My circle of artistic friends has been engaged this week in a Facebook meme of “Post your First Headshot”. This morning I dug out the first photo that could be described as a headshot, which was taken to post in the school lobby when I was in a play in high school. I’m in a sweatshirt and fairly oblivious to the fact that I had not yet mastered any of the signifiers of Readiness to Be A Fancy Artist.
I’m smiling, though, and I look OK, and I think the reason I still have a copy of the picture after all these years is that my insecure self was amazed that a picture of me existed in which I looked decent.
I posted it this morning with the caption “No makeup, no tweezers, no blowout, no shame.” The truth is, there was plenty of shame, but it didn’t come until much later, wheN I was dropped into a university that resembled a J. Crew catalog and realized I was a disaster.
(And I still describe myself at this time as a disaster, always with a laugh, but what was the harm? I had been raised rather isolated – no cable, few movies, little exposure to pop culture. I knew there were Women Who Looked Put Together but it never occurred to me that I could be one of them. I didn’t know how to manage curly hair, or how to find clothes for my hard-to-fit body – is this what passes for a disaster?)
There was an innocence to that time I can’t imagine today. Do any girls make it to ten, never mind twenty, without being made to feel ashamed about their grooming, and about themselves?
I got my first real headshots the year after college. I had to borrow a shirt because I didn’t have a normal black top with a decent neckline. It was inexpensive and good enough. I used it for a long time, for most of my twenties.
And when I think about it, I still spent a lot of my twenties on shame. My body wasn’t right, my face wasn’t right, I was not enough. I wasted a lot of energy wishing I was different.
By the time I needed new headshots I was so panicked and worked up – you mean I have to just pick a day and look pretty?? – that my photographer-friend had to mix me a cocktail before we could start.
And since then I’ve had yet another round. I can afford now to pay someone to make my hair look presentable, and another someone to tailor my clothes to fit tiny shoulders and big hips. I’ve got all this figured out just in time to start obsessing about wrinkles, about age, because I still haven’t quite figured out how to live without feeling as if I don’t measure up. I am always waiting for someone to find the ways I fall short.
But it’s funny, when I look at the pictures my friends are posting, I see faces from five, ten, fifteen years ago that perfectly match the ways that these loved ones have been imprinted on my heart. And I know that producers and directors have looked at them – and at me – as talented artists and have put us all on stages and in ensembles. These flimsy, overpriced 8x10s – and the appearances that they capture – are just the merest and most inconsequential shadow of all that we offer, and all that we are.