So, the crazy part is... We were in and out in 20 minutes.
First, let me tell you how it all went down. Then, I'll share with you my personal observations.
Before that, a picture, just so you know what we're working with here:
So, Laila and I arrived at the JC Penney headquarters at 8:45am. We went through security, got a visitor's badge, navigated our way down to the studio (with the help of another mom and model baby) and joined several parents and babies in the lobby area. All the other moms brought a husband with them. Interesting. A family affair! Well, L and I were on our own, except for the double stuffed diaper bag. Y'all. I had everything I could have possibly needed. I was prepared for an earthquake! Teething medicine, extra outfits, baby Tylenol, toys, diapers, wipes, nail clippers (in case she got a hang nail!), hairbrush, lotion... the whole nine. Turns out, we didn't need a bit of it but "better to have and not need than to need and not have", right?
I immediately noticed that there was a couple there with an empty stroller. This certainly caught my attention and caused me a bit of concern. I asked them "uh, where's your baby?" "Back there", they said, and pointed to a set of Huge Metal Doors.
I shuddered. "Without you?!" They looked like this had only just occurred to them... "Yeah. Well... they just asked for him..." In my head I was like, "uh-uh. Ain't no way my baby's going nowhere without ME. Definitely not. No. Way." Out loud I said, very graciously, of course... "Hmm. I think Laila will definitely do better if I go with her." They smiled. I smiled. The other people in the waiting room smiled. Awkward.
There were 2 families with little girls who, after we talked a bit, I found out were Laila's age. L was definitely the hugest of the three and (do y'all mind if I say this?) um, yes, the cutest.
There was a baby boy and his mother in the lobby as well but, unfortunately (and this could happen to anyone), he got cut, meaning that they decided not to use him. Apparently, they had been late and there was no mercy. When the lady came out to see if the girls were all there, she noticed he and his mother and briskly said, "We're finished with boys. Thank you. Goodbye." Ouch. And that was the mom who had shown me where to go. I tried to give her a reassuring smile as she packed up her things and left. Sad.
Turns out, you can get cut for all sorts of things. Having teeth they didn't expect, cuts or bruises on the baby's face, too much or too little hair, crying... these people mean business.
The Brisk Lady dissapeared behind the Big Metal Doors and Another Lady came out. She had a kind face. This made me feel a little better. She took one look around the room, pointed at Laila and said, "I'll take her". "Oh no you won't take her, lady. I'll take her" went through my mind, all "better feelings" out the window. Out loud, I said, very graciously, of course, "I think Laila will definitely do better if I go with her." I smiled. She smiled. I wondered if in her mind she was rolling her eyes. But, I mean, give me a break! This is my first time! Who the heck knows whats behind those Big Metal Doors?! It's called Responsible Parenting! Are you kidding me?!
ANYWAY, we went back to the studio where Another Lady took Laila from me and started taking off her outfit. Then Another Lady came with a dress (very cute, by the way... rainbow stripes, a collar, precious) and started putting it on her. Another Lady came and started smoothing Laila's hair. Needless to say, LG was, like, "Mom! What's going on?" and I was reaching over and around all the ladies to pat her hand and smile at her and say, "Isn't this fun?" :)
Unfortunately, she cried. This was distressing for me, not because I was afraid we'd get cut, although, honestly, who wants that after you've gotten up, dressed and carted yourself, your 6 month old and the over stuffed diaper bag to Plano? I was distressed because I didn't want her to be distressed. We decided a long time ago that, if it's not fun for her, we're not going to do it. Totally not worth it. All the ladies fussing over her was definitely lowering the Fun Factor.
After she was dressed and I got to hold her for a couple of minutes, she stopped crying and went with one of the Ladies for a "look over" from (I guess) the Lady In Charge who, without smiling, took one look at Laila and said "she's good". I wanted to say "Your darn right she's good, Lady! She's better than good! SHE'S PERFECT!" Again, blog readers, you have the benefit of hearing my Inner Monologue. All she got from me was a smile.
I don't really want to be That Mom, you know?
So, one of the Ladies took Laila and I down a dark hallway and into the studio. There were bright lights, a ton of cameras and computer screens and lots of people standing around wearing tall boots, skinny jeans, lots of jewelery and lots of scarves. They were very posh, you see. And they each had looks on their faces that said "This is just where I am until I get my big break and start doing this stuff in NYC... I'm big time. Really. I'm just tolerating all of this until people realize how Awesome I Am."
The Dressing Lady sat Laila down on the white concrete floor in front of the camera and I realized... Oh, This is IT. They're going to take pictures of her now. I mean, there was no prep or pep talk or anything. Just sit down and smile. Well, that's how it was supposed to go. But, y'all, LG, apparently, had decided that she was Not Going To Smile. My baby, who smiles all the time and at everyone, was not having it! The Dressing Lady was tickling her, holding up a bunny, dancing around, playing peek-a-boo and, in every picture, Laila was making this face:
Until... I said, "Um. Excuse me, can I sing?" The Dressing Lady, realizing her attempts were futile, said, "Sure!" So, I started with a couple rounds of "You are my sunshine" and wrapped it up with "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "This is the way the lady rides..." Well, that did it. She perked up, cracked a couple of smiles, leaned forward in her cute way and "thatsawrap.thanksalot.seeyounexttime.thiswayout."
It was really amazing. All that way and all that singing and dancing and peek-a-booing and sweating (well, I was sweating) for one little smile in one little dress. Wow.
Another Lady (previously unmentioned) walked us out. On the way, she gushed about how beautiful Laila was and how great she did. I was really surprised. Hardly any smiling and she thought Laila was perfect! "Did you catch a glimpse of her on the screen?" she asked, "She was stunning!" I was thinking, "Lady, you don't even know how cute she is! She had barely gotten started!" Out loud, I said, "Thank you" and smiled. I smiled a lot. I mean, what else could I do?
A few observations:
1. How could it possibly be better to take the babies behind the Metal Doors without their mamas? I mean, how could that possibly elicit better smiles, happier babies?? I know that they are the professionals but, seriously, Laila would have FLIPPED OUT if I hadn't been with her... and there certainly wouldn't have been any smiling going on!
2. Next time, I think I'll ask if I can dress her. Starting off with the three ladies and all their fussing over her and the crying and all really hurt the whole "Smile for the camera" thing that was supposed to happen later.
3. I was shocked at how quickly the whole thing went... and how they only wanted one smile in one dress. I was wondering if we had gotten axed or if they had decided they just didn't want any more shots of her but then I heard that it was normal to be in and out. Hmm.
So, that's how it went down, ladies and gentlemen.
And, an hour after we got home, we received an email that they want her back next week. Great. I think we'll give it another try.
Laila is our precious, darling 6 month old baby... and, turns out, she is now a professional baby model. But, don't worry. We won't let it go to her head.