Scouring the internet for a sophisticated Western-look model seems easy....try finding one that is living and working in Bali. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. My first sojourn into this maze of ridiculousness, started when I found what I thought we both liked (me and my business partner) and contacted the agency to talk about her fee for a half day shoot on a catered mega yacht. Yes, that's right. MEGA being large and YACHT being well...the cream thereof.
Now back in my old days of being a model, I would have jumped up and down and shouted to my booker 'I'll do it for nothing', I love boats you see and having my hair and make up done and posing languidly all legs and arms akimbo, stretched out on a 'mega' yacht seems like someone handing me a plate of caviar and fois gras all at the same time avec wine. I would have said where do a sign up? I would have said it with a giant smile on my face as though all my christmasses had come at once.
In todays world there seems to be a massive tumorous slant on reality now.
In Bali, for things such as the 'prized' Western look (that being what they can lay their hands on that is foreign like), everyone has gone quite literally mad. I'm not asking for a Nubian princess who has been bathed in asses milk all her life and has slept on the scent of exotic flowers that have penetrated the core of her essence. What on earth do these agencies think they are doing? Selling gold covered models with all the fixtures and fittings? Seriously. Some of the quotes I had, I had to send abroad just so everyone could laugh harder than me at the preposterous nature of them, in no word of a lie, done in Excel with the final cost in capital red letters in the last column. No logo, no nothing, just a big fat price tag.
So I took it into my own hands to use my connections to find a model similar for about a quarter of the price.
'Ooooh, I know the girl you want,' she said.... 'she is amazing. I have used her before. We can get a better price. Here is her number. Just tell her you are working with me and it will be great.'
It sounded promising. I excitedly made the call.
Sure enough, it all went according to plan and we struck a bargain. A time to meet and try on the clothes, check the hair and the make up for the day and get on with setting up the shoot date and call sheet. I get on the bike and over to the fashion designers house, to meet everyone and drink to the fact it was all going swimmingly.
That was until I opened the door.
'Hi,' I said. 'He's in there,' pointing to the lounge room. 'You can clean all your brushes in the sink in the bathroom if you need to and set up on the table over there.'
She stood there staring.
'I'm the model,' she said, rolling her eyes.
'No you're not,' I said pertinently, crossing my arms and looking at her dead hair with aversion and recoil.
She sat down and stared again.
'There must be some mistake' I said, 'I booked K...'.
'I am K...' she said.
'Not the one I booked,' me now getting more irritated. I stared and thought this through. Is this Bali telling me something again. Ok, go with it Ness. Just let the Gods do their work. She is probably amazing.
'Ok,' I said, 'We can work with this, but I need to make a call and take your picture' pointing and waving my hand up and down her slumpy body. I noticed a piercing in her face that I wanted to pluck out violently. 'Oh Bali', I said to myself, you do it to me again.
I disappeared out into the garden, near the pool and huddled behind a cement water fountain of a woman with a stupid grin on her face, pouring eternal water into its depths. I wanted to say 'who is more stupid here, me or you?'I double took a glance and I am sure she mouthed the words, 'YOU.'
Ring, ring. It answered.
'Heya, hi,' I stopped dead with silence. 'We have a big bloody problem. It's not the same chick.'
Whilst saying this I shot over a photo of the 'new look' model obscuring the monstrosity of mangled locks and bad dying that lay like a stuffed bale of hay, under the crocheted hat I plopped on her to make the quick transformation to acceptable.
'We are running out of time, maybe we can get her hair dyed,' came the answer. I agreed and with that I went back to 'the slump' in the chair and suggested a lovely day at the salon (on us).
'No way!' came the grumpy reply.
'I'm sorry?' I said. 'What do you mean?'
'I love my hair and I'm growing the roots out' she said gazing at herself in the reflection of the glass door. It's called Balique or something,' she waved in the air.
I spluttered and choked on the words I wanted to say, coming out of my mouth.
'Im sorry THIS...(waving my hand around her head in complete disbelief) is not for our market. Our range is high end women who own their own businesses and yachts and they sail up and down the Amalfi Coast.' I stopped at the end of that last sentence, although I wanted to finish with something a bit more tart.
'I have worked for higher brands than yours with this hair,' she said.
I laughed. 'Well not THIS brand darling,' I said, 'thanks for coming in' and turned on my heels and walked away with a flick of my hair as if to say 'this conversation is over'.
'I need a model,' I said to a new booker, who had been keen on my heels the day before. 'She has to have nice hair, great eyes and a good smile.'
'Yes, yes, no problem,' she said, irritated as though she had heard this a thousand or so times and was bored at the same old rhetoric.
'Ok,' I said, 'When can I see her?'
'Tomorrow, tomorrow. I will come with her to meet you. You will be happy. She is a great choice,' she said putting the phone down.
I breathed a sigh of relief and padded out to the studio to tell Nini we had scored the one we wanted (and her name was not confusing so there was no chance that someone else would turn up). I got ready to leave to meet up at the fashion designers house yet again, with a spring in my step. It was a tiny mess up I kept telling myself. A bit lost in translation, but that's Bali I said to myself and it was probably the full moon that caused it anyway.
It was deja vu, entering the house again. Make up artist at the ready in the lounge and I smiled and moved towards the air-conditioned room to greet the fashion designer and there I stood at the door and my jaw dropped open in horror.
'No, no, no, no, NO'! I shouted waving my hands around and shaking my head, clawing at my hair in frustration. There stood the face of the tear sheet I had seen, followed by the body I had NOT.
At first I thought she had been brutally and savagely attacked since I had seen her composite model card, but then realised there were gargantuan tattoos badly positioned over her rather pear like body. A Shiva here a Ganesha there and a Vishnu that looked more like an octopus. They were badly positioned and deeply greening like oxidising copper, one so close to the neck it looked like she had been garotted with a tightrope. Such a lovely face. Why? I thought.
I sank into depression. I turned to the booker and said just that. 'Why? and slumped now myself into a chair in the garden and covered my eyes.
That's all my little voice could say.
They had all taken the wind out of my sails. My ever efficient nature slapped around the face a thousand times again as if to say, 'Wake up, goddam it! This is Bali!' 'It doesn't matter how organised you think you are, we are in charge here!' And then the sound of annoying laughter from the gods.
The booker just looked at my pathetic body language and began to open her mouth. I raised my hand in deference.
'I know a really good one without tattoos' she said. 'Oh wait, no I don't. The girl I am thinking of has a mushroom on her hip. They all have them now. Its very fashionable you know.' I death-stared her and she backed out of the room gingerly and moved into the lounge.
I think I cried that day. I felt the blood pumping like fire around my body, knowing there were now just moments to spare to get this sorted out. But it did in the end. I took a chill pill. There is a silver lining in every cloud. (I repeated it as a mantra to myself).
I will let you know that we managed in our third attempt to get a good model in the end. She was very professional and she worked her ass off to please us. I am grateful to the universe for showing me that no matter how hard you try to design and print out your perfect life or plan, there are things that just happen to take you out of the comfort zone and teach you very valuable lessons in life.
As my husband likes to say.....(because someone gave him a birthday card with this on it and its glued to the wall in our bedroom I kid you not)
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, add some vodka invite a few friends around and throw a party!
Thank you to the wonderful team we ended up having on the day and the incredible yacht captain who gave us the chance to shoot on her with said model in tow.
BALI. Land of changing winds, acceptance lessons and organised chaos. We love you and we hate you in balance. You are our staple diet and you can control what we eat or don't. You are ever changing and beautiful, terrorising and terrific. But most of all, you bring me proportional bouts of anger and laughter and make me a better person.