Sunday, June 26, 2011

The "My Child is Going to Be a Model" Adventure

My child is going to be a model.  I am a person who cares almost nothing about fashion, and I strive to make parenting decisions based on what will ultimately make my children be good people.

And my child is going to be a model.

Whenever people hear about this development, particularly people that know me in real life, they ask the obvious question: how did this come to be?

My stepdad, one of the wisest human beings that I've ever met, had an adage that he lived by. "The universe works," he always said. Sometimes, when things happen that seem bad or wrong or odd or whatever, he'd repeat that phrase and encourage us to just go with it.

Belle's modeling saga, from beginning to where we're at right now, has been a case of the universe working ... and us just sort of going with it.

Okay, here's what happened.

Addie is in her school's marching band, and my mother and Belle were dropping her off so that she could play in the Christmas Parade. They were listening to the radio, which is unusual because my mother virtually never drives with the radio on.

An ad came on giving away a free spot in an upcoming open audition to a children's talent event in Boston. Addie started calling the radio station and eventually got through. As Belle's parent, I needed to give permission, and I wasn't in the car with them, so Addie gave them my cell phone number, thinking they'd never actually take the time to call.

They did. I had a long chat with someone from the Disney Channel (which gave it an air of legitimacy) and agreed to bring Belle to Boston for the open audition.

This was in early December, so my mother and I figured it'd be a great chance to do some Christmas shopping in Boston, have an adventure, and so on. We never dreamed it would go any further than that.

The woman on the phone had said to have Belle dressed "business casual", so of course we had to take her shopping to get an outfit that was seven-year-old business casual. My mother took her to a local children's clothing specialty store, and they came up with this.

So off we go to a beautiful hotel in Boston, where what seemed like a million children of all ages dressed in various degrees of finery were running around.

When we went into the bathroom to put Belle's business casual ensemble on, we heard some pretty strange things. Parents were bribing their children with Wiis and dollhouses and anything else you can think of. One mother grabbed her young son, who was whining about wanting to be outside playing, and hissed, "You'd better not f*ck this up for me!"

It was pretty surreal, especially since we were there as a lark.

Anyway, of the thousands of kids there that went through a variety of screen tests and interviews and so on, they picked ten to invite to an April showcase in Disney World.

Belle was one of the ten.

We had to go shopping, of course, to get her all different types of clothes--black and white, beachwear, trendy, more business casual, formal, and so on.

We also had to take her back to Boston to get professional pictures done. Here are a couple more of them.


So then we had to make arrangements to get to Florida--my mother and Addie were also going.

Now, I am terrified of flying. Just ... scared to death. I haven't been on an airplane since I was in third grade, but I was obviously going to have to get over myself, get some good drugs from the doctor, and go for it.

As it turned out, I had a medical emergency (the details of which are rather disgusting, although I'll probably blog about that whole sitch at some point) come up a couple of days before we were supposed to leave, so my mother and Addie, both saints, agreed to go forward anyway.

Now, the showcase people were very upfront about requirements. Each child had to perform a dramatic monologue, a comedic monologue, a variety of ads, soap opera scripts, sitcom scripts, and so forth.

Because my family was still seeing this as kind of a joke, we didn't exactly kill ourselves preparing Belle, who was most looking forward to riding Everest at Animal Kingdom with Addie (which she did ... twice. My daughters are roller coaster maniacs).

I guess a lot of the children there had been drilled and prepped and otherwise forced to spend a huge amount of time being ready to perform. Our bottom line was that we wanted Belle to have fun.

Belle spent most of her time at the showcase playing in the pool with another little girl whose parents were, like us, kind of laissez-faire about the whole thing. She went to the workshops, of course, and performed her monologues and scripts and so on (Addie worked literal magic at getting her to memorize her parts).

The last morning, the aspiring child models/actors handed out Zed cards (business cards for models with three pictures and contact information on them) and headshots with resumes attached (and can I just tell you how hard it is writing a resume for a first grader? Her skills included jumproping and being able to "do" a British accent, which she demonstrated to us one day about a year ago by coming out with, "Do you have to go to the loo, darling?").

And then it was time for callbacks.

When my mother texted me that Belle had gotten two callbacks, I almost had a heart attack. I, of course, texted back that they must give out callbacks to everyone as some kind of formality, but evidently a lot of kids didn't get even one callback.

So Belle and my mother went to her callbacks, and both agents, one based out of Boston and one out of New York City, expressed interest in representing her. They gave my mother their e-mail addresses so that I could contact them since only a parent can sign a contract.

After my girls and my mother got home from Florida, the craziness of spring heated up and I kept meaning to e-mail the agents, but I forgot to. Or, when I remembered, my mother couldn't remember where she'd put them, and then when she found them, I didn't have time to e-mail, and so on. It just didn't happen. It would have eventually, of course, but then something really strange happened.

I got a phone call from a talent agency that had not been one of the ones to offer Belle a callback at the Florida showcase. What took my breath away was that it was a company I'd actually heard of.

I guess they are so big and stuff that they didn't do any callbacks at the showcase, just collected Zed cards and resumes for future perusal. Anyway, the secretary I spoke with said they are very interested in representing Belle, and we set up a meeting in their New York office for this Tuesday.

My mother, Belle, and I are leaving tomorrow for New York City to undertake the latest step in the great modeling saga. We debated taking the train or even (gulp) flying, but we're going to drive.

I'm taking Belle to get her hair trimmed this afternoon, and she and her Mimi went shopping this morning for sunglasses and new flip-flops. Belle is absolutely bouncing off the walls with excitement, and I'm looking forward to it because, even if nothing comes of it, it continues to be an interesting adventure.

I posted this pic of Addie and Belle on my Facebook wall shortly before they left for Florida, making a crack about how Addie probably looks more model contract-worthy than Belle. We try not to take ourselves too seriously around here ;-)

The thing is, Belle doesn't always look great in candids, but the professional photographers took over 500 pics of her (we have them on a disk), and there isn't a single bad one there. The camera (well, the professional camera, anyway ;-)) loves Belle, and she thought that dressing up in different outfits to get pictures taken for hours was the highlight of fun.

I knew that Addie was a musician from the time she was a very young child. She was teaching herself songs on the piano when she was three or four, and that made it really easy to see where to focus her passions in terms of lessons and providing instruments and so on.

Belle has never really demonstrated a true passion for anything (other than being a character ... she has got to be one of the funniest kids ever, I swear) before this accidental modeling/acting thing kind of fell into our laps. Now, she memorizes monologues for fun, puts on "shows" all the time, and revels in dressing up to get pictures taken. (This is when she isn't working on her lemonade stand to donate money to Santa Claus because, you know, the elves can't make some things and if they're really expensive some deserving kids might miss out ... that kid is just a trip and a half, I swear)

Even though I despise the whole "Toddlers with Tiaras" concept, I'm going along with this because it is Belle's desire to do so.

And also, of course, because the universe has been working in a lot of interesting ways to keep this whole thing moving ... and, as my stepdad would say, who am I to fight with fate?

I'm sure there will be lots of blog about after our NYC meeting on Tuesday.