NY MAG‘s blog The Cut deemed Opening Ceremony’s one-act play, written and directed by Spike Jonze and Jonah Hill, “the most honest thing you’ll read about modeling.“ Model and great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, Dree, starred in the show as “Bella, an ‘It’ girl model who’s showed up for a run-through of the spring/summer 2015 collection, and meets Julie (Elle Fanning) a corn-fed youngster straight off the bus from the Midwest who’s there to walk in her first fashion show.” Both gals recite hoary lines that probably made old Ernest roll and moan in his Sun Valley grave.
Men have always thought that they can write women better than women, but if Opening Ceremony really wanted to make a statement, and not simply use two high profile names to create buzz about their show, they should have hired someone other than Spike Jonze who uses the guise of Her, to write about Him, and Jonah Hill, whose authority on the matter includes hanging out with Leonardo DiCaprio. If OC really wanted to be honest, to make those fashion folks in the front row cringe, they would have, as casting directors like to say, gone a different direction.
They should have hired, I don’t know, Jenny Bahn, who has been working as a model for a decade plus, and who has written more nuanced and thought-provoking stuff on the subject than anyone else. See here. And here. Oh, and while you’re at it: here. She also wrote a book PS.
This play is PR stunt. And it’s a bad one, though not surprising considering the lengths designers need to go through to get noticed.
The Cut calls it “dark,” but it’s “dark” if only by the stereotypes it perpetuates and the audacity these two men had to write such grammar school crap. (How did it take TWO men to write this?) So we had Jenny rewrite the script, because the “darkness” of modeling is much bleaker than either of these men have imagined.
Sorry OC, we like your clothes, and your start-up story, and your super cool stores, and that your founders went to Berkeley (go Bears), but no to this. Yes to the below.
BY: JENNY BAHN
Act I, Scene I
Svetlana (16) stands outside of a closed door with a piece of paper taped on it reading “SHOW CASTING” in large black letters. She bends down, pulling a pair of cheap boots off of a pair of very red and swollen feet, replacing them with a pair of equally cheap heels. She winces as the leather scrapes over cuts and blisters acquired over a week of fashion week shows and one hundred castings. The door swings open, revealing another model, the weight of two sacks of flour and legs like wishbones.
MODEL (mumbling): I can’t do this sh** anymore. Over it.
Svetlana opens the door, revealing a long hallway filled with thirty exhausted young girls. Some look at each other warily, some talk, most wear faces of nervous boredom as they drag their fingers over the surface of their iPhones.
SVETLANA: Is there a sign-in sheet?
A model shakes her head and resumes trolling Instagram.
CASTING DIRECTOR: I’ll take the next four girls. Have your cards and books with you.
Svetlana sits down next to a brunette with severe bangs and a septum piercing currently staring noncommittally into space. Her real name is Kelly and she is from a normal household in a normal neighborhood outside of Dallas. Her agency made her go by JACK because it goes with her new, harder, androgynous image.
SVETLANA: Hey, were you at the casting for PS earlier? I think I saw you there.
JACK: I’m pretty sure every girl in this room was at that casting earlier.
SVETLANA: Ha. Yeah. Okay. (Pause) I’m Svetlana.
JACK: You must be new.
SVETLANA: It’s my first season. You too?
JACK (laughs ruefully): Not really… so how’s it going?
SVETLANA: It’s okay. I mean, I think it’s okay. I’ve booked nine shows. Small ones, I guess. Nothing big. The agency says I have to lose two inches before Paris, which seems like a lot.
JACK: No bread, no drinking.
SVETLANA: That’s what they told me.
JACK (shakes her head): I can’t wait til I’m out of this thing.
SVETLANA: What do you mean?
JACK: You realize how f’ed up it is that you’re—what—fifteen years old…
JACK: Sixteen years old and some 30-year-old booker is telling you what not to eat? That the only way you’re going to make it in Paris is if you lose two inches off your entire body? TWO INCHES? You shouldn’t be hearing that stuff right now. You should be in school, texting boys half your height and studying pre-calc. You shouldn’t be sitting in a hallway at 9 pm on a Tuesday waiting for someone twice your age to flip through a portfolio of pictures that make you look way older than you are so people don’t feel bad that they’re judging a child. I really hate this whole thing.
SVETLANA: So why don’t you quit?
JACK: Golden handcuffs, baby.
Svetlana gives her a confused look.
JACK: It’s the money. Every time you try to walk away, there’s always a job that pays about 3000 times more per hour than any poor sack on this planet makes: $4,000 per day jumping around a Bergdorf’s catalogue, $50,000 for some national commercial for shampoo. You know how hard it is to walk away from that?
JACK: You see? It’s that hard. And so you keep going, sometimes making a ton of money, sometimes making nothing, always having the hope that you might be the next big thing. I know a girl who booked two massive campaigns one year and still ended up on food stamps, living in some weird commune in Bushwick… while she was plastered up on a billboard in SoHo.
SVETLANA: What happened to her? Did she ever make it?
JACK: She put on fifteen pounds and moved back to Kansas to finish college.
SVETLANA: It can’t be all that bad, though, right? You must have liked some of it.
JACK: No, I mean, yeah, some of it is great. Some of it’s amazing. I’ve met some of the most interesting people in the world—definitely not the most educated or intelligent—but definitely the most interesting. I’ve been to Paris and London and all that. I’ve made a ton of money, but, you know, sometimes you think about the cost. Yeah, I live in an awesome apartment, and I’ve been given some great clothes, but what’s next, you know? I’m not Kate Moss—no one in this room is Kate Moss. I’m not going to keep doing this forever, making millions a year. I’ll turn 24 and that’ll be it. Done. Final. And I’ve got no added skill set, no schooling, no retirement plan. The industry uses you up and then forgets you—and, I mean, why should it remember you? The whole thing is surface. It’s always going to want younger, prettier, thinner. It wants the better surface, the best surface. Eventually you’re not that anymore.
SVETLANA (thinking for a minute): At least you have three years still.
JACK: Ha. Yeah. At least.
CASTING DIRECTOR: I’ll take the next four girls. Have your comp card and book with you.