On Friday morning I woke up with David to take his 7 a.m. class. I love squeezing in some yoga before a shoot so that my head’s on straight before I step onto a set. When I showed up to work, I was alert and fresh-faced, ready for the day ahead of me.
I arrived early to the magazine’s downtown office. The set was on the same floor as much of the staff. I found my way to a little lounge, where I sat with a cup of coffee while the various writers and editors filtered in. They gradually filled their desks and began to settle into their routines. The large room was nearly silent except for the clatter of keyboards.
When the hair and makeup team arrived, we learned that we’d be prepping in a prop closet down the hall. A stack of yarmulkes, a few goofy masks, a pair of painted sneakers, a pile of wigs, and a gallon of fake blood were carefully arranged on the shelves around us as my hair was being set in hot rollers. There were also neat collections of the magazines on which each odd item had been featured.
Conversation soon turned to unlikely places to do hair and makeup. I recalled being made up in a van at 5 a.m., bouncing around hilly southern Italy. Another time, I had been made up in the parking lot of a national park in South Africa, watching penguins (yes, penguins!) on a beach nearby. The prop closet was weird, but didn’t rate amongst the weirdest in anyone’s experience.
The shoot featured one dress styled four different ways. Without changing my clothes, I was transformed every two hours as I went from an artsy creative, to a Madison Ave. power broker, to an Upper East Side socialite, and finally became a TriBeCa trendsetter. It was an ambitious schedule and I made many, many trips back to the prop room to be restyled. I can only imagine what the magazine staff was saying about me on gChat as they occasionally peeked up at the elaborately done-up model strolling between their desks. I learned that the set we were working on was usually used for photographing food or props, not for fashion stories.
The format of the spread gave me some insight into the creativity and precision of styling. The writer made the decisions on-the-spot as each batch of accessories arrived. She involved all of us, the shop curators, the makeup artist, the hair stylists, and even me, in building each look. Some well thought-out combinations of accessories and garments that would look amazing in real life simply did not translate on camera. On the other hand, some improvised additions as subtle as a belt completely reshaped the attitude I could portray, transmuting a dull look into gold. I loved feeling empowered to change the direction by harnessing a different emotional current. The writer was great at focusing our energies and we all made an excellent team.
In the meantime, the writer was curious about the techniques we each used. The hair stylist described his inspiration, which she later sharpened into quirky quotes to make the look accessible to readers. She took tips and tricks from the expert makeup artist on how he achieved the 60s black winged liner on my eyes. She even seemed curious of how I cared for my appearance. I am, obviously, more than happy to share what I’ve learned about staying fit and I’m flattered when it shows that I’m leading a healthy lifestyle. My smile was genuine when I told her that I was really into yoga and had taken a class that morning.
We ended up staying a little later than expected in order to get that perfect last shot. It was a fantastic day I was was so happy to have been there, but after eight and a half hours, I was feeling a little tired, a LOT hungry, and well-worn out. The people around me offered encouraging compliments, telling me that I had this, and that they knew that I was capable of finishing solid. As sincere and motivational as that was, what I needed had to come from the inside. I knew that I could do it and didn’t doubt that for a moment.
The shoot was different because we had to start from scratch four times, taking everything off and putting it back on again. This involved a lot more time and energy getting my hair changed and makeup re-applied for each look. I was reminded of what it’s like to be in the middle of an endurance oriented yoga class and sitting myself deeply into chair pose. You know it’s not going to last forever, but in the moment, that’s sometimes hard to believe. When my body reminds me of how easy it would be to zone out and turn on auto-pilot, I tell myself how good it feels to have a strong finish and keep myself going just a little bit longer.
By the time I was home and eating a big dinner with David, I was feeling completely grateful for the day. All the beautiful images we created flooded my brain with ideas. When I step back and look at the bigger picture, it becomes a lot easier to deal with the little stresses. Maybe those chair poses were teaching me more about breathing through the uncomfortable places so when I’m getting worn out, I can find some kind of relief that, this will pass. In retrospect, I’m so glad I didn’t let the frustration of being tired ruin a perfectly good day of shooting.