Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Humorous Life of a Chameleon


When most people hear this term, they automatically picture a lizard able to alter its coloration in order to better blend with its environment. However it's also used to describe someone who is able to incorporate themselves into surroundings that is not native to them or change their appearance. How do I know about the latter version? It's something that I've been called for nearly my entire life. I am the type of person who actually sees it as a compliment since it means that no matter the environment, I would be able to be under the radar that I was a foreigner since appearance wise I would be overlooked since I look like everyone else around me.  

Originally it had nothing to do with what I wore but how people preserved my physical appearance. Between the ages of 3 to 8, most thought that I was adopted due to my hair at the time being straight and on the black side with my eyes being almond shaped. Compared to my father's obvious 'white American' appearance and my mother's olive completion showing her Latin heritage, people thought I was Japanese. By 5th grade, when my hair decided that it will start having it's own personality by going curly, I had the parents of my classmates think that I was an Italian boy who had a girl's name. As I got older, I had the amusing game of having people guess what ethnicity (and for a short time what gender) I was. To this day I actually haven't had anyone guess correctly what I am. Most guesses now-a-days range from European, Mediterranean, Turkish, Grecian, Sicilian, Australian, and someone from South America.

Before photo shoot
(c) Etta Jean
Where am I going with this, you may be asking yourselves. Well recently my friend, Photographer and Author Etta Jean, who knew of my chameleon nature sent me an distress call to my phone. A fellow author was in need of a photo of an Arabic or Indian woman wearing a hijab to act as the front cover for a novel she had written of her life and had tasked Etta to help come up with an image. 
Etta: Question, oh miss chameleon. 

Dawn: Yeeessssss? Should I worry when you call me that? 

Etta: I can't find any Hindu/Middle Eastern females who wear/could wear a hijab. 

Dawn: I see where you're going with this. 

Etta: Think you could be passable? 

Dawn: Maaaaayyybbbeeee >_>

We agreed that this would be the biggest test for me to see if I could pull off the look of not only a different ethnicity but a different belief system then my own. In one week I studied how a proper woman of the Islamic faith dressed, put on a hijab and wore her make up. I lost count of the amount of images I looked through and took mental notes of. Finally the day of the photoshoot arrived and I went from regular mix-breed Bohemian artist living in Northern California to a proud Arabic woman of the Islamic faith. Etta and I agreed that we would keep hidden my actual background from the author and the publishing company that they were apart of and would only bring it up once either there were guesses or if I appeared completely out of place. So the waiting game began. Then, the first comments came in from one of the publishers saying "Well, she is quite lovely and got the expression I was thinking of quite well.".  It was a nice compliment, to be sure but I was still holding my breath on what the author would say. Then this morning, it happens. I receive the following message from Etta: 
After getting dressed for photo shoot
(c) Etta Jean 

 "I am cracking up right now. It would seem that you weren't exactly what they were looking for. They needed someone a little bit more European in appearance. You were too Arabic."

I couldn't help but laugh for a good 5 to 10 minutes. My lungs burned, I was short of breath, and I couldn't stop myself from smiling. Unknowingly to this author, she had just given me the biggest compliment that I could ever receive from someone. The fact that I, a mutt, was able to cause someone else of a faith that is typically stereotyped as being of people of mostly Arabic decent (though other ethnicity are part of it) believed that I was of that background - I'm still astounded. So it would appear with the photos during the shoot, I did a little too good of a job of portraying what I was supposed to.

Once the other photos from the shoot are available, I will include a link but in the meantime, if you would like to follow either Etta or myself via social media, feel free to find us at the following locations: 

Etta Jean (author) on Facebook 
Stacy J. Garrett (photographer) on Facebook
Dawn Star Wood (artist) on Facebook

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