Laura Ben-David
Sharing Israel with the world through my lens

Time for a commercial break

In this summer-that-wasn’t, many of my peers – writers, social media activists, and so on – spent our time posting pro-Israel material as though we were doing our IDF service through them. I suppose in a way we were… Therefore it is a pleasure now to write about something utterly mundane, frivolous, and, well, kind of fun.

Israel is a small country. There are all sorts of pros and cons to living in a small country. On the challenging side, businesses will often make great efforts to reach a wider market than what exists in this tiny country with a population smaller than the state of New Jersey. On the other hand, as an individual in Israel there’s a strong concept of being a ‘big fish in a small pond.’ Your talents will stand out and you will be naturally more in demand amongst a smaller pool of people. It was this perception of standing out among the few that motivated this story.

I was always enamored by the glamour of show business. (I mean, who isn’t? Or is it just me?) The glittering world of fame, fortune and an endless supply of the latest fashion tickled my fantasies as I watched movies or leafed through magazines as a young girl. Despite my tomboyishness, I’d imagined myself being the next cover model of Young Miss magazine, after Whitney Houston (yes, she was a model before she was a singer; look it up) to be discovered in a mall perhaps, because top model agency scouts were likely to be lurking in Monsey, New York malls looking for short, Orthodox Jewish teenagers who weren’t actually wafer thin. Reality didn’t matter; I enjoyed the spotlight in my imagination, never fully convinced that my launch to stardom wasn’t just around the corner.

Yup! That's Whitney! [Scan of YM magazine, circa early 80's]
Yup! That’s Whitney! [Scan of YM magazine, c. early 80’s]

When one of my older daughter’s was a little girl back in our Florida days she got into modeling. Honestly I can’t even remember how it came up, but it isn’t surprising in the least that I went along with it. Of course living in proximity to Miami (or New York City or Los Angeles or numerous other big cities) raises the likelihood that if you have a reasonably photogenic child you will toss your hat into the child modeling world.

Of course you ‘know’ that it’s worthwhile because no one’s child is more beautiful and wonderful than your own. So the hours and hours of driving and shlepping and endless waiting for ten seconds of time with a casting agent who barely looks up is worth it because one of those days your kid is certainly going to be selected for some modeling gig or even a commercial.

So we did it for a while. And yes, eventually she was selected to be in a few catalogs. And yes, it was glamorous and fun. But no, she did not really make money. Just enough, in fact, to cover the expense of the photos needed to get started. And forget about the gas and all the time spent…. But we had no regrets and it was always great mother-daughter bonding time. But that was then…

The same daughter, now an adult, decided to look into a talent agency here in Israel. I went with her for the interview, and my four year old tagged along. They gladly signed my older daughter. And they wanted to sign the younger one as well.

I was immediately transformed in my mind to that little girl with the delusions of fame and glamour. And then to the young mother I was in Florida shlepping my little girl all over Miami expecting her ‘big break’ to come any moment. And then I was back, sitting there in a posh Tel Aviv office, staring at the smooth executive who was telling me my daughter had amazing potential, and even naming the various companies that she had the perfect look for.

Then it hit me…this isn’t Miami. Florida is one of the most populous states in the US, with the bulk of that population concentrated where we lived. This is Israel. My very white-bread-looking daughter would definitely stand out here in the Middle East and carve a niche for herself. My imagination ran away with me. They weren’t even asking us to pay for her portfolio. I was sold.

And then, nothing. We had gone to Tel Aviv, did the photo shoots, they put the pics up on their website, and then NOTHING. For many months. I was starting to think that it had been a scam. Except that I hadn’t paid anything. They had waived the registration fee, and done her photos for free! What was I missing? Was it a language thing? Was I supposed to be checking in regularly with the agency? My phone calls went largely unreturned and I’d almost written it off when I finally reached the new secretary who was kind and sympathetic. We were called in to meet with the head of the agency, to figure out why we’d fallen through the cracks.

Our second meeting there, this time with the owner, was encouraging though we were understandably skeptical. On looking at their portfolio pictures he decided they were done poorly and offered to redo them…again, at their expense. We returned to Tel Aviv, and, during the photo shoot, my four-year-old was invited to an audition for a commercial. Finally!

The photo shoot. Photo credit: Laura Ben-David
The photo shoot; Barbie got in on the action too. Photo credit: Laura Ben-David

That Sunday, as we headed to the audition I had zero expectations. I’d been to commercial auditions before; hundreds upon hundreds of kids coming out of the woodwork for a tiny handful of spots. But heck, we were going to do that audition even if it was just for the experience.

The experience was hot, crowded and sweaty. My 11 year-old wanted the experience too so the three of us bused and cabbed over to some dubious location in an unimpressive part of Tel Aviv. We found ourselves in a tiny, standing-room-only waiting area with lots of trendy kids and their expectant parents. We took a number, found a perch, and prepared for a wait. After what seemed like forever she was called in, did whatever they asked, and we left. Phewww… got that experience under our belt. Moving on…

Except that the very next day I got a call: ‘Your daughter was accepted to be in the commercial! Shooting is one week from today. Congratulations!’ Actually, I’m sure ‘congratulations’ is an add-on in my embellished retelling of the story. For the agency it’s business as usual. For us? It was freakin’ AWESOME. I mean, my daughter was going to be in a commercial!!!!

‘So, what’s the commercial for?’ everyone and their grandmother was asking me. I was embarrassed to say that I had no idea. But who cares? She was going to be in it!

We had one more trek to Tel Aviv before The Day to sort out Wardrobe. At this point I knew that the commercial was for Golf Kids. We made our way to a highly unglamorous back, back room in an office building where my daughter tried on pretty little dresses and shoes for a somewhat intimidating crew, and the director chose her favorites which were carefully bagged and labeled for the big day.

When I dropped her off at school that morning (regulations apparently require shooting to be done after school hours) we told the teacher she’d be leaving a bit early and told her why. The teacher later told me that she carefully watched over her that day to protect her from scratches and other naturally occurring kindergarten injuries. It was a real group effort…

The shoot was done in a lovely home in a fancy Israeli suburb, rented for the day for the purpose. The owners were wandering around as nearly every room in their house was invaded by stylists, lighting crew, camera crew, actors, directors, site managers and various people whose roles were never really clear (to me.) My daughter was primped and styled, and then allowed to roam freely around the house, which thankfully had an ample supply of Barbie dolls.

On location. Photo credit: Laura Ben-David
On location. Photo credit: Laura Ben-David

And then, it was time! My daughter was introduced to her on-set ‘mother’ (“But Mommy, why can’t YOU be the mother?” Yeah, why indeed?) and brought to the kitchen where the two of them were to happily roll dough in a cozy kitchen with harsh lights and at least a dozen people hovering over them. I was relegated to a back room where I could watch the proceedings on a monitor without potentially distracting my little actress.

For nearly two hours, until past bedtime, she rolled dough, poured ‘tea’, placed flowers, and twirled her pretty dress, always trying to remember to smile. It was hard! I watched from afar as she acted in three ‘scenes’ over and over and over and I imagined her as the star of a really long commercial… I mean, three separate scenes!

My view during the shoot. Photo credit: Laura Ben-David
My view during the shoot. Photo credit: Laura Ben-David

We went home after that long day feeling exhausted but pleased. She was quite proud of herself, and thrilled to go home with the dresses from the shoot, and, more importantly, the cheap plastic light-up lollypop they gave her. We couldn’t wait to see her ‘feature’ performance!

We didn’t have to wait long. Just over a week later someone spotted her on TV. My son combed YouTube and found the commercial. All 25 seconds of it. My daughter’s feature a mere four of those seconds. The last four. But who cares? After all, my daughter is in a commercial!

Addendum: I don’t watch TV but I kept hearing from people who saw a version of the commercial with only my daughter. I asked about it and they sent me this:

The GOLF Kids commercial 'short'

Here's the 'short' version of the commercial! To see the story behind it all, click here: GOLF Kids & Baby גולף קידס ובייבי

Posted by Laura Ben-David on Thursday, 18 September 2014

About the Author
Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken all over the world about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel as well as a marketing consultant.