I woke up at 4:17am PST and am worried that I might not stay alert the entire day without a power nap later. Clearly, my body has not adjusted to west coast time. In any case, I’m awake. So I turn on my laptop and putz around. Around 6:00am I decide to venture to the grocery store for some snacks, drinks, and facial cleanser (left that in 3-1-1 bag back home). I don’t think I was even paying attention to the time until I saw how empty the grocery store was when I got there. Relying on the advice of my trusty Garmin GPS, I landed at Ralph’s that was just 1/2 mile away from the hotel. As I drove into the shopping center and looked up into the hills, I imagined movie stars and well-to-do’s coming down from the hills to shop. Maybe I’d be lucky (I wasn’t).
After that, I went back to the hotel and decided to use this early morning time to finally knock out a looooooong overdue interview I’ve been meaning to post with UK pop singer Pierre Lewis (coming soon, i swear). He’s probably given up on me by now, but I can’t seem to get a clear stretch of time to finish transcribing our 1 hour conversation. Today was going to be the day. I was on a roll, enjoying the peace and quiet.
Not so fast…
Around 8 or 9am, my cell phone rang. It was a local number so I was a little baffled but answered it. On the line was the lovely Kerith from Quintessential PR, the reason I was here in the first place. Last week, she had emailed me some info about a bronze facing casting project with sculptor Peter Harper. I read over the info, was instantly excited, and typed a resounding yes in reply. I hadn’t heard from her since then, and just figured it wouldn’t happen.
Kerith called with great news that Peter could cast my face for his bronze face sculpture project and he would be able to stop by around 1-1:30pm TODAY. I had been making plans for later in the afternoon, but I knew this once in a lifetime opportunity. Kerith and I engage in some small talk, and my blood pressure rises as I realize my day is about to kick into high gear…and I wasn’t going to finish the Pierre Lewis interview…again. 🙁
I’m feeling soooo Hollywood! It was such an Ugly Betty gets into the Yeti program moment. I go back over the email with the attachments about the bronze casting process and realize there’s an on camera interview afterward. Shit! They’re recommending I get a makeup artist or apply makeup myself (neither of which I know how to do). To top it off, I don’t have an outfit that I’d wear for an on camera interview!
Oh, it gets better…
I need to find a quiet room to do this casting and the appointment overlaps with the time I should be picking up my hubby from the airport.
Operation Avert Panic Attack…
So, first I go into this frantic search to sort out transportation for my hubby from the airport (he was flying into Ontario not LAX…our new found secret to good fares) and also emailed him about my change of plans. Luckily, he called me before I went to town on trying to work out the logistics and agreed to rent a car at the airport and drive himself to our hotel.
Operation Find Makeup Artist…
Next, I thought I need to get a makeup artist because I didn’t want the hassle of trying to figure out makeup and how to apply it in a few short hours. I called a local friend from college and he had no suggestions other than go to the MAC counter. I was polite, thankful for the advice, but I knew that was not going to happen. Eventually, I resorted to ridiculous amounts of googling. I googled and called and googled and called and got absolutely nowhere. If someone answered they couldn’t help me or I got voicemail. Eventually, I googled my way to a mobile spa company that services the area and someone answered! By now, I had my speech down, and she was able to send my saviour, Gabriel (how Biblical, huh?). I made a clarification with sales rep on the phone that I was an African American and to pass that detail along just in case the makeup artist didn’t normally roll with the darker hues (wasn’t trying to have a Michael Jackson moment hee hee!). This whole find a makeup artist bonanza lasted for like an hour.
Operation Find Location for Bronze Face Mask Casting and Filming…
Then, I rush downstairs and ask the concierge if there are any alternate rooms (other than my hotel room) to do the casting. I just had this vision of my hubby walking in our hotel room with me laying on my back surrounded by 3 three men and a camera and not being able to explain because my mouth was literally plastered shut. The concierge at the hotel suggests either the lounge area by the bar that had seating in little groupings where you could pull this super cute sheer white curtain around for VIP style privacy or outside by the pool since people would not likely be hanging out there today. Great! I had some options.
Operation Drop Extra Key at Front Desk for Hubby…
Next, I stood in line FOREVER again at the hotel front desk (they really need to remedy that situation) with some short heavyset lady in front of me wearing lots of colors and patterns on her clothes…and a fanny pack. She was complaining about something, and I was thinking “Fuck!” The lady is pissed at some sort of bad treatment she allegedly received from the front desk clerk and starts to turn around to me to vent. “He’ll probably treat you even worse.” This was coming from a white lady, so I immediately knew what she meant. At the same time, I began weighing the fact that she seemed to take pleasure in making that statement versus the sexist treatment she claimed she was receiving from the foreign front desk clerk. In my biased, short assessment I concluded in my mind that she was the root cause, especially after she demanded to see the manager turning to me to say she knew the manager and this front desk guy was just so horrible (still not telling what happening, but I really didn’t care either). Meanwhile, I’m pacing and trying not to hurdle the front desk and put the extra key I had for my hubby in an envelope and file it myself (yep, that was the only reason why I was waiting in line).
FINALLY, the woman wearing many colors stands off to the side and I drop off the key for my hubby. Back upstairs to get the rest of my things and off to the store.
Times ticking…Must. Find. Dress.
I’m down to about 90 minutes before showtime and I still don’t have an outfit. I needed to find something quick which is not easy by myself and especially in unfamiliar territory. Where’s my assistant in these moments? (LOL) I knew Hollywood and Highland was the nearest mall type shopping so I jumped in the car and headed over there. In my mind, I thought I’d head for Banana Republic or Anne Taylor to get something classy but a simple design with a color other than black (the only other color dress in my suitcase). Given my curves (i.e. hips and ass, typical us black gals) and 5 foot 2 inch stature, I knew that it had to be a dress or skirt to avoid drama with hemming pants which would be impossible. When I arrived at Hollywood and Highland, a bit frantic, naturally, I couldn’t find Banana Republic (swore I saw it the day before) and wandered instead through several other stores but didn’t find anything that seemed to capture this defining moment in my life. For a moment, I had this pitch in my head where I could roll into some high end store and explain I was going to be working with a famous sculptor and if they just lend me a dress for a couple of hours, then I would give them a shout out on my blog as well as be eternally grateful. Then my mind would wander to my reality and how I’d probably be laughed out of the store by every sales associate all at the same time after making such a pitch. 😉
After walking out of BCBG (everything was black or white or black and white in that store), I saw a boutique one level up on the opposite side that I thought might have something. Pretty much, I’m a boutique gal anyway. I like the personal attention and unique collections of fashion. I was nervous that a boutique on Hollywood Blvd would be nothing short of crazy expensive, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised.
I explained to the sales attendant (i think her name was Kate or Kathy) at the boutique (forgot name of the boutique, I’ll update with the name when I find it) that I needed to find an outfit for an on camera interview that was happening in nearly an hour. I wish I had that moment again. It was so surreal to walk in a boutique in a haste and ask such a question. The replayed version in my head had me wearing a large brimmed hat, big sunglasses, and a Juicy Couture velour jumpsuit so I could “blend in” with the peasants. 🙂 So Hollywood, isn’t it? At this point, I didn’t care too much about cost (I’m sure some prices would have been deal breakers), but a quick peek at some of the dress prices and I knew I’d be ok. Kate/Kathy and I decide to split up and pick out different dresses. I said “no” to everything she picked up, but I agreed to one dress to humor her and maybe surprise myself. My goal was to find something that was very me and I could feel comfortable and confident when wearing it. Simple with a little je ne sais quoi. I ran into a sleeveless double breasted dress/jumper with gold buttons that I liked, and Kate/Kathy picked out this white sleeveless, knee length dress (can’t describe in words and don’t have pic), that gathered in the middle and at the bottom with ties, kind of shear with those scissor cut edges as trim. That was the hunk of hideousness that I agreed to try on and headed to the dressing room.
Praying, Rushing, Praying, Crossing Fingers, Rubbing Buddha’s Belly, Hoping for the dress…
The white dress was way too large and just wasn’t flattering to my figure so I then reached for the one I picked out. It looked nice, but I needed to go up a size. Kate/Kathy said there was another one in a larger size and she went off to find it. She came back with the dress (slightly different color, but not significant enough). I tried it on, and voila! it fit.
The only thing that had me nervous was that the dress/jumper was sleeveless and knowing I haven’t been in the gym in a while, I wasn’t feeling I could rock the Michelle Obama arms with confidence, so together we searched for something to put underneath. My goodness, we had such different taste. She kept pulling out these colorful flairing long sleeve blouses that A.) I would never wear, and B.) seemed to be a blouse you’d wear as a standalone, and C.) I would never wear (get it??). In the end, I went back to the short sleeved v-neck fitted tees they had and grabbed a pink one. It didn’t offer a lot of sleeve, but just enough that I felt comfortable.
Dress. Check! (picture shows is a bit wrinkly because it’s been sitting in the suitcase, but you get the idea)
Uggh! I hate this part. I’m always at a loss when it comes to accessorizing. I had lots of jewelry with me and knew I could wear the same orange beaded necklace I was planning to wear later (shown with the dress in the above picture), but with the dress having gold buttons, I didn’t have any gold earrings. Shoes were no big deal either. I figured I’d wear those black flats I bought last night that I was also planning to wear later. The era of pantyhose seems to be over (thank God!), so I was going bare leg. It was just the dern earrings that I needed to resolve.
Ok, I totally had to rely on Kate/Kathy now. She went straight for some gold Chanel earrings with some bling around the Chanel logo in the center. First reaction, no way! too much, not me. However, Kate/Kathy explained that the earring style matched the buttons on my dress well. Ok, this is why I suck at accessorizing. Given this was the last thing, I was like “sure” and headed for the checkout counter. The total really wasn’t that bad. I think it was under $200 total which is good for a last minute venture and for shopping in a boutique.
On camera interview outfit. Check! Mission accomplished. (sigh of relief)
Back in the car and to the hotel. It was maybe 12:40pm when I arrived, so I really didn’t have much time left. What I haven’t been mentioning is the texting and phone calls going on all throughout the morning for various things associated with the day. Time to pop a Xanax, no, wait, I want to maximize the affect so I’m chill when my face is plastered shut. Shortly after I get in the hotel room, my hubby arrives and I feel relieved just to have someone else with me at this moment, especially my fav homey of all who would be patient enough to deal with any meltdowns that might happen. I was over-apologetic about not being able to pick him up (clearly, I was stressin’), and he was like “chill, I understand,” and told me to focus on being excited about the moment…something I’m not so good at doing. I jump in the shower to freshen up and make sure my face had been cleansed as required before the casting. I had to wear clothes that I didn’t mind ruining (not to worry, I am Madame Tee Shirt so I had one that worked), put on my tan cargo shorts, Sketchers slip-on sneakers that I bought the night before, and shoved a Xanax in my mouth. Moments later, it was 1:30pm and Gabriel, the makeup artist, was knocking on my door as scheduled. What wasn’t on schedule was Peter and his crew. At this point, I mentally surrendered any other afternoon plans I had, but remained hopeful not knowing how long this would actually take.
Hubby and Gabriel shake hands and Justin leaves to find food downstairs at the hotel.
I’m hoping Gabriel is lively (i’m envisioning the fun, gay guy makeup artist) because I really need some feel good energy around me after this long ass day that you recall began at 4:17am. I’m kind of happy that the crew is late because it gave me time to finish everything and breathe for half a second. Gabriel is cool, a bit tentative, so it was hard to get a read from him. We talk a little about what I wanted to do makeup-wise and that it wouldn’t happen until after the whole casting was complete. It was hard to tell if he minded having to wait around a little, but he was polite and accommodating nonetheless. Just about 5-10 mins after Gabriel arrived Peter and his crew knocked on the hotel room door.
Casing the joint…
I show Peter and his crew, particularly the camera man (sorry, the names have slipped my mind at this point, but I’ll get them and update this later) the options for setting up. Hotel room was ideal because it was quiet, but camera man wasn’t keen on the clarity of the city view through the window. Lounge area was probably the nicest but also the noisiest (mid-afternoon so a lot more people bustling around by this time). Last but not least was poolside. It was the best overall option. Peter decided I could lay back on a lounge chair instead of him rolling out his massage table.
Setting up the scene…
I stay at the pool while crew sets things up. In the back of my mind I was wishing I was wearing a bra, not that I’m busty, but I didn’t want to look like I was not wearing one on camera while laying on my back. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like that was a question I could ask Peter without it coming out all kinds of wrong. I also, couldn’t work up the courage to just pause and run upstairs to put one on. Hopefully, it wasn’t noticeable. I free-bird it so often, especially in large tee shirts, that I don’t even think about it.
I’m getting mic’ed, camera man starts shooting, and Peter and I have some small talk. He starts with just getting to know me and then asks/explains more about what to expect. We do an allergy test on my hand to make sure that my skin won’t have adverse reaction to having latex poured on it. The allergy girl that I am is crossing my fingers and praying because if I was allergic, this whole thing would be over. Luckily, it was all good.
My hubby comes over to me at the pool. By coincidence, he had gotten something to eat over at the bar by the pool and noticed this bustling poolside that turned out to me and the crew. I handed him my camera and asked him to take some photos, but he seemed reluctant to interrupt much of the process. He did get a few shots, but most looked like they were paparazzi style because he was shooting from a distance (probably at the pool bar) through palm trees and such.
4-3-2-1 Action! …
I’m laid back in the lounge chair, trying not to think of what’s going on so I don’t freak out, and trying not to think about the camera man either because I typically don’t like to be on camera (that’s my job). In just a few short moments, I’d be joining the ranks of Warren G, Nelson George, Rae Dawn Chong, David Arquette and others who also participated in this project to date. I was face #87 (i think, will need to confirm).
Since I don’t have video footage, here is a YouTube clip “Making a face mold of Frantz Saint Louis with Peter Harper and Chris Finney. First, I stuff two straws in each nostril so I can breathe. Next, Peter applies some vaseline type mixture (it’s not vaseline, I’ll find out and update the post) liberally all over my face to make it possible to pull the cast off without my skin joining the cast. Then, Peter pours the blue latex all over my face. Next, he applies a layer of this resin concoction that he now uses instead of plaster (as shown in the clip). The end result is a copy of my pretty face (or in the clip, Frantz Saint Louis’s face).
In case you were wondering, yes, Peter has undergone the process himself. He felt it was important to take part in the process which makes sense as it’s important to be able to describe firsthand what it feels like to his “victims.”
Along the way, I could hear a few onlookers come by and wondered if I was getting a facial. Peter explained and I give them the thumbs up to let them know I’m totally ok. Peter was good at talking to me throughout the process, explaining everything since I could not see. That also helped me feel relaxed. People have since asked how it felt, and it’s hard to describe. Kind of like that goo your dentist uses when they take dental impressions of your teeth without that suction cup feeling when they pull it out of your mouth (I always feel like my teeth are going to come out when they’re tugging on that metal plate with the goo). When things got completely dark, it was like going to sleep, at least that’s what I pretended to do. Peter cautioned me beforehand not to squinch (if that’s a word) my face up like with my eyes and eyebrows or cast would naturally capture that impression. That was the only thing I was worried about. I don’t know what else to say about how it felt. The thought process is like getting your ears pierced or any one time event that makes you nervous to some extent, but you also know you won’t do it again.
We had to wait for each layer to set before applying the next. When the last layer set, it was time to pull the mask off. He started from the bottom of my head and peeled upward. It didn’t hurt to peel the mask off, and I was relieved that I made it through what could be really a scary experience. I did feel some pain as they pulled the mask around my straws in my nose just because moving the straws (that’s the last thing that Peter takes out), that were already in my nose pretty tight, caused the ends inside my nostrils to kind of jab at the insides. I was tearing up but not because I wanted to cry, it was that natural reaction when you poke at my nose. I tried to explain that to them when the entire mask was off, but I don’t know if they bought it. Eventually, I kind of did want to cry just from the emotion of the moment and the day so far and the day to come, but I kept it true tomboy style, rough and tough. I was happy to get those straws out. By the way, breathing only through my nose was fine. Maybe it was just knowing that was the only way I was going to live, a survival instinct of sorts…or maybe I got a little help from my medical BFF Xanax. 😉
Peter and the crew wanted to film the post interview in my hotel room and we agreed to meet up there in like 10 minutes.
Time to get pretty…
I then go upstairs to my room to shower, mainly to get all the greasy goo off. What did my face look like after the cast was pulled off? It was just shiny, probably not noticeable to most people as I walked through the hotel lobby. As I shower, I could feel the greasy goo from the prep everywhere on my face, neck, and hair. Peter tried to say it would feel like I got a facial. Maybe it did, but I’ve only had one facial in my life and all I remember is this lady using some needle to pop zits. It was painful and I felt lied to by women everywhere, kind of like the first time you have sex…definitely not like in the movies.
I’m sure he meant my face would feel soft and supple. I was neither here nor there when it came to how I felt after washing the greasy goo off.
I changed into my outfit purchased just a few hours before. Just as I’m buttoning the second button from the top, the last one I needed to button, it popped off and onto the floor. Fuck! I’m searching around feverishly trying to find it and wondering if I could get a hold of a sewing kit. I never found that damn button, not even before I checked out of the hotel. Wardrobe malfunction, but like you gotta do in Hollywood and certainly in life, just roll with the punches. As I’m looking for the button, Gabriel knocks on the door to see if I’m ready for him to do my makeup. I invite him in, abort my button search (you can see the missing button version of the dress in the picture I posted earlier) and reach for those flats that I bought the night before at Ross. The shoes had all those damn stickers on it that wouldn’t peel off. I was in a hurry now and scraped a bit at them, hoping the red “I’m on sale” type sticker would not show as I moved my feet. (LOL) That part was not so Hollywood, more so me.
Gabriel gets to applying makeup. He asks some questions and I respond by saying that I want a very natural look since I don’t normally wear makeup. He pulls out this suitcase sized kit of various cosmetics and all kinds of brushes and starts getting me pretty for the camera. He had like every color ever created! Plus, he said he liked doing brown skin because he gets to work with hues that he doesn’t get to normally. Regardless, I was still a little nervous, never having done this before, hoping he could handle my skin tone in a flattering way, and hoping I didn’t look like a drag queen when it was all done.
In the end, Gabriel did a fantastic job! I’d definitely recommend him and would call on him again if I’m ever in need or just want to pamper myself for an event in the LA area in the future. Even my hubby who hates makeup said he liked it. My favorite part was the eyelash curler. It made such a HUGE difference to my eyes. I kind of want one, not that I’d know how to use it. I think I remember on Tyra’s show or some show like that, a while back, someone mentioning that an eyelash curler is a must have. Coming from a gal like me, I totally agree ladies.
4-3-2-1 Action! …
Just as we were finishing up, Peter and his crew knocked on the door. Gabriel exits. His gig is up. It’s showtime for real now, and the last of what felt like forever in 2 hours. I ask self conscious questions like glasses on or off. Peter says “on” and expresses some interest in maybe casting those, too. He mentioned it a few times throughout the day, and I kept saying he could give it a shot because i just ordered new frames. It probably sounded like a lie, but did actually order 2 pairs of specs the weekend before when in Boston over Memorial Day weekend. At this moment, I’m working on getting back in touch with Peter about his inquiry to see if he really wants my other pair since I now have new glasses to wear.
I still haven’t found that damn button and ask if it looks bad. As if anyone would tell me “yes, you look hideous.” Instead Peter offers a quick “get over it” type solution (not literally nor in a mean way) of folding the top of the dress/jumper in a manner that would disguise my button malfunction. Who knows if it held up on camera.
I don’t have pictures of me in the outfit because my hubby didn’t want to interview with the camera crew and getting photos was the last thing on my mind at the time. I guess we’ll all have to wait until the show opens, likely sometime next year. I can’t wait!
Again, I’m nervous but in that “just move forward mode” because I don’t have time for nerves. This is one of those wing it moments and hope you do ok. Gotta seize the moment, right? You never know what lies around the corner for real. Reminds you that God is real.
When I sat in the chair I realized this front double breasted button up dress made life a little uncomfortable not showing my goodies when seated. Ladies, you know it’s like when you wear a wrap around skirt that constantly wants to unwrap. I just found a comfortable enough position, keeping one hand around where the dress was inclined to fly open a little too high up my leg and get down to business.
In the prep documentation, some of the questions Peter asked were in there, so they were familiar to me. However, the Type A, perfectionist person I am would have liked to rehearse them at some point before this moment. I had some thoughts in my mind and just hoped they made sense on the way to my lips and vocal chords. My “tell it like it is” hubby said he was impressed (he decided to watch from the bathroom door in the distance), and that I interviewed well. We shall see. I have to say that Peter was very easy to talk to, and artist to artist, we had some things in common in how we look at things which helped to make the conversation flow.
The best surprise of all was at the end when Peter pulled the resin layer away from the blue latex layer and handed it to me as a souvenir. I had no idea, I’d get to keep something. It was neat to look at, and I still don’t think it looks like me; rather, more than a mannequin of a black girl. My big bunny front teeth poking through a bit in the expression does make it uniquely me in my opinion, but you can be the judge.
It’s a wrap! …
Filming’s over. I can breathe again. We all shake hands and exchange niceties. I may or may not have given him my card with my blogs. Can’t remember. As quickly as this whirlwind day began, it ended.
But wait, it’s not over. In just 2 hours, I was scheduled to be doing press on the red carpet. The real reason I was here in the first place. There’s not an ounce of alertness left in my body, but my hubby felt we needed to celebrate so we went downstairs to the lounge and I ordered a martini and some coconut shrimp, he ordered a beer, and we toasted to the moment. Interestingly enough, our waitress was one of the people who had come to see what was going on poolside earlier. Of course, she didn’t even notice me, but my hubby brought it up and we talked a bit about the experience.
After that, back up to the room. In 2 hours I would be with my camera on the red carpet. Time for a power nap, I set the alarm on my cell, and hit the bed hard.
Most memorable moments (in no particular order)…
#1 “Those shoes look comfortable. Are they Sketchers?”
~ Peter Harper, sculptor
Asks when we’re sitting poolside before the interview. For some reason him noticing my shoes stuck with me and made me smile for a moment unexpectedly. I’m sure he was just making conversation and doesn’t even remember this moment, but you know how those moments feel. Sometimes, it’s just the little things.
#2 Bra drama
In hindsight, I would’ve just excused myself and run upstairs. It’s not like making them way 5 minutes would change anything. Just makes me laugh to know it became such a preoccupation all the way through the casting process. I even remember laying on my back with my face plastered shut knowing the camera was on and hoping people wouldn’t watch footage one day saying “that girl needs a bra!”
#3 The boutique at Hollywood and Highland
Entering the boutique and getting to explain how I needed an outfit right away for an on camera interview. Also, buying Chanel earrings.
#4 “Your eyebrows are gorgeous!”
~ Gabriel, makeup artist
Given that I went through so much to get to this day, including a last minute trip to get my eyebrows waxed the day before I left, this was so validating and the ultimate compliment to my hairstylist Dairdre at Phia Salson.
#5 Peter Harper’s humility.
Not once did he mention how famous/successful he was or that he was the “youngest brother to both Grammy-award winning musician Ben Harper and acclaimed writer Joel Harper.” (taken from a bio i received from Quintessential PR about Peter and the project) I have a lot of respect for people like that. If I were to put an sequence to my most memorable moments, this would be at the top.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2 OF 2 “NIGHT AT THE RED CARPET”…
LINKS TO OTHER POSTS IN THE “MY LA JOURNAL” SERIES…
My LA Journal- Wednesday May 27, 2009 eyebrows waxed and outfit shopping
My LA Journal- Thursday, May 28, 2009 travel day and red carpet eve
My LA Journal- Friday, May 29, 2009 (Part 2 of 2) red carpet for Derek Strong party