i have to say this: commercial auditions freak me all the way out because most of what it takes to get the gig has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with your "look" -- and God help me but what that means is an ever-evolving thing for me as a black woman. another blacktress broke it down for me in plain english one day as we were waiting to be seen for an american express commercial that's running incessantly right now: for movies, they like black girls with straight hair; for commercials, they prefer black girls with natural or "texturized" hair. problem is, i have hair that no one understands, except africans and very progressive african-americans. i think it's because film is usually about the fantasy (and let's face it, in most of america, straight hair is also what's considered to be prettier) and commercials are for the everyday moments, like clipping coupons or taking care of the kids. her suggestion: have hair that white people can understand -- especially if it's natural. if they don't understand it, they're afraid of it. and what they're afraid of, they won't hire. now does that sum up everything that's wrong with this country racially/ethnically or what.
i get a lot of callbacks for commercials but hey, look at me: i'm a size 6 which reads as "co-ed" or "young mom"; i have my own hair and nails which reads "real" or "sincere" (whatever that means); and i wear a minimum amount of make-up, for a clean, fresh-faced appearance, which reads "young". nobody cares how old i actually am. all they care about is what the camera says. the camera says that i'm in my early to mid-twenties. if i gained weight, it would definitely say something else.
a few months ago, my manager told me that if i weighed 75 more pounds, i'd work all the time. i know that he's right. my friend knows an actress that's agonizing about whether to lose the weight that she'd gained after a sudden illness. it seems that ever since she's gone from a 4/6 to a 16/18, she's been working non-stop. most of the big black women i know work all the time. but weight gain isn't an option for me. i think the reason why i don't have (and have never had) any health problems whatsoever is because i live at the gym, i eat very well and i pop vitamins after every meal. why trash all that for a paycheck? but i digress.
like i said, with most commercial auditions, they look at you and decide if they want you before you even open your mouth. but then once you make the first cut, all of the other things come into play. like being able to readjust for the camera, hitting your mark and -- oh, yeah -- acting. i got rid of all of my wierd nervous facial ticks and twitches when i did the it factor. six months or so of cameras following me around all the time pretty much did the trick. now i can readjust effortlessly, thank God.
this one was for north bank, at liz lewis casting in chelsea. (never heard of 'em. must be a regional thing.) they know me there and they like me a lot. i get seen for something there at least once a month and i usually get called back, so when i go in its like a mini meet 'n greet, which is nice. actually, getting called back but not getting the job isn't so horrible as my friend joan cargill loves to say, because at least i'm being considered for the job. an audition means i'm showing up, i'm here. a callback means i'm in the running, i'm in the game, i'm in play.
so when i came in, the guys at the front were friendly and cool (that always puts me at ease). one of them was playing the hook to the andy williams' song born free on an endless loop. i was like, whoa -- you're way too young to know who he is and why he's cool and he was like, whoa -- i'm way to young looking to know. it's all about what you look like, isn't it. and then he winked at me. (too-shay...) as he took my photo, he told me that everyone was supposed to sing that line in the audition. ha-ha, i thought, i know the whole song. (how sad is that?) this is going to be a hoot.
and it was. i went in with all of my things as props, turned to a wall as if i were making a point of purchase, and then i turn around and burst into song like julie andrews because i feel so free about my banking choices, now that i'm with north bank. no lines. just me singing born free a capella and looking genuinely elated -- but in a not theatrical/not cheesy/realistic way. "sing it the way you would if you just burst into song in real life," the agent suggested helpfully. and God help me, but all i could think about was mary poppins.
and then it was over. how could i fret about it? my hair was probably all wrong. (too black, too strong...) besides, i am to perform in the RENT 10th anniversary show at the nederlander tonight. i'm still trying to figure out what i'm going to wear!