I don’t like having my picture taken.
I actually hate it.
In childhood, it was because I had a serious overbite from ten years of thumb-sucking and a gap between my two front teeth that you could drive a car through.
And for some reason, my natural smile is wide. Super wide. I smile with reckless abandon. Like I’m really really overjoyed that your camera is in my face.
Even though I’m not.
So when I get a request for a photo to be placed on the contributor’s page of a magazine, I panic.
I’ve always pored over the contributor’s page of every magazine I could get my hands on. Everyone always looks so fashionable, so with-it and happening. They all have amazing bios and their photos are always perfect: a family shot with adorable cherubs, a glam shot taken by a professional, a care-free picture that looks like it was taken by a lover.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I think all writers stress over submitting these pictures. We take a million of them right at our computer, trying hard to make it look like we didn’t take the picture just for the magazine. Here’s me right now:
For a few years, I used a caricature I had commissioned from artist Ed Steckley. I can’t find the image. But luckily, Ed’s got it up on his website:
Sidebar: You have to check out Ed’s website. http://www.edsteckley.com. He’s amazing. Years after he did this for me, I hired him to do my wedding invitations. It’s me and TH jumping over a broom together. Awesomeness.
But after a while, that picture didn’t really fit. And it was silly that I was so picture-averse. I tried out using real photos. For VIBE, I used a photo of me and TG at my nephew Jordan’s high-school graduation.
I’ve cropped TG out here. But in the real picture, you can see us both clearly. And it’s one of my favorite pictures of her. But when the magazine came out, TG’s mom wasn’t happy about her child’s photo being displayed in a national magazine. And looking back, I can understand that. So this photo, which was going to be my forever contributor photo, was canned.
In the last issue of KING, I wrote a story about the recession. They asked for a photo. Yikes. For King? Hmmm.
Yup. I put makeup on. Smoky eyes. Lip gloss. I can’t be in King looking like the regular me!
And then there was Essence. Hmmm. Gotta look more intelligent. Not too over the top. Real natural like…
Now last week posed a real problem. A business magazine is running a short profile on working in social media and I’m one of the subjects of the piece. It’s a conservative business magazine and they asked for a “professional head shot.”
I’m a writer. Not a model. Why would I have that?
I sent the Essence photo. It was too small.
I sent a pre-TWA photo of me in my office this summer:
I got an email back from the reporter: Do you have anything more…professional?
I guess writers do get head shots. I’m having a book published next year. I assume there will be photos used in marketing and promotion.
I gotta get a real, professional photo of myself.
I’m not looking forward to it.
For the business magazine, I asked TH to take a headshot of me this morning.
Who is this woman? When did I get OLD?! Why do I look 50? I hate this picture. Why is my collar bone so bony? Why are my eyes so far apart? Why is my eighthead so huge? And I’m feeling some type of way. I want to know when, exactly, I turned into a cross between Florida Evans, Florence from the Jeffersons and Maya Angelou.
I just spent the morning looking for the first picture that ever appeared on the contributor’s page of a magazine. And then I realized it’s hanging right above my desk. This photo was taken by Shelby Gates. And it ran in a 1999 issue of CMJ New Music Monthly.
I remember looking at the picture when I first got it. You know what I said? I said: Who is this woman? When did I get OLD?! I hate this picture. Why is my collar bone so bony? Why are my eyes so far apart? Why is my eighthead so huge? And I’m feeling some type of way.
And in ten years, I’m sure I’ll look back on the photo I took this morning and wonder why I hated it.
But right now, I want to go back in time, to 1999. To that wide-eyed girl who was so concerned that her hair would never lock.
Since I can’t do that, maybe I’ll just get some Botox, learn to apply makeup properly and lose ten pounds.