By about five o'clock yesterday I was perched on the edge of my chair, hands clasped together, staring at the clock and waiting for the postman. My desk was clear, computer ready to shut down at the click of the mouse, my bags were placed by my wriggling feet neatly, having been checked and double checked.
As the postman walked in I breathed out, taking my cue. I stood up, slung my bags over my shoulder and left. I had it all planned carefully. Walk to Liverpool Street (five minutes), Central line to Oxford Circus (ten minutes) Victoria line to Victoria (four minutes) Circle line to St. James's Park (three minutes). In twenty-two minutes or thereabouts, I emerged from the tube at St James's Park, and called to find out how to get to Jimmy's. Jimmy was the stylist, and we were meeting at his flat first to make the all important costume/accessories/footwear/make-up decisions.
Upon entering Jimmy's I said hello to Jimmy and Tom (Tom is the guy whose track it is), and was introduced to a petite, smiling, dark-haired girl with an American accent called Giada, who kissed me on both cheeks. I was shown into a room and handed four dresses to try on, all European size 38. The one that instantly caught my eye was black and white silk, but to my dismay it looked absolutely tiny. I held it up against me, and it seemed to recoil in disgust. I, it appeared to say, and designed for those built like Audrey Hepburn. Skinny girls with bones. Curves are not welcome here, get those breasts away from me. It was a snooty dress, and I shouldn't have bothered, but just to annoy it I stepped carefully into it, delighting in the shivery silk against my skin. I pulled it up, over my hips, slid the delicate straps over my shoulders and tried the zip. Up it zipped, until it met the breast area. Then it stopped. Shrugging the shrug of one who knows that, in the dress department, only the strong survive and the majority fall by the wayside, I took it off. The next one was a black dress, quite heavy and overlaid with lace. I tried to zip it up, and was just about to give up when Giada came in the room.
"Bend over." she told me. "Forwards."
After checking her for rubber gloves or a large syringe and finding neither, I did as I was told.
"Now, squeeze your boobs up."
Suffocation be-damned, I thought, as I stood there, bent at the waist, pushing my boobs up to my chin. I want to get into this dress.
Jimmy the stylist came in at that point, and held the dress closed whilst Giada inched the zip up.
"There!" she announced, slightly out of breath but triumphant. "It's done. Now stand up."
Reflecting that it usually takes slightly longer than ten minutes and perhaps a cocktail or two for me to obediently bend over and do things with my boobs for someone, I felt slightly in awe of her and straightened up. It fitted. Perfectly.
This, I thought, is good. A dress fits, so I will wear this one.
"Great" said Jimmy, standing back and surveying me with a critical eye. "That's a good one. Now the others."
I was slightly dismayed at this, because I had managed to get into the dress and felt like it was a victory in some way. Perhaps, I thought, we should quit while we're ahead. Despite that, I unzipped and climbed gingerly out of the lace.
The next dress was a teal (sort of greeny-blue), muslin-type material. Two layers. Low cut, with a black ribbon that tied just underneath the bust. Knee-length.
I slipped it on easily, and walked in to show.
"Amazing" announced Jimmy. "Perfect."
"That colour brings out your eyes so much. It's lovely. I think this one, what do you think, Jimmy? This one?"
Giada looked over to Jimmy, where he stood, head to one side, smiling slightly. "Yes. This is the one."
Shoes. Alexander McQueen, with multi-coloured ties around the ankle and four-inch heels. A belt, about six inches wide, battered leather, tied like a corset at the back. A hat made from feathers -"very Vivienne Westwood" - with the colour on the rim matching the exact reddish-brown colour of my hair. An Alexander McQueen jacket, grey-ish layered muslin with elbow-length sleeves, cut away at the front and long at the back. A beautiful pearl and cut glass necklace, that sparkled and shimmered tantalisingly, radiant and scintillating.
Make-up. Dramatic black eye shadow, highlighted cheekbones, pale lips. Hair back-combed.
The look, I am told, was new-Romantic.
I didn't look like me. I felt a million miles away from the me of the battered jeans, flip-flops and old tops, although the messy hair didn't feel too far off.
I sat in a chair whilst Giada did my make up and Jimmy pressed my dress with an iron filled with Evian. I chatted to Giada about where she was from, and about her band*. She isn't, it turns out, American, she's Canadian. Star of a German soap opera for seven years, film-maker and performer. An interesting lady, and lovely to boot. I sat, we all chatted. Tom was on the sofa, having done his costume procedures earlier. For me, just sitting still, being gently fussed over, being studied and contemplated, was lovely. I found it immensely relaxing.
Eventually, though, we were finished, and we had to get into a taxi and go over to Soho.
Out onto the street, bags of shoes and hats and dresses and suits in tow. I had changed back into my jeans for the journey, but I still had the crazy hair and the crazy make-up. Tom strolled down the street, and as we passed some kids on skateboards they watched us and one of them whispered loudly "That looks like Justin Timberlake!", and I hurried to catch Tom up to impart the good news. "He's ugly from some angles" he responded. "So I suppose I can see what they mean." I laughed and told him to shut up.
Into a black cab, launched into the thick foray of traffic in the narrow Soho streets. We staggered out of the car, laden with our bags, and walked to Gerrard Street. Gerrard Street is China Town, an exclusively pedestrian street, and we saw the cameras and the crew as soon as we turned onto it. Hurryingly hello-ed and how-are-you-ed, we made our way to the restaurant we had been promised to be able to use for dressing. They led us down the stairs and past the toilets. Into a damp corridor that smelled like all the worst bits of a China Town resturant. Odours emanating from various bins and bags were heartily ignored, and I was very careful not to step on the floor as I changed from flip flops to fancy shoes, and from jeans to dress. Giada re-did my hair, pulling it and pushing it until it stood out from under the brim of my hat, and handed me the lip gloss to sort out myself.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror and resisted the itch to pull my fingers through my hair and wipe under my eyes, thinking that I looked very, very strange. Glossing my lips, I stood back and thought, well. If this is what they want.
Walking through the restaurant and onto the street people stared. For a moment I felt self-conscious, but only for a moment. Tits, I thought, and teeth. Tits and teeth. Chest out, shoulders back. I very quickly relaxed, enjoying the heads turning and the confused looks, thrilled to escape mundanity.
We started at once. Tom, clad exquisitely in a black tail suit, boots laced up to his knees and a satin top hat, strutted to our position, and I joined him. We stood about a foot apart, and nobody else stood within two metres of us. As Mike the director hurried about, positioning the cameras and contemplating the angles, we waited. People stopped walking, attracted by the dark shapes of the cameras and the people behind them looking seriously in the direction of two people dressed in unusual and glamourous clothes. Tom and I stood silently, surveying the gathering crowd. Silently, standing as tall as we could, feeling every pair of eyes looking, trying to unravel us; to find out who we were and what we were doing.
The idea behind the shoot was that we were celebrities being photographed. Simple, and it works for the song.
They had a big stereo with the track on it, and the cameras started rolling as the music came on. We were to sing our parts, but focus on the roles we were playing.
As soon as the track began, we started. Both of us, instantly transformed. I felt seductive: moving slowly to stare down lenses and capture eyes. Shoulder up, chin down, arms by side; slowly raise arm to slide a finger around the rim of the hat then pull the jacket across my chest; right leg crossing left leg, right hand under jacket to rest on my waist; serious expression, gazing into the lens then into a pair of eyes; slight smile to someone else. Everything slow and measured, careful and deliberate. Tom offered me his hand and turned me slowly, four paces around to face a different camera. When my bit came in the song I sang softly over the track and lifted my chin a bit, fixing my eyes on the main camera. By the time we cut there were about fifty people gathered around watching and taking photographs.
I'm not sure whether it will look like that, it might have all been in my head and actually what I was doing was pouting crazily whilst jerkily staggering about. I don't really care. I absolutely loved it. There is a part of me that wishes I didn't love it. I try to convince myself that my desire to perform derives solely from the fact that I love the music. Of course that is the primary motivation, but I am forced to admit that I cannot think of anything better than being on stage, than being admired by fifty pairs of eyes. I admit that with difficulty, because I feel it means I am narcissistic or attention-grabbing, but it remains a fact, nevertheless.
We did more shooting, more angles, more posing. Some freestyle dancing. Actually I didn't enjoy that bit. "Just, you know, like, move around. To the music, you know." said Mike the director. "Sure" said Tom, safe in the knowledge that he had a perfomance degree and was an ace dancer. "Sure" I mumbled, rather precarious in the knowledge that my dancing is always firmly lodged in the 'comedic' category, and there were still a group of people watching. Come on now, I told myself in a stern voice, you can do this, you've done worse. Yes, I have, and that is something I could be completely safe in the knowledge of. We stood there and danced, which involved Tom body popping and me desperately resisting the urge to do any rolling motions with my hands or exaggerated shimmying of any kind.
The whole thing went on until about midnight. My boyfriend Tom (not to be confused with singing, body popping, tophatandtails Tom) came along to watch, and despite the fact that I nearly executed him for videoing the freestyle dancing bit (no, that is not going up here) he seemed to enjoy watching it all. I was so pleased he was there.
I couldn't quite get over the fact that the mere spectacle of two unknown people being filmed attracted so very many people. A japanese lady came up to me and asked to have her picture taken with me. "So beautiful" she said. "Oh! So beautiful!"
I mentally reviewed my backcombed hair and thought, well, horses for courses. Whatever floats your boat, lady, let's do it.
More people wanted pictures with the two of us, and loads were just taking photos from afar. As we were standing there, I thought, fucking hell. I know we're all dolled up, but I'm a receptionist and he files medical records. I mean, sure, I call myself a singersongwriter and he calls himself a composerperformer, and we are those things more than what we both currently do to earn our rent, but that's not why they're interested. They were taking pictures because other people were. I wanted to tell them not to waste their film.
Anyway, despite all that incredulity sloshing around, it was great fun. Having Giada running up to me to reapply my lipgloss and make my hair bigger, all the fuss, it helped me to get into character, and playing that part was brilliant.
It was with much reluctance that I handed back the dress, shoes, belt, hat, jacket. As I took the necklace off I looked at it just for a moment, glimmering in my hand, and then gave it back to Giada.
"Thanks" I told her. "For making me up and being so lovely."
"Don't thank me" she replied. "Thank your mother for those wonderful cheekbones."
I did like her.
I thanked Jimmy as well, and as he told me well done and hugged me, he put something in my hand. A bag. I looked at him, and he said
"Something to remember the evening by" and smiled. I opened the bag and saw the necklace. "Wow, thank you. So much."
I felt exhausted going back to (boyfriend) Tom's on the tube. I still had full make up on, and I kept catching my reflection in the window and being vaguely shocked. Today I am dizzy with tiredness.
It was worth it, though, I had an amazing time. I recommend it.
I will post pictures as soon as someone does it for me, and I will certainly link to the finished product.
I am going to go and mainline more coffee and have another look at my photos.