Castings in Istanbul are a completely different experience from anywhere else I’ve been for so many reasons. Here’s a rundown of what our day might look like:
Late every evening we get a sheet posted in the living room that tells us whether we’re working or casting and what time to be ready. The model apartment I’m living in is located two floors above my agency, so it makes it easy for them to post the updates after each workday. Usually, our morning call time is around 9:15 am so by this time, I’ve already been to the gym, showered, and have my morning green smoothie in hand. Promptly at 9:15, we show up in the parking lot and start piling into one of the agency vans. Thankfully it’s in my nature to be on time since it’s crucial to get a seat near the front as the air conditioning barely reaches the back and there’s just no room or god forbid, you have to sit on the floor. Not to mention, I get carsick far too easily!
The van sits seven people comfortably (and legally) in the back; however, we typically have ten or eleven and have had as many as twelve stuffed inside. Thanks to the bench-style seating, there’s room for us to squeeze. After ten get stuffed in the seats, that leaves the floor for up to two more “seats.” Who needs legroom? Who needs air? Apparently we don’t!
Traffic in Istanbul is bad. Oops, I mean horrendous. I heard about how awful it was before I got here but it didn’t really sink in until I spent day after day, hour after hour riding around in it. Not to mention, Istanbul is a huge city so the castings are spread out considerably. We typically spend from around 9 am till 7 pm in the car going on castings but each day is different. If we’re lucky, we’ll end up with a one-hour lunch break around 3:30/4 pm somewhere en route to our next casting and if we’re really lucky, we’ll get to come back home in between and head out again for more castings that will usually run us even later into the evening… weekends included.
When we’re not conversing, many of the girls play games on their phones or listen to music on their headphones while the rest of us sit in silence. The conversations mostly consist of topics covering how uncomfortable we are or asking the driver about the next casting or discussing how inefficient most everything in Turkey is. Often the girls talk about how disrespectful the clients treat us or how unfair the whole business is here as it’s just not something we’re used to. Often an effort is made to shift to a positive line of thinking but it’s challenging considering our level of discomfort. I've found that I choose to be silent the majority of the time as these conversations bring me down and make the whole experience more challenging.
During a typical casting, we all stand in front of the client in a semi-circle with our comp cards and portfolios in hand and step forward when it’s our turn for them to sift through our books. Sometimes they look at all of us and simply point to indicate whose book they care to peruse while the rest of us awkwardly twiddle our thumbs. In the end, the client points to which girls they’re interested in, and from there, the chosen models will likely try on some clothes.
Afterward, the client will communicate with our driver as to who they’re interested in, and the driver, in turn, will call the agency and let the bookers know. Of course, many times we’ve waited over an hour for several agencies to go in front of us so there’s no telling if a girl from our agency will even book the job. We all go to each casting hoping to be the lucky one; we go hoping to the “chosen one” and even if we are, it doesn’t necessarily mean we get the job.
Even though the majority of us don’t speak Turkish, we can usually tell what they say about is through their body language. If we’re too skinny or too fat in their eyes, they’ll show it. There are plenty of Turks who speak English and they’ve told girls everything from them being too fat to have a double chin, a fat neck, or crappy skin. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful clients who really take care of us and make an effort but in my experience, they’re very few and far between in this market. Modeling is technically illegal in Turkey (which I discovered after being here) and women aren’t treated as equals as part of the culture in general – so this is just how it is. By the time we get home, everyone is tired. We ultimately end up hanging around in the apartment and going to sleep so we can do it all over again.
Needless to say, every day in Istanbul is an experience. Despite the often negative environment and some miserable days, I’m still grateful to be here. I’ve met some of the most amazing girls and seen so many things that I never could have as a tourist in this city.
Outside of castings, we make the most of our time and are really enjoying ourselves. Having said that, I’ll be thankful when the time comes to move on!