Warning: Video is very loud
All applicants sit in a circle. The floor is carpeted. This room is useless. Someone asks, Who wants a job as a FUN GIRL? This interview is for a gig as a crowd riler: a position offered through Craigslist. The event is called the Real Estate Wealth Expo, a series of lectures on the secret to wealth with headliner, Donald Trump. It is 2006 and we’re at the Jacob Javits Center.
A woman adjusts herself. She doesn’t know the other women sitting on the floor. She’s showing her regret in coming here. A man stands and declares, We need girls who are hot, over the top, HOT, and in your face. She nods to the questions, Who wants to have FUN? Can you be fun? Can you be SUPER ENERGETIC? Can you be OVER THE TOP ENERGETIC? She looks down after the last one. College cheerleaders laugh.
The college cheerleaders are taking up a lot of room here. This woman is on the floor next to me during the group interview, but she won’t show up when we start working. I’ll never know if she got the job or turned it down. I imagine her 10 years older than the others, and in this place. I can imagine being hurt. I cringe at this scene.
In order to get the job, all potential fun girls must interview and send a headshot. I’ve been a nationally competitive cheerleader since third grade, but I don’t have a headshot. I crop a photo of me at the end of a line of girls.
Lectures on the Secret to Wealth:
For Robert Kiyosaki’s set, I hold a balloon that says RICH DAD. It is a rectangular balloon and I wave it back and forth. The audience likes this one. The crowd is excited to hear the secret to wealth! The secret is to get so rich you make money while you sleep. In order to be a rich dad, you have to get money for doing nothing. That is how you know you’ve made it.
Tony Robbins, a prominent name at this time, gets everyone riled up just to show how easy it is to get everyone riled up. He says, You don’t need an impetus to feel this crazy, pumped, ecstatic--just make it so. He claps his hands and we all clap our hands. He screams in the mic and we scream in our neighbors’ faces. He says, See? we don’t need an event to bring us great joy, great motivation. Just act the way you act when you are getting carried away and suddenly you are. Trick your brain! He says.
I have a neuro midterm on Monday. I feel grave, terrible guilt in not doing anything to prepare for it, but I have a job to do here. We have to make a cheer line. We stand in two rows and the real estate wealth expo participants stride through our bower. “Simply the Best” plays--it’s 7 am. I can think only of that scene in the UK Office where David Brent claps his hands over his head to the same song, trying to get everyone excited. “You’re simply the best!” My favorite lyric, my favorite Tina Turner song. I call my brother during a break just to let some of this be funny, or to begin turning this into something that is absurd, a story that can be told.
The Bills and The Future:
I hold a wad of cash. My memory is of that cash in a suitcase and us in bikinis, but of course that isn’t right; I am in a skirt, my kaepas, and my fun girl tank. I am holding just bills. Bills I am to hand out to people who just paid a lot of money trying to figure out how to get rich.
I have to hand money to the best dancers. The hottest and most energetic. This act is disturbing to us, and will haunt me for years. Why didn’t I just keep the cash? I hand hundreds to the people who make real and convincing eye contact with me. How do you turn away from someone who is making real and convincing eye contact with you? They’re here for something else though.
For paying customers, it is him: Donald Trump. There! And truly, there is nothing to see. Nothing I remember. It’s not even
worth providing a description since the image of him in real life has been obviated by his face elsewhere, the reproduced image. I’m so happy to report nothing he said. His words have no merit here. Cheerleaders on stage with him are fanning bills,
jumping and parading, everyone in a self-made tizzy.
I did this thing, we all did, a contrapposto stance, where all energy is forward, but you’re totally still. Your chest out and rounded like a rooster, the hands up, the hands making a shape we called a “star” which we shook at the wrist in an animated way. Then, there were a series of practiced arm motions, number one, one fist on hip, arms out in an inviting gesture, sometimes shaking fists, or, if you had poms you’d shake them together at your waist, like your hands were in a 19th century muff.
Militaristic, is how my coach described our aesthetic. We did sit ups while we heaved out the alphabet in deep voices to anticipate how you’d want to sound--you never want to sound high-pitched, you will, but you have to try otherwise. We dance from morning til night.
Despite my youth, I know that their tagline is a lie: one weekend cannot make you a millionaire. What I don’t know, after my Learning Annex weekend and after nearly ten years, is why it says FUN across my chest. What do I represent? The shirt, its message: a white undergarment with the red block letters “FUN;” it was so bad, so blatant and without nuance, it had to mean something.
Kim Herbst is a freelance illustrator in San Francisco, CA. She's been involved in a variety of projects including magazines, newspapers, mobile games, and children's educational materials. Some clients include Scholastic, Dig Boston, Oxford University Press, and GamesTM Magazine.