Living in LA is weird sometimes. OK, all the time. One minute, I’m minding my own business, eating kale and looking at babes or whatever and the next, I’m being fat-shamed by a wardrobe assistant on the set of a Dove commercial that I somehow ended up getting cast in.
I’d been curious about what exactly went on at these auditions that my entertainer friends are always running off to, even though I have no aspirations to model or act myself. I’m more the “borderline agoraphobic writer” type and actually, really kind of hate having my picture taken. Thing is, I have this little obsession with constantly trying new things – the more uncomfortable, the better. So, last year, when a friend that works in casting sent out an email inviting women to audition for the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, I was 100 percent in.
My expectation was to get an inside peek at the process of auditioning for something but, after the first appointment and a subsequent callback, I received the news that I’d actually been selected. Really?! MEEEE? The sheer ecstasy that this elicited took me by surprise – they picked ME! They like ME! They think I’M pretty! Who knew how good this would feel?
When I arrived to the commercial shoot, the initial atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. The Dove people were all incredibly nice – except for the one aforementioned wardrobe lady. She looked my (for the record, size 8 at the time) body over, said “Hmmm…what the heck am I gonna do with you?” before putting me in a giant knee-length T-shirt. She spent a few more moments studying my apparently perplexing backside and, with the confidence of a true pro, declared , “I think I can do better than that,” eventually managing to scrounge up a dress capable of containing my (problematic?) frame, with the help of some Spanx. Once everything was securely strapped down, I entered a huge room where the “Real Beauties” were being photographed and filmed. There were about 25 of us; an aesthetically diverse group much like the ones you’ve seen in other Dove ads or basically anytime you walk down the street in most major cities.
I watched with growing horror as each of the other Real women transformed into supermodels once the cameras were turned in their direction. Was there like, a posing class that I missed the memo on? Silently, I gave myself a little pep talk:
“This is just for fun. It’s no big deal. This is just for fun. They’ll pay you no matter how bad you are. This is just for fun.”
Finally, it was my turn. With an entire roomful of eyes turned in my direction, the photographer approached, doing a sort of groovy dance and issuing only one instruction: “Just move your body” so I began to sway back and forth awkwardly. I had seen some of the other ladies really getting into it, dancing and preening but at this point my primary objectives were to not poop my Spanx, pass out or start crying. I found myself unable to make my mouth work into anything resembling an authentic smile. It went on for hours (about 10 min). Finally, a director type with kind eyes led me out of the spotlight with the merciful assurance that “You looked great” even though we both knew that was a boldfaced lie.
I collected my Dove gift bag and slunk back into sweet, sweet anonymity out on the Hollywood street. I felt pretty terrible for a few hours until it all hit me: So what if I was less than great at something I never aspired to do? At least I gave it a go! I don’t care if I’m photogenic or that some bitch wielding a steam iron doesn’t understand the glory of all this ass!
A few weeks later, my photo appeared on a billboard in Times Square. My family and friends were more proud of that than of any of my other accomplishments such as, oh I don’t know, winning scholarships, graduating at the top of my university class, publishing stuff that I wrote, saving someone’s life … (OK, I made that last one up.)
A few weeks after that, the actual commercial came on during “Real Housewives.” I wasn’t in it. Not even a few seconds of usable footage could be found within those infinite 10 minutes I spent in front of the camera.
And that’s just fine with me.
Malina Bickford is a writer in Los Angeles. Hit her up at www.weepinggraduate.com.
[Image of a model via Shutterstock]