Yesterday I began a post that talked about my first born and her short stint as a baby model. In the process I unearthed something that I had been searching for, off more than on, for the past 18 years. And it convinced me that there is a certain magic in this world – that unquestionably there has to be times when the stars line up and every thing just falls right into place.
In the spring of 1996 I remember watching an episode the Today Show where they did a segment on modeling agencies that dealt with average Joes. You know, the folks who get cast as grandmothers, neighbors and cab drivers in commercials and print ads. At the end of the segment, they mentioned that they were looking for babies.
I looked at my sleeping 7 month old and, let’s just say the proverbial light bulb went off over my head. I called the agency right away and was told to send in a photo and our basic information. Photos? I had a ton. You always have a ton of your first born child. I selected what I thought was a particularly fetching snapshot and sent it in.
A few weeks later I got a call from the agency asking if we could bring her in. My husband was very skeptical and insisted on coming with me. While I knew there were scammers our there, I didn’t think the Today Show would endorse a fly-by-night outfit, but I was prepared for the possibility of a “portfolio photo shoot” sales pitch (and the big “I told you so” lecture from hubby).
We arrived for our appointment, and as we were being lead through the office, a woman walked by, pointed to my daughter and said, “I want her at the Playtex shoot this afternoon.”
There was no talk of portfolio shots, no need to pay a fee, nothing monetarily upfront from us at all, and that afternoon we took our baby daughter on her very first job.
And like that I had entered the world of baby modeling.
At this point I had a full time job which afforded me very little flex time. But as a mother of a baby model you had to be ready at a moment’s notice to pack a diaper bag, head into New York, and find the shoot location – which was inveriably somewhere in Soho. Remember, no GPS or Google Maps back in ’96 – I had to leave in plenty of time to find what was usually some obscure street downtown, and then find parking close enought to where I wasn’t pushing a stroller across half of Manhattan.
Plus you had to have a happy baby when you showed up. This was the main reason why I decided to give modeling a try. My little girl almost never fussed and interacted well with strangers, which is key to the business. I learned that early on.
Do you know how most photo shoots went? You handed your baby to a total stranger who took her in another room. When they were done with her, they handed her back and paid you. If the kid is a superstar with mom, but a dud with strangers, you’re out of business. And as a mom? It was a real leap of faith, let me tell you.
My girl got a handful of jobs. Once she was filmed for a Trane Heating print ad. She got paid for the shoot but didn’t land the actual print ad. She was also photographed for the box of a baby blanket by Playskool – that shoot took the longest, and while she got paid, we never knew if she made the box because I could never find it in the stores.
But I know she appeared in print one time. She had been photographed by Toys R Us, and months later while shopping for a present for my friends daughter, picked up the latest circular in the store. Flipping through the pages, I saw her…my girl in a red sweat suit smiling on a Winnie the Pooh blanket.
I was eccstatic. I grabbed a giant stack of copies and began to show her photo to anyone who would look – right there in the lobby of Toys R Us. I ran to my sisters house to show her. I ran to the party and handed out copies of the circular to all my friends. I was probably super obnoxious, but dammit, I was a true-blue bursting with pride mommy.
Her next job was for Huggies – the big time. She nailed the go-see. They took two babies in at a time and waved a toy at them – my girl giggled and giggled while the other baby just cried. The day of the shoot she was super fussy – I think she was cutting a tooth – and even my level tempered little angel wasn’t in the mood to say cheese. I hoped that a nap on the way into the city would soothe her.
I was wrong. They took her in with a few other kids and she was handed back to me 90 seconds later. “Sorry, she’s not in the right mood today,” and home we went.
Shortly after that I pissed the agency off. I had agreed to take her to a go-see, but my boss was giving me crap for missing so much work. When I called them to cancel, they lectured me on the importance of keeping these appointments, so I told them I’d still go. I broke down and cried to my bosses who relented and gave in.
It was the last time the agency ever called. I think I got put on a list of unreliable moms or something. It was a bummer, but to be honest, dragging a baby into the city twice a month was difficult for a mom with a full time job. I guess the world of baby modeling is better suited for moms who can stay at home, or work and can afford a nanny.
She did model once more a few years later. I worked for a really rinky-dink ad agency and my boss landed a local mattress company’s ad campaign. They wanted a mother and daughter for the ad shoot, and I jumped right in and offered up my child, who would work for free. Although my daughter was beyond cute, the poster, which we have framed and hanging in our bedroom, blows – what designer with any self-respect uses Mistral anyway?
That was her last official modeling gig.
As the years past, I’ve often wondered about the shoot for the blanket box, and if she ever wound up on the package. A cousin of mine called me about a year after the shoot saying she thought she saw her on a box, but when we went to look we couldn’t find any toy that had a baby who even resembled our girl.
Every couple of years I would Google “Playskool Blankie Blankie,” because that’s the name that was on the modeling work sheet for the product shoot that day, but came up empty time after time.
When the idea came into my head yesterday to write about her short stint as a baby model, I got halfway through the blog post and decided to look again. When my usual search query came up empty, I simply typed in “1996 Playskool blankets” and a few scrolls down, I came across this image.
A “vintage” baby banket for sale on Ebay. I wasn’t 100% sure, because I couldn’t really zoom in, but thought that baby laying on the blanket is a dead ringer for my daughter, rosy Slovak cheeks and all. I took a screen shot of the image and emailed it to hubby – I was fully expecting him to scoff at it immediately, but he was also intrigued.
I contacted the seller who was nice enough to send me close up shots of both babies on the box. While the smaller inset photo is no way my child, the one on on the blanket?
It’s her. After 18 years of wondering, I got my answer. She made the box.
I bought the item (duh!) and can’t wait until it gets here later this week. At first hubby wasn’t 100% convinced until I dug out baby photos of her in similar positions.
That, coupled with the fact that I remember that blanket from the shoot was enough to sway him. Plus, come on – a mother knows…
I am absolutely astounded that I found this box. There was less than a day left on the Ebay auction, and if I hadn’t gotten the idea yesterday to blog about my foray into baby modeling, I never would have Googled this baby blanket in time to be able to purchase the item.
Isn’t it funny how the world can work like that sometimes? It’s almost inconceivalbe to think of all the things that had to happen at a very specific time for me to end up finding this item that I have been looking for for almost 2 decades.
Hmmmm – I think I’m playing the lottery tonight.