Nor is it rocket science…Ironic then, that I will be modeling today in a place where they build rockets for NASA. Time to feel stupid, for a bit.
I make the drive over to a rather unsavory part of Los Angeles, where the rent is cheap and companies can keep the overhead low on their government contracted projects. The lobby of the building doesn’t look any different than other lobbies I’ve been in. It has the standard pseudo modern, partially minimalist influence that dominates in lobby world. There is a black binder in which I am instructed by the receptionist to sign in to.
Name. Jenny Company Representing: Elite Models Country: Huh?
At this point in my day I thought I was going to be shooting at a car testing facility; somewhere they raced Ferraris around in circles or slammed them into walls with a family of dummies inside. Asking what country a visitor is from is not standard practice, in my personal experience. As I quickly realize that we are, in fact, at a facility where astro-gear is painstakingly manufactured, the country question makes more sense. The two British citizens on the shoot are subsequently labeled “High Risk” visitors, requiring special yellow necklaces and personal security escorts: the makeup artist had to take a pee with a woman waiting for her outside of her stall. Awkward.
The heightened protocol is an understandable matter of homeland security. Out of a possible 17,000 square feet of warehouse space, our shoot is relegated to a modest corner near the front of the building; the rest being out of the question for photography purposes. While I look on to this Costco-meets-physics-lab-on-steroids and see nothing but shiny things, blue tubes, and people in front of computers, competitors around the globe might actually be able to decipher top secret astronaut code out of the sterile landscape. This blows my mind.
Even things that would be relatively simple for me to describe are actually beyond my regular vernacular. Are those boosters? Self-propelled jets? Rocket doohickies? Even when something looks familiar, I can’t remember the name of the damn thing. I just keep recalling similar items falling from the sky and into the ocean a la Apollo 13. Tom Hanks was in that! I am an idiot.
Speaking of idiots, there aren’t any in this place. I look around the cafeteria. All men. Some older with scraggly pony tails, looking more like roadies than astro-geniuses. There are younger ones who could easily pass for members of Good Charlotte. It’s a motley crew, to say the least. Each cafeteria table has a two-tiered basket of oranges that never seem to get eaten. Along the walls are refrigerators stocked with sodas and waters. And in the center there are bins of crappy junk food. Against my will, I am forced to dig into this for sustenance after realizing that no food will be provided on this shoot.
The level of restrained testosterone in this place makes it all the more awkward for me when it comes time to drop trough and do some open-air changing. Like the food, no space is provided for me to get naked in close proximity to the rolling rack. As the bathroom is a distance away and I technically need a security guard to walk me over there, potentially flashing some boob to some science nerds is more efficient. The situation comes in a distance second to another shoot I did some years back: we were in a public park on a weekend, stripping down to our nude thongs in front of families riding their bikes – the designers were “really sorry” they forgot a sheet to set up for us.
I’m here today as an accessory for a luxury electric car. Unpaid. Wearing sunglasses. This is the modeling equivalent of “a big waste of time.” When my stomach has utilized every last morsel of my breakfast consumed five hours before I got on set, this reality sets in heavily and I begin to get exceptionally cranky. Not to mention I arrived promptly at 11:29 in the morning and by 4:00 in the afternoon I have not been shot once. I grab a Diet Dr. Pepper, deciding to reward myself with some cancer down the road. Then I scan the junk bins and opt for pretzels. Salty and fake sweet.
Finally I get some camera time, although my camera time amounts to looking “real” and not “modely” which is pretty damn boring. Even worse still is having to sit behind the wheel and look like I’m driving. The doors close in on me like a vacuum and I place my hands at 10 and 2, my right hand covered in rings. There’s not much you can do to make driving look interesting. If you look interesting, you don’t look like you’re really driving a vehicle; you look like some negligent chick who’s about to get in an accident. So I keep my position, tilting my chin up and down so it looks like I’m at least trying to work. On more than a few occasions I get that fish bowl sensation: trying to keep my eyes open under my sunglasses, staring out at a photographer and an art director staring back at me, watching the stylists chit chat amongst themselves, sitting in silence by myself. Click. Click. Click. I feel like I’m drowning.
My second outfit involves plastic pants made by Acne. I don’t know why anyone would ever even want to construct these things and then allow them to see daylight. As I pull them on, my body temperature immediately goes up. These would be great for wrestlers to put under their sweat pants and run around the track for a few miles when they need to drop some pounds – if any thing, they are much more practical than wrapping ones entire body in cellophane. They are see-thru and gray and make me look like a human sausage. I watch my skin turn unholy shades of jaundiced yellow and make note of where the garment is depriving my legs of circulation, most noticeably at my knees, turning said patches white as to indicate negative blood flow. Whatever strange wrinkles I have on my legs are petrified in these pants, like mosquitoes in amber.
I am sitting at the cafeteria table, watching the crew eat Pizza Hut and occasionally turning my attention to the conversation being had between a woman who works for the rocket facility and our art director. Her eye shadow is applied heavily in fluorescent peach, so as to bring out the blue in her eyes. In theory, this is the right direction to go in order to take advantage of cherished features. In practice, I feel as though she’d be better off sticking to engineering. Periodically, I will chime in with a question or an uninvolved comment like “This is a really interesting space” like I’m talking about a new club or restaurant. My blood sugar is so low, I’m borderline comatose and if I could expect to keep up with anyone employed here six hours ago, those hopes have long vanished for the present moment. I look down at my legs and remember you can see through my pants, down to the black underwear I have underneath. Sigh. How on earth am I to be taken seriously in this world…