The photography area consists of a massive paper rectangle suspended as a backdrop with metal poles. A boom light hangs overhead and an X on the floor serves as my only source of instruction. I feel like an actor in front of a blue screen preparing to converse with a cartoon penguin.
The photographer crouches behind a tripod 15 feet away as I take center stage. A few models watch from the sidelines, waiting for their turn. I try to muster up some confidence and remember what Tyra said on America's Next Top Model ("Don't hide your neck!").
We start with straight-on shots, and, clasping my collar, I worry over the placement of my legs. Right leg forward? No wait, the left leg will make a better 'V'.
The photographer suggests that I try taking big steps to get some action in the shot. This is what it must be like to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The backdrop is roughly six feet long, so taking more than one step sends me veering off my mini-runway and out of the frame. I pretend that I'm climbing on large blocks and suddenly realize that I've forgotten about my head.
"Can you tilt your chin up so that the light hits your face?" the photographer asks, peeking out from behind his camera for only a moment.
"Okay. Sorry." I continue climbing invisible steps and point my face upwards. Modeling, I'm learning, is the biomechanics of looking good.
After 15 long minutes we finish shooting full body shots and another photographer joins in to take some close-ups. One of them snaps my profile and the other takes pictures head-on. I'm more comfortable with this because it doesn't require taming my gangly limbs. I wink at the camera, smile, flash my best sultry stare. And then photo shoot is complete.
I change out of my Selden outfit and stick around with two models for the Hyper Lush line as they get pretty. Derek, one of a handful of men in the room, is new to the modeling scene. He accidentally fell into it when he accompanied a friend to a photo shoot and was asked to participate. During our conversation, Kelsy braids a strip of auburn hair down the middle of Derek's head, rooster style. He doesn't appear phased by the strange hairdo, nor does he seem to care that he isn't wearing pants.
Part of the concept behind Hyper Lush, created by Anthem Heart and Hardland/Heartland, is to represent a post-apocalyptic world in which people return to their tribal roots. For Derek, this means cut-off nylons, a garish loincloth, and a skin-tight yellow shirt. His face is painted a sickening yellow-green, and rich red circles hollow out his eyes as if all of his capillaries had burst at once.
His partner for the photoshoot is Lola, a sweet 24-year-old with perfect skin and a rail thin body. She's wearing white, high-cut moccasins and a pink dress that has a baggy cowl neck draped with animal skins. Her hair has been ratted and teased to form a chaotic halo around her head. Thick, white tribal lines run from the bridge of her nose down her cheeks and around her mouth.
"I'm going to go home like this and just scare my mom," Lola laughs. "She thinks I'm not normal anyway. I might as well just show her."
Voltage will be Lola's first show. With her slender physique and high cheekbones, she didn't even have to audition—a Hyper Lush designer simply signed her up. I ask if she plans on getting into modeling now, but she says that she wants to be an actor. Sounds like a great idea, I say, having once wanted to act myself.
But just before I grab my bag and head for the door, Lola cries out with a line that makes me think she may have a future on the runway: I feel fat! I haven't worked out in ages!