I’ve been so busy that I forgot to commemorate the one-year anniversary of making my story public in Marie Claire (Nov. 10). So, I’ll do that now by taking you back with me to the early September (2010) day I took part in a photo shoot for the images to accompany my magazine essay. In the months after getting the verdict, I mentally checked out. I literally do not remember spending much time thinking about Rome or Marco. My only interaction with that world was for the purposes of seeing my story come to life in a top women’s publication. This was VERY important to me. In my mind, I HAD to sound the alarm on overseas sexual assault and what prosecuting one’s attacker was like. Had to.
Erin Zammett Ruddy, a top freelancer and former editor at Glamour had worked in lock step with me to secure a magazine and an issue. In June, I received word that Marie Claire would run the story..and give it FOUR pages. Please understand, this essay had lived and died about six times until that final word. I couldn’t believe it. I was excited and nervous. In time, I was mostly just nervous and worried if I made the right choice. I don’t know why I do that. I will doggedly pursue something, and when I get it, I will promptly freak out. The cause for my alarm was hearing they’d be doing a photo shoot of me for the essay. I did not see that coming. Somewhere, I had told myself they’d use images I already possessed of that night, of my injuries, of my documents. But not of me.
Early September, a six-person crew climbed four flights of stairs to my apartment and brought with them all manner of lighting equipment, cameras, makeup, styling products and four huge hanging suitcases of clothes and shoes. One of my best friends, Tammi, was there too to provide support and talk me off the proverbial ledge as I basically hate photos of my face in almost every scenario. Plus, she knows photography and better yet, she knows me. She knew that day was worrisome for me and I was stressing out about it.
Sitting for a photo shoot about your sexual assault experience is otherworldly. So too is the primping and preening of your person that is performed so you can sit for said photo shoot. I am pretty sure I will never be pampered or primped in quite that way ever again. I had a hairstylist (who was as flamboyant as he was darling) and a makeup artist (from New Zealand with a killer accent) and both of them were rather entertaining as they curled my curly hair and painted my face. The photo below, my face was really angular as I was still kind of skinny from the stress of everything.
After the hour or so of getting my hair and makeup done, I got to live almost every gal’s dream: I stood in front of a closet filled with expensive, fabulous clothes and shoes, and picked items out, and tried them on with a stylist’s assistance. That was really cool. None of the expensive shoes fit. So, we decided I’d be barefoot. Oh..my big feet.
Suddenly, there I was, in some kind of cool sweater, fancy jeans and fun bracelets…but posing on my BED. I was not a fan of this idea. While I am a sexual assault survivor, I am also a professional woman and did not want people I worked with to see me laying on my bed. Tammi advocated on my behalf, gently as only she can. And we were able to get the photographer to nix the idea of me laying down on my bed looking into the camera. A bed was not involved in anything that Marco did to me. The compromise was that I’d sit on the bed. Small victory.
The time passed like a blur. The photographer told me to look into the camera and smile, but not smile too much, but look forlorn, but not sad. Yeah, go ahead and try that some time. Certainly, I shouldn’t be grinning or flashing my teeth, but I didn’t want to look mad or defeated because I wasn’t. My story was a good story. I just struggled to convey that with my face. At one point, I was posed reading my favorite modern era poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou. In the final image in Marie Claire, you can sort of see it blurred out near my hip in the pose I made. I sort of loved that.
When we were done taking pictures in my apartment, I was told to pick out another outfit because we’d be taking the photo shoot outdoors. You don’t have to tell me twice! I had been eyeing a super sweet blazer. After a quick change and a touch up on my hair, our merry little band left my apartment and traipsed the streets of Hoboken in search of a place to continue our shoot. Fortunately, they liked the park that I often sat at on Saturday mornings post-workout, reading the NY Post and drinking coffee.
Something about moving the shoot outside wreaked havoc on my photo shoot mojo. I just couldn’t get comfortable. I was self-conscious. People could see me. And I assumed they were thinking “Why this chick? She ain’t no super model!” I know. I was thinking the same thing.
One of the images from the outdoors shoot was used for the inset of the magazine where they list the features for that particular issue. I don’t love that image. Nor am I overly thrilled about the two-page spread of me that ultimately made it into the magazine. A gentleman writer I know well told me, “I can see what you mean. It’s you, but not really.” In that image, I do not see myself. I find that fitting. The assault and everything after was not me. It was a phase of me. A skin to shed. With the publication of my story in the December 2010 issue, I was ready to see that girl gone.
And if there was an image I would have liked used, it’s this one that Tammi took below. She snapped it in one of the moments I was reflecting on all that was taking place in my apartment that day. Without having to pose or smile, I was just sitting there, authentically me. Well, better dressed, of course…