By Rachel Lankester.
“Can we try another pair of shoes please,” said the senior stylist. “Those just won’t do.” “You have such thin ankles!” she said directing her comment to me.
Who’d have thought it’d be my ankles that would let me down! It was my first experience of being a model. I might’ve worried I was a bit plump around the hips, or my eye bags a bit pronounced, but no, it was my ankles that were the problem. You see, I have lower legs compared to those of a chicken by my beloved. I have the thinnest of ankles and wrists. It’s a shame the rest of me isn’t similarly delicate.
So here I was at my Prima magazine photoshoot. I arrived bright and breezy on a Monday morning to a very trendy photo studio in Shoreditch in London. On arrival, I was immediately taken to meet my own personal hair and make up stylist for the day. She sat me down and asked me if I had any skin allergies. I said I’ve always had sensitive skin and can break out with most things. But for the purposes of a morning of make up, I’d probably be okay. I said I usually only use a bit of Bare Minerals ready powder but was quickly told this wouldn’t be enough for the camera! So I granted her free rein.
She then proceeded to spend two hours, on and off, making up my face and curling my hair. As she worked, we chatted about how her career had taken her all over the world doing similar photo shoots. She was heading to a wedding in Italy that following week and had worked in both Japan and New York on long-term contracts. When I was looking for a career back in school that would take me round the world, I never considered being a hair and make up stylist. Who knew?
By the time she’d finished, I was transformed. I looked nothing like myself! She told me she hadn’t applied heavy make up as she could see I wasn’t a huge fan. I didn’t like to contemplate what heavy make up would’ve looked like! I could see I looked pretty glamorous, but I also felt older with my professional make up in place.
When my face was about 2/3 done the fashion stylist had me try on a few outfits to see what worked for me. These were clothes I never would’ve chosen for myself, but it was fun to play around. There was no actual changing room so they sent me into the ladies loo to try on various combinations.
When I saw the outfit the stylist picked out for me, my face fell. She could see I wasn’t happy. It was about as far from what I would normally wear as a ballgown to go to work. So she allowed me to try on some white jeans and a coral colored caftan as a fallback. But I could see she really wanted her initial plan. Though a long white pleated skirt was not the best choice for my bottom half!
In the end we decided on two outfits and that, if there was time, they’d photograph me in both. Then I went back to hair and make up to have my nails painted in a coordinating color and my hair styled. It was rather nice having a mani-pedi for free on a Monday morning!
When I was finally done, the cameraman wasn’t quite ready for me, so a large roller was put in my hair to try and maintain the lift. “You have very heavy thick hair don’t you,” said the stylist. “Yes,” I said “I don’t usually bother styling it other than with max strength gel, because it just does what it wants!”
Eventually the photographer was ready for me and I put on the first outfit. They had multicoloured screens set up to stand in front of and a plain white block that various models had been alternatively sitting on or leaning against. I was later told the photos I’d already provided of my trip would be digitally superimposed on this white block as part of the final feature. You see, I’d been selected for this because I’d responded to a request for women who’d gone on a transformational solo trip, to get in touch.
Here I have to tell you of the power of PR. I responded to a Tweet asking for women who fitted this bill to contact the Tweeter. It was under the hashtag #journorequest. Which I try to follow. I picked up this tip from the wonderful Melissa Talago. It’s a great way to find PR opportunities.
I emailed the commissioning editor putting myself forward and was then asked for more details, some travel pics and a head-shot. I joined a group for my desert trek in Wadi Rum in Jordan, but traveled there alone and didn’t know anyone else in the group beforehand. When Prima finally decided to go with my story, I was interviewed about the trip over the phone. So the final article, though written in my words, was actually written for me after an interview. And that’s why I was having my photo taken in Shoreditch on a Monday morning.
All in all it was a very fun day and lunch was delicious! You can see the finished feature below and also the outfit that got away – the caftan, white jeans combo that was a bit more me though the tassles are so not! They also very kindly did me some headshots which you can see above and below.
The most wonderful thing about this whole experience is that the PR actually worked! I knew the magazine (the July edition) must’ve hit the shops when we started getting lots of new requests to join our private Facebook group, the Flock, from women citing Prima as how they found us.
So I rushed to the shops to find a copy, but none of the shops near me had it. Then last week I drove up to Birmingham and at my first motorway services station, there was a whole pile of Prima magazines, so I was able to stock up and buy a copy for my mum too.
It’s wonderful that women read the article, saw the reference to the Mutton Club at the bottom, came to the website and then found our Facebook group. Aren’t they a clever lot.
If you read my story in Prima, you’ll see my trip truly was a transformational experience for me. You can see some of the photos I took of the trip in this photo essay. I wouldn’t have written the article quite as it was, but it’s pretty good. So if you’re ever wondering if you can manage a solo trip, just go for it! It can be so life-affirming and liberating.
And if you’re ever asked to do a photo shoot for a magazine, go for that too. It’s great fun!
And here’s the outfit that got away!
You may also like these other posts by Rachel: Realizing A Dream – Going On BBC Woman’s Hour!, What Singing Means To Me, and When A Little Bit Of Faith Could Really Help.
Rachel Lankester is the founder of the Mutton Club. She has a background in corporate communications and sustainability, and has found her passion helping women feel good about life at any stage and particularly midlife. She’s rather introverted but still has an awful lot she wants to communicate to the world! She loves yoga, singing, travel and anything to do with China. On Twitter: @ (but mostly @)