4.1 Spring 2022

July 9, Street cast

As I transitioned from prepubescent to postpubescent, my secret bucket list item changed from “receive a letter from Hogwarts” to “get model scouted”. The highest form of praise for one’s looks, in my opinion back then, was for a modeling agent to professionally deem me attractive.

That, of course, never happened so I had to go through all the highs and lows of puberty by myself, feeling chubby and awkward. I went to a Jonas Brothers concert when I was 16 and pretended that I could be the girl in their song, fully knowing with my shaved head and jiggly tummy that I was happily delusional. 2005 was a different time.

I forgot about being street cast but never quite gave up the idea that I could be a model, despite having a big nose and not knowing my angles and looking average to awkward in photos.

And yet my teenage dream of being a professional model came true when I lived in Busan. I got paid $100 to borrow a dress and walk down a fancy street with my friend who had been originally cast for the promotional tourism shoot. (The shoot just needed one more person and my friend suggested me. She said they were looking for a foreign woman who was not fat. Yes, tough hurdles to cross.)

I milked that experience and only half-jokingly told everyone that I professionally modeled… once.

This weekend I went to Daegu, the cult capital, to visit friends. In between shopping and eating and watching street performances, we stopped for watermelon juice.

An older gentleman with skin completely devoid of color and a professional camera in hand approached and asked if he could take a photo of me. For once, my creeper alarms were not blaring so I jokingly told him, “if you give me money.”

He stared at my outstretched hands for an incredulous moment before promptly fishing out his wallet and depositing the equivalent of five dollars into my hand.

I shrugged and decided to go for it. At worst I could simply hand his money back and exit the venture.

Another man with a camera joined rank and the white-haired one led me a few feet away to a colorful alley.

“Walk this way and then turn around,” he instructed.

I did so and he came back.

“This time do it like a model. It’s better for the silhouette. Cross your feet over,” he explained, sashaying for me.

I didn’t know what vibe the photographers wanted so I did the angry model face and also a few smiles and carefree nods at invisible strangers.

The two men pointed and clicked but passing crowds kept cutting off the view.

“Please move out of the way,” they called but the commotion of now three cameramen drew a bigger crowd and passerby stopped to take pictures of me cat walking down this alley. Maybe the secret to becoming famous is to manufacture it all yourself.

The shoot ended soon after and the main man showed me one of the photos, a very normal shot of me walking.

“There were too many people so we couldn’t get a good shot.” He admitted. Well, I’m not giving you a refund. That was the fastest five dollars I had ever made.

I wondered suddenly what the purpose of the photos was. The men in question seemed like an amateur photography club, and I asked for the social media handles to do my own investigating.

The second old man who did nothing but frown nearly elbowed his friend out of the way to give me his Instagram account. His friend, the white-haired man, playfully punched him in the arm a few times as if to say, you’re too much.

I wasn’t born yesterday, so I just found it funny.

The main man offered to come to my city and photograph me. Um, that’s a no for me, dawg. But then a part of me thought, I could probably get a free portfolio out of this guy.

He respectfully accepted my denial and we fist bumped goodbye. My friends had kept an eye on everything the whole time and even picked up my juice; I waded through the crowd that had gathered to get back to them.

We walked on, backs dripping in the 95-degree weather, cackling loudly and talking about nonsense. I tried to keep my exclamations of “damn, I just got street cast and paid to model” to a minimum, though it would be a lie to say I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment for this accidental bucket list check!

The crisp five thousand won note stayed in my wallet as a memento for the rest of the day.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: