I received the email at 12:32am during a bout of insomnia on May 8. I was in the regular practice of falling asleep with our 4-year-old around 8pm, then finding myself wide awake around midnight but too brain-tired to do anything productive. So I did that thing you’re not supposed to when you can’t sleep and checked my email.Usually that means groggily deleting junk mail, but one email stood out for its aggressive subject line: THE GA PROJECT 002: YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED !!
I would have assumed spam had I not recently entered myself in a competition to become a model for Khloe Kardashian’s new denim line (this, and other sentences I never expected to write, coming right up).
In addition to this blog, I also write a denim blog called Eat Sleep Denim, and as part of that gig, I have a Google Alert set up for “jeans” and “denim.” When I got the alert that Khloe Kardasian wanted “real” models for her upcoming denim project, I figured what the heck. I’m real. All I needed to do was send a photo of myself in jeans and fill out an online form. I sent the photo below, in which I’m wearing high-rise, dark-wash skinny jeans by Grana (which, by the way, I didn’t buy and wish I had).
The email also said I needed to be in Los Angeles on Monday—technically the NEXT DAY—for a 10:45am call time. That meant I had to either pay too much for a flight down there (which wasn’t happening because my husband was unemployed and I was underemployed at the time), or make the seven-hour drive from Pacifica.
It also meant that immediately after the audition I had to drive my curvy ass back up the coast for an early-morning flight on Tuesday to Pennsylvania to visit my parents with my daughter.
I told my husband about it and he said “No,” and I had to let him know I wasn’t asking permission (and that’s a subject for another time!). I knew it might turn into a regrettable few days but was I really going to say no to an invitation from a Kardashian?
At 8:18am on Sunday, I sent my one word (as instructed) response: “Yes.”
I am a lifelong morning person, so instead of risking falling asleep at the wheel, I got up at 4am on a very dark Monday morning, climbed into our trusty 2001 Jetta and started driving. Naturally, the car was out of gas and I learned that not many gas stations in San Mateo County are open at 4am. So I started out the trip with that fun feeling—the one that every time it happens I swear I am too old and responsible to let it happen again—of panic while searching the freeway offramp for gas stations. But I found one! Never again, seriously.
I spent the rest of the trip trying to stay awake. Music, even my trusty Bob Dylan and Tori Amos singalong songs, lulled me to sleep. Ironically, listening to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which described in great detail the agricultural revolution and biological evolution, did the trick. I made it to SoCal in one piece.
And now it’s time to tell you how wonderful my sister-in-law is. She lives in Glendale, which is not too far from the call location, and she was kind enough to give me a ride there and wait in the car during the casting call, which I pictured being something like the big audition scene in Flashdance, minus the leg warmers (and dancing). A bouncer type would check me in with the unique bar code the mysterious GA Project had emailed me.
I’d wait in a room with a dozen or so curvy women wearing jeans (the accurate part of my vision was that they would mostly be approximately half my age). An assistant would swing open a door with a flourish and call my name, mispronouncing it, of course. “It’s a long one!” I would laugh.
I would enter a room where four individuals would be sitting behind a desk, staring at me, not smiling. The man in the middle, who everyone knows Ms. Kardashian’s producer, would ask for my portfolio. I would hand them the folder of photographs I’d had printed at Walgreen’s the day before (I really did this).
The judges would then ask me questions about my style, my love of denim, my feelings about being curvy in a skinny-obsessed world. They would ask me to talk about what I was wearing, and I would tell them the story of my favorite Bob Dylan t-shirt that I had received when joining his “official” fan club circa 1993, which they would appreciate as an unexpected choice that shows grit. They’d ask why I wanted to be part of a Khloe Kardashian project, which is why the night before I had watched the very first episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. It remains the only one I’ve watched in its entirety—I toyed with the idea of making a joke about that, but couldn’t decide if it would seem charming or hostile.
I would make a joke about my age: It’s never too late for your first audition, right? HAHA! They would then remark on how young I looked, how they could not believe for a moment that I was actually 47!
I would leave believing I had charmed the judges and perhaps they would appreciate the diversity of including an older model?
What actually happened was both better and and worse than the scenario I envisioned.
Azi dropped me off outside at Milk Studios in Hollywood, wearing high-waisted bell-bottom blue jeans by AG with (as previously mentioned) my favorite good luck Bob Dylan t-shirt which is 20+ years old and cut at the neck to reveal a shoulder. I wore my Kurt Geiger spike platform booties because they are very high but not as painful as some. Also a black Surface to Air blazer. I probably should have worn more makeup, considering my audience.
Milk Studios is a cool name for large warehouse of judgement, and I got in line behind about 60 women. I was #62 (can you spot me?). More women got in line behind me—maybe 30 more. We all stood there death-gripping our printed-out emails with the bar codes and after a short no-eye-contact standoff, we all began sharing our stories of how we managed to rearrange our schedules at the last minute and get our fame-seeking selves to L.A. for the audition—there were borrowed cars, all-day drives from north and east, classes skipped, work subs found.
Then a cameraman started asking us all questions and everyone suddenly saw themselves on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, even me with my one-show viewing record.
“What are you up to?” he asked me, as if we were old friends bumping into each other at the farmer’s market.
“Oh hey! I’m just here attending my first casting call at 47! It’s never too late, right?!”
And here’s why you need to stop mentioning your age and how you’re always older than everyone else: it sounds like you’re fishing. And maybe you are? Who’s to say—but it’s awkward and you need to stop. It’s especially awkward when the fished-for compliment doesn’t arrive.
Then he asked me to describe my style and I said modern bohemian like I always do because that’s what it is and at least that part was easy. Pretty sure I was smiling and maybe at least as confident as the others which I should have been since I’ve been on the earth twice as long (ugh old habits).
They began letting us trickle in a few at a time—instead of a private audition like in my imagination, it was a cavernous room where, after checking in, we sat down on folding chairs that had ben set up in rows. Someone had piled fruit on a table at such a distance that no one was sure if it was for us.
I sat next to my in-line pal, whose name I wish I could remember. We chatted nervously, she told me she is a handful! I said HAHA! I had to use the restroom.
To get there, I walked past some large room dividers and I was pretty sure I saw Khloe Kardashian in the flesh—this was an unexpected development that made me both excited and nervous despite my limited knowledge of the Kardashian empire.
After emerging from my stall in the restroom, a very stylish pregnant woman was washing her hands. I think I tried to make eye contact with her but I don’t think we spoke. I have a fantasy where I chatted her up and we became very friendly—and even though she was clearly very pregnant I said nothing about her being pregnant because you NEVER do that, ever—but wish as I might I’m pretty sure that’s not what happened.
I walked back towards my seat and this time I got a clear glimpse of Ms. Kardashian through the cracks in the diveders. I told my line friend and we were flabbergasted together.
They called us in groups of six. When your number was called, you were asked to stand outside the aforementioned room dividers. Now you could clearly see and hear Khloe Kardashian back there, and there was much bustle. That’s when your mouth got really dry and your back got sweaty.
Finally you’re called in! There she is, wearing Balenciaga (you’re pretty sure) over-the-knee boots with lots of gold buttons paired with high-waisted jeans and you wonder if they are perhaps prototypes of her own line. She’s talking to the group who entered before you, who are being gently guided out. They’re noisy, trying to be noticed and remembered.
She approached our group and the other girls vied for her attention. Before I had a chance to get in the mix, which I’m terrible at, someone directed me to a white seamless backdrop for a photo. Oh! Oh my gosh, this was unexpected. As I moved in that direction someone said: “She wants to know where you got your glasses!”
“She” was Khloe, who was looking directly at me expectantly. “Oh! GlassesUSA.com!” I told her. “Hah! O.K. GlassesUSA.com!” she repeated, laughing. I laughed. Khloe Kardashian and I were laughing together!
But then I was at the white seamless and one guy was holding something that he was pointing at me, and another guy held something else that he was pointing at me, and I squinted at each of them trying to make out what they were and what I was supposed to do. But my hair flew across my face which made me want to look away from the handheld things because they blew my hair in my face but that made the hair cover my face more and I tried to push it away with my hands but I have a lot of hair.
Turns out it was a fan. You know, that thing they always use in photo shoots to make it look like the wind is blowing your hair, which you’re supposed to look AT, unless you’re going for a certain look that I’m sure has a valid place in fashion but which I was certainly not pulling off. My face was obscured in all three (maybe four) photos they shot of me.
Windblown, shaken, I returned to my little group and someone lined us up in a row. Khloe approached again—for a less formal version of my Flashdance audition. She came over and hugged (!) me and said “Hi!!!!” in a super enthusiastic and friendly manner. Everything was perfect: hair, makeup, outfit, body. I was stunned. Silent. Smiling but silent. “Hi!!” I managed.
“Look at you! You’re so cute!!” she said—to me. I think she touched my earrings appreciatively. She definitely looked me up and down in a way that was somehow not intimidating but generous and sweet.
This would have been the time to, perhaps, tell her about my lucky t-shirt. Or, even better and probably more crucial to say, “You look amazing! or “OMG your boots!” Or “Wow look at your arms!” The latter of which may have sounded creepy, but it would have been better than what I actually said.
The only words that came out of my mouth were “Thank you.” But saying thank you and nothing else after someone calls you cute is like saying thank you when someone says “I love you.” It implies you do not feel the same way and that’s no way to treat Khloe Kardashian with her great arms and boots.
She went to the next girl and that was that.
I left the building hoping that maybe our GlassesUSA.com moment had saved me. I got in Azi’s car. “Tell me everything!” she said. And when I did, I kind of knew I blew it. You don’t not compliment Khloe Kardashian, and you don’t not know to look AT the fan, or at least in its general direction.
Or maybe my booty was just not bootylicious enough.
Whatever the reasons, I was not invited to join the Good Squad. But I WAS one of about 250 women chosen from 12,000 entries to come to the casting call and I’m OK with that because I’m double the age of most of them (do shut up).
Oh, and the pregnant woman in the bathroom? Kardashian’s Good American co-founder Emma Grede, as it turns out.