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Deborah C Dooley Headshot

A Face That Fits

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I first became aware that my face doesn't fit when I was writing a weekly column for a women's magazine that At first the editorial team tolerated the rather amateurish snap that I had provided for my picture byline. Then I got a phone call.

'We need you to come up for a shoot,' said the picture editor. 'The magazine's going pastel.' There was a pause while she allowed this information to sink in. Then she spoke again. 'And younger.'

With a heavy heart, and sensing that if I wanted to hang on to this regular gig, any argument would be futile, I agreed.

The following week I duly made the journey from rural Devon to the address I had been given, of a photographic studio in central London. There was a fashion shoot underway when I arrived and several impossibly slender women were taking it in turns to pose and drink black coffee.

'Deborah's here,' shouted a friendly assistant, when I told her my name. A young girl hurried over and introduced herself as the makeup artist. She scrutinised my face. She frowned. Then, muttering something that might have been 'I like a challenge,' she swiftly ushered me to a chair in front of a brightly lit mirror.

'Close your eyes,' she said. I did so, just in time to avoid an eyeful of putty, which she was applying to my face with what felt like a small trowel.

'Open,' she commanded. For a second I thought I'd gone blind. Then I realised that my face had simply disappeared. No eyes, no lips, no shadows, no contours. The artist in charge of making my face fit had used a thickly applied pale beige undercoat to create a blank canvas, upon which she could create the right kind of face.

Half an hour later, I emerged from her ministrations. A pale, high cheek boned creature, smoky eyed with a wet lipped smile. Lilac is a colour I would never dream of wearing, but the lilac coloured top I was given suited the new me.

'Deborah, you look gorgeous,' said the assistant. I wanted to say that I thought I looked alright before. But instead I stood quite still while the person responsible for my transformation applied another coat of sticky aubergine lip gloss. I opened my mouth and it made a squelching noise. I was ready for my close up.

Five years later, after filing a first person piece for a national paper, I was told that as usual, a photographer would be coming to do a picture. This time, however, Hairandmakeup would be accompanying him. I shuddered and tried to protest. It was no use. No Hairandmakeup, no commission.

They arrived together, looking determined. He set up his lights, while Hairandmakeup scrutinised my face. I knew that look.

'We're going to make you look really fresh and natural,' she told me. She staggered slightly under the weight of her tool bag and I couldn't help but doubt her words.

As she worked on my face, she kept up a running commentary. She was trying to reassure me that despite its many flaws, she could make my face fit.

This time when I saw my new reflection, its blandness depressed me.

'I'm not normally this pale,' I said tiredly. The reply came in a small pink dust storm, fluffed onto my face with a kind of giant feather duster. I sighed - and coughed.

'There,' said the artist, obviously pleased with her handiwork. 'That's warmed you up a bit.'
I was ready for my close up.