At last, I was ready. Time to pose.
Showing emotion on camera is like this: you don't try to do it. You don't force your face, otherwise it'll explain too much. The face is an incredibly sensitive signal-thrower. You're just supposed to go inside yourself and actually feel what you want to project. Then the face follows suit. Trying to look sexy won't do a thing, you have to imagine intimacy. If you're supposed to come across as happy, then remember the best present you ever got, and access, really access, how that felt. A smile will be born.
After a few shoots, Copeland sent me to a specialist to learn to walk. We went out to this walking specialist's apartment complex's parking garage and walked along the white line, and he critiqued me. I learned how to hold my arms and head, how to linger and saunter and give off "vibes." And the whole time that I was following the nice gentleman who was coaching me, I was thinking, "I can't believe I live in a culture that actually values these things."
By the time I was deemed ready to visit an agent, I'd spent over eight months and almost $4000 on becoming a model. Oh, did I forget to mention? I was selling out my soul to the Evil Empire of the Senses, but I was the one paying for it. Literally.
Copeland had charged a $1500 up-front "talent development" fee. The teeth-whitening ran about $60. The gym membership, $30 a month. Haircuts were at a discount, $30 each. Shoes, $150. Portfolio, $50. Comp cards, $350. Three photo shoots, $850 total. Tanning salon, $5 each visit. Skin care, $40 a month.
Well, I just did the math, and monetarily, after all these years I've finally edged back into the black. Not to mention that I get all these neat deductions at tax time, for grooming and so on, because I'm self-employed. There was also the day in the hot tub, the experience of being filmed, the times I wore clothes that actually cost more than my car, the bloated checks for which I never once had to think or break a sweat, and I have all these great techniques now for keeping my body's appearance variables in peak form.
I read where Sean Penn, the actor, said, "When artists talk about the balance between art and commerce, they're usually on their way to hell." Hmm. Am I on the way to hell? In the same interview, Penn also said, "The more life you've lived, the more significant places you can take your character." Modeling, I know, is an experience that I can chalk up under the heading of "significant life lived."
But still, I have to admit, I'm not a model. Not really.
"To be a model, the person has to have the right look for the correct season and for what's going on," said Doug Coats, 36, a men's modeling booking agent at Nouveau Modeling and Talent in La Jolla. "The major male models today are thinner, taller, and younger. To do the high-fashion things like Gucci, Versace, Prada, and Yves St. Laurent, and so on, today you have to be less muscular, over six feet tall, and they're as young as maybe 17 or 18. The fashion world is basically looking for the newest face, the most interesting-looking person. And it really just all depends."
Coats calls them the "Fashion Mafia." (I wondered: skilled beholders whose eyes are so keen and hip that they inspire us about what beauty is? Or just a shifty publicity organization duping society?)
"There's about, I want to say, maybe 12 photographers who run the world of fashion," Coats said. "Mario Testino, Craig McDean, Bruce Weber... A lot of times if they trip on a person, that model could be hanging on with an agency in New York, and then the next thing you know, that person could be doing the Gucci campaign, and now they're on top of the world. Just because one of these big photographers tripped on their image. And after a great photographer has shot a model, and everyone knows that this particular photographer has great taste and a great style, then the next thing you know, another great photographer is going to want to shoot him in the way that he sees him through his lens. And the casting directors too, the big ones in New York and Paris and Milan. They're looking for the next face, the next look, creating the style."
And what did the Fashion Mafia seem to be looking for right now?
"In spring 2006," Coats said, "it's going to be this American bad boy, kind of James Dean type of look. But the guys are still very thin; I mean, the muscles are definitely not a big part of what they're looking for. And personality is important, too. It's almost like they have to kind of not want to be in the business and have this attitude, but then they walk into a room and they give off this feeling of, like, wow, that's a top model. And they have to be able to move in front of a camera and do different kinds of things, like hang off a ledge, maybe, or pose with a tiger and not complain about it."
Was that how to become a successful model? To just hang loose and pose?
"The people who really want to do the business tend not to do as well as those who don't want to do the business," Coats said. "That's my philosophy, as strange as it sounds."
Hmm. A paradox. Could he explain?
"I think it's like many things in life," Coats began. "Like love, maybe. It's almost like if you don't show any interest in someone, then they want you even more. I guess what I'm saying is, I get a lot of people coming into the office who will do anything they can to get into a modeling agency. And they try, and they think they have to take different pictures, and they have to do this, and they have to do that, but a lot of the time, we know if someone is going to be a model in the first two seconds that we see them."