It’s really difficult to know where to start with this post…it’s one of those where you end up giving away far more about yourself than you really want to, but it’s impossible to give an honest review without doing so. So, here goes, with a big gulp.
Today I trialled a new concept at Urban Retreat, Harrods, called Lights, Camera, Beauty. For two and half hours prepare to be treated like a supermodel, with the end result being probably the most beautiful photograph of yourself you’ll ever have. If you’re thinking high street obligatory feather boa and a soft-focus lense that would have even Joan Collins blushing with shame, forget it. This is one classy do.
On arrival, you’re shown into the studio and are instantly met with a rack of clothes to choose from (a little bit too Dynasty for my liking; hefty bead work and too much black, but up there in the designer stakes – I spotted Diane Von Furstenburg dresses) and some chunky, super-glam jewellery to snazz up your look. After a brief meet and greet with the photographer – and here’s the really, really good bit, it is none other than Tony McGee (snapper of real supermodels the world over from Naomi to Kate) – you’re whisked off to try on the clothes if you don’t want to wear your own, and then helped into a towelling robe ready for hair and make up. Okay, so this is where I had a mini-melt down – suddenly the thought of walking the shop floor to make up and hair and back in initially no make up and a huge, swamping robe, and then back again with hair piled into curlers etc being followed by Tony for a ‘reportage’ style shoot (that gets put into a reportage book for you to keep) was just too exposing for me. If you’re not a natural attention seeker, or not uber-confident about the way you look, you might find this difficult. I felt completely overwhelmed. So, we had to skip that bit because I just couldn’t do it without wanting to cry, which in turn made me tearful because I felt I’d wasted their time. Given that this was supposed to be my moment that was purely all about me for once, I did waste it, for myself. I got my hair styled (fully dressed in my own clothes!) but kept it very natural. My make up artist was delightful, and probably did the most to calm my pre-picture nerves – because I was inexplicably terrified. Just the normal-ness of her was very reassuring and she did a beautiful dark 60′s smoky eye look with pale lips which was perfect and I loved. I guess the thing is, Tony is a proper, proper photographer, and the experience has all the feel of a real photo shoot. There are umbrellas, lights, wind machines and at least four people in the same room (including make up artist and hair stylist for any tweaks needed throughout the shoot). I felt very small on my little stool, and despite the primping, being faced with a professional who is used to photographing some of the most beautiful women in the world, I also felt it was a bit of a sow’s ear situation – like I was never going to be the silk purse and that made me want to cry all over again!
Despite the fact that I felt like running, I persevered, largely thanks to Tony who couldn’t have been more lovely. He said he loved photographing ‘real people’, I confided my secret crush on Make Me A Supermodel judge, Peru, and we ended up laughing. He genuinely wanted me to have a great time (and the novelty of having his male assistant kneeling virtually between my legs pointing the wind machine my way is something that will stay with me forever!!) and did his level best to make sure it was the best it could be. I relaxed more towards the end – and my god, he took hundreds of photos to try and get one where I didn’t look like I was up for execution. In fact, everyone went out of their way to make it special and it was really down to me not being a bit braver that made it so emotional. If I could make one criticism of the package, I would say that I felt if I’d had a bit more time on a one to one with Tony beforehand over a cup of coffee, I’d have known what I was up against, so to speak. He is utterly charming, but I didn’t know that when I was presented to him for the shoot as I’d literally only shaken his hand.
The package isn’t cheap: to have Tony at your disposal, it’s £1450. For that, you get the personal shoot with Tony, a make up session, a hair styling session, a framed black and white photo personally signed by Tony, a coffee-table type book of your reportage pictures, access to fashion and accessories, a CD of the shoot and whatever you need to eat or drink. But, it is a very, very glamorous time and I can’t see another situation where you might get the opportunity to have your picture taken by someone like Tony, paid for or not. But, at this price, you can basically have what you want. No reportage, no problem. No big hair, no problem. Wear your own clothes, no problem. It can be exactly as you want it. The less pricy option is the same experience minus the reportage with Tony’s artistic director for £595.
All in all, if you’re easily overwhelmed (which I am normally not), this could be quite difficult. On the other hand, if you are secretly harbouring model intentions, you’ll adore the primping, preening and realistic setting – and mostly the amazing, framed and signed picture. For me, never ever again will I take the piss out of America’s Next Top Model. Well, I will, but maybe slightly more empathetically.
NB: I haven’t seen my picture yet – I didn’t want to cloud the review in any way at all, so who knows, maybe Tony did make that impossible silk purse. Oh, and NNB, there is already a wait-list!