March 15, 2009

A Long, Hard Look at Myself

I avoid mirrors at the gym, which isn't easy to do.

In my urban rebounding class, I've found a spot to set up my trampoline where I'm in front of a glass door instead of the mirrors that line the walls. Still, I can see the reflection of me jumping up and down on the mirrored wall of the gym outside the class studio, but at least the image is smaller and behind a boxing bag.

In Masala Bhangra class, I focus my gaze on my teacher while we're learning the moves, and do everything I can to avert my eyes from the mirror right in front of me while we perform the dance.

It's not that I hate how I look, though watching my boobs smack me in the face isn't an image I'd like to watch repeatedly. It's just that sometimes, you have to not focus on how you look if you want to get something done.

I had to get new headshots taken to support my recent TV work and my future aspirations for more hosting/spokesperson gigs, for which attending to my looks is absolutely imperative. And for professional photos, you have to micromanage every element of your appearance, from brows to lashes to teeth to hair color to nails and everything in between. As much as you prepare, obsess, magnify, tweeze, and bleach, when you actually see the photos, you're not going to be happy, no matter what you do.

Fortunately, that's what retouchers are for - to create magazine-quality skintone and to make you look younger and more beautiful than you'll ever actually be. As long as you're not shy about pointing out to them all of your imperfections that you want erased.

The whole process is stressful. I arrived at Melissa's photo studio and was immediately put into hair rollers and pounds of hair product despite the blowout I'd gotten the night before. The phone kept ringing and the photog kept gossipping with the hair/makeup guy, whose breath smelled like the stale deli coffee he kept sipping in between brushstrokes. I tried to put on my pewter strappy sandals that make me feel sassy, and Melissa asked me to take them off so I wouldn't scratch the wood floor. She sneered at all my outfits even though I asked her specifically ahead of time for wardrobe advice so I would bring the right stuff.

They both kept asking me, "Does your hair get any fuller than that?"

I've directed a lot of photo shoots as a music marketer and I know how they're supposed to go. This was going so poorly, I was nearly in tears as the makeup artist pinched my eyelid in the lash curler contraption that made me recall A Clockwork Orange. But I was only paying $400 for the session, and since I know you get what you pay for, I didn't insist that they change the music to something I liked. But they should have offered.

As stressed as I was, I had to try very hard to look natural. And breathe.

Despite the initial discomfort and lack of bedside manner of Melissa and her staff, I was actually pretty happy with how the shoot went, getting a peek at some of the shots on Melissa's camera screen along the way. But then again, everything looks better as a thumbnail.

I don't think people should be given the chance to look at high-res photos of themselves, blown up on a computer screen. It's not a good idea for me to be able to zoom into my nostrils and tear ducts. It just makes me feel bad about every little detail. I wanted the retoucher to airbrush my face out of the photos, just leaving behind my shiny, windswept hair and striking blue sweater. I started to understand the compulsion for plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures that take the personality right out of your face.

For me, though, it's better to leave them a little more natural-looking. I'm no romantic lead. I'm the quirky, smart girl. As long as a couple of my headshots show that, and get me some work, then it's well worth the four hundred smackaroos, and the eye-welling frustration I felt for two hours.

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