Wanted: Women With Big Feet
“What do I have to do?” I asked, grabbing a pen and paper. I usually needed to make notes when I spoke to Oksana.
“They no say ‘sactly what show is, but pay is very good. Make sure you wear skirt, not too short. Something that show the feet.”
Feet? I scribbled, glancing at my unvarnished toes with regret. I took down the details and thanked Oksana, promising to call her after the job.
No, I was not a professional escort. I was a semi-professional actress, which meant copious classes, never-ending auditions calling for the role of “mom,” various roles in student films, community theatre and corporate videos, and, of course, endless heartbreak sprinkled with bouts of self-loathing.
My semi-literate agent, Oksana, sent me on several commercial auditions a week, but I had yet to book a paying gig beyond work as a “background performer” (i.e. breathing scenery). This job, the foot thing, was for a television series.
They needed a bunch of extras “with big feet” and some people would be chosen for speaking roles. Since my feet had spread (along with my ass) while pregnant, I was perfect for the role. It could be my Big Break.
I arrived at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum at five o’clock on a Sunday morning. I felt slightly relieved that the call was at an institution dedicated to footwear rather than some pervert’s basement.
I checked in and was asked to sign a waiver and confidentiality agreement. If I spilled the beans, I could be held liable to the tune of twenty-five million dollars. A normal person would’ve left at that point, or at least demanded some assurances, but obviously a thirty-five-year-old woman just embarking on an acting career is far from normal, so I signed my name and was ushered into a holding area.
There were a hundred other women wearing knee-length skirts and I chatted with a few of them. None of us knew what the job required, only that it paid well, involved our feet and had to be kept a secret. I heard a woman next to me tell her friend, “I swear to God, if this is some sort of creepy dating show, I’m outta here.”
Crap. I hadn’t thought of that. I was married with a two-year-old son at home. I couldn’t be on Foot Bachelor or whatever crazy show some honcho from a second-rate network had thought up during an ecstasy binge.
Over an hour later, a couple of people with walkie-talkies motioned from the stairs above us for our attention. A man thanked us for our patience and reiterated the need for discretion. “You lucky ladies have been chosen for a very special reality show,” he informed us.
Omigodomigodomigod, I thought in a panic. Footbachelorfootbachelorfootbachelor.
Before I could make a break for it, he continued, “Have you heard of The Amazing Race?” I froze. Women around me started shrieking like Oprah had just given them each a car. “You are all going to be part of a detour in the upcoming season!”
I am not being trite when I tell you that I almost Peed. My. Pants. I’d watched every episode of The Amazing Race – where teams race around the world solving clues and performing tasks – and had a verging-on-unhealthy crush on the host, Phil Keoghan.
Evidently I wasn’t the old one, as women started yelling, “Where’s Phil?” Alas, the Philiminator was at an undisclosed location and we wouldn’t be seeing him. Our detour was the last of the race, with only three teams left in the competition. Our job was to silently wander barefoot at different speeds throughout the small museum. Racers would receive a shoe and have to try it on our feet until they found the one woman who was a match. The rest of us were told to say, “Sorry, it’s too small.”
The room was vibrating with excitement. We were given updates of the racers’ progress as producers had us practice walking while the cameras captured extra footage. I was stuck like glue to a gorgeous young model, assuming (rightfully, I might add) that the cameramen would find their way to her.
The first team arrived – a father and his three grown daughters – and I heard them rip open their clue in another room and read it aloud breathlessly. They ran into our room and I heard one girl say, “Oh wow,” while her sister said, “C’mon – grab her.”
They scrambled around the room, with their dad and the cameraman following behind, politely asking, “Can we try this on you?” before attempting to shove a massive foot into a delicate little shoe. My new model BFF and I manoeuvred our way towards the team and sure enough, they stopped and fell at our feet. A camera lens was thrust in my face as I said my line. They quickly moved on before I could wish them luck or ask if Phil was as dreamy in person.
No other teams came to our detour, which was just as well because I doubt I could’ve kept my cool through another round of Amazing Race-style Cinderella games. Once I left the museum, it took about twenty seconds for me to break my confidentiality contract. The Serb was worried I’d been lured into a fetish porn production so I had to tell him, but I didn’t tell anyone else until the night my episode aired. Then I told everyone.
Unfortunately, it was the family season of The Amazing Race – with young kids racing alongside adults – which was a total disaster. The good news is, I did get on TV during my episode. Well, my arm did. If you froze the frame on your VCR. My friends, family and hairdresser were all very understanding after I’d made them watch a season that sucked only to see me not really get on the show.
It didn’t really matter because shortly after my brief brush with fame, I got knocked up again and my acting career was put on indefinite hold. Unlike my crush on Phil, which is still raging uncontrollably.