December 12, 2010 Comments Off on

“Driver’s license, please,” the man in the gray suit and tie says to me.  Corporate safety and protocol.  I wait as he scribbles my information down into a ledger.  The main lobby is a prime example of democratized creativity: the paint that drips from the walls in an intentional and appealing uniformity, the titled wall of glass stairs that serves as a surface for water to run down over and over again.  There was a meeting about what aesthetic would politely scream, “Dear Advertisers, We’re clever and fun but not irresponsible.  Please give us your money.”

The elevators have no buttons, but an attendant who punches your floor number into a silver pad that will take you directly there.  From there, I move into the waiting area of a popular women’s magazine decorated with cheap Pier 1 decor.  IT is pink and orange like a poor man’s Tori Burch.  Crisp sherbet.  The walls are covered with blown up, movie-poster-size versions of their covers featuring celebrities and stories that I don’t care about.  “Katherine Heigl on her adoption miracle and the moments when ‘everybody hates me.’”  Puke.  I sit there, reading blurbs about things the majority of American women are supposed to care about, thanking god that I never went into this side of the industry – a life occupied reviewing beauty creams and reviewing the latest Paris collection that few women can actually afford but all are expected to pine for.  The droning whirl of the air conditioner attempts to fill the space with white noise and not my own thoughts.

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December 11, 2010 Comments Off on

Casting

December 11, 2010 Comments Off on Casting

The elevator doors open and I follow the swaying thirty-four inch hips of the girl in front of me, past studios shooting catalogues and some editorial for V Magazine.  “Casting is to your left,” a gay man wearing all black says to us, his finger pointing down a wide hallway.  We turn, she in her heels and her trying to look good and me in my boots and my not giving a shit anymore.  For the last few years when I show up for castings I feel like I’m just going through the motions.  Sign in.  Sit down.  Wait.  Meet clients.  Picture.  Picture.  Picture.  Leave. There was a time, many years ago when I first started, that I saw each casting as an opportunity to book work, meet good people, establish relationships – all of which was inspired by the naïve hope that I could and would book a great deal of things.  Now I look at it as just another opportunity for someone to tell me “no.”

I walk behind this girl’s tiny ass in her black jeans down the hallway.  In front of us, a male model with bowlegs walks barefoot through the lobby wearing denim shorts and a short-sleeved denim button-up that doesn’t match, both nipped in haphazardly from behind with office binder clips.

Through the labyrinth of lofty white corridors we reach our destination, a corner studio with big windows looking out onto the Hudson.  Bored models sit on charcoal-colored tweed sofas with clean lines meant to look like they were purchased from Design Within Reach but most likely were bought from IKEA.  I sign in and sit down, trying not to look around the room at other people trying to do the same.

The clients are hidden behind folded white foam boards, bigger versions of the kind I used for science projects in elementary school.  Light flashes against the ceiling with its POP!  POP!  POP! – like an electrical balloon exploding, one after another after another.  Daft Punk drifts beautifully through the rooms, there but not really at all.  The acoustics of a studio are the most beautiful cage.  When I’m finally done with this racket, I will miss this atmosphere.  There is something reassuring and comforting about these studios, something familiar and homey.

“Forty-nine!”

We get called up by numbers like cows.  I watch as a girl wearing seven-inch heels with a curved wooden platform totter over to the client.  “Those are some ssssserrrrious shoes,” the boy next to me offers.  She walks uncomfortably, like a windup doll trying desperately not to break its base.  From her height, I would imagine, the concrete floor looks like a terrifying enemy just aching to knock her teeth out.

An intern wearing an oversized plaid sweater and black boots walks over to the sign-in table with paper bags filled with food.  She unloads, taking plastic containers filled with salads and sandwiches behind the white walls.  I hear a comment about salt and then everything goes quiet.  The popping stops, the photographer leaves the room, the models look around.  We wait thirty minutes for them to finish their lunch break, which, ordinarily, would be announced to the agencies in consideration of our time.

We sit, prostrate in our subordination.  This is what you have to endure to make money.  Kids wrap their hands around their Blackberries and their iPhones, reaching out to worlds other than this.  One boy reads a book.  Just one.

I look around the room, forced out of boredom to check out the ever-increasing number of girls lining the walls.  The most beautiful one is the most scary to look at.  Her hair is stick-straight and bleached blonde, probably crispy to the touch but stunning from far away.  Her fingers are covered in chunky silver rings and a fur jacket covers her bony shoulders.  She has thin, sad lips and her face scrunches together in the center like a lizardy old man or one of those face carvings in a potato.  She is sitting in the corner, next to the other girls comprising the thinnest bunch in the room, most likely an agency that takes measurements and commends eating disorders.

As the minutes drag, the boy next to me has become my co-conspirator in talking shit.  We snort under our breaths unforgivably like teenagers as models walk in.  Baggy jeans tucked into cowboy boots.  Gold Doc Martins.  “I don’t even know where I am right now,” he says.  I am looking down at my phone when I hear him laugh again.  “Oh my,” he says.  My eyes meet the haughty and self-important steps of a girl wearing the most massive jacket ever produced, stringy and furred, the color of dirty snow.  It is easily triple her size – the breadth of a linebacker.  “She looks like the Abominable Snowman,” I say, “…or a yeti.”  We snicker.  Time crawls.

 

Jamie Nelson for Nylon Magazine

December 9, 2010 Comments Off on Jamie Nelson for Nylon Magazine

Drown Me Out

December 9, 2010 Comments Off on Drown Me Out

The room is small and ordinarily filled with boxes and rolling racks, the dust from unfinished projects and piles of shoes.  For now, it’s just me, two girls and their fake breasts, all of us sitting half-naked on cowhide ottomans while we wait to try on clothes for boutique owners from Texas.

Ordinarily, even though the caliber of work I do is nothing to brag about, I am usually paired with pretty girls that just hadn’t really made it.  Today, though the client is a famous Italian designer with advertisements in Vogue and runway shows in Milan, the girls I am working with are terrifying to look at.  The first: a Polynesian girl who reminds me of a transvestite undergoing hormone replacement therapy.  The second: a trashy Brazilian with a nipple ring and deep wrinkles.

In between clients, the Brazilian studies an US Weekly magazine, reading each article in great detail and offering her educated commentary afterward.  Over the course of the morning, I am offered the following:

Anne Hathaway and her con-artist ex-boyfriend: “He was, like, totally the shit but was stealing money.”

Jennifer Aniston and her unluckiness in love: “She dated John Mayer?!  What’s wrong with this woman for choosing men for dating?”

Kim Kardashian’s recent nude editorial in W Magazine: “It’s just disgusting and her tits are disgusting.  It’s just gross.”

Jake Gyllenhaal:  “He definitely liked brunettes.”  And further, “Three years…he dates girls for a long time, I’ll tell you that much.”

Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies:  “It [Brokeback Mountain] was fucking disgusting.  I didn’t watch more than half of it…I’ve know gay people but I don’t need to watch that shit.”

Eva Longoria and her divorce:  “Oh, he wasn’t just texting – he was SEXTING.”

She talks about these people as though she knows them personally and that part is disturbing to me.  I don’t understand the fascination with celebrities is these days.  They are too overexposed and there is none of the mystery that makes one want to know more because we know too much already.  In fact, I can’t think of one genuinely interesting thing I’ve read about a celebrity in quite some time.  It’s all divorce courts and drug charges, movie premiers and self-promotion.

“My mother says my head is full of useless facts,” she offers.  I smile, trying desperately hard not to nod my head emphatically and suggest she go read a book, preferably a hardcover with small typeface and no pictures.

After finishing with her rigorous work of nonfiction, the Brazilian goes on into even less preferably territory, talking to the other girl about the benefits of nipple rings, and then later turning to me and asking where Park City was.

This girl, with her head filled with nonsense and her mouth butchering the English language with things I don’t care about, is actually a mother (as indicated by her reference to her new tits and “the pregnancy) and is engaged (as indicated by her flashy diamond).  Both of which are horrifying.

After thirty minutes I have withstood all I can bear.  I walk into the hallway and see a folding chair, which I prop open where I find it.  I place my headphones in my ears and listen as the inane, chicken head chatter behind me thankfully turns into a Charlie Brown wah-wah-wah, conversations about celebrities and drinking beer drowned out magnificently.

 

Hannah Holman by Venetia Scott

December 9, 2010 Comments Off on Hannah Holman by Venetia Scott

 

December 9, 2010 Comments Off on

How do we dumb it down and make it catchy?

This is the world of PR.

I’m sitting in a quiet showroom, filled to the brim with clothes, shoes, jewelry, and gay men.  People sit at desks while music plays inaudibly from someone’s computer.  There is none of the flourish that I have ever associated with PR, an industry in charge of throwing parties for handbags and making celebrities look good.  In fact, the most action this place gets is the constant arrival of messengers giving them bags filled with product or taking them away.  There are a couple “catastrophes”: one famous magazine sent back all of the silver and stone jewelry they had borrowed for a shoot dumped – unseparated and unwrapped – into a camel-colored shoe bag (“Are you fucking kidding me?”) and towards the end of the day, an editor in a giant sweater and a long skirt thumbed through racks of clothing, plucking dozens of pieces for an upcoming shoot, which was apparently an excessive pull (“Aren’t editors supposed to, like, edit?”).

There was a time when I had wanted to go into PR.  In my head I imagined a hustling room filled with, well, I don’t know what it was filled with.  I just imagined that it was busy and fabulous, and that’s what I wanted when I was seventeen: the movie version of life.  In my experience, nothing is ever what it seems or what you expect it to be.  In all of our idealistic dreams of what “prefect” is (in any capacity – boys, house, job), we are likely to omit the possibility of the negative.  We are relentless dreamers.

The cold off the back window radiates inward, making that part of the room almost uninhabitable.  A wall heater leaks from below, warming a small part of my thigh and the back corners of my boots.  I’m waiting for editors to come in and look at the collection.  If they want me to, I’ll try outfits on for them, but usually they furiously flip through each piece, snapping a photograph of it on the hanger while talking to someone else about weekend homes and mutual acquaintances, occasionally looking at the actual garment.

The editors are fabulous women with (usually) immaculate taste and (often) a penchant for sounding aloof and affected.  There are a few women who strike me as markedly intelligent, but the rest are just a bunch of girls good at playing dress up.  I listen to them talk about beauty stories and shoots with plus-size TV stars (“Everyone feels the need to cover a size eighteen dress up with glitter.”).  I hear the same speech about the quality of the fabrics, the welt-pocket details, what name the designer has chosen to call this shade of green.  I am hiding in a corner, waiting to be summoned, listening to the beeping of cameras and the scraping of nice wooden hangers across the rolling rack bars.  Chit chat.  Laughter.  Beep.  Scraapppeeee.  Beep.  Laughter.  “Cute.”  Giggle.  “Vegas…” Beep.  Scraapppeeee.  Beep.  “It’s cold outside.”  Foot shuffle.  “Hi, we’ve met before.”  Beep.  Scraapppeeee.  Beep.

Unable to take the cold at the back of the room, I move to an adjacent nook.  They’ve been kind enough to procure me a portable heater and I make myself a bed on the metal bottom of a rolling rack, using my winter coat as a softening agent between my body and the wire bars, propping my head up on its folded hood with fake fur around the edges.  I try to read a book I need to finish but the heat on my legs and the cold that surrounds lures me to sleep like it did when I was little; my brother and I each had wall heaters in our bathrooms and I would often fall asleep lying in front of it, wrapped in a wet towel, until I woke up with flushed cheeks and a headache.  I am getting paid to act like I did when I was in elementary school, taking a nap at noon and waiting for someone to need me.

“Are you sure you want to sleep there?” one of the PR guys asks me, incredulous of my insistence that I am comfortable.  This job traps you in an infantile state, forever fated to sleep on floors and wait on others to feed you.  I am twenty-six-years-old, sleeping underneath hangers of clothes in the corner of a room while the adults make business happen.

When I am done with my nap and my body aches from the angle in which I jammed myself into a fetal position, I move to the Grown Up table.  The day creeps along and I am unable to focus on anything requiring brain matter.  I don’t want to read or write or surf the goddamn Internet.  I listen to the PR crew talk to each other or talk to the editors when they eventually come.

On an editor’s satchel:

A:  You know what I like about it?

B.  Tell me.

A:  It’s a little bit PS1 and a little Hermes.

On linguistics:

Do you guys think I should talk mostly with an English accent…or just partially?

No one here is offering anything cerebral, including myself, and I feel my brain begin to shut down in an effort to conserve cells and avoid permanent brain damage.  The difference between this environment and one made up entirely of models is perhaps that these people are funny, but I don’t feel as though the intelligence level, at the end of the day, is as markedly different as people would like to believe.  None of it is brain surgery and none of it is important.  I yawn, staring at the clock and waiting for real life to resume.

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