Fifteen Minutes

The video camera blinked red; the lens whirred and focused. It was pointed toward a wall plastered with movie posters. A sliver of a bed dripping with dirty clothes was on the right. Mary Lou, curly hair in pigtails, lips puckered and berry painted, danced into view. She wore only a cropped white undershirt and spandex underwear with “slut” bedazzled on the back. She sucked on a cherry lollipop then drew it from her mouth with a loud pop.

“Hi, I’m Mary Lou! You should totally pick me to be on Real World because, like, I love to party, and, like, I’m a really good time. Seriously. Ask my friends.”

She turned around to wiggle her bottom at the camera.

“I’ve got a cute butt, and guys, like, totally love me. I love to go out to bars and see how many I can get to buy me drinks. Sometimes, I even like to play them against each other. You know, just to see if they’ll fight over me or buy me more drinks.”

She giggled, drawing her hands in fists under her chin. The lollipop left a smear of pink on her smooth skin.

“But, seriously, like, I don’t go home with them. I just like to play with them. I’m like a master manipulator or something. But I don’t believe in sex before marriage. Like, seriously, you guys. Seriously.”

She smiled flirtatiously at the camera.

“Oh, also, I’m a student at the local university, and I’m studying psychology. I seriously want to help people. I feel like that’s my calling in life. To, you know, like, reach out to others and help them be the people they want to be. Like I’m so happy with myself, you guys, and I just know that I could have a positive influence on others. I’m just that kind of person.

“Anyway, you should so pick me to be on your show! I’ll get crunk and mess around with a bunch of guys – but not go all the way! – and totally teach people how to accept themselves. Brandy and Sandy (my boobs, you guys!) will, like, totally thank you!”

She blew kisses at the camera then danced out of the frame, heels bouncing off her rounded tush.

The camera blinked off.

When the red light blinked on, the posters from the wall had been pulled down, rolled up and shoved under the bed along with the dirty clothes. Only a vase of bright poppies sitting on a white IKEA desk could be seen hovering at the edge of the frame.

When Mary Lou strutted into view, she wore strappy silver sandals and a floor-length sparkling black gown. Her hair, released from its pigtails, fell in soft and glossy waves to just below her exposed shoulders. The berry stain had been wiped off, replaced with a classic dark red wine lip color, and her brown eyes had been traced with black liner. Jewelry glinted at her wrist, her neck, her ears.

“Hello there. I’m Mary Lou, and I’m looking for love.”

She posed, turning her body slightly so as to appear slimmer, and placed a hand on her hip. Her toned arm reflected the glow from the lamp lit in the corner of the room.

“I’m looking for a man who’s strong and sensitive and who loves to cook meals together as much as he loves to watch Sunday football. Go Chiefs!”

She giggled coquettishly and assumed another pose, this time with hands at her sides, one foot placed slightly in front of the other and turned out.

“I love a man who’s smart and tough, who understands integrity and what it means to be devoted. It wouldn’t hurt if he had great muscles and a brilliant smile as well.”

She flashed whitened teeth at the camera and slowly winked, lowering a powdered lid.

“A little about me: I’m earning a master’s degree in psychology – I love working out what makes people tick – and I’m an animal lover. If I hadn’t gone to school for psychology, I would have studied veterinary science. I’m an only child, still close to my parents, and I love to be pampered. I am a queen looking for her king. Call me.”

She sauntered out of the frame, flicking a hand at the camera in goodbye.

The red light blinked out.

When it came back on, the camera faced a long hallway. Whatever prints had hung on the wall had been removed and stacked behind the tripod. A flurry of footsteps could be heard before Mary Lou stepped in front of the camera at the end of the corridor. Her strappy sandals had been replaced with black heeled boots, her dress with black leggings and a loose black tank top. Her hair hung straight down to the middle of her back and chunky bangs obscured tweezed eyebrows. She marched down to the camera, kicking out each leg like a horse before placing it in the middle of the carpet. Kick, place, kick, place, kick, place. Expression fierce, fierce, fierce.

She stopped in front of the camera, hip cocked and knee bent.

“I’m Mary Lou. I’m America’s Next Top Model. I had a crappy childhood, but I’ve made it this far on my own. I have my own place, my own car and my own cat. She’s my best friend. I’m kooky and intense, and no one messes with me. I’m putting myself through school, but I want to be a model. I will be a model. Pick me, Tyra. Pick me and fix me.”

She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, peeked up at the black lens through spiky lashes.

“You can make my dream come true. You’ll see me at the next casting session. I am America’s Next Top Model. Remember me.”

She pivoted on her heel, her sheath of hair swinging, and step-kicked her way back down the hall. She turned to give the camera one last glare then stalked into another room.

The lens whirred and closed. The camera light blinked off.