Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dizengoff

The traffic on Dizengoff Street was horrendous at that hour full of cars, scooters, taxis, bicyclists, and pedestrians fighting for a space of their own.  I don’t even know where we were going.  With Sophie in the passenger seat, I’d been driving aimlessly for over an hour through the streets of Tel Aviv waiting to pick up Stav from work.  I was waiting for a call, a reason, a purpose, anything at all… I might have wanted that drive to stretch on forever.
                Sophie and I talked about everything that two exhausted and confused friends could talk about.  An American and a Wallon Belgian finding their way amidst a thick crowd of Israelis-in pursuit of our dreams, our paths, love, and fulfillment.  Two years prior we found ourselves dropped into an isolated kibbutz in the Western Galilee of Northern Israel (as heard in the bible, yeah yeah!) to focus on our craft and put ourselves in a new world of ideas and creativity.  Over the course of the next two years, we’d see the seasons change and see ourselves change.  We experienced entrances and exits; birth and death; love and heartbreak; hatred and compassion and a plethora of other lovely events that built us into the women we’d become.
                Earlier that day we sat by the sea contemplating where we were in our lives.  Unsatisfied with living in Los Angeles I returned to Israel to see Stav, to see my friends, and to reclaim all the bits and pieces I left behind.  I returned so that I could drive through the north-my old home- and eat chicken hearts to strengthen my own and head south into the desert to visit an oasis.  But I expected that everything would be the same as I left it two years earlier, like a dollhouse in the darkness of night with everything left peacefully in its place.  I thought upon my return that everything would pick up right where it left off, which is why I left so disappointed in the end.  Well, that’s what Leor chalked it to.  I’d have to agree.
                All those feelings of familiarity hit me at various speeds during those two weeks, perhaps just as much as I’d felt in those earlier two years.  A place I’d once considered home became even more foreign and intangible to me.  I knew the language but couldn’t muster the words.  “Why don’t you speak Hebrew?” Sophie asked as I purchased a phone card.  “Lo ba li (I don’t feel like it)” I answered her, ironically.  I just couldn’t be bothered to try anymore.  I knew I was on my way out but still I held onto some remaining sense of normalcy-whatever that meant.
                So we sat in traffic with no destination in mind.  We started across the sea from where I parked my car in Neve Tzedek then winded our way through narrow streets into Southern Tel Aviv chock full of low-rise apartments and convenience stores.  Eventually we headed north towards Dizengoff Center and watched as the sidewalks became full of well-dressed Tel Avivis out for coffee, dinner, and last minute shopping, the streets growing abuzz with frenetic energy and bustle-at least, by Israeli standards.
                Nearing the intersection of King George and Dizengoff, we stopped at a red light.  Sophie turned up the radio and the live version of “Etzlech Ba’olam (In Your World)” by HaYehudim was playing.  I had so many memories of that song, all of which came flooding in.  I remember hearing it the first few times and really finding that guy’s voice irritating then feeling it gradually grow on me over the years until I started to hum its tune.  I remember discovering that it was actually a cover of an Evyatar Banai song, who just happened to be my favorite Israeli singer.  I remember listening to it with Stav back in Gaaton as she taught me the words, explaining the difference between using “etzlech” and “shelach” a grammar lesson I still cannot grasp to this day.  I remember how I sat in the back of Abed’s taxi and upon hearing the HaYehudim version on the radio started belting out the words mimicking the male lead singer’s voice causing Abed and Stav to crack up laughing. 
               And there we were, Sophie and I, listening to this popular tune on the Galgalatz station stuck in traffic by the Dizengoff Center.  We both knew the song and sat in silence with nowhere to be anyways.  Suddenly Sophie exclaimed, “Look at the lady in the car next to us!  She’s listening to the same song!”  I turned over to see the driver in the next car leaning against her window wearing a look of exhaustion on her face stuck within the confines of her car, her world, singing along to the crescendo of the song, “Give me your hand, give me a place in your world” over and over again.  Sophie and I just watched as she abandoned herself to the very song we were all presumably listening to while stuck in this awful traffic.  I said as much to Sophie, that pretty much everyone listens to Galgalatz.  “Nu-uh”, she said, “Yaniv listens to Shmonim veShmona”.  But that night, at least one other soul was and in that moment in time, we were linked in that traffic jam listening (…and singing) to a song that could only make sense right then and there.  The demons of the night were already out dancing and I was under a spell.

Friday, September 6, 2013

So it is.

So today I turn 27 years old.  I fucking hate celebrating my birthday, I always get so melancholy and morose.  I think part of the reason is because throughout childhood my birthday usually fell during the first week of school, which I always dreaded with intensity. 

But now I’m an adult or something like that.  And what the hell do I know?  I wait for validation in the form of birthday wishes that pour out of Facebook from people I only hear from once a year.

Cheer up old lady!  Everything gets better with age; our tastes become more refined, our minds sharpen, and a level of sophistication emerges.  Or so I was led to believe.

As an adolescent I once decided I would not live past the age of 30.  Now that I am fast approaching 30 I have decided to question such an absolute proclamation.  Is life really that futile?  Or am I just that much of a pessimist?  Nonsense, I see beauty in everything and good in everyone.  Granted, this almost always backfires in epic proportions. 

So why don’t I share my 27 truths of the moment?

1.  I am feeling really knocked the fuck out.
2.  My heart is so full of love.
3.  I am more driven by money than I care to admit.  Because to me, money = airplane travel.  That’s really all I want it for.
4.  I’ve decided to do away with my “absolute-ism” ways.  I always thought it had to do with having principles but actually it was just me being stubborn as fuck.
5.  I genuinely think that all people have good intentions and don’t mean to intentionally hurt others.
6.  I am a moron.
7.  When I got a tooth ache for the first time, I really wondered if it would ever end.  Like what if my condition stayed like this forever and I just had to learn to live with it?  Same with my first real heart break.  I thought it would never end.  Now I know there are solutions to everything, some more internal than others.  I spend every day searching for these solutions.
8.  The problem with me is that everyone is a consolation prize.
9.  I do not meditate nearly as much as I should.  But Buddhist philosophy would dissuade one from thinking in terms of “should” and “should not”.  That being said, I really should meditate more.
10. The day I realized that I am the product, I felt simultaneously empowered and dehumanized.  This might have been yesterday…
11. I think about my closest friends more than I’ll admit.
12. I am nowhere near as angry as I was a year ago.  Or even 6 months ago.  I am beyond thankful for this.
13. I am attempting to engage in the power of positive thinking.  Stop laughing, just bear with me.
14. I often times have to remind myself that I am lot further now in my career than I was a year ago but I tend to feel like I’ve covered no ground.  And I know that’s just not true. 
15. I’m slowly waking up.
16. 16?!  11 more to go?!
17. I can be pretty petty sometimes. 
18. I can also take a lot more than people think.
19. I have invisible conversations.
20. I am drinking way too much Coca Cola these days.
21. I am so scared.
22. I am so curious.
23. I got fired from a job for being too pretty.  It happened.  Thank you for the condolences.   
24. My heart is heavy with longing for so many people scattered around the planet whom I cannot see nearly as much as I’d like to.
25. I wonder what’s going to happen to me.
26. I wonder what’s going to happen to you.

27. Only half this list is true.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Unfinished Entry

Does laziness lead to fear or does fear lead to laziness?  Why does it feel like a circular problem to me?

In looking at my life and career choices, I see a lot of fear and laziness walled up inside my brain.  And I don’t really know where it came from.  When I was younger, I was such a “tough cookie”.  I would never fucking surrender and I fought for everything I accomplished.  Relentless, I suppose.  I just couldn’t give up.  But then at some point I started cutting corners and avoiding pain, physically and otherwise.  And now as an adult, I can see where it seriously affected me.

And I wonder, what the fuck happened?

When did I become so doubtful and afraid?


Sowing the seeds of doubt leads to paranoia and neurosis, both of which I admittedly fall victim to on a near hourly basis (if not more) and knowing this full well you’d think I would have figured out how to work around it by now.  And there are times when I do but mostly, it’s a struggle that I cannot quite keep up with.  Still working on it…..

Friday, July 19, 2013

Loss Prevention

I don’t really know how it happened but I seem to have lost sight of myself.  I’ve begun to identify myself by what I do rather than by who I am or what I have to offer.  As a result, I find that I am quite inconsequential most of the time.  I read someone’s post online that echoed my sentiments exactly—feelings of being overwhelmed, lost, and unsuccessful.

But how did this happen?  I spent many months internally scanning myself, healing myself, and rearranging my thought process in order to function in a better state.  And I really thought I was making progress!  Truth be told, I was.  But now I find myself having taken 4 steps backward in order to take 1 step forward.  I’m a bit disappointed. 


There’s a song that says, “Maybe I need to stop so that tomorrow will begin in a new place.”  I have to reduce myself to a grain of sand, yet again, in order to build back into something substantial.  This might take awhile…

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Generation Overshare

I generally refrain from commenting publicly about eating disorders and self-harming however I’ve noticed an alarming number of young people (mostly young women) posting photos on sites such as Instagram and Tumblr depicting self infliction, extreme weight loss, discontentment with their bodies, and disturbingly graphic drawings of “ideal” women that look nearly skeletal.

Most recently I discovered the account of a young woman I mutually follow on Instagram clearly suffering from an eating disorder and from self-infliction.  I began to notice weeks ago that she frequently posted photos of her abs and bare legs with self deprecating captions and hashtags.  She would write “fat” under a photo exposing her bare abs where she hardly looked fat at all.  In fact I would say she looked even skinnier than average though by no means “stick thin”.  But perhaps that’s what she was working towards?  Other girls commented on her photos saying, “You’re my thinspo” which I later concluded meant “thin inspiration” and it upset me to see them encouraging her already askew self-image.  I decided not to comment on any of her photos because I know that my appearance prevents me from discussing weight and sizes out loud. 

A few days later a young woman publicly asked me my height and weight, describing me as “perfection”.  I replied that I am far from perfect and that I am 5’7” but unaware of my weight.  Realistically, I know the ballpark figure of my weight but I am not consumed by that number nor did I want to share it publicly for fear that other young women might deem it as “aspirational” or whatever.  The fact is I am a very thin person and always have been.  It is in my genetics.  My mother was a very thin girl until she reached her 30s and I have a fast metabolism.  Although I have rather poor eating habits, I exercise frequently and rarely eat desserts (not to deny myself but because I don’t really like sweets).  I don’t do anything out of the ordinary to keep my size but I am aware of my profession and the standards that are set.

Several days ago the same young woman with the self-deprecating abs photos posted a stream of highly disturbing photos.  She had carved the word “FAT” into her very not fat stomach and slashed her forearms numerous times.  Her captions and hashtags clearly showed she was in an intensely volatile state of mind.  I felt tears sliding down my cheeks as I looked at her photos, witnessing someone in such intense pain.  Naturally people commented “please stop” and “you’re not fat!” but others commented with encouragement for her behavior!  I was stupefied.  I explored some of her hashtags such as “depression” and “ana” (meaning anorexic) and was shocked by what I saw.  There were whole communities on Instagram devoted to encouraging suicide, self harm, and eating disorders.  Instead of the obligatory motivational quotes written on cheesy filtered nature photos, I saw depressing and hopeless quotes written on dark and melancholy photos of people crying, rain, dark skies, and cemeteries.  I felt compelled to write this young woman but I didn’t know what I could possibly say to make her feel better.  I also considered the possibility that I might offend her by saying anything at all because I myself am very skinny.  In the end I wrote her, “You are a beautiful person but you have to first believe it.”  Her most recent photos show her knees touching, a perverse endeavor I imagine she undertook by losing more weight.  Again, she received praise for being “thinspo” to other young women and I shook my head in frustration.

When I was a young adult I certainly went through phases of self harm and one minor eating disorder but the difference between now and then is the overwhelming online influence one can find to either destroy or strengthen their suffering.  As a teenager and young 20-something, I felt alone in my pain that I bottled up my feelings without communicating and exploded violently against myself when I couldn’t take it anymore.  I always knew in the back of my mind that what I was doing was harmful but I also felt like I had no choice, that there was no other way.  Teenagers nowadays have the internet at their disposal where they can find support groups and inspiration if they so choose but on the other hand also have access to negative influences where people get together and “show” each other how to best hurt themselves and wallow in their sadness.  I am glad I discovered such groups now in my mid-20s rather than as a teenager because I can see now what emotional force fields these groups are and how they can easily suck a person into even more self pitying and despair!  Had I discovered these things as a teenager, I might have gotten even worse in my ways. 

But where does this leave me now?  I went through years of therapy on 3 different continents, 2 anti-depressant medications, several overdoses, a case of extreme calorie counting, 1 hospital stay in a foreign land, endless tears, loss of friends, and 1 forced intermission from school.  I had one relapse but have since done the work needed on myself to truly understand that self harm - whether through an eating disorder, wrist cutting, pill consumption, or just a very negative attitude – would never get me any closer to peace of mind or fulfillment.  I realized these tactics were mere distractions from dealing with my problems head on in a compassionate, yet deliberate way.  I wish I could have conveyed these words to this young woman (who cannot be older than 20) but again, I worry that my appearance would deem my words artificial or worse, glib.

My sister pointed out to me that I am in a unique position where I can encourage young woman who might be following my model career on Instagram or Facebook to see the beauty in themselves and realize that whatever suffering they are experiencing now in their adolescence will change as they grow older.  But I’m afraid I do not have the answers.  I don’t know what to tell these girls.  Sometimes when I am suffering I even wonder to myself if it will ever end.  Deep inside I know that life is constantly changing and that we must experience all these emotions as they come, and allow them to leave when they do, but I am also guilty of holding onto negative scenarios that do not serve me; another form of self-harm, post-adolescence. 


I posted a photo of myself at age 14 on Instagram next to a photo of me now.  The 14 year old me was an awkward, nerdy, bespectacled child wearing a goofy grin and shapeless clothing.  I probably received more positive feedback for that photo than any of my professional modeling photos.  I wanted to share that I am human, too, that I also went through an extremely awkward phase in my youth, and was definitely not the beautiful girl in class.  And I also admit that I have days where I feel unattractive and awkward and to compensate, I might post a rather edgy photo of myself in an attempt to prove something to my inner-self.  Because again, I am human, too.  And sometimes I hate the fact that I might be encouraging eating disorders because of my size or encouraging negative self-image among young woman because of the industry I work in, which we all know sure as hell does very little good for societal expectations and image.  I do what I do because I love it, because I have fought for it just as I have fought to be in the mental state I am in now, a place where I see things more balanced and rationally; where I finally feel compassion for myself and my place in the world; and where I can finally realize that no matter how terrible one of my days can be, there will always be the next day to make it better.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

First World Problems


Sometimes I deal with the rudest, most egotistical people on earth in my day-to-day professional life.  It makes perfect sense seeing as I’m a model and aspiring actress and constantly deal with an assortment of odd characters ranging from photographers to casting directors to agents to models and directors.  Most people are decent enough but for every seemingly “normal” person I come across, 3 crazed individuals cross my path.

Case in point number 1:

A headshot photographer contacted me about shooting with him for free so he can build his portfolio.  I was already hesitant as shooting headshots do not benefit my portfolio one bit but I decided to check out his work anyways.  What I found was a web site full of poorly edited photos of amateur models wearing bad makeup.  I didn’t really understand why he thought I would work with him for free so I wrote him a polite email expressing that I would not be able to work with him.  He responded “k let me know if things change.”  K?  What am I dealing with a 17 year old here?  Obviously I did not respond further but an appropriate response might have gone something like “By ‘things change’ you must be referring to your photography skills, in which case I will certainly let you know when they are at a level where I would consider shooting with you for free.”  But that would make me a bitch…

Case in point number 2:

A photographer wrote me a detailed and enthusiastic message full of typos and bad grammar.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he might have been typing on a smart phone, but as I kept reading I swear I could hear the hoodrat seeping out.  His message was full of “like”s and “sumthin”s with an overall trashy theme where I’d be wearing “like sumthin sexy” or “see thru” and other skankified hoochiness.  I was definitely amused and HAD to look at his portfolio.  What I found was an album full of god-awful photos of god-awful models.  Logic told me to just ignore his message altogether but I felt given his enthusiastic message that I should at least respond.  So I sent him a polite email expressing, yet again, that I would not be able to work with him.  His response?  “kLATES”.  Again with the K’s!  And the “LATES”?  It sort of felt a bit “talk to the hand”-ish which made me all the more amused.  His message basically reminded me of those douchebag guys who upon being rejected by me retort, “That’s okay, you look like a man anyways.”  Well if I look like a man and you’re hitting on me that makes you kind of gay.   I get it though, I bruised his fragile ego and for that, I deserved to be dismissed.

Case in point number 3:

I received a cryptic message from a photographer that read, “Dark……edgy……artistic…….soul……interested?  Available?  Serious responses only”.  I mean REALLY?!  You want a serious response from me yet what I get from you are a series of adjectives separated by several dots?  His portfolio included portraits of several A-list actors whom I admire very much and naturally, they looked amazing.  I then searched for his work with “normal” people and found it to be an utter disappointment.  He had no concept of lighting, editing, framing, or styling.  Everything was in black and white, and while that should have made everything better, it just looked terribly weak and amateur.  But I couldn’t help but feel seduced by those four images of the A-list actors in all their dramatic glory.  Then I realized that it wasn’t his skills as a photographer that made those photos great, it was the actors themselves and the fact that they don’t take bad pictures!  But his regular portfolio work lacked any emotion or skill.  I didn’t want to write him back for fear of receiving another dismissive message so I remained quiet.  He wrote again asking if I was still interested so I politely declined but complimented his photo of one particular beautiful actress whose work I really admire.  I did not hear from him again and breathed a sigh of relief.

Now not every rude character I meet is connected to the entertainment industry.  I also have to deal with the crazies in my “real life”. 

Case in point number 4:

Like most models and actors, I need to supplement my income with non-artistic work.  In addition to commercial and print modeling professionally, I teach children’s dance classes.  But I’m always looking for other jobs that might be of interest.  My sister connected me with a restaurant owner to inquire about working as a hostess in his upscale Asian cuisine restaurant.  I felt like this was something I could handle with the hours I mainly need:  evenings and weekends.  The restaurant owner texted me to meet him and his business partner at an upscale restaurant one evening to discuss details; what I thought was going to be a casual job interview turned into an exercise of defending my own integrity against a drunken fool. 

I arrived to the restaurant at the time he told me to and was immediately received by two drunken older men looking me up and down passing winks back and forth.  I wasn’t terribly surprised and kept a polite smile on my face while trying to introduce myself and my work background.  Upon learning that I’m also a model and actor, he was quite dismissive and disrespectful towards me whilst simultaneously trying to impress me with his wealth and connections.  At some point it became clear that he wasn’t going to hire me to work in his restaurant but kept name dropping other upscale LA restaurants whose owners he knows and could connect me with.  Except that my life’s goal is not to work in a restaurant and I definitely do not appreciate getting pimped out to various restaurant owners.  I do not need that perception.  And frankly, I get enough of that as a model and actress that I don’t really want to deal with it for work that doesn’t interest me nor is worth my time.  He told me about a super exclusive Italian restaurant in West LA that I’d be “perfect” for because a lot of big actors and directors go there and pick up on female staff.  Really?  According to him, the only way I can hope to advance my career is to work in a fancy restaurant and become the concubine to some rich, old guy full of big promises.  Please.  I wasn’t born yesterday.  What he also didn’t know is that I’ve been told by several directors, agents, and photographers that working in a restaurant full of big industry types isn’t necessarily the best way to advance one’s career (if you’re a woman) in the entertainment industry.  Sure, you might get to fuck some big name producer but chances are you won’t get much further and you’ll always be seen as their “waitress”.  The same people also told me that men working in restaurants have better luck.  Whether this is all true or not is yet to be seen, but I’ll take the words of people who’ve been around for a while over those of a drunken buffoon looking at me like nothing more than a conquest to be had.  After an hour of uncomfortable rambling, I excused myself from the restaurant but was suddenly introduced to one more “well connected” woman in LA.  She introduced me to several “important” people and encouraged me to stay and talk with them because they own restaurants and might be able to help me with work.  Fuck that.  I left.

Much later that night-after midnight in fact- I received a drunken text message from the older restaurant owner apologizing for his “less than stellar” behavior.  He blamed it on a stressful day but expressed that he wants to help “such a beauty” in any way he can and to his fullest abilities.  I didn’t dignify him with a response but felt somewhat relieved that I at least made it clear that I was not impressed by him.

I’d really just like to get to a place where I don’t have to deal with this bullshit on a daily basis but at the end of the day (or week), I just have a hearty laugh.  And then write a blog about it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

*sigh*

Some days I go about thinking, "Today is going to be the best day of my life!"

But then the day goes on and reality sets in that I fucking hate everything and want to die.

The End.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Work


I woke up yesterday feeling incredibly sensitive and vulnerable.  I had had a bad dream of a recurring theme and awoke to the foreboding feeling that the day was going to feel very morose. 

Then later in the day I got a call from my agent that I booked a Scion car commercial that I initially auditioned for the previous week.  I was in shock and elated.  I truly thought I wouldn’t book the job because I missed the callback audition due to another commercial shoot.  But my agent was able to spin it in a good way and got me booked regardless.  I felt so grateful to have had an agent to sell me like that and to have booked something so cool from only one audition when everyone else had to go through two.  I felt a sense of accomplishment and rather content.

And today after a successful and fun photo shoot, I got a call from my agent telling me I booked yet another job, this time a commercial for Acer featuring the techno giant Tiesto.  I was even more shocked because I really wasn’t expecting this.  I thought that booking 2 commercials in the last 2 weeks was fortune enough.  I couldn’t have asked for more.

Last week I auditioned for a top-secret commercial project where I was asked to dance.  I booked that job as well and shot it this past weekend.  It was a long and challenging shoot but worth every minute as it featured some incredibly brilliant artists who have the ability to get the world standing on its feet whenever they perform.  So I’m pretty proud to have been involved in their world for 2 days.

I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful right now, totally aware of what a blessing these past 2 weeks have been for me.  I know that as a model and actor, it is hard to know when my next job will be and what kind of paycheck I can hope to receive.  Booking 3 major commercials in 2 weeks could be it for me this year- an early peek- or it could be the beginning of many more.  I have no idea.  It scares me immensely to be quite honest. 

I keep waiting to feel some sort of fulfillment in this accomplishment.  I’ve been doing lots of personal work on myself to build myself into a stronger, healthier, and more positive thinking person.  Sometimes I succeed and feel rather okay with my life.  Other times I fall flat on my face and struggle with basic functioning.  It is a process, a very difficult and tedious process that I don’t always want to go through.  I feel myself slowly recovering from a great deal of hurt and rejection that it’s somewhat ironic that I chose the path I have- to be a model and an actor in Los Angeles- two very unforgiving jobs filled to the brim with rejection, scrutiny and competition.  But I try to remain confident and focused on myself and what I have to offer and learn.  Again, it’s a struggle each and every day.

I know now that personal fulfillment cannot be found through work, money, or a relationship; that is has to be found from within.  I’m truly searching for my own meaning on this journey.  

I win some and lose some.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Boom

I keep getting this feeling that my days are coming to an end.  Maybe I watch the news too much.  But with this onslaught of gun violence, I honestly worry that I'm going to be gunned down in a public place, in a totally non-personal incident.  Just a tragic deer caught in headlights.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1...2...3...

My three truths that plague me right now:

1.  My problem is that everything and everyone is a consolation prize to me.  And that's fucked up.

2.  I don't know anything at all really.  And I need to stop pretending I know everything.

3.  Most of my actions are controlled by my pride and ego.  It needs to stop.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pease Take Ma Pikcha


Part I

Always test up.  Or at least get paid.

A great photographer I worked with shared these words as we finished our session for the day.  This was nearly a year ago and he was curious about my career so far, like what kind of photographers I was dealing with, who was contacting me, who I was contacting, etc.  I was overall pleased with the quality of photographers I'd been working with so far but was still being approached by bad photographers wanting to shoot me for free or downright refusing to pay my (already) low rate.

He responded, “No matter how much money they offer you, you do not want a bad photo out there.”  He explained the concept of being “penny wise dollar stupid” and that if a mediocre photographer doesn’t want to pay me to shoot, it’s his problem not mine and that if I shoot with a bad photographer for free, not only do I waste my time and gas, I don’t get any useable photos for my portfolio.  And what does the photographer gain?  A strong model in his portfolio that he didn’t have to pay for.  In other words, always test up.  Or ask for money.

I am reminded of these words on a daily basis when I’m searching for photographers to shoot with.  When looking to test—or shoot TF (trade-for)—I sometimes start by looking at the portfolios of models I really admire and see who shoots them.  Then I look at their photographers’ portfolios to see if I’d be a good fit for their style, what they could add to my book, what I could add to theirs, how they photograph women, their use of lighting, the types of models they shoot, etc, etc, etc and it helps inform my decision to either contact them, move on, or write their name on a wish list of future photographers I want to work with.

Photographers often contact me asking to shoot and most of the time will ask to shoot TF up front.  I check out their portfolios to see if it’ll be worth my time and effort to shoot for free.  A few things I keep in mind:  I should always be shooting, always honing my skills; I should keep my portfolio fresh and updated as much as possible; I should constantly network and build bridges in the industry by shooting with as many photographers as I can.  So I take a look and see what I could gain from them….some are amazing but most are weak. 

How do I decide that I do not want to shoot with a photographer, or at least not for free?  The very first thing I do is compare their work with the work of photographers I have already shot with.  If they are not equal or better, I ask for money.  A lot of times they’ll explain they cannot afford to pay models or that they’re just starting out and building their portfolio.  If they cannot pay me but have a decent body of work I might negotiate gas compensation, food, and total choice of photo selection.  If they’re just starting out but simply do not want to pay me, I politely wish them well and move on.  I figure they can shoot a model that is also just starting out as its not really worth my time anymore.

I was once contacted by a photography student who wanted to shoot and couldn’t pay but offered to make it up to me once he became rich and famous.  I thought it was a cute and confident tactic, so I checked out his work.  He was terrible.  Months later he wrote again that he still wanted to shoot and invited me to check out his progress.  I took a look and saw that he just shoots nude and semi-nude mediocre looking girls in slutty outfits.  Sure, one can become rich and famous shooting this kind of stuff but this kid couldn’t even properly light or edit his images and managed to find the worst models to pose for him.  I stopped responding to him.

Another answer I might receive from photographers is that they refuse to pay altogether; that they “never have, never will”.  To which I say: you get what you pay for.   My feeling is some photographers are good enough to say that.  Their work is compensation enough to attract a high standard of talent.  MOST photographers however should really change their attitudes as they tend to shoot a very low standard of models which keeps them at the level they’re in—amateur.  I learned the hard way that when a photographer blatantly refuses to pay models and his portfolio clearly shows it, the worst thing I can do is try to negotiate.  A photographer of sub-amateur talent once contacted me to shoot TF and I asked for money but he was of the “never have, never will” ilk.  A day later he wrote back curious about my rate, should he decide to change his mind.  I offered my rate and he asked what I would do for that amount.  I didn’t quite understand.  He explained that he shoots various styles such as beauty, fashion, glamour, nude, erotic, etc. and of these categories, what would I do if he paid me.  At that moment I should have ceased all contact with him for simply being a disrespectful creep.  But I was na├»ve and answered I would shoot beauty and fashion.  He responded, “No thanks, I’ll pass” as if I were offering lemonade.   I was quite offended by his rudeness and overall lack of respect that I wrote him, “Your ego far exceeds your ability, you no-talent hack.  Good luck, keep practicing.”  Not my finest moment for sure but I think he needed a good kick to the crotch.  Lessons learned:  If a subpar photographer is so adamant against paying, simply move on.  And if someone asks my rate “out of curiosity”, don’t tell them because they’re not going to hire me anyways so why give them a free point of reference to use against me like a common whore negotiating her services, like “Hmm I wonder what $10 will buy me from this one?”  It’s creepy, it’s disrespectful, and it’s cheap. 

Most recently a model who practices photography as a hobby (a hobby!) contacted me to shoot TF.  I don’t know her personally and wasn’t convinced by her photography portfolio so I offered to shoot for a small fee.  I figured that as a model she could appreciate and understand my need to earn money for my work.  She wrote back that as a model I should keep practicing with great photographers who can add great images to my portfolio and possibly be published in magazines!  She's absolutely correct, and luckily I do work with great photographers.  Problem is, she is not a great photographer who cannot produce great images that will certainly not be in magazines!  I was slightly taken aback, even amused.  I left it at that.

Occasionally some photographers acknowledge I’ve worked with highly experienced and published photographers and agree to pay me since they know I will bring experience and talent that another model willing to work for free might not have yet.  Or they know their skill is not at the level where I would use their photos in my portfolio.  Or perhaps they want complete artistic control of their shoot and don’t want to deal with “getting” specific shots to please my portfolio so they pay me to show up and fulfill their artistic vision.  If only more photographers could have the self-awareness to compensate models fairly for their appropriate skill level, things would be so much better.

Part II

Getting the Goods.

Now most of what you see in my portfolio has been acquired through testing, or TF shoots.  Meaning I didn’t pay the photographer to shoot and they didn’t pay me to pose.  It was done to build both our portfolios through mutual respect and appreciation for the other’s talent and time.  It’s an incredible way to network and practice. Of course once the shoot is over is where new problems can arise—photo selection and delivery!  In Belgium, most photographers sent me loads of photos within days of our shoot and most let me select my favorites from the raw files and edited them accordingly.  One photographer was even kind enough to give me high quality printed copies of the pictures at no cost!  This was in addition to the edited, high-res photos he was obliged to deliver electronically.  But one photographer in Brussels sent me one low-resolution image weeks after our shoot after we had shot 3 looks.  I emailed him several times asking for more images but received no answer.  Months later I returned to LA and still hadn’t heard from him so I finally wrote a terse email demanding additional high-res photos.  He eventually responded that he was unhappy with my email as he had other business to tend to (which he never bothered to tell me months ago when I first inquired) and sent me one single image of my lips.  Not my face, just my lips.  Grrrrreeeat

Asshole. 


Part III

Take Off Your Clothes.

Like most models, I began with a profile on Model Mayhem.  I still use it to this day, but I’m very discerning when I do.  Model Mayhem is a social networking site for models, photographers, makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, and designers to connect, communicate, and collaborate.  The problem is pretty much anybody can open a Model Mayhem account.  For every talented photographer on that web site, there are at least 20 “guys with cameras” (GWCs) who have no artistic vision, skill, or talent and most likely got into photography to see naked girls.  On the model side of things, most are simply baffling.  More often than not they are located in small, obscure towns where there is no legitimate modeling work or talent agencies to sign with.  These girls are in poor physical shape and look bad but charge extortionate rates for their work.  And why?  Because they get naked!  So many girls (and guys) on that web site earn money by posing nude.  And what’s wrong with that?  Nothing I suppose, but I don’t want you to think that they’re posing in some Herb Ritts-esque shoot with amazing natural lighting and scenic backgrounds taken by a superb photographer with extraordinary skills.  No.  They’re posing ass-naked, bent over in their backyard or bedroom in a photo that looks like it was taken with a cell phone.  And they have the audacity to demand $75 an hour for their time!  Amazingly they find photographers who will pay them.  Granted, the photographers are usually similar-minded in their vision with portfolios filled with images of what they think are “erotic nudes” or “artistic nudes” that are really just cheap pictures of ugly people stimulating sexual positions in very un-erotic and un-artistic ways.  My nose crinkles at the sight of them.  Occasionally I find myself lurking in the underbelly of Model Mayhem when I see a casting call from a photographer seeking a model to pose for 1 or 2 hours whom he’s willing to pay $200.  I’m immediately interested when I see that number but also suspicious when his avatar depicts an overly retouched, above-average sized woman in skimpy lingerie.  I visit his portfolio and realize that indeed, $200 for 2 hours is not worth it. 

But you’ve posed semi-nude, Courtney!  Hypocrite!  Your boobs are somewhere on the internet for all to see!  Yes, it’s true.  I have posed semi-nude and the images are on the internet.  But I don’t mind because I took these pictures with amazing photographers I trusted and who really know how to photograph women.  I was never made to do anything I was uncomfortable with and knew I would be captured in an appealing light.  The few times I shot semi-nude, I knew the photographer wasn’t simply trying to take a picture of my boobies.  It was about the whole picture, the composition, the tone, the story and drama behind the image.  And when I finally saw the finished results I was amazed.  It wasn’t trashy or embarrassing in any way.  I looked beautiful and I was proud of them.  Not to mention I can look back on them when I’m an old lady and think, “Hey, I used to look like that!” 

The problem with having a few semi-nude photos in my portfolio though is it invites proposals from inferior photographers looking to shoot me naked as well.  When I politely decline their offers (as NO amount of money can get me to pose nude for a creepy GWC) they respond, “But I see you’ve shot nude before!”  Indeed I have.  But just because I have shot semi-nude before doesn’t mean I will shoot semi-nude with you. 

Part IV

Teensy Touchy.

On a similar note to creepy GWCs who want to get as many naked girls in front of the camera as possible, there are also GWCs and photographers who get a little too touchy feely or verbally inappropriate when shooting.  Unfortunately I’ve also experienced this side of things.  Here is where I imagine the eye rolling begins.  Whenever I tell people that I often shoot alone with male photographers in their studios or homes or on location, I’m asked if that’s even safe.  In reality, it probably isn’t.  Fortunately no one has ever assaulted or harmed me but I’ve certainly had my share of other harassment and I’m pretty sure every model has dealt with this as well.  In Belgium I shot with an elderly GWC, a retired police officer (!) who took up photography as a hobby in retirement.  Our makeup artist, whom I originally corresponded with, recommended him.  Upon meeting him I had no reason to feel uncomfortable.  After all, the female makeup artist had worked with him before and he was a kindly, old former police officer.  It wasn’t until we got into the car that I began to feel strange.  I sat in the passenger seat and he kept putting his hand on my lap as he spoke.  He also complained he couldn’t hear well so he had to learn in very close to my face whenever I spoke.  Once in the studio he kept leading around the space with his arm around me.  While taking pictures, he physically posed me.  This is actually one of the most annoying things a photographer can do if they don’t ask your permission first.  However it is also common for a photographer to occasionally poke you to get you in the right light, but usually no more than a quick adjustment.  This guy however put his whole hands on my bare shoulders, palms down grabbing me and moving me around continuously.  If that had happened today I would have ended the shoot right then and there and left.  But back then I wasn’t fully aware that he was out of line and taking advantage of his kindly old appearance to get touchy-feely with girls. 

In LA I dealt with several male photographers do the same thing under the guise of “making adjustments” when they were actually using it as an excuse to let their hands linger over my bare skin, be it my shoulders, arms, legs, or face.  Even without touching, photographers can cross the line by making inappropriate comments or asking inappropriate questions.  Maybe they feel that in the moment of artistic creation it’s okay to be open and honest about these things, but actually, it’s not.  I don’t appreciate being asked about my sexual preferences or about my anatomy.  I don’t like being told—while posing—that I’m the object of the photographer’s sexual desire.  Being told I’m beautiful or sexy is one thing, but being objectified and propositioned is another.  Unfortunately these things come with the territory.

Part V

The Beautiful.

Of course modeling is not all horror stories and unsavory characters—though that is a huge part of it.  I’ve also had the fortune to meet some incredible photographers and makeup artists shooting TF whom I trust and adore dearly and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others.  I’ve shot with several photographers more than once which is great because it allows us to grow together.  I’ve shot with highly successful and internationally published photographers who have taught me so much from their experience in the industry.  I’ve shot with student and amateur photographers who have so much passion in their art purely because they do it out of enjoyment, not as a profession, and their enthusiasm shows in their openness and endless imagination.  In shooting TF I’ve also found other opportunities: One shoot led me to getting signed with an agency. 

I might not have earned a single dollar, but I got great pictures, new connections, more experience, tougher skin, and better negotiation skills—all of which will serve me well in the coming days, months, and years of my career.

My dear beloved photographers, you know who you are ;)
To the others, please stay away from me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ignore


I’ve had many moments like this and today isn’t any different, but sometimes I feel really discouraged and disappointed when I have to interact with people in this industry who work behind the scenes.  While most are professional and courteous, there’s an alarming number who behave completely unprofessionally and just downright mean.  I wish I could bypass contact with them altogether but it’s really impossible since these are the majority of people I come across on a near daily basis. 

I understand people don’t like to be walked all over and constantly deal with temperamental actors/models/dancers aka “the talent” with sometimes stupid and/or mundane questions, but I don’t think myself stupid and I really hate when people talk to me as if I were.  I also try to remain professional and friendly but find my behavior met with brusqueness and sometimes blatant disrespect.  It’s draining!

So what’s the solution?  I cannot expect anyone to change and lord knows they won’t.  We all go through this and know when to speak up but also went to step down.  I don’t really know.  I tend to bark when provoked but I know I have to rethink this strategy.  Maybe kill them with kindness?  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Starry Night


There’s a redundant theme in my life, one that has been developing since I was 16 years old perhaps—that’s almost half my lifetime—quite a long time when I think about it.  And I often wonder until what point will I have reached my ultimate stand-still?

I never quite felt right in my own skin but I used to fall back on the crutch of adolescent angst and awkwardness.  I didn’t have good friends with whom I could confide and I often resorted to foolish acts of self infliction.  Again, adolescent angst and awkwardness were my scapegoat. 

Until I hit my 20s and realized, this just isn’t going away.

In and out of therapy between the ages 10 and 25, on and off various medications, various clinical diagnoses, and a few exhausting missteps, I find myself at 26 years old feeling incredibly drained.

It takes an extraordinary amount of strength and fortitude to build oneself into a contributing member of society and even more talent and skill to become a successful contributing member of society.  I’ve often been described as one with strength and fortitude, but these days I’m beginning to wonder why the hell these characteristics are eluding me?  Why do I constantly feel that positive thinking is just beyond my grasp; that someone like me can never hope to attain a clear mind?  Maybe I’m just too sensitive for my own good.  I’ve often been called sensitive, sometimes in a good way and other times as an insult. 

Joining the ranks of humanity with several cases of immense heart break I often felt—like millions of others—that I could never survive or dig my way out.  And I know it’s simply not true but yet I do not really believe it either.  Now I’m given the opportunity to work on myself, to fix the relationship with me, to learn to feel okay with who I am and what I have to offer this godforsaken earth.  Except that I don’t really know how to.  Sometimes I feel like the world is so full of exciting possibilities waiting to be discovered or I break into joyous laughter from hearing an amazing song on the radio.  I relish these moments because I know them to be extremely short-lived.  Like the first 5 minutes of waking from a dream, I know these feelings will deceptively flicker away to a faraway place and all I’ll be left with is the memory of something warm and happy…and false.  For the rest of my conscious being is spent in misunderstanding and extreme sensitivity to just about everything and everyone.  It’s crippling.  I don’t want to move, feel, or see anything anymore.  I just want to bury myself under the cover of darkness and wish it all away.

Except that life does not work that way.  I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs and I have no way to dull my senses.  I simply feel everything and overanalyze all the possibilities and feel utterly powerless.  I create stories in my head that often times drive me to insanity and obsession and I spin out of control.  I’ve grown to distrust all the people around me, perhaps to the point of paranoia and I’ve lost sight of the line between reality and my imagination.  I don’t know how to think reasonably anymore and I often cannot see things for what they really are.

I really don’t know how much more I can handle.  My mind is stuck in neutral and when I try to switch to first gear, the engine stalls going uphill.  I often think there’s really only one choice left given the overall disdain I feel towards myself, but I don’t want to give in so easily.  But I also absolutely hate waking up each day.  It’s a dilemma- a dialogue in my head each morning (or afternoon) - that I feel on a constant basis and I’m just so tired of it.

It takes me a really long time to get over things and honestly, I’m still not quite over lots of things years past.  So how the hell am I supposed to get over occurrences of more recent days? 

I feel a lack of drive and inertia.  I feel paralyzed.  I feel like a prisoner of my own brain.  And I’m telling myself that I need to do something before I end my story while it’s still being written.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sidewalk


My chest contains an empty hole like a vast desert devoid of life.  I gave myself wholeheartedly to another and am now in the slow process of taking it back, little by little.  I need to pick it up, clean it off, put it back together, fit it inside me and nurture it back to health.  Before I can even think of sharing it once more, I have to do these things first.  It’s a painful and tedious process.  

Bits of my heart are still stuck under her shoe…