Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Further exercises in public vanity

On Sunday starting at 11am, I did a pinup and a fetish photoshoot back to back. Between this and just recently starting my real-people job, I have woken up before 9am three out of the last five days. And no, I haven't been going to bed any earlier than my usual nocturnal self. That said, it might take more brainpower than usual to write a simple blog post.

This shoot was really the first one I've done intentionally; the only other legitimate shoot I've done was when I accompanied Sally to hers, and got roped into it on the spot (even "unprepared" I was wearing appropriately elaborate underthings). This pinup shoot was planned months in advance, but the fetish one I was asked to do just last week, to replace people who flaked out of it. The only person I knew was the photographer, a club-friend of mine who asked me to do it in the first place. I was very nervous going into this, because I assumed that I would be the least experienced person involved, by far. That turned out not to be quite true; there was a huge range.

One other girl in the pinup shoot had to undergo a self-induced transformation (as in, we all did our own makeup, hair, and wardrobe) like I did to then join the fetish shoot. I started out with wavy hair, red lipstick and cat-eyes, later to have straight pigtails (the most rushed and half-assed flat ironing job I've ever done, sadly), purple lipstick with black liner and big black eyeshadow. I barely knew anyone there, and because of this it was particularly interesting to witness their responses to the so-called transformation. I didn't think much of it, other than that it was a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. But people were very vocal about how shocked they were at how much I changed my look. The funny thing is that I regularly use every aspect of both of those looks, and I don't think I appear all that different. And no one I'm close to seems to think so, either. Another oddly interesting thing I noticed was how intimidated I was to talk to the fetish models when I was still in retro clothing. Once I put on vinyl boots and considerably little else, I felt that I could be much friendlier. Clearly, the point of most fetish gear is to look intimidating, and I guess, well, sometimes it works.

The fetish shoot (using "fetish" loosely here: there was no bondage or even simulated bondage, it was mainly a vinyl/latex-based goth shoot) was for Von Gutenberg. I assume for the website's blog rather than a printed magazine, but I'm honestly not sure. A guy was there from the magazine to interview all the models...to write an article. Only one girl knew this in advance, and that was because he was her friend. I asked one of the other women, a very kind and light-hearted dominatrix later to be covered in lube and latex, what was going on with the laptop guy. She explained that she was getting severely annoyed at being forced to talk about herself without seeing what he was writing; she was a writer and the whole thing felt aggravating and backwards. I agreed on all points. Had we been warned in advance, the two of us could have written some stuff down ourselves and given it to him instead of being put on the spot. Me trying to talk about myself while this guy typed my nervous and convoluted thoughts felt like a trainwreck.

Anyway, the point of writing about this isn't really supposed to be to recount the events of the day. I've had a lot of hang ups about the idea of modeling, many of which stand in stark contrast to my bold promotion of positive vanity. For years people have asked from time to time if I modeled, and I used to really enjoy saying "No." I think my "No" meant a few things:

1) I may put a lot of work into how I look, but it is not the end-all be-all. I have other things going on in my head and in my life.
2) Modeling is such a conventional way to channel excessive vanity. How dare you assume I go about it that way.
3) My vanity is not for profit. It is a service to myself.

Those are the high-horse semi-philosophical reasons, anyway. The rest is the fear of trying and failing. Cultivating vanity for my own enjoyment is one thing; claiming that other people should care, focus on it, and take part in it is another thing entirely. And I always assumed that needing to be sexy on command would feel embarrassing and silly to a crippling degree. Again, because of the fear of failure. And there is something extra degrading when the thing you're failing at is looking sexy, when that's what you're there to do.

Somewhere along the line, saying No stopped feeling like the right thing. But admitting that I’d like to get into seemed embarrassing. I’ve gotten over myself. Doing things like this does not have to imply that I want to Be a model by any means. But I do want it to be something that I can do, whether for fun, for extra income, or Dandy fodder. I really have been thinking of it as Dandy fodder, and research for writing. After all, what is it that I write about? Aesthetics, sexuality, vanity, performance. And what is modeling, but the intersection of all of those things? It’s just that many people don’t engage their brains when they do it, or so the stereotype goes anyway.

I tried to convey this a little bit to the Von Gutenberg guy without sounding condescending or pretentious, and I’m pretty sure I failed on many levels. Although, I think I did two goods things for myself in this awkward interview. First, after seeing that he spelled my name wrong, I just asked him if I could use a different one. So for the first time, I got to use a fake name that I’ve secretly wanted to use for something ever since I started taking Latin in seventh grade. I will appear as Vesta. I needed an opportunity like this to start using it; just telling people that I’ve made up a fake name without a purpose crosses some lines of pretension. Second, I talked about Aesthetisexuality as my philosophy and as a writing project that I’ve been working on. I don’t think I did a very good job of explaining it, so it may turn out quite warped. But even so, I’m glad that I’m unleashing it into the world, especially associated with the name Vesta.

The next day, I felt like I had run a yoga marathon, whatever that might mean. Apparently holding unnatural poses around vintage cars and other women for eight hours in the Northridge sun can do that.

Yes, I will probably post pictures here when I get them.

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