Sunday, February 14, 2010

Confessions of a Stock Footage Queen

Conventional prettiness meant a symmetry of features, I learned in high school. I read it in my psychology text. The more average the dimensions of ones face, the more attractive. And my face was conventional indeed. They called me pretty, very pretty.

And being pretty, and slender, and on the tall side, I found modeling work. It paid for my amusements in college: beer, road trips, cashmere sweaters. Even when I graduated, I never had a career. Just jobs that paid the rent—I was professionally pretty as a receptionist, a pharmaceutical rep, a restaurant hostess—with modeling to cover the extras. I never had a magazine cover. I scarcely had a magazine layout. I wasn’t quite tall enough, or striking enough, for high fashion. They didn’t offer me runway work.

But they liked my normal, average, pretty face, and they called me. Photographers dressed me up in goggles and a white coat and shot me marveling over Erlenmeyer flasks full of green food coloring or dry ice. They put me in pencil skirts and shot me smiling in front of chalkboards, surrounded by children. They wrapped me in military fatigues and shot me stalking through the forest, carrying guns.

Soon enough, my image came back to me: on the Internet, in advertising circulars, wherever fine clip art was required. My face went everywhere, places I would never go, showing me doing things I’d never really done.

When I moved through the world, I didn’t have the same versatility as my photograph. People looked and saw a conventionally pretty girl and wondered, “Have I seen her before?” and forgot all about me when I passed, because I was unremarkable in my prettiness, just another pretty girl. Merely pretty and no more. No one ever noticed me.

Sometimes I see girls with horrific scars, burns, or birthmarks, girls with unbelievable acne or giant, crooked noses. Sometimes I hear men mocking them when they pass, or children expressing astonishment. Sometimes I envy them.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Intriguing and thought provoking. If you are not opposed to contests, I hope you'll consider submitting to Writer Advice's Fifth Annual Flash Prose Contest. We seek flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction that mesmerizes the reader in 750 words or less. DEADLINE: April 15, 2010. Entry fee: $10 per submission. First prize: $150. Former prizewinners are the judges. Complete guidelines, mailing address, and prizes at