What's interesting about this show is that it does appear to be offering a pretty accurate account of what it's like to be a model. (Whether being "interesting" in the abstract makes for "interesting" watching is, of course, a separate question.) I feel like I've gone to that casting where the client representatives thumb through my book and murmur opaquely to themselves a thousand times; I feel like I've had that conversation with my booker where he tells me some version of the "This casting will be great, you're perfect for the job, they'll love you," line at least a million times. You run around all day, making a dozen or more appointments in a city you never quite spend long enough in to fully familiarize yourself with, getting lost and punching the wrong buzzers, and when you finally get to whatever empty studio space or warren of cubicles or production company you've been sent to, you contend with the eerie quiet of a client mentally comparing you to the 50 other girls with your hair and eye color he's seen that day.
And Madeline's boyfriend, James, brings up the one thing nobody ever talks about when they talk about modeling: agency debt. Certainly no one ever warned me that, while agencies will advance your rent, travel, and living expenses for your first trip to their city, unless you blow up, and quickly, that debt will be an albatross around your neck for months and even years to come. You can owe an agency thousands of dollars for the cost of the test photos they set up for you to shoot, the rent at the models apartment they own, the cost of the flight from Podunkville they selected and booked — and, meanwhile, if you're very, very lucky, you might book three editorials that month and earn $400 for your efforts. Your agency is a big company, and you are a small and undercapitalized model, and sometimes it seems no matter what you book or how modestly you live, the debt grows. For, you see, every day that goes by that you don't quit and go home and beg for your old retail job back is a day that you go to a casting for a $4,000 catalog job that could set you free; you never seem to actually book these jobs, however, and what's more, every day that you go to their castings is also a day you spend more money on food, more money on rent, and more money on that very pricey unlimited-ride metro pass, thereby geometrically increasing your debt; and, of course, decreasing the likelihood of your ability to ever pay down said debt selling sweaters at the mall. So you go to your castings, because if you didn't have at least a chance of nabbing that catalog and wiping your ledger clean in ten blissful hours next Tuesday, you might just sink into a depression so deep you wouldn't rise for months.
My first months in this job, alone in a new city, trudging to casting after casting and sometimes going weeks without a single booking, I often couldn't sleep for thinking of that crushing negative sum of Euros I was amassing, the sink hole into which all my earnings would fall for the next six months. Instead of sleeping, I thought of odometers spinning. I thought of calendar pages blowing by in the wind. I thought of every imaginable visual cliché for the anxieties of passing time. I thought of the big numbers that were my rent and the small numbers that were my daily rates, and I thought of how the clients' checks took months to clear anyway, and sometimes I thought simply that I'd gone and made the biggest mistake of my life.
I remember those days (and nights) well. So it's nice to hear some real talk. Even if, for actual verisimilitude, Madeline would have to go to 10 castings, get the silent client treatment at nine of them before meeting and being Polaroided a dozen times by one effusive and seemingly smitten photographer (who, we find out later, instead books a "name" model), and do it all on public transportation. But at least the show preserves the hard center of the experience of going into a room of strangers and trying to convince them of your essential uniqueness and perfect embodiment of their particular requirements when they've spent all day looking at girls who walk and dress and look more or less like you do. After castings, I feel like I'm always telling my booker, "It went well, I think!" in a purpose-filled voice; I only hope when I say it, I sound a little more convinced of the sentence's truth than Madeline does in that clip. She books the sunglasses job in the end. May it be a good luck charm for you as you face the New York Fashion Week melee, Madeline. Earlier: Vogue's Model.Live: Don't Get Famous, And Other Gems of Parental Wisdom
Points For Effort: Vogue Reality Series About Modeling Surprisingly Realistic, A Little Boring
Related: Model.Live Episode 3