Disclaimer: I pretty much never look like this.
There are things in life that are scarier than others, but when the opportunity arises, you have no choice but to leap at the chance. Such things include going up to your favourite celebrity when you see them on the street (although I'm not sure I'd have the guts to talk to Jared), giving that scary work presentation in front of absolutely everyone or, in my case, have your picture taken for your favourite magazine.
When winning the chance to be mentored in the Marie Claire Inspire & Mentor Scheme, one of my prizes was the chance to appear in the magazine talking about my project, Vilda. There was always talk of a photo shoot, which sounded quite scary, but I pushed it to the back of my mind, thinking that I'd deal with it "when the moment comes".
The shoot was to be held at my mentor Poppy's Fulham flat - the email from Marie Claire said "we'd love you both to wear your own clothes as your personal style is important to the story - think spring/summery vibe".
Initial reaction: well, in that case let's do it after pay day, shall we? Not two days before. So that I can actually go out and buy a personal style!
Secondary reaction: spring-summery vibe? In the very non-summery weather? I envisioned the following headline: Girl from Mentoring Program Dies from Frostbite During Photo Shoot. Fragments of America's Next Top Model hopefuls shooting bikini pictures in a snowy NYC flashed before my eyes.
After fretting over the details all weekend (shoe polish - check! Skirt ironing - check! Practicing my best "natural and effortlessly gorgeous" face in the mirror - check! Although the latter did more resemble an escaped mental patient), I threw three of my favourite dresses, four pairs of shoes, a skirt and a top into a huge bag (undecided much?) and schlepped off to Poppy's.
My lovely mentor's flat was deserving of its own paragraph in this post. It appears to be my destiny to be painfully jealous of everyone whose flat I set foot in here in London, and Poppy's no different. Her and her fiance's amazing abode is so gorgeous that had I suggested we skip the outside shots (not without an agenda...) and stay indoors, someone might actually have taken me seriously.
Hair and makeup was the fun part. Call me crazy, but I actually prefer to sit around and be pampered to the actual "take centre stage and be photographed" stuff. And this hair and makeup artist was fantastic - I wish I always looked like the above photo. On a sadder note, when I asked her to do the "undone, wavy look", she said, "sure" and 40 minutes later I had the above hair. I have no clue at what time the people who actually do this every day wake up. In my image of the "future, successful, fabulous me" (clue: she's not the one living in the dirty flatshare), I have this hair all the time, and yesterday I was faced with the harsh reality that this will be but a dream forever.
After all the pampering, we stepped out on the balcony with the gorgeous river view (I would have cried of jealousy if I wasn't risking my makeup) and the torture began. Aside from the cold, which was piercing, there was this constant sense of you're doing it wrong, aided by the photographer constantly correcting me:
"Sascha, tilt your head this way. No, the other way. Take a step in. Now relax your hand. And turn towards me".
Sometimes my mentor would think he meant her and tilt her head, whereupon he would go, "no, not you, Poppy, you're perfect". I kind of wished I'd fall off the balcony right then (or get swept away by the menacing February wind). Thankfully, soon enough the crew found they had the pictures they needed and we were ready to move on to part two: the "streetstyle" shoots by the river.
Now, here's where I truly thought I'd freeze my Next Top Model butt off.
Poppy, of course, looked beyond gorgeous in her Seventies-inspired printed maxi dress - it was obvious that she was a photo shoot pro, while I was the irritating novice who got everything wrong. I was a bit relieved when it was all over, and not only for the cold! I can't wait to see how the end result looks, but I suspect we'll all think back to the Friends episode where Monica refers to her and anti-photogenic Chandler's engagement pics as "local woman saves drowning moron".