i had an audition yesterday. it was for a VH-1 vj search/on-air personality/host. here's what the audition notes said:
Please come with lots of energy. We are looking for cool, hip people with an edge. So dress the part...we are looking for those who are a great representation of the hip hop generation!
i'm not sure what "hip-hop generation" means anymore. i know that it includes everyone that was born after 1965 and that hip-hop's influence transcends race and class. (so that's generation-x, right?) it's a behemoth, really. what was once a marginalized boogie-down ghetto situation that had so much power and style has now been homogenized and sold back to the masses internationally for someone else's profit. (interestingly, no one has been able to tap into its potential for political change on a grassroots level. but they're trying. good luck.) once upon a time, hip-hop was such a threat to the status quo. and what is it now? a 21st century coon show. and everyone seems to be in on it.
i'm not saying that there's no political hip-hop out there or that hip-hop isn't, by nature, political. but when most of what we get to see in mass media is one rapper after another, bragging about how great he is or how much stuff he has, it gives one reason to pause.
so evidently, VH-1 wants to blacken things up a bit with their programming. with the buying/spending power,political base and relative cool that everyone thinks the hip-hop generation has, who could blame them?
the audition was in harlem, right off 125th street, in a breezy wide open space above a trendy looking coffee-shop/bookstore. there were folding chairs on one side of the room and a long table against a wall with headshots, cards to fill out, release forms, etc. and two monitors to move things along. i arrived on time, in my favorite denim halter dress with my hair in a headwrap and a bare face. to my way of thinking, nothing represents hip-hop nation like all things nubian. at the very least, i would be the only one with that particular look. and sure enough, i was right. the place was filled with black folk that looked like they stepped straight out of central casting, right down to the ripped jeans with heels and the neatly coiffed texturized weaves. although most of them looked video-ready, for some strange reason, everyone looked tired and somehow older than they actually were. and why would anyone in this day and age have bad skin, especially in this business? the perricone promise, my emminent weight loss and several days of oversleep had served me well. as usual, i stuck out like a sore thumb. a bit of concealer for good measure and some lipstick and i was good to go.
i sat around reading a book for almost an hour before they called me in. while i was waiting, a pretty black woman whose name escapes me (shaundra?) came up to me and said that she admired my work and wished me luck. are you sure you have the right person? i asked, pretty confident that she didn't. you're queen esther, she said. yeesh, i guess she did. she said she taught a class and used the it factor as a teaching tool. all of my students always root for you, she said. gee, i hope i win, i laughed.
unbelievable, the way people remember the it factor. it aired in 2002. then again, it's always on bravo, on a late-night rerun situation. ah, reruns: the gift that keeps on giving. well. i got what i wanted: a little screen-time, some national exposure, name recognition -- but most importantly a higher level of comfort in front of a camera. mission accomplished.
the casting director was so pretty that when i saw her, i just blurted it out -- you are so pretty! just like that. she was slim and a little taller than me, in a flowing outfit that made sense. her nut-brown skin was perfectly clear with hardly the slightest hint of makeup and she had no hair on her head. she had this warm open way about her that was so genuine and effortless, it put me at ease immediately. she looked 28. she could have been 50.
the audition scenario: i had to pretend to be at a hip-hop function/gala/show of some sort, saying who was there, waving to this one or that one and interviewing someone. i chose lauren hill. i have no idea why. as problematic as her personal life and her career have been, you'd think i would have avoided that one. but it was a pretty obvious blackgrrl choice i suppose -- i've always liked her because she's quick to speak her mind, especially about political things, and i think that takes guts.
thanks to the casting agent, i did my best. we both knew it as i left the room. why can't everyone be that cool?