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
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.