‘Your job sounds really glamorous,’ is the reaction I often get when I tell people what I do. I usually deny it, and say that it’s not all launch parties and hanging out with celebrities. In fact, I have to make regular visits to Swindon (WH Smith Head Office) and Brentford (Waterstone’s Head Office), both of which are designed to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.
But then, there is the odd occasion when you wake up and think, ‘Yeah, I’m off to do something GLAMOROUS today, and no mistake.’ This week, I had one of those days, for I was tasked with filming a video for one of our books – Gok Wan’s autobiography, to be precise. He was doing the photoshoot for the cover, and would have 20 minutes or so for filming. Cue: instant panic about what to wear; very hasty grooming routine (nails painted 10 minutes before I left the house) and a worry that I was going to throw myself at him and screech, ‘Can I be your best friend?’
I lurked about in the studio, replying to texts from colleagues asking if he’d called me ‘girlfriend’ yet, or made a grab for my ‘bangers’. ‘NO’, I texted back, ‘disappointing on both fronts so far.’ I don’t know how people cope with having their photo taken with a roomful of people looking at them, then instantly staring at the laptop where the images are appearing in rapid succession. Also, how on earth do you manage so many different expressions, when, as Gok said, ‘you’ve only got one face’? I tried doing it once for a makeover article in a magazine and hated every second. But that was before I became addicted to America’s Next Top Model. Now I reckon I could totally nail a photoshoot. I am familiar with how to appear both fierce AND edgy (sometimes at the same time) and the necessity of ‘not losing your neck’, not to mention, courtesy of the latest series, how to appear taller when you are, in fashion terms, a midget (Ie 5’4” instead of 5’11”).
But then, disaster struck. Whilst Gok was tweeting his thousands of followers, asking whether he should get naked for his covershoot, the photographer suddenly had an idea. ‘I think we should do a group shot!’ he boomed (the mighty Trevor Leighton is a big man, and booming was his default setting). I assumed he meant that his selection of attractive assistants would be called upon. But no, apparently he meant Team Gok. Ebury Team Gok. The team in question (Toby the jacket designer, editors Liz and Charlotte and yours truly) immediately started acting like terrified publishing types, backing away from the camera and squeaking, ‘No! No!’ The photographer, however, was insistent.
We started off in a weird kind of pile up, all leaning on poor Toby. Unlikely career highlight: finding myself being leaned on by Gok Wan. Blimey! Then came the moment of truth – we were somehow persuaded into recreating a famous Richard Avedon fashion photo. None of us dared ask if we were supposed to be smiling or not, so the resulting pic shows some of us smiling gaily, some of us looking a bit confused and some of us looking stiff, awkward, as though they have lockjaw and with an alarming case of previously undiagnosed neck fat (me.)
With the video filmed, our celeb was off to another photo shoot, whilst we were heading back to the office, muttering, ‘God, I don’t know how he does it, that was really difficult’ and deciding once and for all - being a model? Officially harder than it looks.
You’ll see the results of the shoot and the video when Gok’s book comes out in September. At the moment it’s under very fashionable wraps, as he finishes off writing it. And yes, he is writing it himself, which he said is a real challenge, as he’s having to deal with some very emotional aspects of his childhood and his past, as well as all the fun stuff we know and love him for. I can’t wait to read it and see more of ‘Aunty Gok’ in action when he’s out and about to promote it – it’s going to be, as the he’d say, beyond fabulous!
Alex - Marketing Manager
Photo © Trevor Leighton