Today I went out of my comfort zone to have an interview for a new Hollister store. I say ‘out of my comfort zone’ as Hollister do not refer to their shop floor staff as sales assistants, they are known as ‘models’ – and I have never really considered myself to be ‘model’ material.
However seeing as it was rare opportunity with job vacancies being unpopular in my hometown, I decided it was worth a shot. Perhaps that was a mistake.
It was a group interview, which I have never experienced before. I thought it would make things easier, having other people to speak to. Although when I arrived I found myself not in a group of individuals, but instead in what seemed to be a mass of clones.
Every girl looked the same – long brown hair, flawless skin, figures in perfect proportion, looking like they have just walked in off a California beach. I did not feel the part to say the least.
I definitely stood out from the crowd, but in this case it was for the wrong reasons. I sat in between two girls with naturally dark, flowing hair and looked at my own bleached blonde, pinned back hair before thinking “oh dear”, to put it politely.
I tried my best to answer all the questions professionally, I had a constant smile on my face and couldn’t have shown more enthusiasm. However I felt that this wasn’t enough, despite having previous sales assistant experience, I didn’t have ‘the right look’.
I had to try hard to stop my mouth from dropping open when the manager read off the criteria for how the ‘models’ should look.
“No bleached blonde hair”… oh no, that’s me out at the first hurdle.
“Minimal make up, natural hair, red or pink toenails only…” this is where I gave up.
After forcing myself to smile for a photo I grabbed my bag and walked out fast, hearing the panel say “no way”. I’m not sure whether it was because I had never felt so insecure, but I was pretty sure they were referring to me.
Surely no one should be made to feel like they do not deserve a job as they are ‘not pretty enough’? Then I realised why it is so vital to look the part, sales assistants for designer brands are an alternative to media marketing. They are a way of advertising a brand without having to pay out for TV commercials, right?
But isn’t it just utterly shallow? Whatever happened to, ‘it’s on the inside what counts, not the outside’? Apparently that phrase doesn’t exist in retail, especially designer brands. It doesn’t matter if you are, as I described myself, “fun, determined, and a good listener”. No, it’s all about wearing the right shade of nail polish, having the perfect hair and a flawless face.
I have learnt something from that experience, though. I would not feel comfortable in a job where I felt I had to look perfect every day. I like having my hair how I want, I like doing my makeup how I want, and I do not want to feel as if my personality counts as nothing.
I don’t know what you think, but I feel this idea of ‘pretty’ that adverts have created has caused a kind of polarisation. At one end are the perfect looking minority, and the other end includes people like me. The, “it’s not about the looks, it’s about the personality” type.
I am not happy about that at all, but I am not going to change who I am because my look doesn’t sell. I shall take my business elsewhere, somewhere where I can be real, thank you very much.