Monday, 17 October 2016

Body, Mind and Bikini

Weird things happen. I think even more so when you work with people, and it’s even weirder when you work with actors and models. And bikini castings are never average.

I had to do a bikini casting a few weeks ago. They are not my favourite type of casting, but years of swimming galas and performing competitively in leotards where pulling out your wedgie meant losing a medal means that I’m not particularly shy of my body. I work really hard, and I try to eat healthy food most of the time, so I’m proud of what I’ve built. It is, however, still not great to be herded into a room with a usually even mix of gorgeous over-confident models twice my height and half my weight, and girls almost dying to have to stand there in a bikini.

The casting happened late in the afternoon on a weekday. I waited outside with the rest of girls next to a notice board clearly stating that if you were not wearing a bikini you were not welcome to audition. Of course it was the coldest day of the week as we all sat outside, bikini strings creeping mischievously out of beachy-looking cover ups, dresses and tank tops.

As soon as the casting before us was finished, we were all taken into the usual waiting room. But this time. The usually open room with multiple entry points had all the doors closed tight. If you've been doing auditions for a few years, you get to know the casting agents. He informed a few of us that the reason we were all locked up tight was was because a man had walked in from the street at the last casting and tried to secretly film the girls in their bikinis. Fortunately some from the agency realised what was happening, and managed to pry his phone from his hands to delete the footage before returning it.

Secure in our safe-space while we waited, I sat making awkward small talk about costume styles with a nervous 20-something year old model while putting on my high heels. 

It was a horrible casting. I sat between two models, who dwarfed me even when sitting and all that was required of me was to have a pretend phone call. I was out a few seconds later. My husband wanted to know how it went as I informed him I would be bracing the five o’clock traffic home.

“Not great.”

It’s difficult not to take it personally when someone looks at your bikini-clad body and goes ‘No’. But you can’t take it that way. Personally, that is. Because it is what it is. In that moment you are a billboard to advertise a specific product. No more, no less, and no less human. 

I realised this when I had to do a costume fitting for an advert a few years ago. I was standing in front of a group of people in a skimpy, skimpy bright pink outfit. As I stood there the group discussed the fit of the costume, my body, how I would work on camera. I was discussed in terms of lights, angles, makeup, hair and everything else necessary for a shoot. For the first while I was hyper aware of all my perceived flaws. But somewhere in that high stress moment I had an important mind-shift: It’s not about me or my body. It’s work, and lights and camera angles, and for them I was part of the equipment of their trade that needed to be adjusted and setup for the job at hand. They had a final product in mind that I knew nothing about and they were busy getting the product there. I would be a ‘me’ again in the lunch que on set, or afterward when I was back in my clothes. It’s not personal.

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