Friday, March 30, 2007

hittin' the sauce

this was a good-time shoot, from start to finish. even though everyone was all about business, it was really breezy and relaxed and fun. they built a kitchen in the middle of this gigantic space that seemed to be carved out of concrete. first make-up and then we got into costume and they set the lights around us and then there was lunch and then we got down to brass tacks. once we actually got going, we cranked right through it until they got what they wanted. we stopped periodically when it was time to reload the camera and then sometimes we'd tiptoe over massive cable lines to the monitor to see what we were or weren't doing.

of course craft services kept the snacks coming. thankfully, i've learned the hard way to eat the fruit and vegetables and avoid the candy and processed snacks. i distinctly remember watching him put a tray of devils on horseback into a toaster oven and wondering if i'd be able to have a few when they were done. he was sweet enough to let me have a container of blackberries on my way out.

i drank everything in, from the gum-popping boom mic operator to the first a.d. who ran a tight ship. and i asked lots of stupid questions.

two days before the shoot, we had a costume fitting. i was told that it would take an hour but it went on all afternoon. in and out of clothes, against the wall for this polaroid, that digital shot and over and over it went. somewhere in there, the director wandered into our area, leaned against the wall opposite me, smiled and said, "about your hair..."

i balked. i didn't have the wig on so obviously my goose was cooked to a crisp. we talked about hair options. it was a strange conversation. he asked me what my hair was like under my hat. when i told him that it was natural, his face went completely blank. a guffaw came out of me so abrubtly, i snorted.

i took off my hat and showed him my hair. his eyes floated above my head as though he were seeing a halo resting there. "i love it," he said. "it's beautiful just the way it is."

i felt like an idiot. this wasn't about me figuring out what they wanted. this was about me being what they want, simply by being myself. what i presented to them in that initial audition was what they were looking for. i didn't need the wig. i was enough, just as i was.

"i didn't think i'd get this if i didn't wear that wig," i blurted. and he waved his hand in the air and said, "oh, you never know about those things." as he spoke, he looked at my hair and nodded to himself. as it turned out, he would have to convince 10 other people. and the thing is, they already saw the wig over and over on tape. they were used to the other look. it had grown on them. they liked it.

out of curiousity, he asked me why i thought i should wear an afro instead of the wig. i told him what i really thought: that television informed so many of our choices because it's in our homes and it's such a big part of our normal everyday ordinary lives. every household has one. especially the impoverished ones. commercials work best when they reflect who we are and when they're inclusive. most commercials feature black women with their natural hair -- the reality. movies feature the weaves, the perms -- the fantasy. no way is miss thing with a weave down to her hips and fake nails out to there going to be clipping coupons and changing diapers and trolling the grocery store aisles looking for that just-right antacid.

of course it's just hair. and it's a free country. everyone can do whatever they want. but it's a beautiful thing, to see black women on television simply being themselves with the way that they look and not apologizing for their blackness -- or obliterating it or multilating it -- by straightening their hair. it meant something to me as a kid, to see roshumba with a natural. it was and still is an important statement -- that as a black girl, you don't have to have straight hair to be considered pretty.

eventually, it turned into a lively discussion with salim and basia pitching in their opinions, too. and he agreed with us but it wasn't up to him. i just thought it was wonderful that he listened to us and that he raised the issue with everyone else. i didn't care one way or another. it's their commercial. i felt that they should do what they want with it, and it's my job to look the way they want me to look. still and all, it would have been nice to have an afro in the mix.

this is the "before" shot
freshly scrubbed and ready for work

and this is the "after" shot
the finished product
(note the coral lipstick. how fort worth is that?)

when we went out to show them our costumes, one of the producers, the woman who liked what i did in the audition, said that she googled me and that she found my website and really enjoyed my music. as a matter of fact, she went on, they were listening to it earlier in the week. all i could think was, wow. the internet really works, doesn't it?

this is the set
on the set - the prego commercial

and this is me on the set with my husband/boyfriend/significant other, salim
on the set - the prego commercial
(doesn't really look anything at all like me, now does it?)

it's supposed to run in may. we'll see.

in the meantime, i have a big day tomorrow. the movie shoot starts at 7:30am. there's a double date at brother jimmy's on the table around 6pm. and thanks to a very strange series of events, i'll see the allman brothers for the first time at the beacon with my friend. here's the real kicker: i've even got a backstage pass.

life is good.


c a d e said...

I am so happy for you. I'm sitting here just smiling.

queenesther said...

don't get me wrong. i'm happy that i did it. but i'll be happier when it airs -- and over the moon when i get a check. somehow, it doesn't count until those two things happen, even though i've booked it and gotten that initial scale pay.