And now...Harlequin model...????
Yes, I've lucked into the trifecta of Harlequin dream jobs! Last month, a company-wide call for women to model for a national Harlequin advertising campaign went out and I decided, why not? I went to the call, not expecting to make the short list, and then I did. And then I had THE BEST. DAY. OF. WORK. EVER.
The 12 shortlisted models, all employees at Harlequin, arrived at the photo studio in the west end of Toronto at staggered times throughout the day. My scheduled time was about 10 in the morning. I was asked to wear a button-up shirt, blue jeans and flats. I brought an extra change of clothes in case they wanted something different.
First off, the most important thing: FOOD! A high-energy environment needs fuel to keep everyone in top form. Breakfast, snacks, catered lunch and a fully stocked fridge that even had beer and wine kept models, photographers, art directors, makeup and wardrobe all well fed and hydrated throughout the day.
Shoots were already underway when I arrived, with the first three models working with Tristan dressed as a firefighter, so I explored and goofed around with the props. Because of course I did.
The set was constantly busy with people adjusting lights, fans, clothing, props, and the art directors and photographer shouting suggestions for poses. You'd think this job was easy, but as I soon learned, it takes hundreds of photos to get the exact right one.
Each model spent about 20 to 30 minutes on set. From the sidelines, they looked like they were having so much fun--and who wouldn't in the arms of a hottie like Tristan?
Me and my cohorts had to get ready for the next set. Tristan would be dressed in naval dress uniform. THe makeup artist applied light makeup to keep me "natural looking," and the art director got me to change into my other shirt. Light colors can be easily Photoshopped and filtered so you can turn a piece of clothing any color.
Unfortunately, the shirt was a little too light and ended up washing out my face and, in my opinion, it looked a bit frumpy on me, so wardrobe pulled out a pink sweater. It was a wee bit too small, but all my luscious rolls were going to be hidden by Tristan's manly body, so no worries there.
Now came the hard part (hur hur hur...okay, I promise no more childish innuendos...). The idea was for Tristan to look like he was carrying me off, sweeping me off my feet while I read a Harlequin book (Note: the cover of the book is blank so that any cover can be 'Shopped in later.) I had to perch on some slightly wobbly boxes while Tristan held me up. So he had to look like he was carrying me while not actually breaking his back.
Meanwhile, I had to hold my feet up, toes pointed in a "natural" way, while holding the book with three fingers outward, keeping the cover spread, one arm around Tristan, and then act with my face like I was really into the book I was reading (I have no memory of what title it was. I think it was a Presents.) "Play to the back of the room" was one of the directions given to me. And while I can usually pull a face in any situation, I had a really hard time smiling and half looking at the camera at the same time.
In fact, it was excruciating. My core strength just hasn't been what it was since the baby came, so holding a crunch pose for 20 minutes was really challenging. I tried to switch the position of my legs and did something to my hip that made it click. It was not comfortable. I should also note that I haven't been in close quarters with any man other than my husband since we started dating, so it was a little awkward for me to be held by a good-looking 20-year-old who looked into my eyes and said, "Fall in love with me."
I think I laughed in his face, then immediately apologized. It wasn't personal--I was thinking about the diaper I'd changed earlier in the day. Gazing into his dark eyes, all I could think was, "poop, poop, poop..." It was hard not to laugh.
I asked Tristan what it was like being a model, how he prepped. He said he went to the gym, worked on his arms the day before. But otherwise, he just rolled out of bed and showered. I had to hate and love him just a little more for that.
Tristan had already been shooting since 8:00, and had held five models in his arms in this pose. I was trembling with the effort of staying aloft. He was trembling slightly, too--it was near lunchtime and we were both starving and boiling under the lights. Soft as they look, they're hot.
Finally, our shoot ended. We ate the catered lunch brought in by the studio and I mentioned that I was really disappointed that the cowboy shoot didn't feature a real horse. The creative director, Tony, looked at me oddly and said, "It's a real horse."
"Wait, what? Are you serious?"
"Yeah. We always use real horses."
I had the day off and was free to leave BUT I HAD TO STAY BECAUSE A HORSE WAS COMING.
A huge winter storm had just blown in, and I was in no rush to leave. I stuck around and wrote while the other models shot with Kyle Andrew, a professional actor and model who measures 6' 8" and is the viking in the Make A Date With Harlequin commercial. Yes, you do have to watch that commercial. And no, that is not his real hair.
All the while, I thought maybe the art directors were kidding about the horse. The studio was on the second floor--how would they get a horse into the building and through the door?
"On the freight elevator, of course," was the answer.
I waited by the window.
No way. NO WAY...
I was joined by my colleague Dana Grimaldi, and we delighted in meeting the horse, Cisco. Dana got to sit in model David's lap atop the horse. Cisco was so calm and absolutely professional, even when he had relieve himself (the handlers caught everything quite neatly in a shovel before it hit the ground). Cisco got paid in carrots and yummy treats and cuddles.
My day ended with a huge smile on my face, feeling glamorous and so lucky to be part of this awesome, talented team. The Make A Date With Harlequin campaign is out now! I didn't make the top 4 ads, but just look at my colleagues! So fabulous! Make sure you visit tryharlequin.com today!