About a year ago I had the opportunity to get free headshots. A friend in my acting class who’s worked the majority of her life as a high fashion model, took a liking to me. I guess. Or perhaps it was just a whole lot of pity for what she envisioned her life to be like, if she had been born shorter, with less favorable bone structure.
After class one day, I was smoking and she was dodging the path of my smoke and she said, (picture a taller Kiera Knightly with a glorious British accent talking) “Hey babe, this photographer mate of mine is going to be taking my headshots sometime next week, and why don’t you come round too, and I’ll just say, yeah, you’re snapping hers too?”
And I looked at the chiseled bone structure of her face that rested a top legs as long and skinny as pretzel rods, and I said, “Sure.”
This seemed so random and so… generous of her, I never actually though it would come to fruition.
Then one day she texted me and said, “Hey, can you make it in 45 minutes to Culver City for the shoot?”
And I texted something positive and grateful back using lingo and effervescence I’d heard on TV. “Oh sure. Sounds awesome. I’ll be there.” I frantically spun around my apartment throwing possible headshot shirts into a bag, straightening my hair and patting concealer over the inevitable zit on my chin.
Well. At least I was punctual. That was probably the most successful thing I gave to that photo shoot. My statuesque friend had not arrived when I got there, so it seemed like a good idea to just sort of hover uncomfortably in front of the door to the studio, smoking stiffly.
The photographer was a short, Eastern European man and he spotted me right away. “Are you are friend— Amanda friend?” I nodded in the affirmative and chucked my cigarette into what seemed like the street, but it actually bumped against one of the doors of his Porsche. We watched in silence as the cigarette butt hit the shiny black enamel and then bounced onto the pavement.
I looked at him. Perhaps he hadn’t seen.
He looked at me.
Honestly, I thought I would see something along the lines of loathing and disgust, but I saw neither. Again, I saw pity. The poor American girl is so clumsy.
We went into the studio and he looked at my shirt. “You have different shirt?” he asked.
I dug another shirt out of my bag and held it up. He raised his eyebrows as if to say, “That’s the best you can do?”
He waved limply at the shirt I held up and I took that as a cue to put it on. I read once, somewhere, that models are so used to multiple costume changes they have a general lack of modesty, often changing clothes in front of whomever might happen to be present. So.
It seemed like a good idea to do to engage in that said lack of modesty. I took off my unsatisfactory shirt, because hell, it was just a bra that I had on underneath and I wasn’t some weird, square, prude. I was just like those models that strip unabashedly in front of others, because that’s cool, man. It’s cool. So I took off my top. And I put on the other top. And the photographer dude was fiddling with his camera the whole time, not noticing how brave and hip I was, but so what.
When my friend finally arrived the massive gaping difference between shooting models and non-models became apparent.
When the short Eastern European would shoot her, he’d exclaim, “Beautiful! Brilliant! Magnifique! Yes! Yes!”
When the short Eastern European would shoot me, he’d say, “…Okay. Uh-huh. Tilt your chin upwards. Better… better.”
The shoot continued on this fashion. I smoked, because it seemed cool and I was nervous. And they ignored me. The photographer shot me in two different headshot shirts. He shot my friend Amanda in seven different outfits. My friend eventually began to stand behind the camera, shouting orders at me as I tried to pose.
“Yeah babe, not so tough, yeah like, Sergeant Pepper, yeah babe.”
As illuminating as those instructions were, they didn’t seem to help.
Eventually we were done. And then I did something really uncool. Amanda had posed in one of the shirts I brought with me. And it was a brand new shirt, tags still on. And it looked great on her, because she’s a model and everything short of kitty litter looked great on her. So I thought it would be a nice gesture if I just let her have it. To thank her for inviting me along.
Except it’s hard for me to execute these sort of gestures—gestures that require a lot of finesse. So in the end, I stood before the six foot one model, asking her like a fawning, cheerful midget if she’d like to keep my green shirt, with the tags still on.
She looked at it.
And shook her head.