Perfection and pop culture

by Steph Kiser / Beacon Staff • March 5, 2015

LOS ANGELES — Anyone who ever tells you that hiking is a wonderful, peaceful experience of mind, body, and soul is lying to you. Sure, Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles is famous and the scenery is awe-inspiring. However, it is also hot, sticky, dusty, painful, and for those of us who aren’t locals, borderline mortifying. 

I was wearing an oversized Lord Voldemort T-shirt the day the humiliation happened. It had several sweat stains and a dark spot where my water bottle had missed my mouth. I was showcasing that au naturel look. My legs burned the way your body does when you return to the gym after a 22-year hiatus. It was my first full day in Los Angeles, and there was a strong possibility that I might die on the ridge of this canyon.

And the Los Angeles locals who were there for a Sunday morning workout? Well, they were all just peachy. I tried to catch my breath as I rested at the ridge of the canyon. In front of the rock where I sat was the most glorious view of Los Angeles. Like everything else during this workout, it was breathtaking.

For the next few minutes, I watched the scene around me. I did not know what to make of this strange city, from the people to the culture. Groups of polished looking girls paraded by wearing wore sports bras and booty shorts—they were about three pulled threads away from running nude. They looked at me with pity. To them, I was an exhausted, disturbing little creature—a haggard lady goblin. To me, they were equally mysterious. What were their secrets, I wondered? “Tell them to me!” I wanted to scream.

The men in this canyon weren’t any less mysterious. Even their puppies—all freshly groomed and fit—looked good. Where are all the average people, I wondered? The ones who didn’t wake up with a stylist camped out in their closet? The ones who knew what a meal over 700 calories looked like?

LA is a different kind of place. I knew this far before I arrived. I mean, it’s Hollywood, the place where pop culture originates and stars are born. But does this mean no one normal exists? I’m still wondering about that, but I have made progress on the journey to answers.

It has been two months since that dreadful moment in the canyon. In the time since, I have found a routine, become familiar with the beautiful Emerson Los Angeles building, and have acquired multiple parking tickets (seriously, around $300 worth). But it is at my two internships that I have spent most of my time.

Each Monday and Tuesday, I work in the casting department at Kinetic Productions. They have gifted TV lovers with shows like Little People LA and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers—and if the people of Los Angeles sound strange, you should see the people auditioning for shows like Jersey Shore.

The rest of the week I work in the office of one of Hollywood’s biggest producers, Alli Shearmur. Compared to the first internship, this is a whole new world. Here, I don’t come in contact with the actors being casted—probably because instead of Pauly D, they deal with stars like Emma Roberts. I spend most of my days reading submissions from agents and deciding whether or not it’s worth it for our producers to do the same. The power to decide what gets seen and what gets tossed is petrifying and exciting (but mostly petrifying). Imagine being the intern who rejected the script for Bridesmaids. It is here, in the office of the woman who produced The Hunger Games, I believe I have found where a good portion of that near- perfect Los Angeles population comes from.

With a population of 3.8 million, LA is a city filled with people from all different walks of life. Yet the majority of individuals I encountered that morning in the canyon are likely connected to the entertainment business in one way or another. Here in the City of Angels, superhuman, almost unattainable standards of beauty are part of the culture. Especially in the film world, it’s all about presentation. The way the people of the business look, eat, and dress can play as important a role in their success as their talent. It is a strange industry, and one I am only just learning to be a part of.

I may have been an LA resident these past few weeks, but there are still many things about the city I do not know. Regardless, I am sure of one thing: I am certainly not in Boston anymore.