Living the McDream

Posted · 30 Comments

It’s no shock that advertising is a universe of smoke and mirrors. The perfectly polished pictures we see in magazines and commercials take multi-talented teams to pull off.  Images and ideas are often as manufactured as the products being sold.

On a recent shoot for an aftershave product, I ran my paws through Patrick Dempsey’s hair and caressed his skin, as he joked between takes, while slipping in and out of a seductive character, repeating the phrase, “What makes a modern man?

Patrick Dempsey

The answer to Patrick’s question: apparently an astronomical budget and a crew of 102 lighting experts, prop masters, art directors, special effects technicians, wardrobe and hair stylists, makeup artists, and more….

Mr. McDreamy had all the things an idealized “modern” (or archaic) male would want: expensive cars, clothes, women…even a bomb, slated to explode under a bridge as the ‘martini’ (final shot set-up) of the day.

In reality, Patrick Dempsey is a super friendly, down to earth guy, married to a lovely makeup artist, Jillian Fink Dempsey, who have 3 children…and if I’m not mistaken, he’s no surgeon.

The amount of effort required to produce a few saleable seconds on film still astounds me. Yet, sometimes I’m even more impressed by the magic of mere makeup…

I suppose it’s only fair for me to include my fresh face. Ah heck, here’s my ungroomed mug in the morning…

Whether or not a celebrity is involved in an advertising campaign, the pitched product is the real star. Much of my work involves “tabletop” production, where a professional crew works around a perfectly-lit table, focusing on meticulous details, while transforming the most mundane foods into objects of mouth-watering beauty.

Before the camera rolls, food stylists place raisins methodically upon a bowl of oatmeal with tweezers, while syrup is served with a syringe for precise placement, and hot steam is pumped through plastic tubes for a ‘home-cooked’ feel.

Products and people are often further enhanced in post-production through the superpowers of Photoshop.

My unretouched finger

Same finger for product packaging

A touch of trickery and a dash of deception are necessary ingredients in fantasy-making, though sometimes these fabrications seem to fuel insecurities.

Recently, I met a sweet gorgeous girl named Ashley at a shoot for Glamour Magazine. She was from Wisconsin and had only been in the big city for 2 weeks. When I asked her why she chose to settle on the West Coast rather than New York, she explained that at 5’9”, she’s not tall enough for runway modeling, and is working on getting her “size down.”

She then asked if I had kids, adding, “You’ve got a rockin’ bod.”

Coming from a 21 year old who eats apples and cigarettes for breakfast, that’s about as good as when I’m asked, “You model more than just hands, right?”

Later that day, I met another beautiful blond named Ashley.

Ashley #2 and I sat alone in the makeup room and had a conversation I won’t forget. When Ashley #2 said she was “too short and fat” for runway work, I told her most people would probably be as shocked as I am by that statement, adding how “gorgeous” she is. Looking at the floor she said, “Thanks, but I don’t feel it.”

When I asked her what would make her feel more beautiful, she paused, looking a bit confused, and then said, “I’ve always wanted to be 5’11”.” Apparently she’s an inch shy from fulfilling this dream.

At 5’6”, god knows I’ve never measured up to the high standards of high fashion, which is why I only had a hand in the shoot. Even so, I could write an entire article on the fuss over a few fingers.

Glamour – nails by Naja Rickette

I found the openness of both Ashleys refreshing, and a bit disturbing. Rather than seeing them as simply shallow, I empathized with the painful chase after impossible standards of “perfection”. I used to wish I was tall and blond (etc.) – A bit ironic, considering Glamour gave our Goldilocks blunt brown bangs….

When it comes to fashion, I’ve always fell short. Add Choid to the mix, the rude robot in my head who has fun finding fault, and clearly I’ve spent too many years relentlessly picking myself apart.

While some may have little sympathy for beautiful biatches like the lovely Ashleys, I can assure you that having every part of yourself scrutinized on a regular basis can make any mortal a tad neurotic. As Ashley #2 said, “We’re judged all of the time.”

The public is trained to expect a model to walk through the door, wind blowing through hair, looking like she does after hours in the hair and makeup chair.

I’m guilty of first focusing on the zit on Ashley’s forehead, before noticing her endearing inner beauty. Truth is, it takes work to transform a human into an Angel.

I once hand-doubled in a L’Oreal commercial for Doutzen Kroes, the Dutch Victoria Secret Supermodel. She walked into the makeup room looking chicly disheveled, wearing more than one designer scarf, holding a large latte and pausing briefly to examine my hands before saying, “You have beeautiful hand,” to which I thanked her and replied, “You have beeautiful face.”

Doutzen’s “beeautiful” face was not totally unlike other attractive women. But after an afternoon of beautification with the best in the biz, I did a double-take as she emerged from her trailer, transformed into the lovely lingerie star we’ve all seen in stockings, leaving behind the tousled woman who arrived earlier in support-hose (a common trick used to combat veins and bloat during trans-Atlantic flights).

To survive this business with sanity intact, you gotta see through its illusions. Fashion is like fantasy. Fantasy is fun, as long as a person doesn’t feel bound to emulate, or use it as a measuring stick to compare one’s regular ol’ life.

I’ve learned to take the biz less seriously because it’s not serious! Reality, compared to unattainable fantastical fantasies, can be dull. Companies don’t spend millions of dollars to have their oatmeal look like the mush I make in the morning, nor can they produce eye-popping/jaw-dropping images without a few creative and skilled hands.

Photoshop artists are like contemporary painters, and advertising is a modern mythology (without the morals of great storytelling). While the beauty biz clearly presents narrow notions of “perfection”, everyone has the choice as to what they buy into, or not.

I once felt a lot like Ashley #2, until I learned that true “beauty” comes from an appreciation of self that is measured by far more than a few inches. Owning our uniqueness is key to finding comfort in any skin. Sure, I still find myself obsessing over my perceived short-comings, but more than ever, I see value in the whole imperfect picture…the sum of all parts.

With every part and all my heart,

30 Responses to "Living the McDream"
  1. Lynn says:

    This is SO great Adele!! So entertaining and interesting. What a life you lead! I love your humor and wit and on top of that – the message! So many people would enjoy reading this blog:) xoxo

  2. Kiki Davis says:

    Adele is so far beyond the sum of her parts!!! What a whole-y adventure she is on!!

  3. Michelle says:

    Your stories are inspiring. Every time I read your blog I laugh, cry, and am moved. Oh, and I am completely jealous that you got to work with Patrick!!!! Always an amazing read!

    • Adele says:

      Michelle, I’m so glad the blog makes you laugh AND cry. Was it the stars without makeup this time? Or my chimp-morning-face?? 😉

  4. Katie Lane says:

    This is such an AMAZING blog!! Adele, you write with such heart and humor – I’m hooked on Hand Jobs!!!

    • Adele says:

      Katie, it’s so great to hear from you 🙂 Thanks for chiming in. I sincerely appreciate the kind words. As for Mr. Dreamy, here here! The man is HOT.

  5. Katie Lane says:

    Oh, and I forgot to add – I’m SO jealous! I can’t believe you actually got paid to touch Mr. McDreamy!! Take care of those gorgeous hands girl!

  6. TC says:

    I’m encouraged to find that gradually you are accepting the reality of perfection. The “reality” is that it doesn’t exist! We are so utterly misled and led into believing that what we see with our eyes is real. It’s not, and what we emit through our hearts and souls is the real beauty that lies within each of us. The journey continues as we struggle with what is TRUE and REAL in life. I love reading your blog; I love that you share yourself with us and I always look forward to the next one. XOXOXOXOXOXOXO TC

    • Adele says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts TC. I agree -true beauty lies deep beneath our physical bodies and the glossy veneer advertising promotes. To me, you have always embodied both: a beautiful outer shell and inner well.

  7. nancy says:

    i love how you made a really touchy and serious subject funny in places where it was totally appropriate! all i can say is that i feel very fortunate that at 5 feet i was never even able to dream about being a model. don’t think my sensitive nature could have stood up to the ridicule and scrutiny. the realizations that you mentioned at the end of this blog, tells me how healthy and toegther you are. this is a good profession for you! my favorite photo, of course, is the one with you getting up in the morning giving the finger! classic. your writing sends me over the moon and i always look so fowrard to another blog from adele uddo, hand model extraordinare!

  8. Adele, I love it when you make me think. I remember a time when I was a little girl, my mother and I were in the city shopping. On the way home the car broke down, but with enough speed for us to coast into a tavern on the outskirts of civilization. Inside the tavern, my mother asked for use of their phone. The proprietor pointed to a pay phone in the back. With me in tow, my mother made her way to the rear of the establishment, but not without stopping to look at a raggedy old game table pushed aside in the corner. It was painted flat black with torn vinyl tacked across the top.

    My mother put a coin in the telephone, phoned my father at work asking him to come collect us, and then turned back toward that old, black table. She said, “And John, bring the truck.” My mother proceeded to negotiate with the owner a small sale price for that table. I was as cynical a child as I am an adult, so I of course questioned my mother on the sanity of that purchase. She ordered two burgers for our wait, walked me back toward that table, and looked down at me with a smile in her eye. “Honey,” she said, “the beauty is beneath the paint.”

    As I think about this blog, and you, me, and our family of friends sharing good wine and a gluten free meal around that same beautiful, Brazilian mahogany table, I am reminded of that metaphor for life. Scrape off the vinyl, the black paint, the make-up, and the special effects, and the true grain of inner beauty is revealed.

    Thank you for the memory…

    • Adele says:

      I second Randi. Mind, you get me every time. Thank you for sharing your memories and everything else…be it around the Brazilian mahogany table (or that Round one many centuries ago). Beautiful metaphor from your mother.

  9. Randi says:

    You made me laugh, think, and then Mindschmootz made me cry. Thank you (both) for reminding me that beauty, to me, is defined by the heart and the soul. It’s no wonder you’re (both) so damn attractive.

  10. Audrey says:

    I’m saving this one for my girls when they grow up a bit. Lord- by that time may there be more and more of the real/ as-is people celebrated for beauty. So goood what you open up to us and write so clearly about! Thank you! and P.S. I will be jealous if you ever get to work with Justin Timberlake! There is something so lovely about that guy-

  11. Jacqueline says:

    Great blog! Very entertaining. I had no idea you worked as a hand double for Doutzen! You are big time! Keep the stories coming!

  12. R.G. says:

    Wow! Adele, this is such an amazing piece. Women, not just in America, but across all cultures in today’s modern society needs to read this (and men too). Love your insights, your humor and most importantly, your message. Keep it coming. Can’t wait for the next piece. Much love xoxo RG

    • Adele says:

      Rg, I love hearing your male perspective on this issue. I wish more men around the world would contribute to the conversation. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts!

  13. Amy Doublet says:

    You are a brilliant and prolific writer beyond beautiful inside and out! WOW.

    My eyes are still misty from being so eloquently touched by your honesty and sincere expression. Not to mention the irony of your absolute radiant face to match those hands!!! Your parts are gorgeous and deep, what a brain 🙂

    No doubt you set a potent wave in motion for both Ashley’s and all young wide eyed innocent women whom are caught in the beauty myth. Thank-God for your presence, voice and light.

    Keep on writing…..i wanna keep reading……

    • Adele says:

      Wow Amy, I’m humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much for commenting. I’m working on a book right now so blogging has taken a back seat temporarily. But I promise to keep em coming so stay tuned!

  14. Sarah Taylor says:

    Wow. This is so great. I mean, we *know* that the perfection ideal has us buying in to the images that advertising shells out. But hearing this from an insider really brings it home. I love your blog and always look forward to hearing your perspective. You humor, humility and wisdom continue to move and entertain me! more more more!! I want a book!!

    • Adele says:

      Sarah, trust me, I want a book too! I’m working on it lady. Thank you for your incredible support xo

  15. Alan says:

    body dysmorphic disorder. Even at a weight 15 lbs under where I should have been, I always felt too fat. I’ve discovered, however, that a little overexposure on a camera phone photo can be very appealing in my older age. Much like Elizabeth Taylor in a White Diamonds commercial…behind a window covered in vaseline.

  16. Lizajane says:

    1. It never fails to shock me when people I see as perfect see themselves as in adequate.
    2. It’s a good thing my job doesn’t involve running MY fingers through mr. Dempsy’s hair because I’m certain when I inevitably started licking his face I would be removed from the set.

  17. ArtsBeatLA says:

    I am deeply saddened whenever I hear a person who is so hard on themselves — who cannot appreciate and revel in their own beauty because it simply “isn’t good enough.”

    I hope everyone who lapses into an insecure moment will immediately supplant that damaging thought with a positive, grateful one.

  18. Kelly says:

    As always, a great read, my dear. It seems that all of us wish we had something we don’t, doesn’t it? So often, we think that other people must have everything they want only to discover that they feel just as inadequate or unhappy as we do. Ashley wishes she was 5’11”. You feel short at 5’6″. I always just wanted to be 5’5″ instead of 5’3″.

    I think one of the hardest things to do in life is to live the words of the Serenity Prayer and accept the things we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can and possess the wisdom to know the difference. I’ve not been successful yet, but to me, this short little reminder about acceptance, courage and wisdom is all we need to get through anything.

  19. Blogreader says:


    Another great blog. Thanks for continuing to share intimate experiences of your life in a meaningful way.

  20. Chris says:

    Beauty is a result of the magical combination of all our humanly parts, which makes YOU my dear, …..a true Supermodel.

  21. Kristina says:

    I really needed to read this post today. I have a shoot for my print agency in a few weeks because they want new looks and I’ve been obsessed comparing myself to people — I’m not tall, the lean/thin body type, my stomach isn’t completely flat, etc. I have to remember all the words you wrote here. By the way, you do have a rocking body! much love to you!

    • Adele Uddo says:

      Kristina girl, you’re def not alone. We all have ridiculous insecurities. I’ve told myself exactly what you’re saying…and more. I guess it’s good to be aware of the crappy voices in our heads…and then hopefully NOT buy into what they’re saying. Thank you for the sweet compliment. And from what I can tell lady, you also have more lovely part than just hands 😉 x

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