Prince and Spring, waiting for pretty girls to walk past so he can say, “Hey, you’re a model. Can I take your picture?” No matter how many times you’ve seen him, he never remembers you, only asks the same question and hands you a business card that takes you to a bizarre beta site with unedited thumbnails of countless strangers.

While he’s talking, I assess him further. His hair is unnaturally brown, given his age, and hangs around his face in bluntly chopped streams, everything contained by a white baseball cap. He reminds me of Iggy Pop dressed up like Anthony Kiedis for Halloween, wearing clothes two sizes too big and a brown wig. Each of his teeth is hugged by the blackened lines of inattentive hygiene. And his eyes, indeed, are those of a crazy person.

He’s still talking, telling me that they have money in place for the show, that the agency will invoice him on Monday and everyone will get their money right away. “I’m a freelancer, too,” he says, “I know how it goes.”

Each sentence that comes out of his mouth further diminishes the legitimacy of this job. In fact, I’m fairly sure there isn’t a job at all. All this time, my book has been sitting on the table, completely ignored. He hasn’t stood back from me at a distance to assess my body type, looked at my measurements, judged me in any useful way. Real casting directors exact with the ruthless precision of a newly sharpened scythe. This guy cuts through the task like a dull and rusty butter knife.

He’s wrapped up his spiel. “So,” he starts. “Do you want to do it?”

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Have Beer Wench, Will Bridal.

I enter the lobby and stare at the back of a mountain of black.  Black scarf, black coat, two small black legs poking into black boots.  Bleached blonde hair tufts out wildly from the top.  A model.  She turns.  “Jenny!” I hear.  A model I know.  It’s Talia.  Talia looks like what Cameron Diaz probably looked like back in the days before she booked The Mask and went from doing the bullshit we do to being one of the highest earning charming and talentless actresses of our generation.  Inspiration for my future self in some capacity.

The casting studio is stark white and glossy.  White floors, white walls.  It’s like that sterilized chamber in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  There are girls wearing black lining the walls of the studio, staggered like the inside of a sweathouse in Chinatown.  Some sit on the couch, some stand at the back.  We all watch as a photographer takes shots of our competitors individually.  A long table is set up across from where the photographer is sitting with a sign in sheet and two women with dark hair.  Professional judgers.

I sign in.

Name: JENNY BAHN

Agency: NYM2

Height: 5’10 ½

I take a seat in the kitchen, putting my giant coat next to the sink.  Talia sits next to me and we keep talking and we eventually move into the topic of agents ruining our lives.  I ask her to hand me her book that she just had reorganized by another model who was horrified by what her agency did to her portfolio.  These are the stupid things that make or break your bank account: what order your pictures go in, if you have too many beauty shots, if you don’t have enough beauty shots, if your stomach protrudes in one out of twenty pictures, if your sex kitten body shot is inappropriately paired with a picture of you looking like a ten year old posing for Delia’s online catalogue, if you look too old.  We rely on our agents to do this well.  They rarely do.

Talia complains about a test her agency arranged that came out horribly.  A thousand dollars.  A fucking grand for pictures.  She hates them.  She hands me her book and I take out her card.  Whoa.  Not good.  Not good at all.  Pink eye shadow.  Pink lips.  A total and utter tragedy.

It’s like “Glamour Shots by Deb.”

I laugh because it does have an extremely close vibe to those hazy images taken at the local shopping mall.  I then catch the Napoleon Dynamite reference.  I laugh again.

See?!  I look like fucking Barbie.  Like old Barbie.  Look at my armpits.  I can’t believe how much they retouched this.  Ugh.

She’s right.  She does look like Barbie and she does look like she’s got alien pits.  I can’t believe she’s spent a thousand dollars on pictures that make her want to put a gun to her head.  But this is how it goes.  Often.  More often than anyone wants to admit.  Sure, the other girls are shooting with Steven Meisel and even a shitty Steven Meisel pictures is a Steven Meisel picture.  Ten out of one thousand girls get to look like shit by the hands of an artist.  The rest of us are left to be butchered by overpriced amateurs.  Bloody hell.

The girls trying on over-beaded, stiff and wrinkled satin bridal ball gowns are what I can only best describe as “zaftig.”  Zaftig is quite possibly one of the most precise ways in which to describe a certain type of chubby girl.  It’s like onomatopoeia for chunk factor.  It implies a short of St. Pauli’s girl softness in the face and goes double for the arms.  They are big girls, bigger than me by about twenty pounds.  Even still, the casting directors have to clamp the extra fabric to keep them decent.  These samples must be size eights.  Gi-normous.

In the corner are the “runway” girls.  These are the ones who would literally drown in these white lace catastrophes – chocking on lace made in China and swallowing fake plastic pearls sewn on in India.  Tall, sallow, brunette, generic Russian types.  I am confused as to where I fit in.  I hand them my book and I think that they like me, but I look neither like a heroine addict nor a frequent midnight doughnut run binge eater.  The photographer takes pictures.  The casting directors flip through my book.  I say thank you.  I put on my coat and scarf and grab my canvas bag that’s quickly going from light beige to a soiled gray and leave with Talia.  We walk through the white hallway and back into the elevator and back outside and that is all.  That is all it ever is.  Thirty-five minutes of maybe.

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