All possible test shoots that the agency could organize and push me deeper into debt, are over. I still have no idea what my statement looks like, but I will find out in the next few days, even though the accountant is avoiding me. I hope she is keeping track of my earnings as well as my expenses. Plus, I have to tell the bookers that from now on I want to know how much I make for the job the same day as I get the booking, so I don’t have to run after the accountant to find out something that is the most important thing to me right now. It is very important to keep all my money business updated and have as few places for mistakes as possible, or– God forbid– strange “money-disappearing” moments on pay day.
Today I have nothing to do. I am tired, more than tired, so I sleep till noon. I would like to sleep all day long, but today is my first free day after three weeks in Paris, and it is a beautiful day. I want to use it to walk around Paris with no tasks. I want to see this city with a tourist’s eyes and to enjoy it in all its beauty before I get angry again with its residents. I want to delete the negative picture of Paris before it grows roots in my memory. I don’t think Paris deserves that.
I would like to go to the Louvre, but I am not sure if my budge can take that punch. I will just walk around the outside of the museum and leave entering for some better times for my wallet.
I will walk from Trocadero by the Seine to somewhere, and then I will take the metro to The Louvre. I’m leaving my apartment when my phone rings. No one else but the agency could be calling.
I have a casting. It is urgent. It is for editorial. Editorial with one of the biggest woman photographers in the business.
For a second I am thinking about lying and telling them that I am out of the city, to move the casting to another day; but then I think about how important it is to make my debt disappear as soon as possible. I didn’t know that editorials are non-paying jobs. Sightseeing of Paris can wait until next weekend.
The casting is in a house that looks like a castle in the movies: ceilings high, too high, drawn with angelic motives, floor in mosaic; my jaw drops when I enter the house. A maid (a real one in black uniform with white cap, collar and apron) leads me through the corridors and hallways, each one more beautiful than the previous one. I have a feeling that I am in a museum. It is similar to what I imagine the Louvre looks like. This is a wonderful place. I stare like any poor girl in a castle full of luxury.
Wonderful paintings are all over the walls- every size and motive. I haven’t seen so many paintings in one place ever in my life; even the wallpapers are spectacular, made in silk and velvet. I have no vocabulary to describe all this beauty. I will only say: breathtaking!
In the room, with a table as big as my living room, an old lady is sitting, and I assume she is my casting person. She is so tiny that her legs are hanging above the floor. And that grotesquely large table is making her look even tinier. She is looking at me over the glasses that she wears on the top of her nose. She looks like a little mouse. Like a mouse teacher. Her curly short cut hair is like an aureole around her head. Tiny, tiny like a crumb.
Usually I come by and extend my hand to introduce myself, but I can’t do that now, because the table is between us. She says something in French to the maid, and the maid bows and leaves the room. She shows me with her hand to sit on the chair and starts to get up from her chair. Either she has a problem with the chair height or a problem with movements caused by her age, but it takes time. She is very slow.
She is next to me now. I am holding my book for her to have a look, but she is ignoring it. A fragile hand takes my chin, which she turns slowly first left then right. With full attention she looks at my face, moving her lips, talking to herself. After a full minute of my face being her only concern, with a tiny quiet voice she says to stand up. She walks away slowly, and now her concern is my whole body, from head to toe. After some time, she makes a circle with her finger; I think that is a sign for me to turn around. Now I am the one who is moving my lips, asking myself what kind of job is this when she is analyzing me like she is going to adopt me, not shoot me for a magazine. When I turn around she is less than a foot away from me. She shows me with her hand she wants me to squat. She is so close to me now that I can feel her breath on my nose. She is looking into my eyes. Now she turns away and says that I am free.
Ok. I have had experience with weirdoes at castings, but this grandmother is weirdo number one for now. She didn’t look at my book at all, she didn’t take my card, she didn’t even try to make the casting pleasant. I didn’t feel uncomfortable but I felt confused. I am sure I didn’t get the job, but I saw in what kind of beauty some mortals spend their days. Very rich mortals.
After this “picnic” I have an even bigger wish to go to the Louvre. I am ready to enjoy the art; I feel great inspiration after this visit. I have had a chance to enjoy some amazing times in galleries, but not as much as I would like. My country, in the last decade, has had more important things to work on besides art. Plus, in Paris I have a strange feeling. In school we learn about art, and in books we can see photos of some amazing pieces, but here it is even more spectacular, because you can feel the energy and almost touch and feel that work in its full beauty. It is real, not just a plain photo in a school book.
I could not make it today. My wallet would not survive a ticket to the Louvre.
I am booked for a job with the weird grandmother. It is a story for Italian Vogue. Girls’ portraits and I am one of six. The bookers are very happy. I am not sure what I feel about it, but if they say it is a big success, I will not contradict them.
The working day starts at 9. Nobody knows when we will finish. I guess the day will be long.
Four of us get to the studio at the same time. Two girls are already at the makeup and hair chairs. Around ten people are on the set working, and there is no sight of the weird grandmother. We grab breakfast straight away and place ourselves in sofas and armchairs to have a nap until someone calls us. It will take time.
Waiting is longer than I thought. Around 2:30 the makeup artist calls my name. She prepares my face with cream and foundation, and then the hair stylist takes over.
To make a ballerina bun, you know the one- low, completely slicked back- takes him an hour. I really don’t know why, but it starts to feel like I have very bad karma with hairdressers. They are torture to me.
The stylist gives me a nude color top to wear, there in the middle of the studio in front of everyone, with no curtains, no partitions, no barrier or anything. No one blinks at it, like someone is brushing her hair or talking on the phone, not doing a striptease. I say to myself that it is obvious there is no privacy for models. Strip off, don’t think too much, girl. But still I try to hide myself with the jacket.
I am waiting to be taken to the set.
On the set is a box; they ask me to sit on it. The background is silver foil. The makeup artist is painting my lips dark purple, almost black; the stylist is handing a gauze bandage to the hairdresser.
The weird grandmother is talking to her assistant, and the assistant is telling the hairdresser what to do with the gauze. He has to wrap it around my head; somewhere loose, somewhere tight, but it has to look great! That means he has to wrap the gauze nicely! To make the gauze very special and photogenic!
Funny? Of course it is funny. And if you know that only my lower lip is not covered, it is even funnier. My God, yesterday my agency was celebrating when this job was booked, but actually only my lower lip is working today. And when I remember the casting for this job and how she closely analyzed me like she was going to clone me, not make a mummy of me, how can I not burst out laughing.
The weird grandmother is now next to me, to check if the wrapping is artistic and creative enough. When she establishes that the work is perfect, she takes her camera. I am not sure how it is possible that she can hold it without having her arms, tiny like sticks, break. And the official moment of my Vogue photo shoot can start.
We have the first Polaroid. The hairdresser had mercy and left a few holes in the gauze over my eyes. I can see a little bit through them. I would eat myself from inside if I couldn’t see what was going on and I had to spend my big shooting in the dark.
The assistant puts the Polaroid under his arm to dry it, and tensely in silence we all wait to see it. Oh God, I hope I didn’t blink and ruin everything! But blinking is not important today. Today it is important that my lower lip poses as well as possible; everything else is in its shadow. My whole body is shaking now; I am not sure if my lip is great enough to do its work as a professional, since we had no time to practice.
The drying is over, and now we are waiting to hear what grandmother has to say about it after a closer look at the Polaroid with a magnifier. It takes time, time, and more time; and finally she says:
The whole crew lets out a sound of relief.
She takes another camera now and starts shooting. No one says a word to me. I am not sure if I should move or not, smile or not. Better not. Should I involve my hand or not? Maybe not. My lower lip is the star of today’s story. It is the best for me to sit tight and wait until someone gives me directions.
Grandmother uses the whole roll. The assistant takes me under my arm and escorts me out of the set. I guess I am done.
Now I am waiting with a wrapped head for someone to explain to me what is next. I don’t know if I can take these things off me or not. I ask the hairdresser to check if I am done. I have learned from my earlier experience that if I just keep standing here I could wait forever. I am invisible to people sometimes.
The hairdresser says he will take my mask off. But I am not done yet.
After my mask is taken off, I throw myself onto the sofa to wait.
All the girls have similar masks. One of them has a lace dress over her head, another has hair all over her face; two girls have huge hats on, so their noses have a chance to be the stars, not their lips only.
Lying down in the soft cushioned sofa, I am wondering how the photogenic skills of my lip could bring me success in my modeling career. I can’t wait to have this photo published so I can see how talented my lip is. I have to make it ready for world success.
I have done nothing except sit and count sheep for hours. We have finished our part, but we have waited until the work day is officially over. So far it has been a 16-hour and 44-minute long day. I think the grandmother has insomnia; she looks like she can continue with work. Lucky her, I am snoring with my eyes open.
We step out and it is deep dark night. I have no idea how to go home. I don’t know about the others, but my only option is to walk home. I don’t know if the metro is operating and I don’t want to find out at this hour. If the crazy people ride during the day, I can imagine what I can see at night. I have no money for a taxi. Luckily, my apartment is j not far, I can walk the distance in 20 minutes. While the girls are trying to find the best way of going home, the crew disappears in a second. There is no one to ask how to solve the problem of transportation at this time at night. So I hold my bag tightly, dive deeply into my jacket, scarf and gloves, and I step with elegance and self-confidence. Here we are, another glamorous day is over. I had so much glamour that I have to walk home to clear my head at 2 am. Editorial is not a paying job, but you ate and drank, girl. Enough. You want more? Transportation is too much to ask for, too spoiled and unnecessary a request. You will have your photo published in Italian Vogue if you have enough luck on your side. You want to model, well sister, practice your catwalk now on the way home and don’t turn around.