Last Saturday, my daughter and I were at the mall, picking up a birthday present for one of her friends. Lately, she has taken to dressing herself in strange, funky, layered outfits, and the one she had on on Saturday was particularly Punky Brewster-ish, with a purple skirt over jeans, red suede boots and an orange American Girl tank top over a white, long-sleeved, waffle-weave shirt. Oh, and she had me braid little braids into the front of her hair, so that they fell down by the sides of her face like tiny ropes, weighted down with seven sparkly barrette anchors on each side. She looked, shall we say…interesting.
Anyway, there we were, browsing through Gap Kids, when a woman with an unnaturally large smile made a beeline for me. Normally, I’m not all that friendly towards strangers, especially ones with unnaturally large smiles who are obviously targeting me to fill out a survey, or sign a petition, or come join them for a prayer service at their mega-church. I braced myself, but all the woman did was comment on how adorable my daughter is – so spunky! My guard down, I allowed the woman a smile. I am a mom, after all, and what mom doesn’t love hearing from perfect strangers that her kid is adorable, and spunky, no less? The woman asked if my daughter had picked out her outfit, and I sort of implied back to her that I, myself would not have paired an orange tank top with a purple skirt and red boots. At which point the woman reached into her purse and whipped out a business card. Foiled! I thought. I knew that smile was too big to belong to a normal person with no agenda.
But rather than ask me if I’d ever wondered how I could improve my life in six easy steps, the woman instead informed me that she was a children’s talent and modeling scout, and that my spunky little girl would look FANTASTIC on television. I glanced at my daughter – who has been staging shows since the minute she could talk; who has never met a mirror that she didn’t love; who can’t be around a camera without striking a Madonna pose; whose attitude about audiences is, the bigger the better; who is counting down the minutes until she’s old enough to audition for American Idol – and I could actually see her little ears perk up, just the way my dog’s do when she hears the refrigerator door open. The woman told me that we should come by her office on Monday night, because she was planning to introduce a group of kids to a well known talent agency that places clients in commercials, print ads, and even Disney shows.
Okay, so, I’m not going to lie. For a few seconds, Gap Kids all but disappeared, and I found myself on a movie set, watching my adorable, spunky kid as she quipped some adorable, spunky lines in front of a live, adoring audience. And then there I was, standing in a Disney store, surrounded by Harper tee-shirts and Harper lunch boxes and Harper pajamas, and of course, a Harper doll. But then I was pulled back to earth by my daughter, tugging on my sleeve, demanding to know who that lady was, and what did she mean I would be fantastic on television?
As we walked back to the car, I explained what a talent scout is, and what an agent is, and what the woman had meant about it all. Harper raised one eyebrow at me and said, in no uncertain terms, that she wanted to go. Well, duh, I thought. Of course she wanted to go. She’d love it, and she probably would be fantastic at it. So can we go? She wanted to know. Can we?
For a split second, I actually considered it. Maybe we should go, just to see if it’s for real. I mean, for all I know, this woman’s running a total scam, and the minute I show up she’ll tell me that she’d love to introduce my kid to an agent, and all I have to do is pay her a thousand dollars. But what if it was legit? It could be kind of fun. A commercial here, a print ad there. I have a friend whose kid did a Disney commercial, and they flew the whole family to Argentina for a week.
But then reality kicked in. Do I really want her being rejected over and over again? Do I really want her missing school to go to a shoot all day? Do I really want to spend my time driving her around from audition to audition? Do I really want my six year-old to have a job? Yeah, no, I told her. I don’t think so. If it’s something you want to do when you’re older, we can look into it, but right now, I think you should just enjoy being a kid.
I tossed the woman’s card into a trashcan, and with it the movie set and the Disney paraphernalia faded from view. And then I took my spunky, adorable daughter by the hand, and we went home.