Associate editor Darcie Baum travels the world with SI’s swimsuit models. These are her tales:
In Coming to America,Eddie Murphy plays an African prince who moves to Queens in pursuit of a simple life only to struggles with a wide assortment of cultural differences. That is my SI Swimsuit life, in reverse. The difficulties in planning a high-profile fashion shoot in some of the most remote locations in the world are pretty major. There are cultural differences, language barriers, unusual business practices and most importantly, the fact that they have NEVER had or seen anything like the traveling circus that is SI Swimsuit. But there is so much I learn from these wonderful people, places and their interesting traditions that make me LOVE this job and have a good laugh (and sometimes a good cry ... LOL).
We typically ask hotels for a nice room that doubles as a beautiful backdrop for video interviews – a gorgeous suite with floor to ceiling windows and views of the location. When we arrived in China with Anne V, they had painstakingly designed and printed a wall-sized image of Guilin, a city in China, with our logo on it. Thankfully, we had the real background of beautiful Guilin to shoot Anne. Such a sweet gesture, but in the end I really wished I learned some Mandarin.
No matter how many times we say we need multiple vehicles to transport our 50-plus pieces of equipment and luggage, no one believes there will REALLY be that much. We always arrive to a wide-eyed and nervous group of people wondering how the hell they’re going to fit all of us and our gear into that little bus. In Namibia, we had an over-packed equipment van and small trailer driving the eight hours to our lodge. The trailer hitch broke after the thousandth dirt road pothole and they had no choice but to leave it behind until they made it to the lodge for backup. Half of our gear - exposed to random desert dwellers, zebra herds and the blazing sun - was left in the abyss of the Namib Desert. Imagine the panic back at the lodge when we had no swimsuits, half the crew’s personal luggage gone and camera lighting equipment stranded? Everything ended up making it’s way to us the following day, but sleeping in my jeans was not that fun. The return to the airport was definitely smoother.
We plan these shoots at least six months in advance with all the approvals and access to locations set in stone … or so we think. Right before our Easter Island shoot, we were told the Rapa Nui elders did not want us shooting with the Moai (statues of scared Rapa Nui ancestors). The whole reason for shooting in Easter Island was to see the Moai. It’s like going to Disney Land and not seeing Mickey Mouse. After a lot of back and forth, we realized that you just needed to meet them face to face. We showed them how we respect everyone and everywhere we shoot, how much this exposure would mean to the island for tourism, and how no one is going to be rock humping their ancestors. It also didn’t hurt having gorgeous Chrissy Teigen bat a few lashes of influence. As you can see in the 2013 issue, we got the go-ahead to shoot from the Rapa Nui people. It was tough but sometimes you forget that not every culture cherishes the female body as America does.
During months of planning the 2013 Spain shoot, we repeatedly discussed shooting one of the models with a traditional Spanish matador. Bullfighting and matadors are a huge part of Spain and it was important to incorporate that cultural aspect in our shoot. Our producers assured everyone that this was possible, sent photos of good looking matadors to choose from … everything seemed fine. We narrowed the list down and were trying to coordinate schedules when the producer pulled me aside and said "Forget about all the other matadors we looked at! I have the perfect one for you. Very attractive, available during the time you need him and is happy to participate."
I thought this was great news and told him to proceed. I learned very quickly to NEVER assume anything at any time on any location. The next day, the crew traveled over an hour to get to this beautiful bullring, the afternoon light was perfect, everyone was setting up and getting ready to shoot. The matador walked in and we discovered he was a tall lanky (but adorable) 14-year-old boy, who was training to be a matador! This was not going to work. The entire crew was shocked and knew we could not shoot this young child for the magazine. Luckily he brought his mentor, Antonio, a retired matador, to the shoot who then offered to take the place of his mentee. Antonio instantly took on the role and his movements and performance had the crew speechless and in tears. It was a really powerful and beautiful moment for everyone to witness. A disaster that could have shut down the afternoon shoot turned into something wonderful and most importantly the pictures are AMAZING! At Swimsuit we always make things work …. a little bit of well deserved luck helps too.
- As told by Janine Berey