Fashion

12.08.13

The Model Diaries: Show Me Your Best ‘Racist’

She had no idea what the mysterious audition was for. Then the casting agent demanded she turn ‘bitchy’ at the sound of the word ‘Arab.’

I was woken up by the aggressive vibrations of my phone.

“Hello?” I slurred.

“Good morning! You have castings today! Dress like a cool hipster girl at a club….” burbled the voice of my agent. After giving me the necessary information (time, location, etc.), she hung up.

Castings are a total wildcard. I’ve been told to dress like Paris Hilton, a movie star, a mother, an athletic fitness fan…. My favorite game is to try and guess what the commercial is about, as this is the one piece of information I never receive. For example: When I was told to dress like a “movie star” for an audition, it turned out the audition was for a grocery store. The audition where I had to dress like a mother? A Sodastream commercial. 

Thus the act of dressing for a casting is always a process. It takes ages to find an outfit that is casting appropriate and won’t make you look like a tool in the street. Today’s casting at least was easy—I have more “hipster club” outfits than I do Paris Hilton ones. As I pulled on my skinny jeans, I wondered what today’s casting would be for. Maybe a phone company? Who knows.

“Can you look, uh, more, bitchy when I say ‘Arab?’” she asked, peering at me from the other side of the camera.

My phone buzzed again on my way to the audition. This time it was not my agent but a sweet Russian model who shares the same agency. We tend to be sent to the same castings (we’re both blond), and usually travel together and get coffee afterward. Today was different: She had already gone to the audition.

“Hey, this casting was really weird,” she breathed into the phone before I could say hello. My guard shot up.

“What do you mean?” I asked nervously.

“Listen, it’s just weird. You’re supposed to be this girl at the door of a nightclub. You are choosing who gets in and who doesn’t.”

“OK….”

“Anyway, you are supposed to be super happy to see your friends and whatever and then when an Arab shows up at the door of the club, you are supposed to look uncomfortable and shoot him dirty looks.”

“Excuse me, what?”

She started to laugh. “It was so, so, so weird! Good luck bella!” And then she hung up.

I immediately started texting my agent.

WHAT THE HELL AM I AUDITIONING FOR?

I kept checking the screen but no response came before I walked into the audition room. The audition was held in a small studio space in a big building. There was one daunting, archaic elevator, and a flight of stairs with no lights. There was a cramped area in front of the audition room with couches, water and fruit on a table.

My name was called. I checked my phone. Still no answers. I didn’t want to ask the people in charge of the audition what I was doing there—you never want anyone to think you are unprofessional or difficult.

The audition room was large, with minimal decoration. The only furniture in the room was a chair and a table being used by a woman in her mid-forties. She was slightly hidden behind a small hedge of video equipment and a videocamera.

I stood on a piece of tape a few meters away from the camera.

“OK—super easy. You are at a nightclub. You are super happy. You see your friends. You are waving at people you know. You are holding a list. When I say ‘ARAB’, you need to look uncomfortable and give him a really mean face. OK?”

“Um, sorry…?” 

“READY? OK—go.” She clicked the recording button and looked at me encouragingly.

Feeling super uncomfortable, I tried to look as happy and hip as possible. Every time she shouted “ARAB!” at me, I winced.

What the hell am I doing here?

“Can you look, uh, more, bitchy when I say ‘Arab?’” she asked, peering at me from the other side of the camera.

“I’ll do my best.” I drew a deep breath and we started again.

“OK—go. Waving at your friends, smiling, you’re so happy!… OK… ARAB!”

I frowned.

“Look angrier,” she said.  “Maybe a little meaner?”

I frowned harder.

After an excruciating 15 minutes of this kind of back and forth, the audition lady had had enough. “Thanks.” She barely looked up as I scuttled out of the room.

Outside I paused before re-checking my phone. What happens if I booked this job, what do I do? Do I accept? Do I spend the rest of my life in fear, waiting for this whole ordeal to become a viral video? I calmed myself down by doing my special chanting: Don’t panic until you have a contract in front of you and you need to sign it; don’t panic until it’s a real situation!

Glancing down at my phone, I saw a text from my agent. It’s an anti-racism PSA for Israel! It’s OK—it’s for the good guys.

I didn’t end up getting the role. Despite the positive message of the ad, I’m really glad there is no footage out there of me looking uncomfortable around Arabs.