By Jasmine Alleva
First impressions are everything and there isn’t an industry where that statement is truer than in the modeling industry. From the second your high heel hits the floor of a casting; you are being judged on every, single move you make. Not just by the casting directors – but by other models, too. It can be an insanely, anxiety-inducing experience, especially when your next paycheck (and all it provides) are dependent on how well your are received.
My first few castings (aside from the Cosmo casting) were downright brutal. While my agency was gathering my images together for my portfolio, I had to rely on my comp cards and charm to get me through castings and it wasn’t going well. At my second casting, my American accent literally got me booted from the room.
I was in shock. I had taken three bus transfers (as I was still way too apprehensive to get on a train) and walked at least five kilometers in a downpour to get to this casting and as soon as the word “hello” left my the tip of my tongue, the casting director stopped me.
“Are you an international model?”
“Yes, I actually landed here on Tuesday. I’m from Alaska in the United States.”
“I said no f*cking international models.”
Was she joking? Did she really just curse at me? The other models looked at me with sympathy as I picked up my soaked bag full of wrinkled comp cards and showed myself to the door.
A week later, I was at, what I like to call, a “cattle call casting” otherwise known as the worst type of casting. Usually castings are small and intimate, maybe one or two girls at a time. But cattle calls are exactly what they sound like: dozens upon dozens of girls competing for the same job, lining up like cattle in their all black ensembles.
I don’t want to further propagate or confirm the stereotype that models are catty. That simply isn’t true. However, some people are catty and some of those catty people happen to be models and in the small world of modeling, you are bound to run into a few.
A cattle call casting is a breeding ground for cattiness and boy, is it unbearable. The constant stares and up-down glances made me want to shrivel up and crawl away. Then I found out the casting was for underwear, which made things worse because we had to strip down to our skivvies in front of all of the other girls, while hearing their snickers and negative comments audibly. I was nervous, intimidated, and felt extremely uncomfortable. This was exemplified to the casting directors and I did not get the job.
Within the same week, I had a casting for a hair runway show. The casting was inside of a dingy, old bar with red lights illuminating the staircase. I climbed three sets of stairs, careful to watch my step on the dimly lit wood. When I entered the room, about six other models shot their eyes into my direction. A stack of forms sat atop a small coffee table, with questions asking what type of hair we had and if we would be okay with coloring it.
My name was called and I handed the casting director my form. It read: “brunette, wavy, thick and depends on compensation.”
The casting director said, “Oh, a diva, are we?”
I laughed hesitantly, confused as to why not wanting to damage my hair was considered a diva worthy request. He then asked me to walk down a make shift runway. I obliged and stomped my boots up and down the floor, with perfectly measured speed and attitude.
He then said, “Strange to be a diva when you haven’t got a walk.”
Again, I was in shock. He didn’t even want my comp card and told me to keep it. Maybe he was upset I didn’t want to color my hair? Who knew? Needless to say, I also did not get that job.
No two castings are the same, so you never know what to expect. Maybe the casting director wants your hair down and its up. Maybe the casting director wants your face made up and its bare. The margin for error is so small and you may never know why you didn’t book a job.
The scary stories always stand out in our minds because of how they made us feel. I have plenty of positive casting stories. More often than not, casting directors are decent people just doing their jobs and at the end of the day, every model has to realize that.
However, models are still human beings and deserved to be treated with human respect. If any casting director has the unmitigated audacity to patronize me and turn me away, it was never worth my time or heart to work with them anyway. There will always be more jobs. Never compromise your self-esteem; it can take years to repair.