It’s a Hard Job

Another day in the life of…me.

10:44 AM – Arrive one minute early for my day at Carolina Herrera. Although I am technically sixteen minutes early but our agency always places a fifteen minute idiot buffer so models always arrive in a timely manner. No matter how many times a client looks at me, puzzled at my earliness, in the back of my mind I keep thinking that one time the client is actually the one operating in fifteen minute increments, not the agency. I am like a dog who knows that the spoon full of peanut butter always has arthritis medication tucked inside, but for a brief moment I thinks that maybe, just maybe this time there won’t be bitter blue pills that dissolve on my tongue as the peanut butter sticks to the roof of my mouth. But there always is…

11:00 AM – Lee from Carolina walks Chantalle and I over to Sally Hershberger to get our hair did. This is a salon started by the Chrissy Hynde of hair, although I believe that Sally is an actual lesbian and not just a butch lady with kick ass rocker style and a latent cocaine habit. On the walls there are pictures of big breasted models doing extreme yoga backbends in the nude.

11:13 AM – I am introduced to Paul who will be doing my hair for the “event” that has not been explained to me in detail and remains a vague reality in the near future. My comfortability with this fact stems from my “show up and get paid” mentality.

11:25 AM – After a decent hair scrub by a woman who leaves me wanting more, Paul begins to blow dry my hair. Two different people come to expedite the process. These are the times in which I feel like a car in the shop. I say this to Paul over the noise of the hairdryer but he laughs a laugh in which I can tell he has no idea what I mean. I look at at the women in the chairs next to me. They’re gabbing away and smiling and not smiling and looking at their own eyes in the mirror as they talk at the person doing their hair. The environment is simultaneously energizing and exhausting.

12:00 PM – I am still in the chair, now with fully dry hair, and Paul is whipping up something on my head that I cannot see. All I know is that he is on his 56th bobby pin. This is a lot.

12:15 PM – Paul finishes the last few touches on my up-do. He shows me his creation in the mirror. It looks like a doughnut that sat in coffee or a few hours, inflated and puffy. Not in a bad way, just in a puffy doughnut way. “On to makeup?” he asks. I tell him we are doing it on our own and he says he thinks that I will do a fine job on my own. What I don’t tell him is that I am already wearing the makeup I will have for the rest of the day and apparently I did not do a fine job.

12:17 PM – I take off the white robe that they had me change into when I arrived. These are common at expensive salons. They never had this at The Hair House when I was growing up.

12:19 PM – I ask the amiable receptionist if they have any coffee. Like the robes, this is something that places like this have and provide free for their clients. She returns with my nonfat latte. “A double, extra strong, ‘ she says with a wink in her voice. I drink it down while browsing through a hardcover book about Hollywood’s best plastic surgeons. I think I want a new nose.

12:24 PM – Chantalle and I start to walk back over to Carolina Herrera. I ask her questions about her summer plans as I shovel brown rice topped with sliced avocado and sauteed swiss chard into my mouth. There’s no reason why this should actually taste good.

12:32 PM – We’ve changed into beaded summer dresses and uncomfortable shoes and Lee drives us down the street to a furniture store on La Cienega. The event is called “Legends of La Cienega Design Walk Presented by Elle Decor.” As far as I can tell all we are going to be doing is walking from store to store taking pictures of us pretending to model for crowds. This hunch pretty much materializes as a reality throughout the day. A woman offers us to sit down and give our feet a rest. I have only been standing for maybe four minutes but I accept the offer. I am not this accostomed to be so comfortable at a job.

12:58 PM – There is now a group of eight models from different boutiques on Melrose Place that are now being shuttled by two raven haired women wearing orange scarves to the VIP Lounge. When we arrive there are only four other people sitting around drinking cocktails made with St. Germain. Telling the crowd what we are wearing takes a minute and then the rest of the twenty minutes we stand their awkwardly waiting for someone to tell us what to do I listen to Michelle tell me about ex-boyfriends and try the appetizers passed around by waiters. The cucumber under my crab salad is a little flaccid.

1:30 PM – We move to design showroom number two. We sit on chairs, they take some pictures, we stand around while other models sit on chairs and get pictures taken. Michelle and I talk some more.

1:55 PM – The third showroom we are supposed to go into for pictures is not ready for us. We stand on the sidewalk watching Sunday traffic go by on La Cienega. An antiques store opens its doors (and chairs to sit on) to us so we go inside. The woman who owns the place looks a little like Jocelyn Wildenstein but she is very friendly and offers us free reign over her buffet of grapes, salami, crackers and cheese. Her son works with her. She pushes him like a loving Jewish grandmother, although I am pretty sure she is an old school Catholic Italian. I feel bad that I am just standing here eating all of their food so I try to carry on a conversation with the son while I munch on green grapes. He used to play tennis professionally. Despite all of our refusals of her offer, the owner pours us each a glass of prosecco and demands that we drink. “You are young!” she says, “It all passes by so fast.”

2:32 PM – The showroom we’ve been waiting for while we eat this woman out of house and home opens up for us to take pictures and stand around some more. A graying man named Nigel asks me about modeling and what I thought about it. He has a fourteen year old daughter who is 5’10. My reviews of the business come out mixed. I feel like an asshole talking about modeling when I’m standing around a furniture showroom in Carolina Herrera, talking about this job as if this is what modeling actually is. It’s being the accountant for your family’s screwdriver business and telling someone what it’s like to be an investment banker.

2:40 PM – A man walks past Chantalle and exclaims that the light on her when she looks down in such a way is just gorgeous. “What a beautiful picture that would make!” he says. I tell him he should consult the professional photographer we have on set, which he does when she walks by. Another model asks him if he is a photographer himself. “No!” he scoffs, “I am a very rich man!” It is hard for me to tell if he is joking or employing any sense of irony. A few minutes later he corners a group of us sitting on a sofa and proceeds to recite some prose he learned at a party the week before. He is the highlight of my day.

2:48 PM – A shuttle drives us down to another showroom. It is light and bright and I want to buy all of the furniture inside of it but I don’t have a five thousand square foot house in the hills yet so I cannot.

3:04 PM – I am in a shuttle back to the boutique. My day is done and I don’t feel tired, used, abused or otherwise. This is amazing. I can’t believe I just got paid to do that.

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The first time I saw The Shins perform was in a tacky white-walled, marble floored house in the Hollywood Hills. It was one of those typical places that never had real furniture in it and was built for the sole purpose of hosting parties with alcohol sponsorship and formal invitations. The band was set up in the corner of a medium-sized living room and played on to a group of bored, drunk, apathetic party goers, most of whom were outside by the bar. It was a shame, really. I stood watching the headlights of cars drive up the hill wondering how strange my life was and praying I would never forget this moment.
That was about three years ago. Tonight I went to see them at the Palladium in Hollywood for a much larger audience, and a largely more enthusiastic one. Per my “Cheap Ass Code of Ethics” I refuse to park in a parking lot near the venue and instead opt for a free spot a few dark blocks down El Centro. As I cross the street to the theater a man wearing what looked like a backstage pass around his neck asks me if I wanted a ticket. As a matter of fact I did! What good luck, I think. This man is just going to give me a ticket! “Let’s go down this way,” he says. I am agreeable, of course, believing that this man is going to get me in backstage and for free. “This way” turns out to be the wrong way, leading me down the opposite side of the entrance. When he asks if I can just pay him the full price of what he paid, I slow my pace a wee bit.
“I only have twenty-five dollars.”
“These are forty-eight dollar tickets.”
“Well, I’m sorry. I don’t have the cash.”
“There’s an ATM nearby.”
We are close to a security guard by the backstage gate when I decide that this guy’s probably scamming me or going to chop me into little pieces or both. I hand him back the “ticket” he gave me in good faith and tell him I am going to just meet some friends around the front instead. He inexplicably turns on his heel and starts walking back the way we came, not taking back the piece of paper and not looking me in the eye.
“How much money do you have?”
“Twenty-five dollars.”
“Whatever, I’ll just take that.”
“No, it’s okay, really.”
I notice that this gentleman has crazy eyes that I had not intelligently researched earlier. He storms ahead of me, cell phone now drawn to his ear. I hear him say something like, “What am I doing wrong?” loudly. I freely interpret this as a failure as a kidnapper and not as a scalper. When the aforementioned weirdo gets far enough away I decide to make my move past him. Before I do, I ask two young boys if they’ll fake being my friends for a block and a half to avoid this whack job (I point to my potential murderer). I employed this very same tactic back in 2002 when walking home by myself in New York at 3 in the morning after denying a ride from my Turkish friends. En route I was visually raped by a homeless man in a tan trench coat who I discovered was jacking himself off while watching me trot down 10th Street. I noticed this at about the same time he slurred, “Yeah, you’re lookin’ aren’t ya.”
We arrive at the entrance unscathed and I thank them for their faux friendship. I buy a ticket at the box office for $38, which I find pretty steep for a show these days, but it’s possible I’ve pirated some music off this band at some point so it’s time to give back to the arts if you know what I mean.
As the band gets underway I remember that they were actually pretty boring to watch live. The lead singer lacks lead singer charisma and when the other band members pick up the slack it leaves you a little confused. Most of the mojo comes from the keyboardist. His body language is like that of a flirty, self-aware teenage girl and from this angle he looks like the guitar-wielding comedian Nick Thune who I awkwardly flirted with once having seen him perform at the Laugh Factory. The best line I could come up with was, “Umm, I think you’re like funny.” Needless to say nothing materialized that night at Hyde.
Seeing The Shins is a lot like reading all of the Harry Potter books and then subjecting yourself to the silver screen adaptation: no matter how much money they spend on CGI, nothing will compare with the power of your imagination. These guys have gray hair and wives, they make a Mother’s Day shout out, they are not rock stars, they are just nice boys who grew up and kept making music. Most of the songs come and go without incident, none of their live renditions powerful enough to replace memories previously formed by their albums. There are a few exceptions, including a sexed up version of “Sea Legs” that they’ve infused with a jazzy, almost bow-chica-wow-wow porno vibe.
I jump around a bit, sway from side to side, get bored, type notes on my cell phone, bounce around some more. There are a few pockets of people I move around: an ogre in a picnic table shirt that doesn’t know his own size, the group of three “intellectuals” analyzing the nuances of the song transitions, and two sorority girls who jumped up and down like they were at a Bob Sinclair concert. By the end of the set I am standing behind the sound station watching the bass and treble levels move up and down on the screen of an iBook, the smell of bacon wrapped hot dogs pouring in from Sunset Boulevard.

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Making Enemies Daily

A Lesson in Humility: Episode One

It’s nice to hear stories about your friends doing well. People booking movies, starting clothing companies, moving up in the corporate ladder, etc. These little tidbits of personal news are generally accompanied by a sense of humility, a sensitivity to the listener, or, at the very least, a good English-humoured self-deprecating joke. One shares their good fortune with grace and humility. One saves tales of triumph for good friends, as these are the people who are obligated to give a shit or fake it with gusto.
Of course it doesn’t always happen according to the laws of good taste and manners. Some people never learned how to break away from “Show and Tell Syndrome” as I like to call it. Surely, I was not immune to this as a child. Every Friday in third grade I got up there on the brown linoleum floor, standing in front of rows of uncomfortable desks filled with fidgety children, and I would proceed to attempt my greatest MC Hammer inspired dance. This was without fail my favorite move. It involved jumping from one leg to the other, with the heel of the non-weight bearing foot pointed toward the ceiling. I would do this back and forth for a few minutes until I became tired. I would stop, students would clap, and I awaited my chance to do it again in a week. I can’t vouch for myself and say that I was good at it. In fact, I was probably pretty damn bad. But each student was given a platform to use and I used and abused it.
Years of ungodly adolescent insecurity followed by vaguely normal adult social interaction allowed for me to hone a pretty decent sense of when and what people might care to hear about my own life. Boring: the type of orange juice you drink in the morning, the plants your mom grows in her backyard, other people’s dreams (although I disagree with this). Worth sharing: banging Tommy Lee, getting into law school, grandparents kicking the bucket. Occasionally we all mess up, telling practical strangers about the Lanvin shoes you bought the other day or how good your roasted brussels sprouts were last night. But these hiccups are unavoidable and all in the spirit of filling the vast uncomfortable holes in bad conversation with people you don’t really know well enough to ignore for five minutes without feeling like an asshole.
In regards to jobs in this industry, girls are generally pretty modest, at least the ones who have been around awhile. And honestly, the Los Angeles market isn’t a platform for supermodel stardom so any job is ultimately a money job, not a career bellwether. So the filler jobs that allow us to maintain our occupational status as models (runway shows for Orange County philanthropic housewives, informal modeling in suburban shopping malls, fitting clothes for the “real” models in New York) go thankfully unannounced amongst the ladies. The lack of talent and skills required to perform this job makes it difficult when it comes to patting your comrades on the back. Somehow “Oh, hey, nice job standing there!” or “Congratulations on your face!” seems a bit needless.
So when a girl I was working with today randomly interjects something about her experience as the trophy presenter at the Academy Awards on two different occasions, both of which being uncalled for, I wanted to hit her on the head. The conversation was something similar to the following:
Makeup Artist: “This friend of mine is a pastry chef in La Jolla and…”
Model: “One time I made ice cream with Mario Batali.”
Makeup Artist: “Ummm…”
Model: “Uh huh. Mario Batali. And I accidentally stuck my whole fist in the bowl! And I was like, ‘Mario…'”
I could have attempted to understand the braggart had the Oscars been the night before and the excitement still fresh and new and barely washed off. I’m sure it was exciting to be around that many Hollywood heavy weights, but the only weight she was carrying that night was that of a three pound duchess ballgown and those ten pound statues. Today is May 6th, the Oscars were February 22nd, and by my math this falls into the “Nobody gives a shit anymore” category. Forgive my curtness, but perhaps I am bitter that I gave up my MC Hammer routine thinking that my peers were doing the same.

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"Good Exposure"

There are few phrases that I dread hearing more than “good exposure.” “Good exposure” in it’s true and honest form, which it never is, has the intention of taking a seemingly tiny and comparatively insignificant platform and turning it into a career catalyst. Starring opposite George Clooney in a film is good exposure, obviously. Having your band open for The Rolling Stones also qualifies. But these are the no-brainers, these are the absolute once-in-a-lifetime things that come along that truly have the ability to send any person toward glowing success. These are the moments that everyone hangs around for with baited breath.
In my experience, however, the term gives me a feeling akin to licking envelopes for a charitable dinner party, calling it community service, and then getting my hours signed off in order to graduate high school. It’s bullshit, and ultimately I’m only doing it because someone told me to. The opportunities usually involve someone famous, as if their general proximity to you is going to give you automatic recognition somehow. The girls who get really confused about this whole situation are the ones that end up starring next to George Clooney in one scene with no lines and their breasts hanging out. This is pretty much any of the “actresses” who have appeared in the background of the HBO show “Entourage.”
One of the most excruciating jobs I allow myself to remember was for VH1’s “The Shot.” This was one of those godforsaken “me-too” shows that followed “America’s Next Top Model.” Except with “The Shot” the challenges were posed to group of competing photographers and their leader was Russel James, a “big photographer” who used to shoot for Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated. My booker asked if I wanted to do it, citing that although it didn’t pay anything it would be “good exposure.” And as jaded as I am, I fell for it like a sucker punch because as much as I know this job will amount to nothing in my career as a model there’s still this hope, this twinkling of possibility this is your chance, your moment to be really discovered. We were also promised the opportunity to shoot with Russel ourselves.
The call time was 7 am. I showed up, waited about thirty minutes and then got thrown into the chair to get my hair done. Other models were there, about 6 of us, alternating between sitting around and reading magazines and getting our hair and makeup done. The theme of the day was “Earth, Sun, Moon, Stars” and this (as the Moon and the Stars) meant that I was to have a 3 foot tall Marie Antoinette-esq wig. I cannot say enough about the talent of the hair stylist, who was exceptionally talented. The problem was that I was done with hair and makeup by 10 am and there was no indication as to when I was going to be shot.
The clock rolled on, and as it did the pins affixing the wig to my head began to dig into my scalp, and the hair the pins went through to get to my scalp began to make my head ache with a dull, constant throbbing. By the time 4 pm rolled around I was going bat shit crazy. It was like being trapped on an elevator of a 54 story building for a few days and not knowing if anyone was ever going to find you or if you’d just fall to your death first. I was falling, and falling fast. My calls to the agency went from quiet complaints to insane yelps of frustration and agony. I was trying desperately not to unleash the fury on the production team but I snapped.

“Excuse me? Hi, do you have ANY idea what time I’m going to shoot.”
[Blank look and a flip through a clipboard] “Hmmmm…”
“Because, I know this sounds ridiculous and it’s just a wig but…”
“Oh…yeah…well, we will try to get you on there as soon as possible.”
[I start to cry] “This thing has been on for fucking 10 hours and I can’t fucking do this.”
[I start to yell] “You know, I’m just going to fucking leave! I can’t do this. This is fucking ridiculous!”

I think I attempt to apologize and tell this woman that I’m normally not like this and I have never yelled at anyone at a job before, but I doubt she believes this. I walk away and stand with my chin resting on a white cement wall, watching a group of children play baseball in the park across the street. I think about when I was a child with absolute careless freedom. I grit my teeth and hot tears stream down my face. The makeup team is really going to appreciate this.
Around 7:30 at night I am told to get ready to head on out. “Ready” means stripping down to a nude colored thong because, yes, I am to be shot topless, covered in body paint. In this instance, however, the body paint is actually yellow and purple frosting. It’s melting quality was intended to give the photographers a hard time while shooting because this happens in real life…never. I stand in front of Vincent Longo, a fairly famous makeup artist, and he begins to smear the cold frosting on my body with sponges. I’m delirious and he’s delirious and we keep snicking and giggling and he calls me “La leopard la luna” over and over again.
My photographer wants to shoot me like the moon coming over the horizon or half of my faces is the dark side of the moon and the other half isn’t. They prop me up on a wooden crate which affords me no movement whatsoever. I look like a terrible model and the photographer shoots around me. I hope that the cameras aren’t relaying this to TV land because that, in addition to my boobs hanging out, is certainly not good for my career.
When we finally finish shooting, someone hands the camera to Russel to keep up on their end of the deal. I look like a Laker cupcake buried under a powdered wig. No photographer can make this look good, not Mario Testino, not Annie Lebowitz, not even Terry Richardson. But we shoot anyway because that’s why I came here for, and that’s why it means nothing. I am finally done. Someone helps take off my wig. I wipe the frosting off as best I can before I put on my clothes. I go home and a take a shower. I get in bed and I smell like sugar and for three days I sweat sugar and nothing ever EVER came of any of it.

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Dad Dinners

The second trailer home my dad ever moved into was markedly smaller than the first. It had only one bedroom, a small bathroom, and an area that contained two over-sized sofas, a TV, and a coffee table. All of this adjacent to a triangle-shaped kitchen that was supposed to give the illusion of space, of which there was none. If I have to think of this place, I think of my dad cooking grilled cheese. American cheddar, white bread, mayonnaise on each side of bread. The sandwich spattered and spit loudly, searing in hot butter. He served it with apple sauce.
There wasn’t enough room for a proper dining room table so we ate off of birch-colored TV trays in the living room. Dinner was most often picked up from a mini-mall in the Pacific Palisades which housed both a Panda Express and a Subway. My brother satisfied with his greasy chicken, and I with processed turkey meat. Sometimes we would all agree on KFC, something I wasn’t horrified by at the time. The biscuits were undercooked and the gravy always salty.

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