Post Danone Advert….How Did It Go?!

So last time I posted a catch up, I was excited to be flying off to Kiev to shoot for Danone then Glasgow for Fat Face, but a little nervous that I hadn’t been able to do any exercise for a long time due to health reasons.

The Friday before I flew was a toughie. I had been GO GO GO for so long, focused on getting through shoots but in considerable discomfort and sometimes pain. When I had time to relax, I felt a bit low! And what does a sensible lady do when she is feeling low?

Why, she goes bikini shopping!!!

I had researched whether there was a gym in the hotel in Kiev and there wasn’t, but there was a pool nearby, so I thought I’d get some swimwear quickly. The trouble is that, in July, there are only weird combinations of sizes in the least appealing bikinis left. I tried on a few in Cos and dear Lord I didn’t see the reflection staring back at me that I’d seen at my lingerie show.

With hindsight I now remember that I’ve always left Cos changing rooms mildly depressed but I think I was so geared up for Danone, and had done a fitting in which I was wearing teeny shorts and tight T shirts, that I got all anxious and low. Shoulders hunched, I stalked out of the store, bikini-less, and headed to my first AYB ‘Stretch and Sweat’ class in ages.

Then I was soooooo out of breath in the sort of warm up during which I would usually have been daydreaming and not even noticing that I was moving that I got even more worried about my stamina when shooting the ad, which I knew would be dancing loads in. I did, however, enjoy doing squats, push ups and mega stretches and feeling my body creak back to life.

I’ll confess that all the worry and confidence-knock led to a little cry when I got home but actually, I think I just got it out of my system and by the time I’d packed, read some Harry Potter (I just love it) and got to sleep early, I bounced out of bed at my 4:45Am alarm ready for the challenges ahead. Sometimes, you just need a wallow before picking yourself back up again.

At the airport I met the producer who’d booked me and my dance partner/shadow, who is a professional dancer, Natalie. We got on right away: we have a lot of similarities in our outlook and excitement at travelling and working with different people and I loved learning about the dance world.

Once we got to Kiev, we had a little explore: it’s definitely a fascinating place with a complex and pretty dark history even up until recent times, and I’d say the vibe and look of the place reflects that. It was super sunny and we made it to the famous gold-topped Sophia Cathedral and soaked up the atmosphere of the place.

Then I headed back to the hotel and went for a little swim, steam and sauna, where I met a German financier and a half Azerbaijani, half Jewish construction worker and we had a little chat. I realise that a swim isn’t going to change my body drastically, but just that feeling of building up my strength and taking control changed my attitude and confidence, and I did the same the next day before the rehearsal.

(In fact, by the way, I could really feel the swim in my thighs and arms the next day. I do think your body reacts very quickly when you get back into fitness after a break. I’ll do another post on that).

So rehearsal day! Firstly it was the fitting, and I was really pleased that they went for the outfit I felt most comfortable and flattered in: a white tee and denim shorts. I also felt SO much stronger than the week before and it was really exciting seeing the set being built around me and visualising the ad.

Natalie even had a wig cut to look like my hair!

We then had the dance rehearsal! Natalie, the choreographer Ally Green and I got on set and started moving. Ally started with Natalie, who is an incredible dancer. I knew I wouldn’t have to dance like she was but it was certainly a little intimidating to see her pick up complicated choreo so quickly. I had some fairly simple moves but I kind of felt the pressure to pick them up as swiftly as Nat and I spent the first fifteen mins going, “Sorry! Oops sorry!”

However Ally is really good at working with non-professional dancer and it was more collaborative with me: she looked at how I move and integrated that into her choreo so that I felt comfortable and picked it up quickly. Within a few hours we had plenty of counts of 8 and I felt like I was nailing it.

After a quick lunch we got back to it and we had the whole commercial planned out, which is no mean feat! At around 5pm the client came and watched…And we had to change most of it! Largely it had to be cut drastically but there were also parts we loved that they didn’t and dear Lord having to perform it alone, with the super-fast counts being shouted out was quite a lot of pressure! However praise the Lord for my At Your Beat classes, because counts and picking up choreo were far more easy for me.

Once it slowed down – because of the client watching – the tiredness hit: we’d been rehearsing for about 5 hours straight. I suddenly felt yawny and heavy and brain drained but we had to go on for a couple more hours, taking on board the changes that the client wanted. Both Nat and I forwent dinner with everyone and got room service and an early night.

Then it was time for the actual shoot days! I started out with the yogurt eating. It’s mad how many times I’ve spooned yogurt into my mouth without thinking but when you do these things under the pressure of being filmed it’s like…”HOW DO I EAT YOGURT?! WHAT IF I MISS MY MOUTH!? WHAT IF I DRIBBLE?!” Then in terms of expression, I know that when it’s super close up you don’t want to do TOO much of you look like a panto character, and you want to look natural but not cheesy. But it’s hard to look like you’re loving yogurt when you feel like it’s coming out of your pores and the lights are bright and you’re developing tummy ache and it’s been 4/5 hours of spooning the stuff into your mouth with 30 people staring at you.

In times like these, I like to set myself little mental scenarios. Like when I have tonnes of castings, I might imagine that I’m on The Apprentice doing that challenge where they have to get around London under pressure. And in this case, I imagined I was on Man V Food.

The client actually said he was very happy with my yogurt eating and that I’d be surprised at how many people get it wrong. Apparently during the casting, most models were dismissed for chewing the yogurt(?!?!?!).

So, my belly full of more yogurt than anyone’s has ever been before, it was STRAIGHT on to the dancing part! This was fun, and we’d rehearsed it, but it was also crazily stressful. They’d spend ages setting up the shot and then I’d have four seconds to completely nail the moves, hitting marks without looking at them, getting the dances right, giving them different expressions and most of all NOT LOOKING WORRIED.

There were moments like…walking down one step, then twirling on the next step, then jumping onto a precise point on time and going straight into a routine whilst staring and an exact spot on the wall in a matter of seconds that weren’t easy. Especially because the dance moves got completely changed again while we were filming, and I just had to pick it up immediately or filming would drag.

I think that even a year ago I’d have run off to the toilets for a secret cry once or twice. But THANKFULLY, because of the At Your Beat training, I felt more natural. I also am less hard on myself these days: as a model I was being asked to do more than my job usually demands and I was rising to it pretty well, so rather than be anxious I made my mindset be: “I’m acing this and if I make a mistake they deserve it for changing the choreo a million zillion times!”

I think I only made one mistake, btw, the rest it was just that I didn’t quite have the right energy or expression or speed, because they were always trying different things out. (<—- This is 100% my Grammar School Girl coming out. Grade me!)

There was just one tricky point: by about 5pm all that body and brain strain meant I felt like I hit a wall. Remember I hadn’t exercised in ages, too! I had to travel backwards and…Well…I just felt I couldn’t, and I kept stumbling. But I had a proper cup of tea and, being a Brit, this made everything better. It wasn’t my finest point of the day but I still did it. Later the director said he thought he was losing me at this point, which I don’t like to hear, but he said that then I just nailed it when he shouted action, so I feel OK about it really.

We didn’t overrun too much and again I headed back to the hotel for a room service and chill kinda night: i was asleep by 9:30! However, during the night, I knocked everything off my bedside table and the hotel phone started beeping. I sleepily, panickedly thought I’d overslept and that it was the client ringing and asking where I was, and after that I found it hard to get back to sleep with a racing heart (it was only 1am). Nevermind.

The next day I felt a wee bit groggy: I’d barely slept and the two days of dance were taking their toll. However I mainlined more tea and only had two more shots. When you see me, for 2 seconds, walking down the street smiling you will think it looks simple. You will never know that I was hitting five impossibly spaced marks without looking down whilst smiling at a certain moment and looking towards a particular spot!

But I was done by midday, amazingly, so I explored Kiev a bit more: I deffo recommend their Pinchuk Art Gallery. I also went to some weird cafeteria and tried lots of different dumplings, then headed back for an afternoon nap. It was much needed!

It was just the wrap party (hot dogs and cocktails) left to get through, where everyone said I’d done very well so I was pleased as it’s definitely a tougher job than usual. In fact, I think that might have been the toughest job I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally – and I loved it for it! I felt happy to have made it through when I knew I wasn’t feeling at my peak and it gave me loads of confidence.

The next day I fitted in one more swim & steam and it was time to fly back to London and straight to Glasgow for Fat Face. They’re such a dream of a client and in the end I had barely any outfits to shoot, so it was more of an ‘eat chocolate from the snacks truck and speak to the other models whilst enjoying the insane scenery’ kinda couple of days.

There was a strange half hour on the first day when, shooting in a castle, I found a bonnet and Chris a Safari hat.

We got completely wild and silly and filmed strange videos and took pictures like this, then got on with the shoot. It’s fun to be with like-minds on jobs…

I then had a weekend off, and it was back to Peterborough for Debenhams. Last time I shot for Debenhams I got in hysterical tears during lunch as it was a couple of days after Gran died and, not knowing this, the topic of conversation at lunch was ‘murder and how best to dispose of a dead body’ – the time before that, I destroyed their set before my first outfit. This time there were ZERO dramas so I’m feeling relieved!

Now I’m off to Malaga for a wedding, feeling guilty about my carbon footprint but excited for some sun and relaxation and bubbly. I feel stronger in lots of ways, but also find myself getting sad and low when I’m not working. It’s the only time that things like the break up and Gran dying and getting ill are allowed to hit me. I actually even ran out of my first dance class back crying because I felt sort of overwhelmed. But I’m just learning that maybe I can’t snap back how I want to and immediately be exactly where I was before, feeling sexy and strong and amazing and dancey, and that sometimes I have to sit and be quiet and kind to myself.

But I’m feeling super proud of Danone, I’m feeling mega happy to be having such a busy work period and I am also determined to have an amazing rest-of-summer!

Rebecca x

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One Comment

  1. Ant wrote:

    What a great adventure to the Ukraine and well done coming up trumps (not him) after so many setbacks.

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