“They’re ready for you,” Katy Johnson, Jessica Wakefield’s assistant/savior, said as she peeked into Jessica’s double-windowed corner office, iPad in hand. Katy was wearing one of the new red lipsticks Revlon was introducing. It showed up brilliantly against her deep brown skin.
“Come in. I’m crazed; they’re going to hate it.”
“No way,” Katy said, stepping into her boss’s office. “They’re gonna love it. They so love everything you do. Did you forget you’re the resident genius?”
“Yeah, right. As long as you don’t tell.”
Jessica was convinced that she would drown under everything if it weren’t for Katy. Six-foot-tall Katy, who claimed Watusi somewhere in her background, came closer than anyone else to knowing how vulnerable Jessica really was. What she didn’t know was how much Jessica worried that if ever Katy left, she’d write a tell-all book about her, and everyone would know that half the time the Queen of Green was scared shitless and had no clue what she was actually doing.
The meeting today was for her to present her latest project. This time for Revlon. They’d just started a new line of green cosmetics, and she’d been tapped to do the big intro gala. Everyone, all the big shots, was waiting in the meeting room for the Jessica Show.
In three years, from part-time assistant to nobody, Jessica had become a vice president of the My Face Is Green marketing company, now renamed VertPlus.net.
It was a green marketing and promotion company owned by George Fowler, her best friend Lila’s father. Originally based in Sweet Valley, but now with offices in Chicago and New York, as well, the company specialized in introducing new green cosmetics for the popular market. It was a little idea Mr. Fowler had hit on at the right time and place and that in the last five years had exploded onto the national consciousness.
Right from her first week there—actually, from her first day—Jessica knew the job was made for her. It was as if she had the idea gene. Ideas just popped up naturally, practically jumping out of her head.
And the weird thing was, she was usually right. Like the first campaign she did for Almay. She did a whole big splash costume party in L.A., and every local magazine and newspaper covered it. Even some national media ran stories.
It all started with a face mask she found made out of seaweed. She made it the center of the promotion and threw a fabulous Marie Antoinette–themed, seaweed-masked ball that everyone had just loved.
The mask even sort of worked. Well, it was no worse than most of the cure-all creams out there. Whatever. It earned her the title Queen of Green. Perfect.
Besides her anxiety about the possible tell-all, Jessica worried that whatever magic genius she seemed to have would one day vanish into the same place it came from—nowhere.
Right now was no time to worry about that. She had her first Revlon presentation today. And it was far-out.
Katy said she loved it, but Katy could be far-out, too.
A touch of panic hit Jessica as she rolled up the new Revlon invitation layout, rubber-banded it, and stuck it in the corner of her fake-fur laptop case (made specially for her), which was jammed full with papers already. She grabbed more papers and stuffed them in alongside, and then, holding the bag right at the edge of her desk, swept myriad makeup samples from every corner of the glass top of her personally designed desk, where the only thing you could ever find were your feet underneath it, into the overflowing bag. Not everything she got from her idea gene was perfect.
“Do you need all that?” Katy asked.
“I’m cutting out right from the meeting. I am so going to be late, Todd will kill me.”
Katy handed her a large envelope. “The photos?”
“Oh, God, I’m such a wreck, I would have forgotten.”
Together she and Katy walked down the hall toward the meeting room, shoulders back, heads high—very high in Katy’s case—trying to look invincible.
The meeting was in the grand conference room and was packed with everyone from the top execs of VertPlus.net to the heads of Revlon’s marketing department. No one wanted to miss a Queen of Green presentation.
As prearranged, Katy stood in the back.
Jessica knew that not everyone loved her. There was some serious jealousy, especially from the original marketing side. They had been swept aside by Jessica’s new promotion group and sorely resented it. Especially Tracy Courtright, an elegant middle-aged woman who had been with the company since it first started. As the former top dog in marketing, she was devastated to find that her work now consisted mainly of carrying out Jessica’s ideas.
The minute Jessica walked into the meeting room, the enthusiasm could be felt. She was, after all, Jessica, the star.
But a star can fall. And Tracy Courtright was ready to give her the necessary shove at the first opportunity.
Michael Wilson, the executive vice president of the Sweet Valley office, introduced Jessica.
She stood up and looked around, confident and comfortable as the beautiful blond-haired prom queen she had always been. All jitters vanished; this was her territory.
Jessica wasted no time. “Simply put, I’m taking the green out of Sissyland, Organicville, and Priustown, and from now on, it’s gonna be down and dirty!”
She didn’t have to wait long for the approval response; it came instantly in big smiles and enthusiastic head nodding. They liked it. Better than that, they loved it. Now she turned directly to Reggie Weiner, the head of marketing for Revlon.
“I’m calling it MeanGreen and it’s going to be all those fabulous off-the-charts colors your people have come up with. For anyone who hasn’t seen them yet, they’re twice the depth of what’s out there now. Like reds that stop just short of black and pinks that are so bright they’re electric.”
There were even more smiles. Especially from the Revlon group.
“I’ve added a little contribution that you might find interesting. Whatever you’re wearing on your lips is also your eyeliner.”
“Ugh.” Tracy Courtright practically jumped out of her chair. “Red eyes?”
“I know the eyeliner part sounds scary, but I promise it’s not. It’s totally subtle. Just a hint of a connection. But the lips and the nails—they are definitely scary.”
She could see that some in her audience were a little put off by the eyeliner idea, but Jessica wasn’t worried. Geniuses are allowed to take that extra leap sometimes. She could lose the eyeliner easily because the pièce de résistance was her gala idea. That was the Jessica touch they were all waiting for.
“I just want you to take a look at the costumes for the MeanGreen gala.”
Jessica picked up the large envelope next to her chair. She opened it and slid out the photographs. She kept one and started handing out the others.
“There will be fifteen models. This is the first one,” she said, holding up a picture of a stunning model dressed completely in green paint.
Before anyone else could respond, from her positioned place in the back of the room, Katy jumped in. “It’s totally fantastic!”
Everyone turned. “If you didn’t see the zippers,” she continued, “and the flowers on the thongs, you would swear it was paint on naked skin.”
“It really does look like she’s naked,” one of the Revlon people added.
A murmur of agreement went through the audience.
“Absolutely,” someone else said.
“She is,” said Jessica.
“No way.” Back to Katy in the back with her important line. “I can see the whole zipper down her side. And the thongs with the flowers…” And then, as if she had just caught on, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it!”
“You better believe it.” Jessica gave the punch line: “Trompe l’oeil.”
Jaws dropped. “The thongs and the zippers are painted on. The models will actually be totally nude under the paint. A definite knockout when the media finds out, which I’ll make sure they do. But not till the end.”
By now everyone was craning to catch a glimpse of the pictures. It was a sensation. Neighbors were poking neighbors to make sure everyone got it, and then someone in the back suspiciously close to Katy (maybe it even was Katy) started to clap. And everyone picked it up. Almost everyone.
“I’m not sure we can do such a thing. I mean, after all, naked? Revlon?” Tracy looked to Weiner, expecting support, but all she got was an Obama “Yes, we can.”
Michael Wilson stood up. “Brilliant! This could be bigger than the mask gala. Thank you, Jessica, and your fabulous team.” He motioned in the direction of the seven-man promotion section, thereby closing out any further objections.
Tracy Courtright was on her feet again. “We just had a gala. I think we used that up.”
Jessica was ready. “This isn’t just a gala. It’s a dinner at Vert Farmhouse with chef Jean Pierre, and everything on the menu is sustainable, homegrown organic from their own acreage—”
“Not exactly earthshaking. Organic food.”
“—and an outdoor concert with a hot live band that is still a secret.” Jessica pulled that out of nowhere. Well, Liam O’Connor, her movie star friend, would help. Whatever. For the moment, it shut up Madame Courtright. But from experience she knew it was only momentary.
“Thank you, everybody,” Jessica said. “I would love to stay and listen to more, but I really am late.” She scooped up her laptop bag and...