My New Calling in Life
23 Sep 2002
On Saturday I had the best tan of my life. For a very short time. And only on my face.
Yes, it finally happened… I tried my hand at modeling. Many foreigners that stay in China are approached by agents at one time or another. I have been approached 3 or 4 times in the two years I’ve been living in Hangzhou, and they always seem very enthusiastic and promise great pay, but then they never call me for a job. It’s annoying and it wastes my time. The one time I really had an opportunity for a job, it was to be an underwear model for the pics on the packages. Thanks, but uhhh… no.
So recently the guy who wanted me to do the underwear shoot called me again and said he had a non-underwear job for me. Same pay as before — one day (8 hours) of shooting, 2000rmb (US$250). Not bad for a day’s “work.” And the clothes were just men’s casual wear. No underwear, nothing skimpy. In fact, a lot of them were coats. So I said OK, all the while half expecting it never to actually happen.
But it did happen. Both the time involved and the pay was exactly as agreed upon. So let me get to the interesting tidbits.
First, they didn’t call me until like 10pm the night before with all the details! This kind of made me nervous. Then when they called, they wanted me to bring a pair of jeans, a dark-colored turtleneck, a pair of dark-colored slacks, and a pair of black leather shoes. Hey, I thought they were supposed to supply the clothes! They also wanted me to meet them downtown at 7:20am! (groan…) I didn’t have black leather shoes, so I just took my dark brown Skechers. They’re almost nice-looking, and they’re leather at least. I ended up wearing my turtleneck for almost half of the shots!
Speaking of which, the supposed fashion sense of these people in charge of the shoot was very questionable. I mean, I’m no fashion guy. I don’t read GQ and I don’t wear Structure. I like to keep the complexity of my clothing coordination down to jeans and a T-shirt, if possible. And yet, I sensed something was very wrong with some of the outfits I was putting on. Colors and style just not matching. Nothing glaringly clashing, but just because all the colors are dark doesn’t mean they necessarily go, right? And they almost had me wearing a Hawaiin-type summer shirt with a heavy jacket over it. Weird.
A lot of the clothes didn’t even fit me. Some of the jackets would have been way too tight across my chest if I had zipped them up, and the sleeves were too short on quite a few. They shot them anyway. The jacket with the shortest sleeves was pretty much unusable because it was so obvious that it was too small for me, but then I hit on a good idea. If I hiked up one sleeve high enough, I could pull down the sleeve on the other side, and then just pose so as to hide the hiked up sleeve. It worked. They shot it.
So the actual modeling was kind of annoying, but not too bad. The time actually went by pretty fast. I just got really tired of untying and retying my shoes. I learned a lot of new Chinese verbs that I would otherwise have no need for: tilt your head back, swivel your shoulders, spread out your fingers, etc.
In the very beginning, they weren’t real happy with my expression. They kept telling me to relax. I was relaxed! I realized that the problem was that when my face relaxes, I look a little pissed off. So I figured out that “relaxed” requires a hint of a smile. They also liked to shoot me with my mouth agape, for some reason. I was hesitant to do it at first, since I used to be always told to keep my mouth shut when I wasn’t using it. Memories of my grandmother asking me, “whatcha doin’, catching flies?” came back to me. But after a little while I got a feel for what they liked, figured out how to do the “intense model gaze” (or my version at least)…
The place wasn’t overrun with hot model babes, in case you’re wondering. It was just me all morning, and then a girl from the Ukraine came in from Shanghai for the afternoon. When I started talking to her, I soon realized her Chinese was better than her English. That was kind of interesting.
The photo studio was located in an unlikely run-down-looking residential area, on the third floor of a warehouse-type building. It looked plenty professional (though small-scale) on the inside, though. You’d never guess.
So I’m looking forward to a good laugh when the catalog comes out. My family is gonna love it. Wilson tells me I should put a copy on my coffee table, so when I have guests over I can pick it up and say, “Let’s take a look at this catalog… Oh wait, that’s me in all these pics, what do you know!” Hehehe…
Definitely an interesting experience. And financially rewarding as well. Good thing they never figured out that I am no model…