Brittany still takes pleasure in her deep tan, no matter how leathery the sun has turned her skin. She sighs as she looks at herself in the mirror, remembering those long days of drinking at the beach, the sun shining down, beating, beating while she turned her mind into mush. One day she had just floated in the ocean for hours, not caring if the rip tide grabbed and held her in its cold, salty clutches.
It’s four in the morning and Brittany is already in the hair and makeup chair at HSN, preparing for the live taping for her plus-sized clothing line, Southern Comfort. Southern Comfort began as a line of lounge-wear for larger ladies and has since expanded into athleisure, business casual, resort wear, and even jewelry in a line of charm bracelets called Southern Charm. Brittany is the highest producer at HSN and even makes more money than her husband Jax, who got her into the entertainment industry in the first place. Her son Jace sits in a chair next to her, his eyes closed as Tricia the stylist massages pomade into his head.
“Tricia, this is more action than I’ve had in months. Can I take you home with me?” Jace says. The women all laugh, especially Brittany.
“Well aren’t you just the sweetest boy I’ve ever met,” Tricia says. “The girls must be chasing you!”
At 20, Jace is in his physical prime. He wears a black and purple button down tucked in and belted with shiny black pants, emphasizing his trim waist. Due to frequent steams and facials, his skin is without flaw, emphasizing his sculpted features and cat-like eyes. Looking at her son’s perfect body and face, Brittany unconsciously crosses an arm over her stomach, which is not the crop of muscles and belly button that it used to be during her Hooters days.
“Oh believe me, they are. I had a girl stop me in the supermarket and ask me why he wouldn’t kiss her after 8 dates!” Brittany says as Jace turns a deep red. “I was so thrown off I ended up buying her an entire birthday cake just to make her feel better.”
Tricia, done with Jace’s hair, paints his face with foundation, bronzer, and concealer until it is a matte beige. That was the best part about makeup, Jace thinks, the way it covered your blemishes, turning you into a strong, stable plastic.
“Well, I wish my Brendan was more popular with the girls. I honestly don’t even think he’s going to go to prom this year. I was dying to get him a boutonniere!” Tricia says, painting cheekbones over Jace’s existing cheekbones. He smiles to help her find the apples of his cheeks. He’s done this before.
“And what am I supposed to post during pre-prom? A picture of him playing Halo 42?” Tricia continues. No one answers, done with this topic of conversation and Tricia’s chunky, tacky highlights. Tricia lets out a hmph as she paints on Jace’s eyebrows, making them arched but not too arched as to maintain a masculine energy.
Meanwhile, Brittany is transformed from the working Mom she is into the TV star she’s known to be. There’s nothing as good as professional hair and makeup, she thinks, viewing her long, shiny mermaid hair in the huge, well-lit mirror. And what in the world would I do without Spanx?
Hair and makeup is finished, which means it’s time to get on set and do a quick lighting and audio check before filming starts. Today, Brittany and Jace are selling Southern Charm’s fifth collection of polyester jumpsuits, available in the jewel tones ranked highest by lower middle to middle income white women in their fifties and sixties. Thank god for focus groups!
By this time, Brittany has already changed into an emerald green jumpsuit, worn over a flesh-colored bodysuit to keep everything in, of course. Unfortunately, the double layering makes the stage lights feel even hotter, which, combined with menopause, causes Brittany to sweat profusely. That’s why it’s Tricia’s job to dab her face with a dry cloth and blow cool air under her armpits when they’re showing b-roll. As Brittany thinks of igloos and snow cones, Jace stands on set looking as cool as a statue. It isn’t fair, the advantages young men have, Brittany thinks to herself. She puts her hands on her hips, accidentally knocking Tricia in the nose as she tends to her pits. “Sorry, Tina,” Brittany says, enjoying the screwed-up look on Tricia’s face. They have worked together for the past decade.
The final makeup touches and lighting checks are done and it’s time to sell, sell, sell. Brittany looks toward the barrel of the lens like she would at a lover and then closes her eyes, imagining a man bathing her tight, young, beautiful body with attention. The man was big and strong and veiny, but when she tries to imagine his face, she sees a hockey mask, for some reason.
“Alright, we’ve got a great day ahead. Brit and Jace, you do your intros, then we’ll take the models out and finally announce our three-for-one deal. Got it?” the director says. Everybody woos and claps, applauding before anything has even happened. By now, Brittany has been on TV thousands of times— reality shows, talk shows, red carpets, HSN. Still, she feels the corners of her mouth tug up automatically, revealing her big, white, People’s Choice Award-winning smile. After all these years, she still loves that thrill, that rush of adrenaline when she knows she’s being watched by thousands she can’t see.
“Loving the energy people. Okay, these jumpsuits aren’t gonna sell themselves. Lights, camera, action”.
Brittany opens her eyes and sees the camera. Her lover disappears.
Read more by clicking here: 20 Years Later: Part Two