When I first moved to LA, I had to get a side job until my big acting break as the next Meryl Streep came through. A friend suggested that I become a promotional model, which was a glamorous way of describing getting paid to stand on a street corner and hand out free samples of stuff. My regular promotional modeling gig was for Pepcid AC. Every afternoon I wore a bright red Pepcid AC T-shirt and walked up and down Hollywood Blvd. handing out samples of antacids to tourists and homeless people. Hey, don’t knock it. Thanks to this gig, I can tell you where every celebrity star on Hollywood Boulevard is located.
Finally, the big day came, and I got bumped up from Pepcid AC Girl to Pepsi Challenge Woman. Remember the Pepsi Challenge? Both Pepsi and Coke were poured into little unmarked Dixie cups. Then people would take a sip of each soda and try to decide which one was Pepsi. There was a big Pepsi Challenge ad campaign on television at the time, so naturally people were loving the opportunity to take this challenge for themselves in person. My first Pepsi Challenge job was at the Long Beach Jazz Festival. Cowa-Bunga!!! I had hit the promotional modeling jackpot. It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny southern California day. I proudly wore my Pepsi ball cap as Chaka Khan performed live on the main stage. The line to my Pepsi Challenge booth was long. Everyone wanted to taste my soda. As I looked up at the long line of thirsty cola fans, my eyes were drawn immediately to a stunningly beautiful African American woman. You know how there are beautiful people, and then there are those individuals who just stand out. They almost glow, like a perfect little Disney princess on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine. She looked just like Halle Berry, but even prettier. Now this was in the summer of the year 2000. Halle Berry was all over the news for leaving the site of a hit and run accident. So, I knew exactly what Halle Berry looked like, and this chick was Hally Berry times ten. Some girls get all the luck, don’t they?
This gorgeous princess finally made it up to my table and smiled. It might have been the bright California sun, but I swear her teeth twinkled. I looked at her and said, “I have to apologize for staring, but you are very beautiful.” She sheepishly glanced down and softly said, “Thank you.” When she looked back up, I asked her, “Do people ever tell you that you look like Halle Berry?” With the most sincere contagious giggle, she replied, “Well, yes, they do.” I chuckled and said, “I’ll bet you're a better driver.” I laughed out loud, quite impressed with my clever, quick wit and my knowledge of current news. My little princess suddenly looked like Bambi in the headlights of an eighteen wheeler. ‘Maybe she has low blood sugar,’ I thought. As I quickly prepared her Pepsi Challenge, I looked back up; and she was nowhere to be found. My line had suddenly gotten very long, so I picked up the pace and continued pouring my colas at warp speed. About thirty minutes later, the event manager came up to me and said, “I don’t know exactly what happened, but please do not harass the celebrities.” I looked at him and innocently said, “Uh? Me? Why would I do that?” Then it hit me. Oh, shit.
Note to self: Melinda, you’re not in the cornfields of the midwest anymore. Back home if someone looks like a celebrity, it’s because they just happen to be lucky enough to look like a celebrity. You’re in Los Angeles now, Melinda. In Los Angeles if someone looks like a celebrity, it’s because, well, they probably are.
I searched for Halle Berry during my lunch that day, but never found her. It’s probably for the best. Chances are I would have just stuck my foot in my mouth again. Twenty years later, I still feel kinda bad about the situation. Halle, if you’re out there, I’m sincerely sorry. I truly am. Honestly, I’m not a very good driver myself. Just ask Geico. I’ve made that little dude a lot of money.