How We Didn't Become Famous

… and how I became that mom.

You can already guess, this is more minutiae than crucial. If you want something on the grounded and meaningful side from me, go back and read my birth story.

This all starts back when I was a kid and wanted to be an actress more than anything besides having lots of dogs and rabbits and a pony. I took acting classes, got headshots, and did a victory dance when a local talent agency wanted to sign me. Then my lawyer mom read all the fine print and became concerned about someone “owning” any part of her daughter. End of my career, thanks Mom. (Just kidding. I find writing far more rewarding.)

Cut to: Monday night when I got an e-mail looking for babies 1-3 months for a commercial shoot with a certain famous toy company. I thought of my friend’s niece who was all set for college by age five because of the Baby Gap ads she did, asked the potential star’s daddy for permission, and sent in her pictures. The next day I got a call that yes, they wanted to “use” Francesca and maybe me as well. Could I send in a full-length shot of myself? I was flattered, but completely unprepared. I found a couple of candids where I’m holding Francesca, and I’m wearing tennis shoes and not much makeup. Why was I surprised when the response from the agent was… “Yeah. They just want Francesca.”

So, for a hot minute I almost got to live out my childhood dreams. Well, not really. I saw myself as being Juliet at the Shakespeare Theater, not baby mommy on a toy commercial– but you get the idea. Then, I was to await details for the shoot. They pushed it back 15 minutes so that I could make it from teaching my class. Details arrived after business hours yesterday, and required that I complete a New York State Child Performer permit, open up a trust account for the kid, sign a contract (don’t worry Mom, it was non-exclusive), and fill out a W-9. That’s when I remembered that we had no idea where her social security card was. I knew we needed to go apply for a card, but I didn’t anticipate my 3 month old getting a job so soon.

The talent agency was still open late yesterday evening and suggested that we go to the social security office when they opened to get the temporary card. That was the only way. Before dawn, I scrambled to get my little beauty ready, cleaning spit up out of her hair and goo out of her sleepy eyes. And off I went to teach my class (and to fax in all the contracts and such) while my husband, who had done some fine work in a Bud Light commercial himself back in the day, went with babe in arms to get the social security card. He succeeded and made it home to fill out the work permit online just in time for me to come back and swoop up America’s next top baby.

That’s when I checked my messages. In the span of thirty minutes, during which I was teaching and could not answer my phone (that would look pretty bad when I admonish the students for using theirs), I got three calls. 1. Did you get the social security card? 2. We’re worried you didn’t get it. 3. If you don’t call me back in five minutes, we’re canceling.

I called back. I assured them we were all good to go, but they had already canceled and told the “Mom” (meaning, the mom actress) not to come out. Too late. Too bad, so sad. But I can be her mom! I am her mom! That’s in italics because I thought it but didn’t say it. Let’s be proud of me for that.

Wasn’t I the one who said I didn’t want my kid to be an actor but a “normal” person? Wasn’t I just this morning worried that they might put goop in her crazy hair or that if we stuck with this, she might be wearing makeup at age 3? And haven’t I admonished stage moms and made fun of the mom on Real Housewives of New Jersey for pushing her daughter on talent agencies, coating her lips with liner, and saying “Melania, fabulous!” every time she took her picture? It was raining out; we could have gotten in an accident on the long drive out to the shoot or on the way back. She might have missed her nap, and sleep is precious. She might have gotten hungry or fussy or hated the whole thing. They might have said she wasn’t as cute in real life as in the pictures, although I doubt that. She might have spit-up all over herself again. And the “Mom” might have given her swine flu. The possibilities for disaster were endless.

But here I am feeling like the time when I didn’t get a callback for “Annie” at age 8 after my incredible rendition of “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly,” complete with cockney accent. Kimmi, we could use some Therapy Thursday. You were a child actor/model. She’s not really missing anything, is she?

P.S. How does anybody accomplish anything on this little sleep, let alone be rational or start a glamorous new career?


Filed under Career/Life

5 responses to “How We Didn't Become Famous

  1. nicole

    It is terrible that I can’t stop laughing at you right now. If I were there, I’d give you a big hug & hand you a gingerbread latte. Then we’d put that tiny model on some blankies on the floor and let her work it again. She (and you) can be my models any time you like. You know you’re the best ones I “work” with 😉

    It’s so easy to get caught up in possibilities and, in our excitement, turn those “possibilities” into DREAMS. This wasn’t a dream you had for your little one — it was just a bright, shiny, fun opportunity that appeared on your radar. Her life (and yours) are full of all kinds of possibilities. There will be so many more — you can’t even begin to imagine…

    On the bright side, at least she’s got an SSN now. And you’ll find some other way to pay for college.

  2. You are so right. And the possibilities shimmer more than anything I can imagine.

  3. Becky

    Pippa! You need to rent the documentary “Life After Tomorrow” about all the little girls over the years who were in the Broadway/Touring company of Annie! It is truly amazing – this little window into the craziness, heartbreak, and excitement of these pint-sized little stars. Incredible. rent it! immediately, if not sooner!

    And next time you’re in town, please please PLEASE do me the honor of doing your best impression of 8 year old Cristina singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly…” please?


  4. cathy weingeist

    If it makes you feel better, my granddaughter (2 1/2) DID get a photo shoot for The Land of Nod, which is big in the Northwest. Her mom was like you, planning how to set up the trust fund her starlet was sure to have. She had the photo shoot, but she didn’t make the catalog.

    But as far as we are concerned, they don’t get cuter than Zoe and Francesca!

  5. Why of course I’ll perform my rendition of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” for you, Becky! And I can’t possibly sing it without also doing an impression of me at 8. I hadn’t heard of “Life After Tomorrow,” but now I’ll definitely have to rent it. I did see “Every Little Step” though and thought– thank god I don’t want to be an actor.

    Cathy, that really is too bad that Zoe isn’t the face of the Land of Nod. I’ve seen her pictures and I know she’s adorable!