Look at Me Now

by Chas Smith

Model Column
If you didn’t read last issue, or the issue before, or the issue before, here’s a catch up: I am becoming a male model because my lover once looked doe-eyed at Gavin Newsom in San Francisco and at Armie Hammer when The Social Network came out. Because I hated her doe eyes for other men. Because in order to spite her, and in order to retake my power, I had to become a male model. I had to have women look doe-eyed at me.

So I flew to New York, got an agent, and he told me I needed to gain fifteen pounds of muscles. I flew home and gained twelve. I then waltzed into the chicest salon ever (called Meche pronounced “mesh”) and got a trillion dollar haircut from celebrity stylist (and hunk) Michael Sparks. Now it was time for my book.

A model’s book is his portfolio of work and photographs of himself that he loves. Photographs that show his genetic lottery winning bone structure face bending slightly down from the camera like Marcus Schenkenberg. Bending slightly down because the light refracts off of nose, brow, chin and allow his eyes to look slightly up and fill the viewer with lust. Photographs that show his bronzed, shaved, fat-free, muscle perfect rig bending slightly away from the camera like Michelangelo’s David. Bending slightly away because he is nude and only titillating the viewer with dick and ass not posing for Playgirl. A model’s book is how he gets cast for Hermès runway shows and double spread Louis Vuitton advertisements and this is what I needed. Holding a chalice of Stella Artois and having a fake conversation with my ethnic “friends” for Beers of the World posters in Phoenix’s Jobing.com arena would not help me smash Armie Hammer.

And so, I went in to visit my agent’s West Coast office in Los Angeles and find the right photographer. I knew I would have to have an artist. A man or woman able to see my true splendor and capture it splashed in glorious shadow and sex. My eyes needed to smolder. My pectorals needed to appear big not just slightly big. My agent’s West Coast agent suggested photographer after photographer and I looked at their work but I was uninspired. I needed something more. I needed something different. I needed something that would sing. I simply couldn’t bear becoming the face for Beers of the World. My lover had already added a third name to her list of men she was openly fawning over: Charlie Hunnam, who plays Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy. Beers of the Fucking World would NOT cut it.

Then I saw his work. The photographer’s name was Derek Dunfee. He was different. My agent’s West Coast agent said that he was a big wave surfer who was just starting to get into fashion while shrugging dismissively. What did he know? He was merely my agent’s West Coast agent. Derek’s photographs seemed sunny and light. They seemed like they would suit my particular je ne sais quoi just exactly and so I called him and set up a time.

We met mid-afternoon in La Jolla, California. It was the place where Derek was raised and where he drew his inspiration. He stood before me, tattooed and model handsome himself (he was actually in Flaunt’s metallic issue), holding a Canon 5D camera. He also had an old Yashica T4 junky Terry Richardson 35mm. I do not like lo-fi for the sake of lo-fi but I liked Derek’s whole deal. He knew what he was doing. But I also started to feel very self-conscious. The Canon 5D and even the Yashica would expose me as a fraud. They would show that I did not belong.

Derek placed me against a brick wall. I felt my face go wooden, my smile become labored, my aura vacillate between doubt and greater doubt. I could not shake bad, bad feelings. Sitting for photographs goes against the average man’s best instincts. He does not want to preen. He does not want to appear vain. He does not want to be the center of attention. And even as I was trying to rise above the average man and his infernal best instincts, I saw myself sliding into his pit. I saw myself as “average,” not, as I should have, “spectacular.” My face was an awkward mask. My shoulders and arms did not know what to do. I wished I had practiced. I wished I had won the genetic lottery.

Derek remained silent, the only sound coming from his Canon 5D shutter. I had done the work, hadn’t I? I had gone to the gym, I had gone to the proper salon, I had willed myself beautiful. I screamed at my own heart, “BE BEAUTIFUL!” but did not feel any different in return.

And then Derek said he was finished. He said he would email me the selects. I was devastated but also held out slim hope that my images would represent something greater. That there would be something undeniably magnetic looking back. Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons would fall under my spell. I would be the face they had all been looking for.

Derek emailed me selects days later. The images were great, perfect even. He had talent. But the man standing in their centers was only out of place. It was all that could be said for him. Still, not wanting to admit defeat, because admitting defeat was the same thing as ordering my lover to go and be with Gavin Newsom, Armie Hammer and Charlie Hunnam, I marched back into my agent’s West Coast agent’s office and threw my book on his desk. He picked it up and slowly looked through the images. Looking down and up at me and down again. Finally he said, “You know what I think would be perfect for you? Playgirl. They really go for the guy-with-a-unique-story thing. Would you do it?” Playgirl. It was better than Beers of the World but it was not Yves St. Laurent. Or was it? I mean, what is the difference between high-fashion nudity and soft-core pornography? Wasn’t my entire goal to get women to look doe-eyed at me? I told him I would think about it and walked out his door into West Hollywood golden light not knowing if I should be depressed or flattered.

Just then my cellphone rang. It was Playboy, not Playgirl, accepting my giant feature on the agricultural conglomerate Monsanto and their dirty meddling in Hawaii. The story has the sexiest elements of danger, gang activity, murder, palm trees and genetically modified organisms. My lover hates GMOs and would be thrilled at my damning of that industry. The West Hollywood golden light trickled into my soul. Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut had all written for Playboy and women love writers more than they love models. Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller. Yes, writers are hot. Fuck models. Fuck mayors and actors too and that means you Gavin, Armie and Charlie Hunnam. Writers are the hottest men ever. I drove home to my lover to tell her that I was a literary rocket ship and she was welcome to come along.