I bring a lot to set: neutral nail polish for touch-ups, toner and moisturizer that I know contain no pore-clogging ingredients, makeup wipes, apples, berries, electrolyte mix for my water, probiotics, protein powder, ginger and peppermint tea, nude-colored thongs, nude-colored bras with an assortment of straps, hair ties, my iPad and a dozen other things I won’t think of until I need them. My model kit is my lifeline when I’m shooting on location. While traveling, I’m Inspector Gadget undercover as a model. “Go go gadget hairbrush!” I have to be prepared to deal with any problem without breaking my stride or my focus on my responsibilities. I do it all with at least a little bit of joy since I know the most important thing a model can bring to set is her attitude, energy, and demeanor.
The model is the only person at a shoot that everybody— the hair stylist, the photographer, the makeup artist and the stylist— has to deal with. If I’m having a bad day, nobody else is having a good day, and if anybody else is having a bad day, I’m going to have to deal with it. Any enthusiasm and excitement I can bring to my work benefits everybody. I like to think that the spirit that I share among the team brings everyone together, allowing our job to go more smoothly.
The other day, I was standing in front of the camera in a summer outfit while getting chilled by the wind machine as the makeup artist touched up my lipgloss. We had a lot to do that day, because this was actually a reshoot. I had arrived the night before having a bit too much time to contemplate LaGuardia International Airport and awakened early that morning so I could find my way to the hair and makeup chair. Everyone, aware of the challenges before us, was quietly tense. As the makeup artist finished a touchup of my lips on set I looked him in the eye, cracked a smile and asked, “Aren’t we so lucky to be here?”
No matter how tough the shoot or how tedious the job, at some level the people on set know that they are among very few who get to do this for a living. Deep down we’re all a bit of proud of our careers, but sometimes we all need a something to bring that pride to the surface. We models are probably the single most characteristic feature of the fashion world, so we are often the best reminder. It helps for me to live up to expectations. It’s important to have fun with a photographer blasting outrageous music. So what if It’s not my favorite song, I’m going to move like it is. It’s helpful to respect the experience of a high-class stylist even if for that day she’s styling a pair of khaki pants that seem hopeless. Every job gets treated the same, in my mind. My clients and colleagues won’t and shouldn’t notice- but part of my job is to be whatever they need off set, as well as on it, to feel like the real deal.
This wasn’t an attitude I was born with; I learned with time, practice and some mistakes. A turning point came when I first started practicing yoga regularly and teachers would, in a quiet moment, remind the students of each other. In a vinyasa class, we would be united in the rhythm of our collective breath. Each student, concentrated on their own practice, contributed to an environment. It’s that support that strengthened the group that every individual gained more than they contributed.
While I was learning to teach yoga a few years ago I was also working showroom for Zac Posen. In the downtime between buyer appointments, I would review my yoga teaching material. One day, on a whim, an intern in the dressing room suggested that I just teach the crew some yoga for practice. As I stood there in one of the season’s most fabulous dresses, explaining mountain pose to the fashionistas bent over in a forward fold between racks of garments and rows of platform shoes, the similarity between my two worlds struck me. Of course, not before I got over the funny feeling of telling the small group what to do. But after that, I thought about how my focus in the face of my work is crucial in creating an environment where they can take themselves seriously and work to their fullest potential. They, in turn do the same for me.
Fast forward to my shoot last week: The makeup artist doing my lipgloss returned my smile. We ended up getting through a difficult job without too much stress. We connected over common interests and beliefs and shared some of our hopes and ambitions. As the day wound down and we were wrapping up the last of our looks, he offered to do me a wonderful favor. So, in the end, I left that job with more than I brought with me. I usually do, gaining at least a friend, an idea, or a fond memory.