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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's About Sexy, Not Sex

If you want to have the respect of your models, give them the respect they deserve—and leave the rose at home



I'm In The Bathroom With The Phone

Back in the day before cell phones were small enough to carry in your pocket, I had an answering service and a pager that would display a four-line text message. One afternoon, I received a message that read “I locked myself in the bathroom with the telephone; can you please come get me.”

A friend of mine, a 16-year-old model, was calling from a photographer's studio. When the photographer opened the door, I told him I was the girl's ride home. I was 20 talking to a man probably 15 years my senior. He told me they were still shooting and to return later. In one of those brave moments that you never really remember after the fact, I pushed my way in the door and called her name. Out she came with all her stuff ready to go, and we were gone.

Back at her agency, she explained that after the test shoot was over, the photographer told her about an upcoming bathing suit ad he was shooting and wondered if she would be interested in booking it. She was. He asked if he could shoot a quick test shot of her in a bikini. When she replied that she didn't have a bikini, he asked if she would strip down to her bra and panties so he could get an idea of what her body looked like. She said sure and locked herself in the bathroom until I arrived. Her agent made about 15 phone calls, one right after another. The word had traveled so fast around the city that I heard the story recounted to me by cocktail hour. I think the photographer ended up having to move to another city to find work.

Do You Want To Be A Model Or Just Look Like One?


At some point in your career, you'll run into a girl who's stunning enough to be a model. She'll probably be young and you'll want to try to arrange a shoot. There's a protocol for this. Approach the girl, introduce yourself and give her your card. Don't ask her for her number, especially if she's a minor. Encourage her to check your Website, and if you've worked with any model agencies, have her call them as a reference. If she never calls you, that's life.

Perspective

After 20 years in this industry, I've always wondered about the perspective of the model in the situations that I've described. To give this article some depth, I asked my closest friend, Andrea McLaughlin, to lend her perspective. I met Andrea nine years ago on a shoot. She was 14, smoking cigarettes and reading some author whose name I couldn't pronounce. She retired from fashion six months ago to pursue a graduate degree in the writing program at Columbia University in New York.

Andrea: “I'd feel a whole lot better if you were gay.” This was my first thought when I arrived, a few days after my 18th birthday, at his studio—studio apartment, that is.

“Where is everybody?” I ask.

The apartment is stifling. A low-speed fan sputters on the other side of the room, but it isn't doing me any good where I'm standing. He takes the bag of shoes and underwear off my hands.

“No makeup artist?” I ask. This, after all, is a test that I'm paying for.

“Yes, makeup artist,” he assures me in a thick Italian accent.

 

I sit on the couch and pull out a book to read while we wait for the rest of the crew. He continues to stand over me, legs akimbo, arms crossed over his chest, just smiling away. I don't know how much time we spend like this.

“You like to start?” he finally asks.

He makes an exaggerated gesture in the direction of a barstool. It seems he has a Ziploc® packed with the essentials—concealer, mascara, Vaseline. He offers me the shabby green robe hanging on the bathroom door and a broken explanation of why I should throw it on. The fabric is suffocating. The makeup is running off my face as fast as he can apply it. I happily lose the arms and hold the terry-cloth over my chest while he rubs Vaseline on my shoulders and collarbones.

“Bella bambina,” he says.

I hardly hear him. I've resolved not to pay for the shoot. The language barrier frees me from the obligation to make small talk. It also maintains a comfortable distance between us despite our physical proximity.

He's got a tapestry that looks like a Balinese sarong tacked up on the wall, a glaring naked bulb on a stand and, of course, the fan. “What about clothes?” I ask hopefully.

“I've got heels and lingerie.” I haven't signed on for that kind of shoot.

Instead of actual wardrobe selections, there are the tapestry things. Apparently, there's no shortage of them. He continues to pull them from what looks like a laundry bag. I resist the temptation to smell them.



 

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