The Background Actress’s Guide to Costuming


(Circa: Late July 2017 on the set of "Isn't It Romantic?")

Originally I had pitched this idea to Racked.com as a contributing writer. However they declined because they had articles of a similar nature. I was going to pass on writing this for my own blog. However, the store that I purchased the above cocktail dress from is hiring, so now this essay has become relevant.

Where to start? The beauty about working a background scene is that they give you a list of examples of how you need to dress for the scene. Like:

Gucci
Zara
Tory Burch
Prada
Etc.

They will also give you visual examples of cuts and fabric, plus what tones they need you to wear. Much of this depends on the scene you are shooting too. If you are playing a lawyer, obviously you would be expected to wear a suit of some kind. Playing a hipster would require a different wardrobe and so on and so forth. If they give you specific brand names as the type of look they are going for, it would behoove you to do some research. The best place for this is Instagram, with the next being Pinterest. Look at how your favorite celebrities dress and that will help you.

The roles I typically get picked for require me to be a wealthy, socialite type. Think Hillary from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air:


(Source: IMDB.com)

When you're in my position of very little money and expected to look rich; what do you do?

This is where my friend the consignment store comes to play! The gold dress I'm wearing above is from a higher end retail chain. It's original price is closer to, if not above, $100. Yet I only paid $16 for the dress and an additional $20 for all of the jewelry. (The purse I received as a gift and the shoes were on loan from the wardrobe department, since my original pair were considered to be too shiny.)

The next thing you need to do is to bring options. Yes, I bought and used this dress specifically for this shoot. However, if the director's vision for this scene has changed in any way, it is as simple as changing into a different outfit.

A warning though: if you only brought one option this will force the wardrobe department to loan out an outfit and take your pay voucher (and maybe your driver's license too) for safe keeping until it's returned. This also means that you have to be extremely careful with the clothes (which you should anyway whether it's yours or theirs) and make sure you don't cause damage of any kind. (Or that could affect your pay or chances of being hired for other shoots in the future. One of the shoots I did, an actor walked out with a suit that was loaned to them. Needless to say that person didn't get paid and is more than likely not working for that agency ever again.)

A few other things I keep on me for the shoot as well:

A jacket or hoodie (for when it gets cold.)

A luggage lock (so no one tries to break into your bag.)

Lotion that absorbs well. (So it doesn't damage the clothes.)

A stain removal pen.

Deodorant that dries clear.

A robe or some kind of covering you can wear while eating or applying makeup.

A couple of other things I would add would be:

1) never bring real jewelry to a set. There was an unfortunate instance of an actress that brought real gold bracelets to the set and lost them, only to never find them again. Even if you get camera time, no one is going to know the difference; so keep it fake at all costs.

2) don't wear anything with a very distinct pattern or logo. Production crews do a magic trick what's called "cheating the shot." Meaning to make a scene look like it has more people than there really are hired on set. They do this in many different ways, by adding an accessory, or changing your hair or putting you in deep background. This means more camera time for you, so help them out!

I hoped you liked this essay as much as I liked writing it. I also hope I get the job at this particular consignment store since I do get a lot of my clothes from there. Fingers Crossed 🤞

Dear Amber Rose…


(This was me watching your interview.)

I just want you to know that I have a serious distaste for celebrity gossip. However when something like this falls in my lap I cannot avoid it. Especially since this is so close to home I need to address it.

I could care less about the before and after photos of you that are being spread around. I also could care less about how you live your life. In fact, I follow you on Instagram simply because you are a girl from my area that "made it"; but now I can no longer follow you.

The moment you set yourself apart from the women growing up in your neighborhood in South Philly, you made yourself ugly. Seriously. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure your statement came from wounds that are unhealed. I too have experienced my fair share of bullshit. This. Was. Not. The. Way. To. Address. That. Wound.

There were definitely ways you could have worded this differently to share your pain without diminishing the value of the other women in your neighborhood. I have friends that were born and raised in South Philly that are drop dead gorgeous; so basically, you disrespected my crew. Take the public's anger as a lesson.

Peace,
Shamma

Mental Health Week!

After taking two major hits within this month, I’m following up with my promise of taking a hiatus. The reason why it’s a week, and not longer, is due to the fact that I submitted myself to several projects before these traumatic experiences happened. Now they are calling me back to shoot soon (I still have to pay bills you know.) 

To help with that, I’m taking some time off of social media. In the past I would attempt to go ghost with little success. This time it’s absolutely necessary. The reason being, is that I’m connected to so many industry related sites that the news is starting to wear on me. 

  • I’m reading too much about other people’s success stories when right now I feel like a failure. 
  • I’m seeing too many projects out there that I could be a good fit for “if only” I was thinner, in the union, in Los Angeles, have a huge Instagram following, Caucasian, etc.
  • I abhor celebrity gossip, but too much of it is getting shared on my feed and those people and everything they do make me sick.

Frankly I’m turning into a Hater and that’s the last thing I ever want to be. I will continue to write and update on here, because writing for me is cathartic. 


(Source: tank.sinatra IG)

Clubbing in Vegas

             (Source: bitchycode Tumblr)

I went to Hakkasan last night and I really just wasn’t cut out for it. In fact I left before Steve Aoki went on to spin. I like going dancing and listening to DJs spin is really fun…but being packed in like a sardine and having drinks spilled on me wasn’t my idea of a good time. I kinda wanted to see Calvin Harris since he was performing at the club directly across the street from my hotel. When I got home you could hear his set bumping from my room. Alas and alack, no one wanted to go see him last night. Instead we are going to that club tonight to see Hardwell.

Personally I think the best way to enjoy big events like that is to be friends with the DJ, you usually get access to space near the booth without completely being in the fray and still have a good time. That, or I may just be getting old and the night life may not be my scene anymore. Sigh…

Battling Schadenfreude

Today I applied for a celebrity writing job. I have written about some of my frustrations with those type of journalists and how “click-baity” their sites can be; so the irony is not lost on me that my desperation for money has taken me down this dark path. Truth be told, I may not get it because 1) they wanted a blogger with 2+ years worth of experience and I only have less than a year. 2) The writing samples I chose from this page that is about celebrities, either had to do with comic cons or were incredibly snarky. 3) I’m just not cool enough to hang out in those kind of circles and 4) I’m admittedly a little bitter. 

Hence the title of this post…Battling Schadenfreude. For those who are not familiar with this word, it’s German and it’s definition is: to experience joy from someone else’s misery. Especially if you are a little envious and seeing someone fail, that puts a song in your heart for some reason. But it’s a little tricky. I mean on many levels, this is very mean-spirited. You wouldn’t want someone to celebrate your downfall, so why do it to someone else? I did a little research on the subject and found that schadenfreude was found to be most prevalent by people who collectively do not like someone. A recent example of this is the failed Fyre Festival. Many people were so excited to see wealthy people get duped out of their money. With the mass income inequality going around, it makes sense. We poor people hate the rich for flaunting their wealth and leaving us out of the club. When they lost out on their money because of a poorly executed festival, it felt like Christmas. But…

This is really bad energy to put out. Why?

Because your deepest desires is to be one of those people. And…

Hate and resistance actually hinder your blessings. So…

You have to change the mindset of hate if you want to be part of that club.

Whatever your resist will persist, it’s better to embrace the fact that your station in life is not theirs, but you will make the best of what you have in front of you. And who knows…

Maybe the person you are experiencing schadenfreude on, secretly is jealous of you too. You never know.

My goal is to identify why I feel this way and figure out how to end it. My reason is due to receiving some news yesterday about a person that failed miserably, and I was too happy; to the point that I had to apologize to God for feeling that way. 

The “Meh” Ball


     Liberace was better dressed for the ball.

Um…so…I was expecting massive slayage and punk inspired looks for the Commes des Garçons exhibit; but no such luck. With the exception of maybe Rihanna and a couple of other people, no one really wore Commes pieces or looks in that sort of style. I’m thinking that because of the “Great Robot Disaster” of last year; people wanted to tone it down this year. Here are my picks:

     An actual Commes des Garçons piece.


              (Source: Who What Wear.)

 

 Another actual Commes des Garçons piece.


                (Source: Who What Wear.)

                   

                              Pink Lily #1


                (Source: Who What Wear.)

                            Pink Lily #2


                (Source: Who What Wear.)

                              Catwoman


               (Source: Who What Wear.)

                   

                         Pointy Shoulder


               (Source: Who What Wear.)

Burlesque Dress (I love Ashley Graham BTW)


               (Source: Who What Wear.)

                   
                          Hipster Angel 


               (Source: Who What Wear)

My FAVORITE Outfit and one that I would wear out


               (Source: Who What Wear.)

 

                 High Fashion Detective


               (Source: Who What Wear.)

Maybe next year I will blown away, but :

Scholarship Essays pt. 2

I’m currently working on an essay about Jane Austen’s works. The essay is not due for another month, but I have a theme and I’m catching up with her work which I have previously not read. There are so many that laud Austen’s work and sadly I’m not one of them. It’s true, that the novels themselves are well written, and that the characters are relatable which is why her work is enduring…but that’s the issue for me. The human condition has not changed, at least how it has been documented here over 200 years ago.

I’m reading Mansfield Park right now and it feels like I’m reading a novel about the Kardashian family (ugh!) The Bertrams, Mrs. Norris, the Rushworths, and the Crawfords are so goddamn ratchet and annoying, I’m half tempted to throw this book across the room! Even the lead heroine, Fanny, grates my nerves from time to time. 


(I’m seriously questioning why I decided to take on this challenge and search for different scholarships instead.) 

If nothing comes of this essay, I would have least learned more about Jane’s works and why people love her so much. It also shows my general distaste for people. Not saying there aren’t a select few that I love. However, I think people who act classless, rude, and entitled (regardless of their financial status) piss me off the most. *Sigh* back to torturing myself I suppose.

Line Control and Working My Last Comic Con

(Me blocking people from taking photos at Alan Tudyk’s table.)

Welp, I did it. My last show stateside and probably forever. Just like retiring from background work, it’s on to bigger and better things. Usually I am an attendee at cons. However, due to financial restrictions, volunteering for free admission is a smarter way to go. That being said, I have had my fill. The people that work there and attend are really nice, but it is time consuming. I was only able to do one day so I couldn’t hang out with the celebrities like I did last year. (The more I talk to them, the more I come to understand how normal they really are. Or the ones I talk to at least.) For these type of events, the more days you can work, the better. You have more opportunities to talk to everyone and figure out what goods you want to purchase (not like I could anyway my cash is dedicated to a strict budget.) Overall it was a bittersweet day, but I look forward to new adventures. And who knows? Maybe I’ll have a table of my own one day…

A girl can dream. 

Ethnic Ambiguity 

Today’s post is inspired by a Facebook friend of mine that was mistaken for being Latinx when she is Caucasian. I feel for her because I have been in that same boat many times in my life. In a previous post, I mentioned I am Interracial. My heritage is African, Middle Eastern, Native American and European. The biggest question I get is “What are you?” That’s when I take a big sigh and run off the list.

Most times though I identify as being a Black woman. My mom is Black, I look like her, I am black. End of story. (Obama is mixed too. Everyone called him the first Black President, not the first Mixed President. Ok?)  However, when it comes to the entertainment field, there are some advantages and disadvantages to not being immediately identifiable as far as my race is concerned. 

Pros:

Anything in theatre or film and television that take place in modern day, will take me on as an actress. Because I look Non-Descript like many others and can be fluid in many roles.

I have played a Middle Eastern character before (it’s not a far stretch since it makes up part of me) and could probably take on more roles like that in the future. (Side Note: I really was a little pissed of at people getting mad at Gigi Hadid for wearing a hijab for a magazine cover. Especially when she is made up of half a Middle Eastern race and religion. Her freaking last name is Hadid! How do you get accused of appropriating something that makes up half of you?)

Cons:

I’m pretty much tied to doing more modern day plays, Shakespeare and modern timelines in film or television. Anything that is period sensitive tends to lean towards someone who looks like the race they are (ex. Caucasian or African American.) 

Speaking of African Americans in film or television; I am often passed over for parts because I’m not “Black” enough. Which is funny, because to a bigoted White person, I have been called the “N-word” so uh, I’m plenty Black enough for them. 😒

There are Latinx roles available. But due to the fact that there are plenty of Latinx actors and actresses available, I won’t take those roles.  Because that would be cultural appropriation. So I pass over those roles quite often.

So there it is, the story of my career in a nutshell. One of these days I hope to do more work that incorporates more ethnically ambiguous people like myself…when they become available. But I’m not holding my breath.

So, what’s next?

Well, all is not completely lost on the work front though I really won’t see any money until at least May. (The tough part is getting caught up now, so I’m not completely crushed by the time May comes.) 

The first thing is that it’s looking like I got the pole teaching job. (Yay!) I won’t be teaching advanced skills (you have to be certified for that) but I will be doing all Pole tease and how to be seductive (meow!). I consulted my friend and she gave me a list on how to go about it. I’ll need some pole time before then to prepare, but I did dust off these babies to practice walking in the meantime:


    (I haven’t worn these in a solid year.)

In addition to that, I may be in a musical, though I still have to submit a video of myself singing before confirming that casting. I still have Titanic to do at the moment. 

I will be catching up with the dates that I missed for Stage Combat so I don’t miss out on being certified and we start picking our fight partners this week. I’m super excited! 


(I sincerely hope we get a scene like this to perform.) 

And in other great news, I will be back at the Great Philly Comic Con! This year they automatically put me on Celebrity Row because of working at James Frain’s table last year. I’m curious to see who they pair me up with this year. Though I won’t be working Wizard World this year. It was a nice show, don’t get me wrong, but it was really overwhelming; and it seems to be scheduled the same weekend as the College Rugby Tournament. I want to go watch that instead.

Speaking of Rugby…well, sort of. Roller Derby assessments are this Sunday after stage combat and I’m going to go back out for it and do the Referee program. 


(Hopefully, I make good calls and won’t be heckled with signs like these.)

All in all a busy time.