Who Qualifies as a Hollywood 'Mocktress'?
This story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
She's suddenly ubiquitous, this type of actress -- just not on the big or small screen. She graces red carpets and Fashion Week front rows wearing next season's Dolce, Zac, Marc and Elie -- the perks of being a personal friend of the house -- with the most-craved Celine or Alexander McQueen bag, not yet even on preorder, on her arm. Yet she might not have done a project in years, and if she has, well, you haven't heard of it. Still, she is a legitimate actress, having starred in a few rom-coms, action flicks or horror films, looking gorgeous in all of them. No fake noses or weight gain for this girl.
Today, said actress spends the majority of her time modeling on arrival lines as opposed to runways. Remember when models just wanted to be actresses? These days, a certain lanky, large-eyed genre of B-list-and-lower actresses have, for all intents and purposes, added "model" to their business-savvy hyphenate titles. Meet the 2013 version of the model-actress -- or, the mocktress.
But don't pity her. She makes the majority of her income -- a very good income -- this way. Last year, according to sources in event planning, marketing and branding, Jessica Alba and Kate Bosworth each earned $100,000 per public appearance.
Maybe they weren't paid to attend Chanel shows -- they just got to keep 15 grand worth of clothes and bags -- but they were no doubt monetized for attending the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy, the opening of the Montblanc concept store in Beijing, the Audi Aspen Holiday party and the Topshop/Topman store opening in L.A. Alba alone attended about 43 events in 2012 -- the old "opening of an envelope" line comes to mind -- and for tres chic Diane Kruger, it was 31 events. Kruger is becoming better known for being well-dressed than her occasional yet interesting acting choices. No doubt she makes more money that way.
Precisely how much is a function of visibility. Rachel Bilson used to be out and about all the time in between 2007's The O.C. and landing Hart of Dixie in 2011. Now, because of higher demands on her time (i.e., she's working), she garners $150,000 for an appearance, while Camilla Belle, with less frequent and more obscure projects (Cavemen, I Brake for Gringos), earns $20,000 to $50,000 to sit front-row at a fashion show or show up looking chic at the Samsung Galaxy Note Launch Event in New York.
"A lot of these girls are beautiful and had a little luck in that the type of feature film they first acted in led to easy stardom," explains Marilyn Heston, owner of MHA, which represents fashion brands and wrangles celebs to wear their looks. "As ingenues, Camilla Belle was in 10,000 BC and Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush. Both films were highly visible domestically and overseas with young and sexy casts, and they had strong studio press campaigns. Fashion houses took note and quickly adopted them as 'fashion girls.' I remember when Roberto Cavalli made a plunging V-neck blue chiffon cocktail dress for the premiere of Blue Crush, he asked, 'Who's Kate Bosworth?' -- but sure enough, he got tons of press because she looked so great."
Note Twilight ingenue and new mocktress Ashley Greene, who models for DKNY ads while being splashed all over Who What Wear-style websites for what she wears about town. Her next role after the vampire franchise is a horror movie called Random. January Jones now is better known for flamboyant fashion choices than her parts beyond Mad Men, i.e., X-Men: First Class. Mocktresses-in-training Hailee Steinfeld and Elle Fanning, despite being in school, get paid to play dress-up and go out, sometimes in designer outfits well beyond their years.
The time when such a career move might have indicated the beginning-of-the-end has passed. "I call this the democratization of fashion," says Lori Sale, a partner in the Artists & Brands agency and a former ICM agent. "This doesn't hurt their careers -- producers want to cast actresses who are relevant and current and getting covered by the media. Brands can be a very good 'look' for talent; it can enhance their image more than hurt it, if they pick the right ones."