Black is the New Black

I have been in the tv and film business a long time. Just long enough to love it, hate it and love it again. About 35 years all together. As a freelancer, shows come and go. Recently I have lost one of my major network shows that I have been with for 28 years. It feels like relearning to walk in a snowstorm, on one hand and on the other, the air is fresh and clean! Because of this I am all of a sudden free to be someone else that I haven’t been for years. There was an identity associated with that position, I am no longer the person that’s been with a famous network show for half her life and knows all the DC insiders. Along with this work-fabricated-character-adjustment, I can now for the first time in decades, act and dress like a normal person!
Let me explain. The show is an inside-the-beltway-Sunday-morning political talk production. When I first started we were ordered to be all dressed up, really dressed up, for the senators, heads of state, congress people and so on. Looking our Sunday best was mandatory. Being an atheist-Jewish by culture-artist, I had to use the off button on my imagination and curb my creative leanings in order to conform to the Washington DC standard-business-suit dress code. Most of the clothes were so well starched and ironed with sharp creases that I felt quite ridged with all those proper buttons, collars and pleats. I would, on purpose, skip wearing a belt or earrings or something else noticeable in utter defiance of the look and amazingly got away with it or at least, no one said anything (inside they were all probably thinking what a disorganized slop she must be). Bucking authority keeps me sane, what can I say?
As the years went by changes were made to everything, equipment, sets, talent, producers and content to name just a few things. I was even told to change and wear nothing but darker colors, which, to me, automatically translates to black. Black is great, I love black, its oh so very New York City but that is if you get to add fun funky things to it like tight, skinny jeans, black jewels and a black fur boa etc. But wearing black and still remaining stiffly professional can look like, well, think FBI or secret service. The wardrobe requirement is done in order to blend into the darkened studio and not be a distraction. However always trying to beat the system, I tried to enhance an otherwise boring outfit by adding a scarf with silver thread woven throughout with the thickness of tinsel – okay it was a bit garish but fun! It brightened the outfit and was perfect for the holiday season that I wore it for. When I walked near the set however, a beam of light bounced off it sending sparkling blasts throughout the studio. It was enough to madden the director, the lighting guy, the floor director, the camera guys, the caterer and several others….so, off it came and back to plain black.
Along comes a new host of my long running show and with him, his own makeup artist. Being offered the second makeup artist position after half a life time as the lead artist was upsetting at best and everyone around me, all my coworkers and the guests that have come on the show forever, were infuriated! We all stewed and ruminated about this for a few days.
As they boiled and broiled over the problem, a radical thought came to me and I imagined what it might be like to experience Sundays off for the first time in three decades. Yes, I would miss the prestige and all the really smart people that lowered themselves to talk with me. I would really miss the journalists and pundits and one or two of the politicians. Could I do it? Could I exchange all that high-end socialization for sleeping in on Sunday? Loving anything new and different, I jumped at the opportunity and quit! It has been nice, I still can’t sleep in, I don’t remember how to. It’s boring, too. Everyone is asleep and there is no one to talk to. It is taking some getting used to but it’s okay.
All this is to say, that after so many years I had developed a lot of identity around that show, I was the makeup artist icon for Sunday mornings on a number one network rated program! I spotted bits of skin cancer on famous people who would later come back to the show and thank me with boxes of chocolates and accolades. Then in the proverbal flash it was all gone. For a few weekends I wanted to know how it was going, who was on, what were they saying and what they thought of the new artist and then one day I let go. It only took about a month (haha, a month of Sundays) to get it. Staring me in the face was freedom from the creased black suit and it felt, at first, odd, like being nake and dangling in the open air. Then it occurred to me, this was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, this was liberty from wardrobe tyranny!
I wrote all this to say that now that I no longer am required to wear fancy black clothes, I have been wondering who I am without all the starch and stockings. Maybe the clothes really do make the “man.” I went to the store with my daughter and she noticed that I still want to buy black. I know, this sounds frivolous after all those famous people and the green room talk that if I ever wrote up might explode the whole system but honestly, clothing is not frivolous! It’s expected, it is how we face the world and who sees us and the judgments they make because someone on purpose doesn’t wear a belt. It matters, yes it does!
Now that I have the freedom from Sunday mornings (I am still working as a makeup artist, regularly in tv, just not that show) I can explore color and what are the first purchases I make: black tights and black leggings, black socks, black underwear, black boots and a black sweater. Is it because I am from New York and I just have black in my blood or am I really a creature of habit? I will give myself this much: the FBI look is out. I might still need to have black nearby like a security blanket but with my rights as an American citizen, free of wardrobe tyranny, I will embellish – with color (one day)!

3 thoughts on “Black is the New Black

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