For a flawless look in photographs, make sure your foundation doesn't contain SPF. The chemicals in the sunscreen reflect the flash, making your face look washed-out and not at all pretty.
The receptionist's name bounced into the top position of my inbox.
Subject: Your headshot Hannah, they're ready for you upstairs. Have fun!
I took a deep breath. It was go time.
I grabbed my phone and pondered taking some lip gloss. Noooo, what would I need that for? There would be people to do my hair and makeup there. Wonderful, talented people who had mastered the exact smoky-eyed, illuminated-cheekbone look I wanted.
As I bounded up the stairs to our in-house photo studio, I was giddy with excitement. What would they do? How would they morph me from slovenly desk girl to glorious beauty minx? I smiled, thinking of all the possibilities. Most likely I would be presented with several different 'looks' – fresh pink lips and rosy cheeks, or sultry night vixen; hair up, hair down; seated or delicately perched on a stool – and then I would sit with the art director and select the most flattering and beautiful photos. Everyone knows that a beauty editor's headshot has to be a masterpiece of shiny, bouncy hair, lacquered lips, twinkling eyes, and well-blended eye shadow so that the readers believe that the woman instructing them on bronzer application actually knows how to apply bronzer, because just look how delicately tanned and pretty she is up there in the top right-hand corner.
I knocked lightly on the door and, getting no response, pushed it open. It took less than thirty seconds for me to surmise that there would be no time for friendly banter.
As my shots had been tacked onto the end of a huge fashion shoot, it had reached that delightful stage of the day when everyone involved has 'I was supposed to have pissed off home two hours ago' burned into their irises. Two fashion juniors were in the corner, perspiring slightly after having won a fierce battle against a mountain of unruly, tangled coat-hangers, which they were now attempting to jam onto a rack already frothing with beautiful clothes. Which they then wheeled out of the room. I looked at my drab grey dress, which did nothing for my skin tone and had an empire-line seam that flattened my boobs. Oh, and look, there's my frayed black bra peeking out over the bust line. Brilliant.
I gulped and walked over to where the makeup artist had all of her utensils laid out. She appeared to be busy sorting out living arrangements with her boyfriend.
'You said he would be off our lounge LAST week. What are we? A shelter for drug-fucked losers?! For fuck's SAKE, I want him OUT! TODAY!'
While she would probably be a lot of fun to sit with as she held pointed implements near my eyeballs, I felt I should let her finish chatting.
I turned around to face a young girl sitting on the lounge reading a magazine. I looked at her with raised eyebrows and 'Sooo, what should I do now?' eyes. She looked at me, shrugged, and went back to her reading.
Finally, the makeup artist got off the phone.
'Sorry, I had to deal with that.' She wasn't sorry.
She came over to me, frowning and looking at my face. She pulled back some of my fringe and scanned what was on offer.
'Oh, you've already got makeup on.' (Hour-old lip gloss.) 'So you're already made up, yeah?' (Bare-faced.) 'And you're a beauty writer?' (Editor.) 'So you're probably an expert at applying makeup anyway, right?' (Rubbish.) 'So you could just finish it off yourself, probably, couldn't you?' (Absolutely not.)
She nodded and scrunched up her nose as though we were agreeing on these questions.
'Cool. Well, I'm out of here then. Don't worry, you look fine,' she yelled out as she started packing up her stuff. Three minutes later, she was gone.
I couldn't believe it. No makeup. No hair. No clothes. I was fucked.
I was trying to at least smooth down my hair when a small man in tight black jeans and a white T-shirt exploded through the door. His hair was curling from underneath a black fedora and his eyes darted around the room. He had a camera in one hand and a Black-Berry in the other, and he looked far more interested in the latter.
'We ready to roll or what?' he said in a loud cockney accent.
He was not going to be the encouraging type. I started to fret. But no more than, say, a deer being chased by a large spotted cat.
'Uh, ready . . . I guess,' I said.
'Over you go, then. Ain't got all night, 'ave we?'
I looked at the blank white 'set'. No props, no chair, and where was the wind machine ? Everyone knows you need a wind machine! I walked over and stood awkwardly on the spot marked with tape. I put one hand on my hip. I took it off. I folded my arms. I unfolded them. I had no idea what to do, and I never would. It didn't matter how often I was photographed, in the face of a lens I suddenly became less exciting than bark. I just froze up.
'Just smile like you're happy to be 'ere,' the photographer said lazily, as he focused his lens. I smiled. 'Like you're happy, not terrified, luv.' Easy for him to say, he wasn't the one sans makeup with a monstrous camera pointed at him. I took a deep breath and smiled again. He snapped a few shots. 'Head down.' I put it down. 'Not that far down.' I raised it. 'No one wants to see a double chin, do they?' I raised it even higher. 'Chin down, not head, just chin. Okay, now, look at me, but not at me.' I moved my head ever so slightly to face him, concentrating intently on which way my head, eyes and chin were each facing. 'Jesus, smile, darlin'. Smile!' Cue fake smile. 'Teef? You got any?' I flashed my teeth, trying to think happy thoughts. He took maybe ten more shots and then put down his camera.
He was probably just checking the settings.
'You done good, luv. Nice work. Now, Amber, where's my fuckin' loight-a? I need a dart and I need to be at the pub and I need both now.'
Ohshitno. Please no. We were done? That was it? That was my moment? As I watched Pete Doherty pack up his camera while the girl from the lounge searched for his lighter, I realised with horror that we were indeed done.
If I never saw those photos, it'd be too soon.
The following morning, Kate popped around to my office and dropped the proof sheet onto my desk. And oh, what proof it was. My décolletage-length brown wavy hair was parted unflatteringly in the centre, my normally quite olive skin appeared pale, the fine lines under my eyes were pronounced and my dark-brown eyes seemed dull and dead. Fish-like. The shots were extra ordinary. Note the gap.
'They're nice, Hannah!'
'They're awful, Kate.'
'No they're not. Don't be silly. It's probably just that you look better in the flesh.' Even Kate – adorable, always-sweet-and-complimentary Kate – was struggling to wheel out her usual hyperbole.
'Well, I think they're nice.' She smiled and frolicked away.
I looked at my shots again. They were gross. I would have to sweet-talk Antonia, Gloss's retoucher, into performing some magic. I knew she liked Body Shop stuff; maybe I would make her a little bribe hamper. I needed shine and colour on my lips! Warmth in my skin! Eyes that sparkled! Blush that gently hugged my cheekbones!
I sighed loudly. Like a guy with a bladder full of beer and a tree in his sights, the photo going into Gloss was unstoppable: you gotta have a headshot, and this was mine. I tried to think about it philosophically. In a way, it was symbolic: I was always going to be the girl with unblended foundation, a wobbly trail of liquid eyeliner, and a cluster of anti-frizz balm sitting nonchalantly behind her left ear. In fact, the more I thought about it, it was an absolute farce that I was advising women on how to look perfect.
But somehow, somehow, I had managed to hoodwink everyone into thinking I had a clue about this beauty thing.
Until now, anyway.
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 31st August 2009
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 13.0 x 2.3
Weight (kg): 19.7
Edition Number: 1
About the Author
Zoë Foster enjoys writing author biographies because she gets to write things like, 'Zoë Foster is Australia's most critically acclaimed and bestselling author,' and, 'In 2010, Foster was controversially awarded the Pulitzer for the second time' despite the fact that all of these things are untrue.
Things that are true include her role as contributing editor at Mamamia.com.au, and dating columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine. She was previously the editor-at-large of beauty website primped.com.au, beauty director at Harper's BAZAAR, and prior to that beauty director at Cosmopolitan magazine.
Zoë has published two novels, Air Kisses and Playing the Field, as well as the dating and relationship book, Textbook Romance (written in conjunction with Hamish Blake). A collection of her best beauty tips and tricks, Amazing Face, was released in 2011, and her next book, a novel, will be published in March 2012.
Other titles by Zoe Foster
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After Hannah Atkins, the magazine world's most unlikely beauty editor, is dumped for the local TV weather girl, she adopts some hardcore rules to attain the Perfect Life. She will learn how to blend her eye makeup so she doesn't resemble an over-emotional beauty queen.
She will triumph over the catty mag-hags waiting to see her trip in her new-season Jimmy Choos. She will not drunkenly disgrace herself at achingly hip PR launches. She will not accidentally go home with inappropriate men.
And she absolutely will not fall in love with one of them . . .
About the Author
Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. She was beauty director of Cosmopolitan, Harper's BAZAAR and PRIMPED and then collated all the best tips and tricks from her time in these roles for the beauty bible, Amazing Face. She is currently the dating columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine, although her best advice in this arena can probably be found in the dating and relationship guide, Textbook Romance, which she co-wrote with Hamish Blake. Zoe has published three novels, Air Kisses, Playing The Field and The Younger Man, and she rates them among the best novels ever written in the history of the written word.