I woke up the next morning feeling like a liar. It was 8 in the morning and I had several missed calls from the men and women responsible for beautifying me that day. They were used to me getting up before dawn to get ready for major award shows and red carpet events.
Coming into the industry, I’d been too restless and anxious to sleep the night before a big red carpet event. I would be the one giving my stylists a wake up call at 3 a.m. to tell them I was ready to get my hair and makeup done. They would have to tell me to go to please leave them alone and go to bed.
But my excitement always used to keep me wide and awake. I was told that, for an actress, getting ready for the Oscars was like getting ready for your Wedding. And what woman doesn’t feel tremendous excitement and anxiety over her wedding? The desire to make sure everything is perfect interferes with just relaxing and having fun.
But even though my first few Oscars were on virtually no sleep, I still had enough adrenaline and energy to become the star of the red carpet, live it up during the show, then party away at two or three different after parties. No drugs either, except for that one time I took a tote of my brothers joint as I got ready the night I won the award.
But that seemed like ancient history. I barely had enough energy to get out of bed this morning, let alone steel myself for what I knew was going to be an exhausting and soul sucking day of fake smiles, shallow interviews, and rehearsed bullshit.
I silenced my phone and lay back down, just wanting another 10 minutes of sleep. It briefly crossed my mind to send out a text telling everyone I wasn’t feeling well and was going to skip the show. But I had skipped the Golden Globes a month ago without letting Dior know beforehand and they’d made it clear that it would be a breach of contract if I skipped the Oscars without notice.
After failing to fall back asleep, I forced myself out of bed and threw on some sweats and a hoodie so I could head out to get red-carpet ready.
“Finally, you’re here,” Jill said when I finally did arrive at the hotel room they’d booked at the Sunset Tower.
Even though I lived less than 10 miles from Hollywood Boulevard, where the red carpet and Dolby theater was located, we always booked hotels within 2 miles of the show because traffic around this time could turn 10 miles into several hours.
The Sunset Tower was right on the strip and would allow us to push our red carpet preparations as close to showtime as possible. With me showing up late, that meant more to my team than usual.
I felt bad when I walked in the room and saw my team of hairdressers, stylists, makeup artists, and designers just sitting around waiting for me. Even if I was cynical about this years award season, it would have reflected poorly on me to take it out on them.
Beauty prep was not only their livelihood, it was something they genuinely enjoyed. And today was their Super Bowl, their time to shine, their day to have their artistry recognized in front of millions. It was a time to celebrate with champagne and improve their resume. I couldn’t put a damper on that just because my excitement for the event had died.
So I told everyone I was ready to roll, then took off my clothes, grabbed a robe, and gave my body over to their hands. Over the next several hours, I was glammed up and pampered.
Soaked in an Epsom salt bath. Showered, scrubbed hard and deep from my neck down to the soles of my feet. Shampooed and massaged with lotions, oils, and body shimmers. Exfoliated, facialed, and deep pore cleansed. Covered with sheet marks and moisturizer. Twisted and turned and fussed over.
Most of that felt really good and allowed me to zone out so I was in a good enough mood by the time I was pampered with a manicure and pedicure. But that changed whenever Maria and her escort of eight armed security guards entered the room with briefcases and bags.
Inside the briefcases were treasures. Two 18k white gold earrings from the Kuon Collection, a Japanese jeweler that often collaborated with Christian Dior. Two equally pristine white gold and diamond bracelets, and a sexy Suiren white gold and diamond Siren ring with an amethyst.
But the shine from the $5 million worth of jewels paled in comparison to the actual treasure, the gold and metallic gown that two security guards were protecting with their very lives.
“Look at our star,” Maria smiled as she gently touched my shoulder. “You’re looking so beautiful today.” Since I was getting my nails done, I couldn’t really return any gestures. But I smiled and thanked her for the compliment.
She didn’t make any mention of me firing Buddy through a text. She probably didn’t even want anyone to know that she had referred him. But I could tell that I had disappointed her by not following through on getting my body perfect for the perfect dress.
That was confirmed to me when she told me that she had three alternate dresses that I could wear. One of them was the one I’d picked out for the Vanity Fair after party. But the other two were samples from a fall collection that weren’t as demanding as her warrior woman inspired metallic gown.
“I don’t want you to be uncomfortable,” she said softly as she looked down at my body, obviously remembering how labored even squeezing into the dress had been at our last fitting.
“Do you have anyone else to wear it?” I asked her. “If I decide not to.”
“It’s too late for that,” she smiled politely. “They’ve already went with other gowns.”
The dilemma was clear. Since I’d prevented other A-listers from grabbing the dress, either I had to wear it or her prized creation would go unworn at the most important event of the year.
“I’ll wear it,” I told her.
She held my eyes for a moment before nodding and giving me a pat on the knee. “I’ll see you in an hour or so when you’re ready to put it on.”
She left the room, while everyone else continued to make me red-carpet ready, unaware that I had blown my chance to be red-carpet ready for that dress that was now hanging in front of me like an albatross.
Once Jordan started styling my hair, wavy, not-so-elegant, but fun and sexy, I looked to my left and saw my team getting the makeup ready. It really hit me that I was the canvas for the industry’s version of Picasso and Da Vinci. On that same note, my smile must have looked just as bland as the Mona Lisa’s because Jill asked “You feeling okay?” as she brushed my hair.
“I was going to ask the same thing,” the man doing my feet said. “You’re usually much more talkative.”
“Sorry, just kind of tired, I guess.” Being tired wasn’t really the reason. But it made for an acceptable enough excuse.
“You don’t have to apologize,” Jordan said as she gently caressed my shoulder. “I was just wondering if you needed anything. Ibuprofen. Energy bar. Tea?”
“No thank you.” I smiled politely and took a deep breath.
“You sure?” she pressed. “Have you eaten breakfast?”
“I’m not really hungry,” I answered truthfully.
She narrowed her eyes at me for a beat. “It’s not about the dress, is it?” she asked, low enough so that some of the others in the room couldn’t hear.
I shook my head no. But just the fact that she asked meant she had picked up on the fact that I had reservations. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Could everyone else tell too?
“Well you have to put something in your stomach before we leave. Going to be a long night and you’re going to need the energy if you’re already tired.”
I nodded even though I had no appetite at all. In fact, this whole thing was making me sick to my stomach. Jill, my stylist was overseeing the makeup preparation but she must have overheard our conversation because she leaned in – mostly for comedic effect since everyone could hear her – and said “If you want a little pick me up, just let me know. Got some pot in my purse.”
“How about coke?” I asked.
“You’re kidding but I can get you some,” Jill said. “Just let me know.”
“That’s good to know,” I said. “If you ever quit your day job, I guess you can have a career as the plug.”
This was the kind of mood my team were used to. They laughed, popped another bottle of champagne and cut on some upbeat music, as Jonathan applied foundation to my face. “Hold still beautiful, no laughing,” he said as he worked, meticulously fixing any and all imperfections on my face while still maintaining a natural look. Or so that was what he said he was going to do. He always spoke aloud while applying makeup, telling me step by step what he was doing.
“Finished with your smokey eyes,” he said. “Now I’m gonna give you terracotta lips.”
When he was finished, he announced it, and told me to open my eyes. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw a dark, striking, radiant beauty looking back at me.
“You like?” Jonathan asked.
“Fabulous,” I said as I admired his work. “Just incredible. You’re really an amazing artist.”
“That I am,” he agreed with a giggle. “But you are a work of art, dear.”
Maria was called into the room when it was time for me to slip into the dress. I normally would have been fine dropping my robe in front of the entire team to get dressed but for the first time, I decided against it. I wanted to save myself from the embarrassment of not fitting perfectly into this elegant gown that most of them were seeing for the first time.
I’d eaten beef, and bread, and bread crumbs, and buckets of sugar and carbs this week. That was going to have an effect on my waist. How much? Time would tell. But I didn’t want anybody to see me struggle with putting it on.
So I moved into a separate room, only allowing Jordan, Jill, and Maria inside. Only after I dropped my robe and stood naked could I see that Maria had a bag with her. She opened it and revealed nude colored shapewear underwear. “No shame in wearing Spanx,” she said. “Lot of my clients wear them. Try these on.”
The high-waist shorts looked like my grandma’s bloomers. A far cry from the thong I’d worn under my gown on the red carpet last year. But I was in better shape last spring fresh off filming my nude scenes for Red Sparrow. More toned, flatter tummy. And Maria had been incredibly pleased to fit me into her black lace Haute Couture gown. Now, she had to resort to granny panties to salvage the disaster that was of an inch of extra waistline.
I didn’t think of Maria as a villain, some evil bitch set on tormenting women. That was what Darren thought. She was just an artist that took her craft very seriously, no different than the asshole directors and actors and producers this awards show was celebrating. They were respected for being perfectionists. So why would I have any ill feelings towards Maria for having high standards? Especially when they were paying me so much money to be the face and body that sold their brand.
But even if I readily could understand where she was coming from and even respect her as a successful woman in a cut throat industry, I couldn’t help being incredibly humiliated by her in that moment. I could see in her eyes that it was killing her to have to “settle” for this less than perfection. And it made me feel like shit.
But as a professional woman, I smiled politely at being told I wasn’t fit to wear her dress, and took what she offered me. Jill and Jordan helped me into the snug underwear as Maria provided unhelpful commentary about how it would help flatten my belly and help shape my curves. “How does it feel?” she asked after my gut and butt were neatly sucked and tucked into the incredibly restrictive, skin tight garment. “Comfortable?”
I wanted to laugh in her face but I just told her what she wanted to hear. “Sure, it’s fine.”
When it was time to slip into the dress, I felt as if I was being swallowed by a snake. My chest and waist being crushed by the muscles of the beasts esophagus. But I had so stay still and make sure I didn’t mess up my makeup or hair. Or god forbid, mess up the dress. I briefly pondered what would happen if I “accidentally” smeared lipstick over the gown, right on the front. I’d have an easy out. An excuse to wear something else.
But the truth was I didn’t need an excuse. All I had to say was “Maria, I’m sorry, but I’m being choked in this shit and I’d like to wear one of your other million dollar gowns. Sorry, but not sorry.”
But cowardice seemed to prevail as I held my tongue and let my handlers put my boobs into place, fix my hair, touch up my face, and then announce me to the rest of the room. “Here is our star,” Jordan said with a big smile as she led me into the suite.
“Isn’t she gorgeous?” Maria came in behind me. I felt as if she was referring to the gown and not me.
Everyone in the room exploded in applause when they saw me. And they were quick to tell me what they thought. Beautiful. Sexy. Stunning. Breathtaking. The superlatives flowed almost endlessly.
“Give yourself a hand,” I told them. “You’re the stars tonight.”
They responded with another enthused round of applause.
They were proud of what stood before them, for I was the fruit of their labor. A smokey eyed, brownish orange lipped woman with flawless bright skin, beautiful fingers and toes, wrapped in a powerful gown that only a wonder woman could pull off. A woman that would show up on the carpet, namedrop them in interviews, and later on win best dressed on all of the magazines and entertainment sites. For this woman they cheered, and toasted their drinks, and praised each other for outdoing every other red carpet look they helped put together. And while they celebrated, I struggled to breathe and avoided looking at myself in the mirror.
I eventually sat down and cut on the TV to the red carpet coverage that had just started while everyone went to their respective rooms to quickly shower and get into their own dresses and suits for the night.
I wasn’t in a rush to leave. The red carpet event was typically around 90 minutes, and I wanted to arrive in the final 45 minutes so I wouldn’t have to spend too much time mingling with everyone before being allowed into the theater.
As I sat, I thought I might get over how the shapewear felt but after only a few minutes, my butt and thighs fall asleep. My soft midsection still felt as if it was being squeezed.
I sat there contemplating how I would get the underwear off whenever I had to pee. Then again, I didn’t drink any fluids since my last bathroom break before my shower, or eaten anything. I probably wouldn’t even need to go to the bathroom during the show. My mind was on bathrooms whenever Jordan peaked around the corner and cheerily said “Someone is here to see you.”
That someone was Darren. He was dressed in a Calvin Klein black tuxedo and had on the thin-framed glasses I’d helped him pick out when we went shopping in Manhattan last summer.
“Wow,” he let out a big breath when we stood face to face. His eyes danced around in his frames. “I think I’m actually speechless.”
“That’s a first,” I smiled.
“I’m sure you’ve been told a million times today that you’re beautiful but Jennifer. You’re beautiful.”
“Thank you.” I nervously touched my hair but stopped myself from messing up Jill’s hard work. Hearing him call me beautiful was the first time today that I actually felt it. But it kind of bummed me out that I still counted on him to be a truer reflection of me than my own mirror. I needed to joke away those feelings. “I must say you look beautiful yourself, Darren.”
“Do I?” he laughed. “Or do you just want to be the first and only person to call me beautiful today?”
“You know me too well,” I said before we embraced each other with a hug. When it was over, he fixed a loose strand of my hair and I fixed his tie. And then Maria came into the room wearing her white gown for the night. It was pretty basic compared to the kind of gowns she actually designed. But I guess even she didn’t feel worthy of wrapping herself in the highest class of gowns. She certainly didn’t have the body she demanded her models have.
Darren and Maria were cordial in their greetings. He kissed her cheek and they both told each other they looked very nice. Then they spent what felt like ten minutes talking about her dress, how she made it, and how wonderful it looked on me.
I knew how he really felt about her, or at least how he felt about her pressuring models like me to be tiny, so it sort of surprised me to see him so upbeat and interested in hearing her talk about the gown. And with that surprise came a tinge of disappointment as I realized I sort of wanted him to be angry at her.
I hadn’t told Darren about my week with Buddy. Or my night of binge eating. Or the day I had with my family. I’d mostly avoided Darren since telling him I wouldn’t be going nude to the red carpet. I felt like he would be disappointed in me.
I could hardly believe that he still wanted to be my date to the show. Something felt wrong or off about it. He hadn’t chided me or tried to convince me to change my mind. He just let it lay and accepted it as if he hadn’t invested any of his time, energy, and desires into the fantasy.
It didn’t feel right.
Still, I tried to roll with it. I pulled out my phone and had them take photos of me and Darren, then I took individual photos with everyone in the room, from the woman that designed my gown, to the man that cleaned my feet. These photos would be posted on their social media pages and used as proof that they made me look this hot for the Oscars.
Not all A-listers took the time to take photos with the people that made them red-carpet ready. But I learned a long time ago that the gresure went a long way.
When it was time to head out, the security guards entered the room and unlocked the briefcases that contained white gold and diamond bracelets, earrings, and ring. I slowly put them on my ears, and wrists, and fingers. Cold and heavy and extravagant. This was the finish that made me glow.
I left the room with Darren and the security following closely behind. They would be following me all night to keep track of the jewels. Each step I took through the hallway was uncomfortable. I’d worn a corsets and bodysuits on films. I knew what it felt like to wear uncomfortable costumes and outfits. But that still somehow hadn’t prepared me for how restricted and unnatural I felt as I moved into the elevator.
I wanted Darren to pick up on it. But he only smiled and asked if Jill and Jordan would be joining us.
“They are running late so they’ll meet us on the carpet,” I said as I touched my stomach to see if I could feel the Spanx through the dress. I hated the feeling I got whenever I felt my unnaturally flat tummy.
We left the hotel through a back entrance where a black limousine was waiting for us. The driver, a slightly husky man in a black tuxedo greeted us with a smile and said “Wow. You both look amazing tonight.” It was obvious the ‘wow’ had been for me. The ‘amazing’ was too. “Ice cold champagne is back there. Playstation. Phone chargers. Need me to stop anywhere or get anything, just let me know.”
We both thanked the driver as Darren helped me into the backseat before sliding in behind me.
As I pulled my seatbelt over me, he made sure my dress was secured inside before he buckled up. I looked down at the iphone charger that was plugged into an outlet. Nice amenity, but of course I would never use it. I’d heard stories about people being able to copy and save the data on your phone through a charging port. I couldn’t trust anybody anymore.
Once the driver pulled out of the back area of the hotel on the street, I saw dozens of paparazzi and tourists just looking at the hotel, waiting to catch a glimpse of a movie star walking out. Seven or eight years ago, I would have rolled down the window and stuck my head out to greet them. But as we passed, the phrase ‘get a life’ flowed through my head as I turned away from them.
It reminded me of the interview I did with Adam Sandler for Variety, where I expressed to him that I was often very rude to people that came up to me randomly while I was out in public. Most of the people probably meant well when they approached me, but whether it was to ask for a photo, or try to chat with me like we were friends, I would always cut them off and tell them that I wanted to be left alone. And even then it took years for me to go from a polite “I’m sorry, I’m eating,” to just a straight up “No,” when asked for a selfie.
They all probably left thinking I was a huge asshole. But that was my way of protecting my bubble from people I could not trust. My way of distancing my persona from my person. Being violated had changed me into a woman willing to be unlikable to protect myself
“Didn’t this used to be fun?” I said in a loud whisper. I hadn’t meant to say it out loud at all.
“What was that?” Darren asked.
“Nothing,” I said as I tried to adjust myself in the boa constrictor that everyone pretended was a dress. Sitting felt even more crushing than standing, especially around my waist. Were my kidneys going to be damaged? Could I really spend the next ten hours wearing this? By the time we hit our first red light, no more than two minutes, I wondered if I’d even be able to make it another ten minutes.
“So who did you end up going with?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Saoirse or Frances?” he smiled.
“Oh,” I said, remembering the debate we had about who we would vote for on our ballot for best actress.
It was incredibly stacked this year. So many great performances. He’d told me Sally Hawkins from Shape of Water had his vote, but I’d waffled back and forth between Frances McDormand from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Saoirse Ronan from Lady Bird. I told him I’d have to rewatch both movies before I made my decision, but didn’t make the time to do that before I submitted my ballot.
“Frances,” I said.
“Really? I thought you would have went with Ms. Ronan. I still think Sally deserves it. There’s something special about delivering a range of emotions without speaking a word of dialogue.”
I thought to say he’d only enjoyed it so much because Sally had the most memorable nude scene of the year, where she made love to a fish man in a bathroom filled with water. But I decided not to prod him.
He was trying to have that debate all over again. So I let him talk and just nodded and played along. But try as I could to humor him in bantering about performances, I was too busy trying to put on my own performance. I was miserable and unhappy and bitter. I think I deserve another Oscar for not letting that range of emotion show on my face as I smiled and threw out shallow responses to his thoughtful points.
He started talking about other categories like best original screenplay and I dreaded that he might start talking about his script for mother! Blessings upon him that he didn’t go there. Instead he went to talking about the Black List – the annual survey of the best unproduced spec screenplays.
The release of the new list always got everyone that cared about screenplays excited. The best of them eventually get made into award winning films. One of my latest films, Passengers, was featured on the 2007 list and got nominated for two Oscars last year. Darren was convinced he’d read several future Best Picture Winners, all of them starting women as lead characters.
The first one he mentioned was called ‘Social Justice Warrior’ and dealt with a privileged college student accusing her professor of hate speech. The next one he talked up was called ‘Innocent Monsters’, which he said was about a writer losing her grip on reality.
While I liked to hear Darren passionately discuss his favorite subjects, and I could tell he was mentioning these scripts to suggest perhaps I should play the female lead, my attention waned and he lost me by the time he brought up a script featuring futuristic L.A., and supercops with stripper profiles.
My concentration was split between discomfort I felt in my body and an even greater discomfort I felt in my head. I was angry. Far angrier than I should have been just because I was wearing something uncomfortable. Hello. This was Hollywood. I’d worn uncomfortable bodysuits and outfits on set dozens of times. I should have been able to handle this just fine.
But I was not handling this fine at all. Even though this dress exposed my bare arms, chest, and back, and even though the limo’s air was blowing freely, I was sweating. And I was having a damn difficult time breathing. Was this all in my head?
“What do you think?” Darren asked.
I blinked myself back to the here and now. “Um. About what?”
“The script,” he said as if it was obvious.
I tried to think about the last thing I remembered him saying but came up completely empty. “I’m sorry, Darren. I got lost.”
“It’s fine,” he said with a chuckle. After looking me over he took my hand and smiled. “You look really beautiful tonight.”
And there that word was again. Beautiful. Funny, the first time he called me beautiful felt validating. Now, not even twenty minutes later, beautiful sounded like nails against a chalkboard. And coming from Darren, hearing it twice in twenty minutes while I wore this gaudy shit felt disingenuous.
Darren was more likely to call me beautiful as I sat on the toilet taking a piss with morning breath on my tongue and crust around my eyes, than oogle over me in a gown and jewels.
“But do I look happy?” I eyed him. This cut at the heart of my emotions, and sliced right through pleasantries.
Darren didn’t answer my question. He didn’t have to. He’d always been a mirror for me to see myself. His face reflected the truth. In his eyes I saw a woman suffocating. I saw myself, trapped inside a luxurious garment that looked like armor but felt like a straitjacket. Or a bodybag. Or maybe a straitjacket inside a bodybag, while riding in the back of a hearse to attend a funeral.
Okay so the depth of discomfort was exaggerated, but the sentiment was honest and true. I felt like I was going crazy, and being slowly strangled to death inside a room where no one could hear my scream.
Countless women would have killed to be here in my shoes, let alone my dress and jewels. But I couldn’t live for the happiness of others. I had to live for my own happiness. I had to forge my own happiness.
But what was I supposed to do to get there? How do I make myself happy right here, right now?
As happy as I had been as a rebel little girl in Kentucky. As happy as I had been when I pursued my dreams when everyone told me I would fail. As happy as I felt just last week when I gave myself over to be led naked into the unknown.
Thinking about how free I’d felt naked in the cold air of the city was the contrast I needed to find clarity in my predicament. I wanted to feel that free and comfortable in my own skin again. And that was impossible while wearing this gown.
“Fuck this,” I said, giving way to my frustration and anger. Not just any anger. Righteous anger. Anger that concluded an injustice needed to be squared and that meant breaking free of the shackles I felt keeping me in bondage. But the shackles weren’t made of rusty chains. Just thin spaghetti straps that took an inner strength to peel off my shoulders.
With the straps off, it took even less effort to pull my tits free. It felt good to even get that far but it wasn’t good enough. It was my midsection that felt squeezed. I unbuckled my seatbelt, sucked in my belly and went to work moving the sides of the dress down my body. It took a considerable amount of effort and coordination to carefully pull the expensive gown past my ribcage, then down my hips, then off my long legs.
I placed the dress next to me on the seat, looking over it to make sure I hadn’t damaged it in any way. A part of me wanted to look up at Darren, to gauge his reaction at me spontaneously stripping off my red-carpet wear when we were no longer than ten minutes away from the red carpet. I also was curious what he thought about me wearing shapewear underwear. But I was still desperate to feel comfortable in my own body, and I didn’t want anything to distract me from my goal of freedom.
So I quickly reached over to unlace my evening sandals and slip them off my feet. I’d just had my feet scrubbed and massaged and they felt so soft and delicate against my freshly pedicured fingers. But again, that wasn’t where I was feeling the discomfort.
I betrayed my desire to not look at Darren and peaked at him for a brief second. He looked intense, just staring at me undress. I’m not sure how I wanted him to look but I didn’t know how to react to him looking so intensely focused on my body. I felt nervous, a tad distracted, but still determined to go all the way.
I sucked in a deep breath, lifted up, and pulled the flesh colored shorts that so tightly squeezed my butt and belly off my butt and belly. And that felt about as wonderful as relieving myself on the toilet after holding it in for hours. After getting it off my legs and on top of my dress, I fell back into the chair and exhaled. I felt like I’d just fought my way out of a net and now I could breathe again.
But with every breath came more clarity to my state of dress. I was naked. Completely naked, save the cold white gold and diamonds entrenched to my body. I wasn’t sure I felt happy but I did feel good. Nervous and unsure of what to do next, but good nonetheless. I took several long, deep, magical breaths while savoring the feel of leather against my bare butt and cold air against my naked skin.
It was only then that I noticed the smell of the limousines interior. It smelled fresh, not quite off the lot, but very clean with a hint of a flowery air freshener. I could also more clearly smell Darren’s masculine but understated scent. The deep breaths were a bit intoxicating.
Smelling for Darren only led to me looking for him. And when I found his eyes, my nervous energy grew even more intense. He held my gaze but didn’t say anything. I decided to break the silence.
“I can’t wear that,” I told him, before looking at the dress sitting there and then shaking my head. “I won’t. I refuse to be that uncomfortable all night.”
Darren continued looking at me, without a word. He didn’t look amused, or shocked, or aroused. But he did look curious. As if he wasn’t sure what this all meant, or what was going to happen next.
“Maria brought with her a bunch of alternate dresses,” I said. “I can get Jill to bring them to me.”
The words felt false as they left my mouth. And although Darren didn’t say a word, I could hear his voice speaking inside my head. You know that’s not what you’re going to do.
“Am I crazy?” I asked him out loud. I needed to actually hear him say something. To reassure me that this wasn’t some hallucination all in my mind. That I truly was naked in the limoscene as we rode down Hollywood Blvd. That we were only minutes away from the most viewed red carpet in the world, and I didn’t have anything to wear.
“You don’t need that,” he finally said. Though relieved to hear him speak, I didn’t understand what he meant.
“Need what?” I asked.
“For me to tell you that you aren’t crazy. You don’t need me to tell you if you should, or if you shouldn’t. You don’t need me to give you permission or push you out of the car. You’ve proven that you don’t need any of that shit. This is about you.”
I brought my arms together against my breast. My nipples poked against my arms, which felt stange. I also noticed that I was trembling. And I was covered in goosebumps. Was it from the anxiety of the moment or the ice cold AC blowing against my uncovered skin? Or maybe it was the cold stare from him, and the equally cold reality of what he was telling me?
“So I guess this is it,” I said, trying to bring myself closer to accepting that I was actually doing this. But despite the fact that I was naked and we were so close to our destination, there was still doubt. A voice inside me saying I was going to turn around at the last minute and put back on this dress from hell.
I guess I’d wanted Darren to stomp that voice out, or at least help me find the strength to do it myself. But where he’d been so eager to embolden me and amplify my desires on the way to convincing me I should do this, now he seemed totally content to just sit back and watch me do all of the heavy work and lifting.
Instead of hearing him tell me I could do it, I told myself. You can do this, Jennifer.
I tried to visualize the next hour of my life as a script. Plan ahead my actions and all of the reactions to me. I needed to make sure I was capable of playing the role before I stepped foot out these doors. But I ran into a wall whenever trying to imagine what was going to happen after we reached the end of the red carpet.
The plan had originally been to slip into a jacket and then make my way to the nearest ladies room so I could slip on my dress. But Jill, who I was going to have carry my dress, wasn’t with me now.
“I need to call Jill to ask her to bring one of the other dresses and a jacket. Otherwise when we reach the end of the carpet, I won’t have anything to put on for the show.”
He looked at me for a beat before shaking his head softly. “I’m not going with you.”
“What!” I snapped. “Why?”
“Because the media would make it about me,” he said calmly. “This is your journey.”
“A journey I started with you. It was your dream of walking with me naked that started this whole thing.”
“It was your obsession with women being naked around clothed people that started this whole thing,” he retorted. His recap of my history made me feel even more naked. I felt so exposed and seen. “Jennifer you know if I step out of this car with you, then everyone will assume this is about us instead of you. If I lead you on the carpet they will think the crazy director of that crazy movie forced you to do this. No one will see it as an act for your own empowerment. They’ll see it as a statement I’m making. Your agency will be questioned, if not outright dismissed. Is that what you want out of this?”
“Of course not.”
“Then you see why I can’t go. If you’re going to do this, you need to do it without a crutch.”
“But you’re not a crutch.”
“I am,” he insisted. “I’m the one you have felt like you needed to lean on to pursue your desires. Emma picked up on it. I don’t want to prove her right.”
I looked at him and shook my head. “This isn’t about what she said. You always knew you wouldn’t walk the carpet with me.” It was so clear to me, especially when he didn’t immediately deny my accusation. I’d once again fallen for his tricks of persuasion. “You didn’t just now come to this conclusion. You knew you would get me naked, then at the last second spring it on me that you were making me do it alone.”
“I’m not making you do anything,” he said. “You took off your clothes.”
“But you don’t deny knowing all along that you would never do the walk with me.”
It took him a few seconds before he closed his eyes and nodded. It took me back to when he finally admitted that he lied about me being his first choice for mother! Realizing I had again been played as a fool made me angry. Was I just hopelessly naive or was Darren actually the puppet master Emma accused him of being? It was probably both.
“I don’t want to be a distraction. I think I should stay back, get in contact with your stylist and have them bring you another dress and jacket so they can meet you at the end of the red carpet to change.”
When I didn’t immediately respond to his suggestion he grabbed my hand. “Honestly, if you need me to to this then you shouldn’t do it.”
I didn’t want to look at him. I didn’t want him to see whatever my eyes revealed in my moment of weakness so I looked out the window. But looking at all of those people outside only magnified how vulnerable and fragile I felt. How could I truly call this empowering when I felt as if I was on the verge of having a panic attack? How could I call myself strong when this moment was proving how weak I was?
So weak that I had backed down from committing to my desires after Emma expressed her discontent with the idea. I had dozens of people in support of me, but all it took was one dissenting voice for me to cave to the pressure. If I couldn’t stand up to a single detractor, how in the world could I stand naked before an entire world of judgement?
A world right outside my door, just waiting to see me. I’d only allowed myself to think I could do it when I imagined myself walking with Darren holding my hand. Being able to look to him for encouragement and hear his voice and see his smile and feel the validation radiating from his eyes. I did need him for this. I couldn’t go out there all by myself.
I turned away from the hundreds of people outside, and only when I felt Darren’s hand on my lower back did I realize I was hyperventilating. Oh my Gosh, I’m freaking out.
Darren must have realized it because he pressed the button to wind down the partition. Instinctively, I reached for my dress to cover myself. But the window only went down a tad, just enough for Darren to ask the driver not to enter the secured access point that were only allowing red carpet attendees to drive through, but to keep with the traffic and drive around. The driver warned it would take us another 10 to 15 minutes to drive around but Darren said that was fine and brought the window back up.
After we moved past the police officers that would have allowed us access, Darren looked at me. I probably looked like I’d been on ten roller coasters in a row. It sure felt like it. I’d been through so many emotional extremes the past week, let alone the last ten minutes.
Empowered to powerless. Trapped to liberated. Overexcited to exhausted. Ready to be seen to never in a million years would I be ready. The dichotomy of emotional states just never seemed to end. And further, every emotion felt more intense while naked.
That was so incredibly satisfying when the good feelings were flowing, like the intense exhilaration and sexy confidence I felt when spending the night naked around Darren and his friends. But the harder to bear feelings like fear, uncertainty, and anxiety were also just as intense. And I felt all of that now, while being driven naked around Hollywood Boulevard in the backseat of a limo. Nowhere in all of those feelings did I recognize happiness. I felt too naked to be happy. The irony was not lost on me.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have sprung it on you at the last minute,” he said.
“Perhaps,” I echoed. I waited for an apology but one didn’t come. I guess I didn’t really even want him to apologize. I wanted him to change his mind and say he’ll go with me. But I could tell those words weren’t going to come either. “So why are we going around in a circle?”
“You weren’t ready,” he said.
“And you think I’ll be ready in ten minutes?” I asked right as my phone started to ring. It was my security. They wanted to know why we hadn’t turned into the blocked off street to head to the carpet entrance.
I looked at Darren and held his gaze before telling them that I wasn’t ready yet. Even after hanging up, I kept my eyes on the man that was so good at getting his performers to go the distance for him.
I shook my head, not sure if it was at him or just myself, but whatever the reason, it brought a smirk to both of our faces. I wanted to be mad, to find that righteous anger he so often talked about, but in that moment I felt really silly. Naked and silly and like I needed to adjust my ass cheeks in the leather seat. It all felt incredibly dreadful and silly. So I just laughed until he asked me what was funny.
“I don’t know if I want the driver to hurry up so I can get this over with or if I want him to take another 3 detours and just drive in circles for the next hour.” I shook my head again, this time clearly at myself. “You probably should have just pushed me out of the door so I didn’t have to wrestle with myself for even longer. Delaying it only makes the anxiety and indecision worse.”
“Is there still indecision? Or just an eager anxiety?”
“Darren I’m about to walk outside naked in about ten minutes. Of course I’m going to go back and forth in my head a hundred times. It’s not like I was ever gonna just show up completely sure of myself. It’s why I wanted you to do it with me in the first place.”
He said “I understand” with a nod as if he could actually understand what I was feeling. There was no way that he could. He was dressed for an occasion he wouldn’t even attend. He didn’t have to be seen, or dissected, or analyzed. He had no pressure to perform. If he felt any nervousness, it was all second hand on my behalf. If anything, my reluctance in the face of still going through with it was probably turning him on.
But I accepted that what he felt didn’t really matter. He’d said as much. It was all about me and what I wanted, what I felt. And what I felt was a distance between us that I wanted to close. I unbuckled myself and scooted closer to him. He moved his arm to allow me to lay my head on his shoulder.
“Talk to me,” I said as I relished his scent and warm embrace.
That was how I fell in love with him in the first place, just sitting there listening to him talk for hours. And his ability to say the right words were what I still loved about him now, even if listening to him got me in trouble.
He started talking about night he decided to binge watch all of my films, more than a dozen at the time. He’d told me bits of the story before, but not straight through. It happened shortly after Natalie Portman told him that she wouldn’t be able to film his movie until after she had her baby. And even then, she wanted to take a bit of time off before jumping back into a role as demanding as what Darren had planned.
He’d thought about just waiting for a few years until she would be ready, but his partners had convinced him to get to work on the film now, while it was still fresh in his mind, and his heart still beat for it. He’d been struggling tremendously with writer’s block and finding inspiration.
Ari had mentioned reading an interview with five time Oscar nominated actress Amy Adams. In the interview she talked about an emotionally demanding 16-hour long scene she filmed, stripped down with no makeup. Raw and brutal, all performance. Ari was impressed with her and thought Darren should contact her about possibly doing his movie.
Darren read the article/interview but came away with an entirely different take than his best friend. While Amy had went on and on about how devastated she was on set, she made an offhand comment about how her co-star Jennifer Lawrence had handled it without a tear shed. That had intrigued him. Amy had already been broken by David O Russell. Darren didn’t have any interest in doing the same thing. But breaking the co-star that refused to be broken? That had drama. That excited him.
He had only planned to watch one of my films when he popped up his Netflix account. But because he was an obsessive artist, that turned into him watching all of my movies. He said he saw my strengths, my weaknesses, where I had grown, where I had been safe, but most of all, he saw potential for him to put his stamp on me. He contacted my agent that Monday about meeting with me and four months later he was fucking me inside his trailer.
But it wasn’t the sex, or even the romance of our relationship that inspired him. It was watching me on set rise to meet every new challenge or obstacle he threw at me.
“Watching you transform before my eyes every day was riveting. Especially since we had the extra complication of having feelings for each other. I would kick myself every time we slept together because I’d worry the set would be too awkward the next morning. That I wouldn’t be able to direct you and you wouldn’t be able to take the direction. But you proved me wrong, each and every time.”
I liked hearing him talk about the early days of our relationship, before the stress did us in. And he had more to say about that. “ I think I’m a bit addicted to being near you as you transform and perform.” He chuckled as he gently massaged my hair, making sure he didn’t pull too many strands out of place. “For awhile I wished I would have been strong enough to resist you. Then I could have gotten to work with you more..without the baggage or guilt.”
A sweet melancholy fell on me, and for that moment, the most intense emotion I felt wasn’t one that revolved around being naked.
“Do you regret us?” I asked. “I mean, do you regret that our failed relationship derailed our chance to create more art together?”
“Of course not,” he said, kissing my forehead. “I wouldn’t trade what we have for more films in my filmography. I’d much rather be your friend and sometimes lover than your director. Plus, you’ve inspired me beyond film. And I’ve gotten to watch you transform on more than just a closed set. I’m lucky. I got the girl and got the muse, all in one beautifully talented woman. And I get a front row seat for your transformation right here.”
He looked down at me with a smile, clearly showing me that he was enjoying this whole thing, including being the one that got to nudge me towards this artistic, political, non-sexual but sexual statement I would soon be making publicly. He liked putting his stamp on me.
“If I have any regrets, it’s that my movie wasn’t very good. I wish I could have wrote something better to get you on that stage tonight to accept an award.”
Although he was again lamenting the failure of our movie, this time it didn’t bother me. Probably because I was too busy imagining the scenario. “If I was up for an award tonight, there is no way you’d let me get away with only appearing on the red carpet naked,” I laughed. “You’d make sure I did the entire show naked just for the chance for me to have to accept an award like this.”
We both looked down at my naked body when I said “like this” and I felt a warm shiver flow through me. I could hardly believe I was “like this” right now, and was about to step out of this limo “like this” and walk the entire red carpet “like this.”
“Guess what?” he asked.
“You look happy now.”
“Do I?” I asked, trying to hold in a smirk.
“Nervous but happy. You look how you looked last time I was with you in a car.” He paused before grinning and pointing to my gown. “You going to wind down the window to toss out that dress?”
“Fuuuuck no,” I gasped, just thinking about how much trouble I would be in if I ruined this sample dress by tossing it. “They would sue the bajesus out of me.” I looked over at the gown that I’d ripped off me in total frustration. It looked like pirate treasure. “They might sue me because I prevented some other actress from wearing it.”
“I’ll talk to Maria,” he said. “I’m sure they won’t be upset. The buzz you’re going to generate will make the next time you wear something an event in itself.”
He was right. I still had the opportunity to wear two high-cultured gowns tonight, for the show and the Vanity Fair after party and answer “Dior” whenever the press got to ask me what I was wearing. That should still satisfy them. Or maybe that was just the excuse I needed to tell myself in order to clear that mental hurdle and focus back on what I actually cared about; my own satisfaction.
Darren had said I looked happy. And although I felt all kinds of jitters and anxiety, it did dawn on me that somewhere in this jumbled mess of feeling was something that resembled being happy. The kind of nervous excitement that I craved was there, along with the eager anticipation of being on the verge of conquering a fear.
What surprised me was that absence of any notable sexual feelings. I wasn’t horny or being carried through my reluctance by an even stronger desire to scratch a carnal itch. People did a lot of crazy things when their minds were clouded with lustful cravings. But I didn’t feel under the influence of arousal. I felt clear headed and lucid. Fully aware of what I was doing. In control of my facilities. And sitting here naked felt like a reasoned choice, not perverted behavior stemming from clouded judgement.
Maybe that realization was the feeling that I recognized as happiness. I wasn’t a pervert. I wasn’t a liar. I had reasons to be naked that didn’t just boil down to being an exhibitionist slut that wanted to get her rocks off.
It felt nice feeling positive about my nudity, but as nice as it felt, it was still drowned by all of the other emotions that continued to wash over me as I looked out the window and saw us again approaching the queue of limos and cars. We were almost there.
Nervous dread sat heavy in my stomach, which explained why I had no appetite. I suppose it was better than the anger and bitterness I felt all morning. But it was still ocean of emotion to navigate without crashing and sinking.
I lay my head back on his shoulder and closed my eyes. Though I’d managed to muster up some confidence to strut out of this limo “like this”, at no point did I stop doubt from creeping into my head. It was a constant barrage of ‘what are you doing?!’ and ‘put on that dress!’ that I had to fight through every second as we got closer and closer to the red carpet.
All of my hesitation didn’t present itself as hostile to the idea of me being naked on the red carpet. A part of me was trying to negotiate a better planned nude red carpet appearance.
Hey, Jennifer, it’s not that you shouldn’t go naked at all. You just shouldn’t do it right now. You haven’t talked to Dior about it. Plus you told Dawn and Jennifer Todd that you changed your mind.
What if security turns you away because they no longer have orders to let you pass?
What if they handcuff you and put you in the back of a police car because they don’t know the rules regarding nudity? Even if they let you in, you’re past the scheduled time they coordinated for you to avoid TV broadcasts.
Plus, face the facts girl. Buddy is an asshole and Maria can kick rocks, but you did go up a size or so. You’re not fat. But you’ve looked hotter. If you’re going to show everyone the goods, don’t you want to be at peak hotness? Your most desirable?
Don’t you want to feel as comfortable as you felt when you stood naked on set for the first time, and had all of those people looking at you? You were so comfortable because you knew you were in the best shape of your life.
Don’t you want to match or exceed that? And let’s be frank, are you really going to walk out there without a fresh bikini wax? There are little hairs in your butthole that need to be plucked. Let’s take care of that.
Let’s tone tone your body. You don’t have to go crazy. No crazy workouts or starvation diets like that asshole Buddy put you on. Just good old fashioned months of hitting the gym and eating healthy.
Then when you’re all but flawless and have the blessing of the sponsors and producers, you can show up naked at next year’s Oscars. Maybe even the Golden Globes and British Academy Awards, too. Europe is much more accepting of nudity. Your flawless naked body would be fully embraced there.
So how about it? Put back on your dress and let’s look forward to next year.
I endured this internal dialogue quietly, even after I realized that it was a clever attempt by my scared shitless conscious to trick me into never doing this.
I knew I could never work myself up like this again. All of the talks I had with Greta, and Darren, and Emma, and Dawn, and Jennifer Todd, and my mother – all of the moments I shared and tears I shed – it led to this incredibly layered mix of determination and angst, frustration and desire. I couldn’t carry these feelings for another year. I couldn’t live with this tension resting on my mind and heart. This was the moment.
No regrets, Greta had whispered in my ear as I embraced her. Those words had been just for me, just when I needed them most.
“Did you talk to Greta at all?” I asked Darren as our driver pulled up to the security checkpoint to flash our credentials. I didn’t want to count the seconds until we arrived and I needed his voice to drown out my minds clever attempt to make me get dressed. “Did you tell her I wasn’t doing it?”
“We talked. She thought you’d change your mind,” he answered. “I wasn’t so sure. I know Emma’s opinion means a lot to you. But after the night you spent naked around her, and that brilliant strip tease performance, she was convinced that it wasn’t over. Your desire to do this wasn’t just a seed germinating anymore. It sprouted the night you willingly stepped into her house wearing nothing but a shirt. You want the spotlight. She told me to stand down and let you find your way to the lights and stage. ”
“I guess she was right,” I said, looking down at myself for what felt like the hundredth time, confirming that yes, I was still naked, and yes Greta had accurately predicted my 360 on the issue. What about that night had convinced her that I couldn’t say no to this experience? Further, if I wanted to prove her wrong, could I actually say no right now? Did I have free will? Or was I predestined to end up here after the thought was placed in my head?
Instead of trying to settle the existential crisis regarding my nudity, I reacted to Darren massaging my neck and shoulder. “That feels good,” I sighed.
“You’re tense,” he responded. His hands weren’t very big but they were firm and assertive as he confidently moved them. He really knew his way around a woman’s body.
He worked the tension in my shoulders until I moved his hand down to my thigh. He gave it a firm massage, working from my kneecap upwards. It didn’t take long for his fingers to find my public hair. “I’m surprised you didn’t cut it all off,” he said as he looked at me.“ Or at least shape it into a strip.”
“Does it look ugly?” I asked as I looked down at the fine hair that covered my mons. I’d trimmed it a bit last night. I thought the patch looked kind of cute from my vantage point. But perhaps I just couldn’t see the forest from the trees. “Oh God it does, doesn’t it? It looks like a wild, crazy jungle down there.”
“Please, your golden curls are beyond flattering,” he said. “Classy. Reminds me of the golden age of glam nudity. 60’s, 70’s beauty standards. Vintage playboy and the sex revolution. Classic Hollywood, like Helen Mirren in Savage Messiah when she walked up the stairs in heels, sexy, and confident, and naked. ” He gently brushed the hair with his hands. “ I still hate that bald has been idealized in the modern zeitgeist. I love an even, fine patch of natural hair.”
“Yeah you like it but will others think it’s…unseemly?” I asked, trying to brush it out with my finger tips.
“As opposed to a fully shaved crotch that fully reveals your labia?” he asked.
Clearly I was being silly, worrying about how a vagina with a little hair would be received, when the real worry was that a vagina was about to be seen by everyone. I guess I should have considered myself lucky that I hadn’t shaved bald. Did I really want my labia fully revealed?
“I love that you’ve embrace your natural look,” he said as he continued to massage my shoulders and arms. He’d actually been a fan of arm and armpit hair as well, but he didn’t make mention of the fact that I shaved those hairs. “Feminine sexual maturity needs to be more celebrated. That will happen after tonight.”
His exploration of my naked skin continued, from my hips, to my chest as I rode in silence and took long, deep breaths. I gasped by the time I felt his hand on my breast and moaned when his fingers stimulated and hardened my nipple. It felt so good but that was the problem, the good feeling was starting to really turn me on. Begrudgingly, I forced myself to grab his wrist and scooted away.
He looked at me, wondering if he’d done something wrong. I simply kissed his fingers and shook my head. “If I keep letting you touch me this is going to become sexual.”
He held up his hands in surrender and clasped them together to signal the touching was over.
“I promised Dawn and Jennifer Todd this wasn’t sexual. It’s the only way my public nudity can be legal. I don’t want to raunch this up and walk out there all hot and bothered. My nipples are already hard. God help me if my pussy gets wet. ”
That terrifying thought seemed like a strong possibility as moved further down the closed of street that led to the red carpet. I was back where I started when I freaked out over having to do this alone. And nothing about my predicament had changed, even if I felt better able to deal with what lay ahead in the coming minutes.
“I still want you to do this with me,” I admitted out loud. “But I guess wants and needs are different. I want a drink.”
I looked towards the champagne on ice but I could see from Darren’s face that he didn’t think I should indulge. “You don’t wanna come off as drunk, or even buzzed. That would be a bad look. Like you’re out of control instead of measured and poised. Plus, I think you’ll get more out of it by experiencing all of your emotions fully sober.”
“I guess so.”
“You got this,” he said without a hint of doubt. If he truly knew me as well as he thought, then there was value in his confidence. “So many performers in our industry are content to pick safe, comfortable roles and projects. Hell, people in general are afraid to take risks. So they live boring, empty, lives with no purpose. You’ve proven to me tenfold that you aren’t that woman. You aren’t just that shy girl from Kentucky, content to hide your opinions, your desires, your big town, worldly growth. That’s how I can be so confident that you’re going to be fine out there.”
I was still digesting his praise as our driver showcased our pass to the officers at the second checkpoint. Darren ended up looking down at my feet and chuckling. “You do realize you’re barefoot still, right?”
“Oh,” I said as I looked down at my toes, caught off guard that I was barefoot. I guess being naked above the ankle had taken precedence in my mind. Or perhaps nothing felt afoul because being barefoot while naked was natural. Wearing heels while naked was what actually felt unnatural and wrong. Maybe I wasn’t being true to the spirit of appearing “completely naked,” by having footwear. But I let that thought go as Darren reached for my evening sandals.
“Here,” he said before I leaned back in the seat and gave my legs to him. “The extra height will really accentuate your beauty – standing tall and naked,” he said while tenderly lifting my foot and sliding it into a sandal. “Poised and powerful,” he added while strapping my foot in.
I had to fully turn my body for him to be able to place my heel on. And doing so gave him a very intimate view between my legs. I felt a tinge of warm, tingly feelings. God dammit, not now, I wanted to scream at my silly body as we continued to near the red carpet. What a nuisance!
Once Darren had my heels firmly locked to my feet, I quickly moved my legs away from his lap and sat up straight. I was still naked of course, but at least I wasn’t giving him such a naked look at my naked pussy. God, don’t think about your pussy, I told myself as I looked out the window. There was so much commotion out there. Trucks, and cars, and tons and tons of people. And all of them were about to get to see more than my pussy. They were about to see everything!
It would have been easy to have another panic attack but fortunately, my mind landed on the realization that people I cared about were about to see everything as well, not just the public. “Shit, I knew I was forgetting something,” I said. “Can you pass me my purse?”
He reached for the golden Dior clutch purse near my dress and handed it to me. I pulled out my phone and quickly went to my contacts. I landed on my mom and started typing.
Don’t freak out. But your little nudist has to do this. I think you know why. Please help my brothers and daddy understand. Thank you for yesterday and every day. Your support means the world to me. I love you.
I read over the words. My hesitation to hit send was evidence of my overall reluctance. My heart fluttered as I looked out the window. I could see the red carpet now. It was in my line of sight, waiting for me. It was now or never. I sent the text and quickly moved back into my message history to find my best friend.
I was mashing away at my screen when Darren asked “Are you tweeting or something?”
“I’m letting family and friends know I’m not crazy,” I said as I continued my text.
I hope you don’t hate me for this, Emma. Everything you said was valuable to me. I love and respect the hell out of you for being so honest and real. But if I let you talk me out of this I will resent you. I don’t want to resent you. I know you’re going to be mad at me. You might even lose respect for me. I understand. But I would rather deal with you hating me than resent you. I don’t want to regret telling you. I don’t want to regret not following my heart. I’m sorry but I have to follow my heart. I love you. Hopefully you’ll forgive me in time.
I hit send before even allowing myself to review what had poured out of my heart.
I didn’t have time to type our some long, drawn out message to anyone else, so I simply added several of my friends to one group text and sent a bunch of emojis, including several peaches, eyes, clenched teeth, and a series of flirtmoji’s that told the story of my predicament better than words could. At least to text heavy people like my closest friends.
I hit send just as we came to a stop. Only then did I realize I was officially on the red carpet. We were done with checkpoints. Done with flashing badges. Our limo was curbside at the Dolby theater, on the part of the carpet where the stars were dropped off. There were three lanes of dropoffs, and we were in the far right. There were two cars ahead of us, where ushers, or car openers, or whatever they were, were opening doors and stars were stepping out.
I put my phone inside of my clutch purse, refusing to read the text that had just come in from my mom. I didn’t have the time. And I couldn’t focus on anything but what was about to happen. It was all happening so fast. Too fast! I halfway wanted to tell the driver to do another loop around the block as I watched Gary Oldman step out of his limo to a jarringly loud roar of cheers.
God, what was it going to sound like when I stepped out? As the driver to Gary Oldman’s Tesla pulled off, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait much longer to find out. Our car moved one spot closer and my stomach tied itself in tight knots. I felt like I was next in line for a roller coaster with a thousand foot drop.
“Smile,” Darren said as he looked at my face and decided the naked performer before him needed direction. “You’re living a dream. A once in a lifetime opportunity. Have fun with it. Act like you’re not naked. Like everything is totally normal. Like nothing about being nude can get to you.”
“Yeah, I’ll try,” I said as I watched the car ahead of us pull off. I was already five steps ahead of the moment before me, trying to picture the end of the journey. “So you’ll have Jill and the others meet me at the end of the red carpet with a jacket and dress for me?”
He nodded. “You’ll be taken care of.”
I counted six door openers converging on our limo from all sides as we pulled in front of the theater. They were wearing black slacks and red jackets. I wasn’t wearing anything. My insides fluttered as I forced myself to smile.
This was it. The moment I’d practically begged for. In five, four, thre..
The door opened before I made it to one.