My senior year of high school, I was captain of the girls' cross country team, which sounds so nerdy now but was pretty cool at the time. One day after practice, our coach mentioned, completely off-hand, "Oh yeah, there's a photographer from Nike coming tomorrow to take pictures of every member of the team. They're doing a photo shoot and they want to feature some high school runners. So, be sure to be at practice tomorrow and look your best, or something."
Major teen-girl excitement immediately ensued. You'd better believe I was there the next day, having worn my most vintage running shirt (from the 1987 Hillsboro Twilight Run, faded gray with bright yellow silk-screened graphics) for good luck. The photographer came and took a headshot and full-length body shot of every member of the team. He said that Nike would call us in a few days if they needed us.
That was on a Tuesday. On Thursday afternoon, I got a phone call from Nike saying I was invited to the photo shoot, to be held on Friday (the next day). It would be a full day of "work" (ha ha), and I'd miss school, but I'd get paid $200 and they'd feed us. Honestly, at that point, I would have done it for free. Wouldn't you?
There were eight total girls, all local high school runners, at the photo shoot, which was held outdoors at a network of local trails. They had a special trailer there, where they assigned us clothes to wear and then fixed our hair and did our makeup. The clothes they handed me were very nice, but when I got to the changing room to put them on, I was a little dismayed that they had given me running tights but no shorts to wear over them. Then I was relieved because the running shirt they gave me was long enough to mostly cover my butt. Then I was dismayed, again, because when I came out, they had me tuck it in.
It ended up not really mattering - we ran around all day long in the cold wind and rain (it was the middle of December) and most of the shots they took were from far away, or of us in a group, or of us running. Near the end of the day of running back and forth and having our pictures taken, the Nike people asked us to find some mud and get dirty in it. Our clothes were already spattered, but we had fun smearing mud on our faces and hair.
Finally, the fun was over. The photographer took a Polaroid of us and had us sign by it in his special book (there were pictures of people like Madonna and Naomi Campbell in there). We collected our $200 and a few items of clothing they let us keep, and that was the end of it.
Actually, I guess the end of it would be when we actually saw our pictures in the store. I can't be sure of all the places they ended up, but about six months later, some of them showed up in a sporting goods store. About a year later, I saw them again in a poster advertising a race. The coolest thing, though, was when I went to www.nike.com and saw them featured on the home page. There was even a video montage of us made up of the photos when we were all muddy. I think that was sometime in the spring of 1999.
Somewhere in this house I have a token cardstock printout of one of the images that was up in stores (courtesy of my mom, who begged Nike to give me one), but I can't remember where it is. Instead, you'll have to make do with these pictures, which were taken by the mother of one of the other girls.
For a while, $200 for 8 hours of running around in the rain was the highest hourly wage I'd ever made. Then I worked my way up to getting paid $40/hour to teach LSAT classes. Better pay? Definitely. Exciting and glamorous, with stretch pants and a free lunch? Not so much.