Why I (almost) flaked as a model
I thought I’d take a minute to discuss one aspect of modeling which isn’t well understood either by the models themselves (I think), or the photographers who wish to work with them. You may have noticed a number of forum threads on MM (usually initiated by a photographer) which are basically complaints about models who don’t show up, or follow through on requests to shoot (some even initiated by the models themselves). I’ve had my own experiences with this (one in particular which really sent me round the bend early in my career), and I thought I’d talk about what it feels like to be on the model’s side of the camera.
Photographer: John Fisher; Model: Jessica Bleier
Modeling is easy, right?
A long time ago (maybe twenty five years ago), Proctor and Gamble decided to reintroduce a marketing icon, Mr. Clean, back into their advertising. As a part of their re-launch of the Mr. Clean logo, Proctor and Gamble had a Mr. Clean look-alike model search to use at supermarket openings. A woman executive at an advertising client of mine got in touch with me about this and suggested it might be fun for me to enter the model search (the Eastern Regional contest was being held in Washington, DC where I was based back then). It seemed a little silly, but I did look a little like Mr. Clean at the time, and I thought it might be interesting to experience what models go through emotionally when they are sitting on the other side of the table from me during an interview.
I did all of my due diligence, learned the song, got the outfit, buffed up a little, and as the time grew closer many of my friends said they wanted to attend the contest finals with me at a big hotel in DC. So far, so good. But a funny thing happened the night before the contest. After I had all the makeup and the outfit ready to go, I suddenly decided this was a little silly, and I had no idea why I thought it was a good idea several weeks ago. I told my wife I wasn’t going to go downtown in the morning. But she reminded me I looked perfect for the part, that all my friends were coming over to join us for the show, and my wife wanted to know why I was going to disappoint them. So, I once again decided to go to the contest in the morning (after all, I did have the makeup and the outfit).
So the morning came, and as we started to go to the show, I once again decided that this was just too silly and I wanted out. I really wanted out. We could all go into the hotel and watch the contest, but I wasn’t going to participate. And then it dawned on me, this is what it’s like to be a model going to your first casting or job interview. Everyone has always told you that you could be a model, and you are happy that they think so, you want to be a model, but when it finally comes to doing it, it suddenly feels like the worst idea possible! I decided to power through the contest, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done; sitting in a room with 50 other Mr. Clean look-alikes, singing the song, and answering questions about why I wanted to be Mr. Clean. But I did it. At the time I was a 35-year-old, fully grown man, with a (relatively) successful career behind me, and I somehow managed to push my way through the interview.
90% of life…
Here is the rub as I can best explain it. When people say you can do something, you are flattered. When they say it often enough, you consider it. When the opportunity sounds like fun and it will impress your friends, you get excited about the opportunity and you seek it out. Everything is great, you can be a model. The only fly in the ointment is when you actually try to be a model. Then, and only then, do you risk failure. If you never actually try, you can always be – forever. It is only in trying that failure is possible–and let’s face it, even likely. All the cards are stacked in favor of wanting to do it, saying you want to do it, but not in actually trying to do it. You get all the psychic rewards… with none of the risk! Now I was 35 when the Mr. Clean contest was held, and had a lot of life experiences behind me. Think how powerful these emotions are on a young person whose life experiences are short.
Even today, when I have a big job to do for a major client, these emotions are with me. I am so excited when I interview for the job, so happy when I get the job. But the day before, or the morning of the actual work, I am a little terrified and I wonder what was I thinking. But I put one foot in front of the other and out the door I go. When the job is finished I am frequently very pleased with what I’ve done, and even a little surprised at times. But I’ve done this many times before, successfully (thank God!), or I wouldn’t still be in the business. That young person interviewing for their first modeling job doesn’t have any of this to bolster them. In some respects it’s a wonder anyone actually shows up!
Just something to think about while you’re sitting in the studio with the client, makeup artist, and the stylist, drumming your fingers and wondering, where the hell is that model? And yes, as Woody Allen said, “90% of life is just showing up!”