I used to be a contributing editor for a regional lifestyle magazine. I pitched stories on everything from the newest makeup trends to the most relaxing spa treatments. Because the city where I currently live (versus my new home in two weeks – Los Angeles) is small and doesn’t have a fashion scene or pro models, I’d use local women for photo shoots.
I enjoyed taking kindergarten teachers, lawyers and stay-at-home moms and transforming them into cover models for a day. The women also had a blast learning something new. Modeling is a real job that requires understanding of facial angles, body gestures, etc. It’s like acting without lines.
This art form had to be taught in one afternoon if we were going to get our shot. Some days we were successful. Others, not so much. But it was always fun. As a result of this part of my job, I was always on the lookout for pretty women who I thought would be photogenic.
One afternoon while picking up my dry cleaning I saw a young woman who caught my eye. She was 5’10 or so with black hair. Her face had amazing angles and her blue/gray eyes could stop traffic. I ran out of the dry cleaners and raced down the strip mall to talk to her.
In a city like NY (my former home) it’s completely common for women to be approached on the streets about modeling. I helped out an agent in NYC for one day by working as a scout for an Anne Taylor ad. I stopped about 20 women all over the streets of NYC to talk with them about this upcoming ad. Most of the women were already models (Anne Taylor wanted to use “real women” in this particular campaign).
I was hard pressed to find a beautiful woman in NYC who wasn’t already signed with an agent. But not a single woman found it odd that I was talking to her about this as she tried to eat a veggie hoagie at the local deli.
However in Central Pennsylvania, where I currently live, women are a taken aback when I try to talk to them about modeling. They usually think it’s some sort of prank. And some right out say they aren’t at all interested, which is fine.
The day I raced down the pavement of the strip mall I really hoped this girl would take me seriously. I caught up to her and her two friends. “Hi, I saw you pass the window of the dry cleaners and I had to talk to you for a moment.” She smiled cautiously. She looked about 18 or 19. “Okay…”
I told her about my position at the magazine and an upcoming mother/daughter story I was doing for Mother’s Day. I explained that I really liked her look and would love to put her in the magazine, along with her mom if they were both willing. Of course, I had no idea what her mother looked like, but I was fine with that. The girl, her name was Ivy, asked for my business card and said she’d talk with her mother about it. Cool.
As we exchanged information, Ivy’s two friends, both petite blonds were obviously in shock. They stared from Ivy to me and back again several times. They didn’t get it. I could see it all over their faces. There must be some sort of mistake.
In this particular geographic location they’d been told they were the pretty ones, with their flaxen hair, perky noses and green eyes. They looked like cheerleaders in a teen movie. They bored me. Although they were cute girls, I’m more interested in the beauty that doesn’t always get the attention it should. I like offbeat, quirky faces. Strong jaw lines, interesting hair textures, something international in its appeal.
I’d often go to ethnic neighborhoods and just sit and wait for a pretty girl to walk by so I could ask her to model for the magazine. I got to know families in Korean and Indian neighborhoods who’d never picked up the regional magazine because before I worked there, most of the pages were covered with the cheerleader type.
A black woman in our town who I did a story on told me she’d never purchased the magazine because, “I don’t see me represented.” I wanted to change that.
Ivy’s friends were visually annoyed as I waved goodbye, promising Ivy I’d call her in a few days for her answer.
Two weeks later Ivy showed up at our studio with her mom. I did their makeup and helped choose their clothes. The shoot went really well and their back story was awesome. They were the perfect duo for our Mother’s Day story. I’m so glad I ran out of the dry cleaners that day.