(Filming in front of Sunset-Gower studios as the Nobu Hotel correspondant for LA Fashion Weekend. Earlier that week I was probably doing something else in a pair of khakis.)
To me, being a “slasher” means living the dream.
But in-between the dream jobs, there are plenty of gigs that just pay the bills, put bread in the cupboard, and build character while I prepare to book that next commercial. And in the arsenal of “Stuff I Can Do For Cash,” Promotional Model ranks least favorite.
Enter ugly pair of khakis and some company’s logo T-shirt.
Promotional work is a great way for freelance entertainers in secondary and commercial markets to round out their schedules and earn extra cash. Unless you happen to be Adriana Lima.
My ear-prompter teacher used to call it “F-you money”. He’d say, “You got your main hustle, your side hustle, then this other thing you do for money to just throw up in the air and dance in. That’s your ‘F-you’ money”!
Last summer I worked at an outdoor event with one of the most gorgeous and respected models in Las Vegas. This ridiculously successful and consistently booked woman was in a pair of khakis, just like me. We were working at a fairground, setting up a live action version of a popular video game, and resetting it every time someone new wanted to play. We got dirty, sweaty, and covered in hay.
Viva La Glam.
No, in this case, it’s not about the money or the job—which I am grateful to have—it’s about the stigma that comes with being a “promo model”.
In fact, good promo models from reputable companies can make twice as much in three days as many people make in a week.
This does not apply to models from Who Knows What Company or If She’ll Even Show Up. Those are exactly the models that make me not want to identify as a “promo model”.
Sadly, the stigma attached to promotional modeling is not good. Some people hear “promotional model” and immediately think of a busted, duck-face Instagram girl that is commonly associated with promoting alcohol in popular spring break destinations. (like in Robert Hoffman’s video, That Doesn’t Make You A Model, https://youtu.be/TDJ5dY5e2sM Yeah, that’s a link. Watch the video.)
And the thing is, I’m good at it! I got a blurb for my website from a woman that runs the most successful staffing company I have ever known. She said that out of the nine thousand models she works with worldwide, I was in her top twenty. A review like that is money in the bank, right?
But the label of “promotional model” hangs so heavily on my self-image that I cannot keep even one pair of khakis in my closet. I tend to return or donate all of my pairs of khakis with the underlying hope that I’ll never need them again.
Even just seeing them in my closet deeply depresses me. It has a spiritual connotation, like the Universe is hearing me loud and clear giving an inadvertent “thumbs-up” to being a promotional model, and then responds in kind by generating more of those opportunities, when I’d really rather tell people “I’m a singer”.
Of course, singers like extra money, too. I remember my father being horrified that a Broadway performer he met sold Avon on the side. He thought it meant the guy wasn’t earning a living, but union actors get a HUGE payday. That dude was rolling in “F-you money” and donning his khakis with pride.
But I hate that stigma! And I will do anything—everything(!!)—to avoid it.
One time, at this party loaded with entertainers, my boyfriend introduced me as a ‘promotional model’ to all of his friends. This close to flipping over the punch bowl.
Doesn’t my own boyfriend even know who I am, or what I do?? I fumed.
I suppose that in my Ego Drenched Fantasy Where I Am Awesome, he said something like, She’s an amazing singer, a soloist and a talented choral musician, she works as an on-camera host and interviews some of Vegas’s top entertainers for Caesars, she’s been in a ton of commercials, and she does quite a bit of print work, you probably see her around town all the time.
But nope, he said ‘promotional model’. To a group of performing artists. Obviously he was just looking for quick introduction material and didn’t do anything wrong, but the embarrassment was such that I might as well have been walking around the place totally nude.
Honestly, most of my events and tradeshows are filled with some of the loveliest and most talented ladies on the west coast! They are dynamic, multi-layered women. Many of them are artists, mothers, scholars, writers and creators who deserve deep admiration. They also happen to be beautiful, and like to earn money in their spare time.
But because of the baggage, I could never describe these talented ladies as just ‘promotional models’. Ever. It doesn’t do justice to the scope of their Being, and I don’t want that label for them any more than I would want it for myself.
Which means that my closet is a khaki-free zone. If anyone needs a pair in my size, they’re yours. I’ll be finished with them on Thursday.