That one time I was almost molested by a Russian photographer.

Test shoots are essential for models to keep their portfolios up to date. Half of my photos are from jobs and the other half are from non-paying shoots. I hate test shoots. Most of the time I receive great quality photos which I can use for my portfolio. Other times I never even see photos or hear from the photographer after endless emails asking for the pictures. I hate those photographers, they can go fuck themselves for wasting my (precious) time. My agency had been trying to set up a shoot with a very well known photographer who took great beauty shots. After weeks of avoiding calls from my agent about the shoot I finally gave in. It was scheduled for a Saturday. Ugh.

I was living with my wonderful ex boyfriend at the time so I borrowed his Escalade to drive to the city. I usually took the Long Island Railroad to the city but I felt like torturing myself with NYC traffic just to feel some sort of emotions because Zoloft had zapped my brain and I couldn’t feel happiness or sadness, I should’ve just become a cutter. What the hell am I talking about? Sorry I just blacked out. Photo shoot, traffic, right.

There was some sort of fucking parade going on so I parked 6 blocks from where the shoot was. I don’t understand why anyone would ever go to a parade other than to be angry at themselves for wanting to go to a parade. I walk to 37th street and reach my destination. I buzz the number 8 because that’s what my email said to do. Nothing. I buzz again. Nothing. I try to open the door, it’s locked. Fuck. I look in my email for any contact info but all I have is the photographers name. Let’s call him Vladmir because that’s the only Russian name I can think of right now. I google Vladmir and find his website, I find his contact info and call that motherfucker. Voicemail. Are you fucking kidding me? I leave a nice message and wait. 15 minutes passes. I call him again and leave a message, this time I used phrases like “where the fuck are you?” and “this is bullshit.” I wait 10 more minutes and decide I’m bailing. I start walking back to my car when I see Vladmir and his makeup artist walking up to the door. He doesn’t acknowledge me.

“Are you Vladmir?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“Melissa, the model you’re shooting today.”
“Oh, I thought that was at 3?”
“Nope, 1 o’clock, exactly as it says here in the email you sent to my agency yesterday.”
“Oh, you’re right, I’m supposed to be shooting another girl right now, could you come back later?”
“No, I drove my boyfriend’s car from Long Island and I have somewhere to be tonight, it’s either right now or never.” (I had absolutely nothing to do that night other than get drunk and watch TV)
“Okay, well, maybe I can squeeze you in.”

MAYBE you can SQUEEZE me in? This is your mistake, not mine, Vlad. After a few more minutes of talking he says he can shoot me but I’ll have to wait until he’s finished with another model. Okay, whatever, I’m there, I might as well wait. We walk up to his studio on the 5th floor (the elevator is broken and its 90 degrees). His “studio” is a tiny room with some light boxes and prints hanging on the wall of other models he’s shot. Half of them are naked. Awesome. Feeling really good about that. I walk back to another room where the makeup artist has her shit set up. Vladimir goes back into the other room and continues shooting the other model. After 30 minutes of sitting on a very uncomfortable stool getting makeup caked on my face I walk to where Vladimir is. I see the other model and recognize her. She’s the new 17 year old also with my agency, so I wave to her. She smiles uncomfortably. I see that she is wearing jeans and a strapless bra. It’s a beauty shoot which means it’s going to be a super close-up shot of my face, the 3 zits on my chin, and the wrinkle forming underneath my right eye that I can’t stop obsessing over. Thank god for Photoshop.

He finishes shooting the model and tells me to have a seat. I sit on a tiny stool behind 50,000 watts of light burning into my face. I take off my shirt so I’m now just wearing a strapless bra and some cutoff shorts. He adjusts the light and stares at me awkwardly.

“You look like someone, a model.”
“Okay, who?”
“Paulina Porizkova.”
“Right, I get that a lot.”
“Will you be my Paulina?”
“You are gorgeous, look at those eyes, you will be my personal Paulina.”

Dude, stop talking, just take the fucking photos and get on with it. He continues to shoot, but after each photo he pauses and creepily smiles at me.

“Your eyes, they are incredible, I’ve never seen anything like them.”
“I want to get a side shot, cold you take off your top?”
“Oh I won’t show anything.”
“I don’t feel comfortable doing that, sorry.”
“But you are a model, you have to do that.”
“No, I don’t. I came here for beauty shots of my face, not my body.”
“It’ll just be your shoulder and a very slight side shot of your breast.”
“I’m sorry but no.”
“Okay, your loss.”
“My loss? Really? My loss?”

This asshole spews more bullshit and I get more and more annoyed. I refuse to take off my bra and he finally accepts that. He comes over to where I’m shooting and puts his hand on my shoulder to turn my body slightly. I flinch like a gargoyle just touched me after smoking meth for 48 hours.

“Geeze, relax, you are so uptight, what is wrong?”
“I’m fine. I don’t like people touching me.”
“Okay, okay, I get it, let’s just finish this shot okay?”

He takes more photos, pausing after each one to stare at me awkwardly. We finally finish an hour later and I put my shirt back on.

“Oh but I wanted to do another look, more dramatic makeup.”
“Oh, umm, I really have to go.”
“I think we could make some really beautiful images with more makeup.”
“The ones you took will be okay, I don’t need anything crazy for my book, thanks though.”

I continue to pack up my shit and make my way to the door. Vladmir comes in for the hug. Oh HELL no. I’m not a hugger. I barely hug boyfriends. My parents didn’t hug me or tell me they loved me until I was 20 years old. I’m not a casual hug type of person. The word hug gives me a panic attack. You know who I hug? My cat. I do NOT hug strangers. Let me repeat this: I DO NOT HUG STRANGERS LET ALONE RUSSIAN PHOTOGRAPHERS. I pretend like I didn’t notice his disgusting attempt at a hug and walk towards the door.

“Not even a hug? I am sad.”
“Ehh, I got that germ phobia thing.”
“Right, right, did you walk here?”
“No, I drove my BOYFRIEND’S car, and parked my BOYFRIEND’S car a few blocks away.”
“Ahh, well I will walk you to your car.”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! It’s daylight, it’s NYC, it’s safe. I don’t need to have any other conversation with this guy other than a fake thank you for a great photoshoot.

“I will walk you, I insist.”

We walk down the 5 flights of stairs and out onto 37th street. I’m standing at least two foot away from him and slightly in front of him.

“You know, your beauty is very unique, I’ve never shot someone like you.”
“Oh really? That’s nice.” I say as I’m texting my boyfriend about how creepy this asshole is.
“I would love to take you for coffee sometime.”
“I have a boyfriend, sorry.” LIKE I SAID 50 TIMES ALREADY YOU MORON
“That is ok, it will just be friendly.”
“I’m busy, I can’t.”

Vladimir is not getting the hint. Actually, I take that back. Vladimir IS getting the hint but is a pushy asshole who thinks he can take advantage of young naive models. Guess what, Vlad? I’m not one of them and I will have none of your fussbudgeting (I just made that word up, what is this, 1867?). Vladimir tries to grab my hand. I give him the “are you fucking kidding me?” look and walk faster up 8th avenue.

“I have a very nice house in Bensonhurst.”
“I don’t know where that is, or care, really.”

We continue to walk a few blocks, I see the parking garage where my car is.

“Okay, there’s my car, gotta go, thanks!”
“Wait wait wait, Melissa, I cannot let you go like this.”
“Gotta jet, bro.” (Ok I didn’t say that)
“When can I see you next?”

I walk to the valet counter and hand him my ticket. It’s $60. Fuck me.

Vladmir says “At least let me pay for parking.”
“No shit?”
“Yeah, I do not mind.”

I let money bags pay for parking, which was a mistake because he goes in for the hug and tries to kiss me this time.

I tell him “I don’t know what the fuck your problem is but what part of I HAVE A BOYFRIEND do you not understand?”
“I’m sorry, let me make it up to you, I will buy you coffee next week, I will text you I have your number saved.”

Ugh, I forgot that I called him before the shoot. Now this creep has my number. The valet pulls up in my car and I literally run to driver’s side and get in.

“I will call you soon, Paulina.”

I drive onto the street and don’t even acknowledge him. I call my boyfriend immediately and tell him I am retiring from modeling. The worst part of this story is I get the photos a week later and they’re AMAZING, so of course I use them for my portfolio. Way to go, Vlad, you fucking creep.


19 thoughts on “That one time I was almost molested by a Russian photographer.

  1. I love that you have so many equally-creepy guys replying to this with equally-creepy comments. Amazing. Never thought I’d feel bad for a model, but fuck, I feel for you, girl.

  2. you just know vlad is a total boss.

    next time he should just tell her he wants to bang and no more photos taken if she doesnt lol

  3. Whaaaat. That is crazy. That sounds like a scary situation. Do they teach models at your agency to make their own shivs or anything for protection? Because maybe that should be a new policy…

    Also, cats are great huggers, I approve. Except mine because she’s feral. But other people’s cats, yes.

  4. Yeah I completely get the hug thing, I don’t even shake hands if I can unawkwardly avoid it. It’s not specifically a germ thing, I just rarely care for human contact. 1 of many reasons I like Fall -don’t much care for Summer, I’m a lot more comfortable (especially in more crowded places) when I can where a zipper hoodie 24/7 and not drop from heat stroke…


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