ORLANDO, Fla. – Whether it’s senior pictures or professional headshots, more people are investing in professional photography. But good pictures can be expensive.
However, one Florida student found out discounts can be even more costly. Christian Demeritt told Florida’s Fourth Estate hosts Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden she decided to treat herself to headshots when she graduated with a theater major from FAMU in 2010 so she could get out there and audition.
But she was on a budget. That’s when the aspiring actress says someone on the South Florida Black Actors Facebook page recommended a photographer for her, adding he was offering a discount. So she reached out.
Soon after, she says the photographer told her, “you’re gonna have to sign a model release form.”
Demeritt admits she didn’t know what that meant and that she was more interested in the discount than the paperwork. She says she read the form, still didn’t understand it, but signed it anyway.
After the shoot, she said she paid the photographer $100 and didn’t think much else of it until someone reached out to her about four years later.
“She sent me a screenshot via Facebook of me. My face photoshopped onto the Mona Lisa,” Demeritt said. “It was for the Sacramento News and Review, it was like a newspaper magazine. And I was on the cover of it and the headline said ‘Is Sacramento’s Art Scene Too White.’ So, it had me on the Mona Lisa, perfectly Photoshopped. And what’s funny is in this particular shot, I have this little smirk that I do and I see why they chose it for the Mona Lisa because she’s famous for that smirk. I’m sure they Googled ‘Black Woman Smirk’ and that’s what came up, you know what I mean — flabbergasted is not even the right word, I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand what I was seeing. Like what is this?”
And, it didn’t stop there. Demeritt says since posting about her experience on TikTok, people have been coming forward saying they have seen her everywhere.
”People from the comments are telling me that they see me all the time. They’re literally like, ‘oh, yeah, I saw you when I was on my morning commute here in London.’ ‘I saw you when I was in the islands,’ or they’ll say, ‘I’ve definitely seen that picture before.’ ‘Or they use that picture in my training manual.’”
Without anyone ever consulting her, Demeritt says her photo also ended up on the cover of an erotic novel.
“The title of the book is ‘His Big Childhood Sweetheart,’ right? And it’s me horribly photoshopped next to some white muscular dude with no shirt on,” she said. “And it’s very specific under the Black women/white men category of fetishishes books, like it’s very, it’s very niche, it’s very specific.”
She said the book she is included in is part of a series of books. “On every single book, there’s another woman, Black woman, plus size Black woman, photoshopped with a different white millionaire or billionaire.”
Since Demeritt’s story has gone viral on Tiktok, she says sales of the book have gone up. It’s something she says she didn’t even consider when she posted the video.
Demeritt says she tries not to be embarrassed by any of it, “the way that I process this whole thing is by not making it personal.”
She says if she did, “my overthinking would takeover and I don’t want to do that.”
She is also using the moment to help fuel her acting career. The headshot which was originally taken when she graduated in 2010 so she could step into acting, is now the focus of her GoFundMe to help cover the cost of her final film for graduate school.
To learn more about Demeritt’s dilemma, check out Florida’s Fourth Estate. You can download it from wherever you listen to podcasts or watch any time on News 6+.
You can listen to every episode of Florida’s Fourth Estate in the media player below: