By Erika Lieu
Fashionistas, actresses, models and other pretty people filed into CBC Calgary this month to audition as Fashion File’s new host. The show spans the globe in search of fashion trends, couture, models and up-and-coming designers. Tim Blanks hosted since 1989 and was broadcast in over 75 countries. Now that he’s gone, Rejean Beaudin, Fashion File‘s executive producer, sees Blanks’ resignation as a chance to revamp the show.
“Tim is moving on, and this was a good opportunity to renew Fashion File, create brand and buzz [and] a fresh start,” says Beaudin. “[There was] a very strong bunch of applicants.”
Beaudin believes CBC can use this opportunity to compete with American reality television. While the obvious criticism is bandwagonism, Beaudin believes they’re just playing catch up.
“CBC may be a bit late in the game, but has decided to go ahead with facutal entertainment,” says Beaudin. “[Fashion File Host Hunt] is a part of the movement.”
Blanks’ signature style with Fashion File warranted a nationwide search for a suitable replacement. As such, Fashion File sought out individuals who were “personable and approachable” with “solid knowledge of fashion, past and present, and of the industry.” The new host will travel the world to cover news in the fashion industry and interview renowned designers and models.
Being the intrepid student journalists that we are, the Gauntlet saw this opportunity as a great chance to infiltrate reality TV and subject me to some cruel and unusual punishment.
Tuesday, Sept. 26:
I accept the assignment described as “audition for CBC Fashion File thing.” It’s a far cry from my introverted self, but hello experience, goodbye comfort zone.
Thursday, Sept. 28:
A friend guffaws at my eager-beaverness, informs me of the audition’s website at www.fashionfile.com. I start kicking myself when I read that the audition is being turned into the bastard genre of a reality TV show. Fashion File is traveling the country, hitting Halifax, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. Each contestant will be allotted two minutes to explain why they should be the new host of Fashion File. Ten finalists will be chosen to catfight amongst themselves for the role of Fashion File‘s new host.
Mom asks me when she can expect to see me on TV.
Sunday, Oct. 1:
Considering withdrawing from the assignment. Thinking of possible excuses: “my hair fell out,” “I went to sleep and never woke up” and “my (non-existant) salamander bit my baby toe off.”
Monday, Oct. 2: Doomsday, 9:30 a.m.
Morning. I open my eyes, struggling to remember why I wanted to die in my sleep. Right, Fashion File Host Hunt! Images of overtly gay, black-plastic-framed men barking orders at glamorous contestants flood my mind.
What to wear? How to project a ‘don’t-want-to-be-here-just-give-me-something-for-the-story look?’ Inadvertently decide on something too “put together” to be classified as “fashionable.”
Arrive at CBC Calgary. Can’t find the bollocksing entrance so end up circling the building twice. Four years of PSE equipped me with the skills to find the front door.
I sit down on a cold steel folding chair. Everyone looks nervous except for a tall, sleek man in a suit, fashion oozing from his every pore. I feel nauseous.
My name is called out. I jot down my identity on a post-it: #67. We’re whisked away, up two flights of stairs and into a very un-chic and stuffy room. We’re told to take a seat.
Everyone seems to know each other. This is a world of models, designers, broadcasters, actresses, theatre hounds, etc. Save me. Oh Gosh.
I realize that my people-watching can very well identify me as one of those quiet, primly dressed sociopaths. Don’t want to be a sociopath.
“Oh, by the way everyone, if you haven’t heard from us by October 14th, thank you,” says the cheery assistant in a forced-sheepish-cutesy way.
I’m given an application form to fill out. One of the questions asks me if I have an agent. We’re asked to sign underneath the paragraph that says we’re now the property of CBC and whatever footage they have of us can be used to shame us in ways we’ve never imagined. I sign my name.
Oh my gosh. O-M-G. Oh em gee. What am I doing here? I almost start whimpering from the buzz of the hyper-extroverts. #74 won’t shut up. She has the whole room laughing. Whatever, extrovert.
Checked the time on my phone 17 times to pretend I’m too preoccupied to chat with the fashion-forwards. Considering copping out. Maybe I’ll tell my editor I feel sick. Sick from the extroverted-ness, from the everyone-knows-each-other babble, from the embarassment that one should only feel in grade four after moving schools. I stick with it.
The anticipation should have killed me by now. To my dismay, I’m still alive, but not kicking. Heart rate shoots up when #66 is called. I’m next. Torture is two minutes away.
I, #67, am led out of the room while everyone stares. I’m given a short script to memorize and recite in front of the camera. Cameraman tries to give me a few tips, keeps telling me to show my personality. I hold back an urge to take his shoulders in my hands and shake him until he shuts up.
Heart is beating in my ears, fingers are shaking. I can’t give two craps about Louis Vuitton or Christian Lacroix right now. How the bloody hell do you pronounce Lacroix? I’m supposed to be memorizing this.
I’m told to enter The Room. I haven’t memorized my script.
There’re bright white lights. Bright white backdrop. Bored director slumped in her chair. Two unenthused cameramen.
I’m asked to answer questions: “Why do you watch Fashion File?” I’ve never watched a single episode. “I watch Fashion File because…..” Don’t want to be a sociopath.
“Why should you be the new Fashion File host?”
“How would you describe your style?”
I stutter through my sentences, my smile quivering and my head spinning. Okay, not so bad, I think. I stand stiffly while the camera does an “up-down” of me.
“Okay, now look into the camera and recite the script you memorized for me.”
Camera. Bored director. Bright lights.
I spew out some paragraph of verbal diarrhea. I miss the first two sentences, stammer on my name and mispronounce Lacroix, which ends up sounding more like “Lackey” than a lovely French name.
“Okay, thank you,” the director says without looking at me.
I leave the room with a wild look on my face, half thinking the director should have held my hand, complimented me on my outfit and smiled with the enthusiasm of a kindergarten teacher. It’s not over yet. Cameraman comes up to my face and wants me to “tell the camera” how I felt about the audition. I fight back the urge to curse in his face, and instead, muster up whatever ounce of courage I have left to give some bogus ‘I-feel-great’ spiel. He asks me to blow a kiss at the camera and walk off.
Mortifying for an introverted-not-for-camera girl. I relive the experience 10 consecutive times over the next five minutes.
The rest of the night is peppered with intruding shivers and shudders. I have to “ugh” out loud to try and expel the experience from my system. My sister stops by my room to make sure I haven’t committed suicide.
Saturday, Oct. 14:
The phone doesn’t ring.