At first I thought I wanted to be a news journalist. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking. Anyone who knows me would say that I am the farthest thing from a journalist. For example, I would carry around the New York Times as I walked around my school grounds, deliberately letting the masthead peek out of my bag so people would think I was someone intelligent. I don’t think I ever read a black and white word of that paper. I also didn’t – and still don’t’ - really know anything about politics or international relations and I wasn’t really a fan of watching the news. I think all of these things would be necessary to have a successful career in journalism.
After that obvious realization, I thought about what I did love and where I might be able to excel. Always liking to be the center of attention and being totally fine with superficial things, I thought I could be a contestant in a teen pageant. Because I was a minor, my involvement required the participation of my mother - And my mother really couldn't be bothered with things like this. She thought pageants were corny and stupid and that I really wasn't pageant material. Not that she was being mean, she was actually right. I was consistently overweight with small boobs, bad haircuts and bags so dark under my eyes that I made Uncle Fester from the "Adams Family" look good.
We didn't have a lot of extra money to go throwing around either and so the $500 entry fee for the pageant pretty much forced my parents to choose between food for the month or getting me in front of the bright lights for five minutes -- to likely win nothing. After much carrying on, I finally convinced my mom to let me try it and I dragged her to a pageant in Cherry Hill. She couldn’t be more mortified. After getting there we noticed droves of moms who looked as though they'd stepped off the pageant stage themselves. It was obvious they worked daily to condition and train their daughters for these types of shows. I was in awe of them; my mother thought they were all so cheesy. I tried to explain to my mom that it was my dream to be famous and I was hoping she could support me. She just looked at me, took a puff of her cigarette, and as the smoke blew out her mouth she said sympathetically “oh honey, you’re not gonna be famous.” I just stood there with my mouth open, my hands on my wide hips and my big dark eyes bugging out of my head, marveling at her candor.
I won’t paint the picture that my mom didn’t support or believe in me at all. But becoming a pageant queen, or actress or even an on-air weather girl (my journalist related fall-back idea), wasn't really what she thought I was poised to do. And she was probably right.
Many years after losing the pageant, I was still trying to find my “special talent”. It was then that I came across an ad in a magazine asking for "real women". The request was actually from the magazine itself, hoping to be able to use a story to depict a few real women in today's world - you know, a little overweight and a lot maxed out with kids and careers and trying to find a way to make it all work without becoming a full blown lunatic or alcoholic - and showcase them as the publication subscribers. I submitted my photo and the required essay about who the "real" me is and I got a call from the editor within days to tell me that they had chosen me as a subject in their piece.
A few weeks later, I went to the photo shoot had a ball! Make-up artists and hair stylists were getting me ready; a wardrobe girl was coming over and lining up outfits that I needed to wear. There was a full table of breakfast pastries that were free and fancy (yay! score for the "real" girl who clearly wasn't a starving model). On the set itself - there were those cool umbrella lights and a huge fan. A fan! What woman didn’t want to strike a pose while her hair and clothes were blowing around like the token hot chick in a 1980’s Whitesnake video? I tried not to think about the fact that this article was for a magazine that mainly featured plus sized women and that the circulation was lower than 100,000. I got in front of the camera and modeled like a pro. It was so fun and only fueled my appetite for a celebrity life.
After the shoot, I check my mailbox every day for months for "my" issue and - it finally came. I ran into the house to savor the excitement and anticipation. I shook off my coat and fanned through the pages. And there it was. There I was. And now, I wanted to die.
They chose the photo where I was wearing a blue silk shirt, grey pencil skirt and tall tan boots. My face was so puffy; it looked like I had an allergic reaction to something I had eaten (those fucking fancy, free morning carbs!). And it looked like I had eaten everything - the shirt clung to the spare tire around my middle, the skirt was tight around my big ass.. While I remember feeling like my hair was blowing around and looking sexy at the shoot, my hair in the photo looked thin and limp like locks of a million-year-old Crypt Keeper caught in a wind tunnel. And where I thought I was making sensual faces during the session, in the magazine, I looked more like I was screaming in pain or having a seizure. Where the hell was the retouching?!
I imagined my mother across town sitting there with her ever present cigarette, exhaling and shaking her head thinking “I told her she shouldn't do shit like this.” One bad picture in a small circulation magazine and I didn't want to leave my house for a week. I couldn't imagine how I could be a celebrity and handle an unflattering posting on "Page 6" every other day.
My hopes of being famous were drowned in the bottle of wine that I drank that night. Unless of course, I considered leveraging this experience and I put the understandable horrors of my experience online and turned it into a social firestorm to become the "real, everyday woman" who went mad after having a terrible go at being in the pages of a magazine. From there my celebrity stock would go up as it is predicted that I am the next reality chick likely to pull a "Britney", release a sex tape, or go all hard-core Jersey down the shore. Hmmm...I feel a fist pump coming on……