Friday, October 30, 2015

Professionalism Begets Professionalism

Yes, this is 100% true. If you want people to be professional with you, you'd best be acting that way yourself. Otherwise, you have zero right to complain about anyone else's behavior. That is the essence of "professionalism begets professionalism."

While I love modeling & being in shows and have generally found a great community in the world of fashion there is a staggering mass of people on both sides of the table who do not have that simple concept mastered. Nor have they mastered the concept of strategic thinking & not harming your own self-interest.

First off, most people doing fashion shows and the like are working for free. Even if you are dealing with major shows, this is not something to make a living off of. I heard a model who'd been in this industry for decades outright tell this to aspiring models I'd met at random one day & my attorney suggested I go network with during Fashion Week. I did. These people were extremely nice to me. The models themselves were awesome & far braver than I with some of the outfits they were having to wear in the middle of our NYC with many passerby gawking and making comments.

I'm from the indie film world. The custom in that world is if you're doing a web series or a film or some other project where you aren't paying the actors, you make sure to compensate them & appreciate them for their time in other ways. You get good craft services, good meals for breaks, an extremely pleasant and congenial working environment, travel costs, things that make people want to work with you & not feel like they wasted their time or "I blew my Saturday for THIS?!?!?!" You give your team plenty of notice for scheduling & you do not keep actors on set longer than absolutely necessary nor expect people to drop everything for your project. Some producers also give key actors a share of the project if they are playing major roles, helping connect the project to financing or getting into some great film festival that will yield exposure, possible distribution, that kind of thing.

That sort of thing is rare in the fashion world. Often, you don't get food & getting paid is atypical. You might get a piece from the designer or sometimes you'll get fed or have a chance to get food but some people just don't get that tradition or concept of not pissing folks off or making them say "Why the hell am I here?!?!?" Respect of people's time is at times utterly laughable & definitely don't expect a show to start on time. That almost never happens.

Granted, there are film productions that start late or run for an endless amount of time (that is less likely in fashion shows) but anyone who's been to shows will tell you that unless there's someone who's really on top of things, hard core clock watching or there's some other event after the show that starts at X time on the dot & you must be done by then, the show will be running late.

I feel like most designers & people handling shows are aware of this reality and appreciate the models/hair stylists/makeup artists/so on & so forth who participate. The good ones are super appreciative, either b/c they came from the same tradition I did, they see themselves as professionals in this arena or have professional day jobs that ingrain those values into your skull. The ones who don't & have the audacity to expect people to drop everything are seriously delusional in my mind.

One person I worked with said models had to "be on call like doctors." Well, when you're paying that model a doctor's salary to be "on call" I'm sure (s)he will be more than happy to oblige. If you expect them to do that for free, you are living in a fantasy world & are not going to attract the cream of the crop. Take it from a partner in an indie film company who knows a number of producers & has seen how things work when you don't have the money to pay someone. Passion & interest in the project only get you so far in terms of someone's motivation & where you fall on the priority list. You could have the next great project but if you aren't paying people for it or even offering deferred pay (or worse, you are not covering supplies, travel, etc. & making the person PAY to work for you), you aren't going to be #1. You may not even be #5 if that person's got a spouse, kids, their own career outside entertainment, etc. Also, no one likes feeling like a chump & everyone's got a limit to their altruism.

I know one argument is "that's how the industry is & has always been." Well, internships have been a thing in entertainment a long time as well but we have legal precedent now cracking down on abusive practices like making people work full time hours for no pay. The whole internship concept is changing b/c of the rulings in these cases. Plus, as any long time reader knows, tradition for tradition's sake is not an argument that impresses me. I consider it lazy & devoid of simple reason or common sense. It's the excuse offered for hazing in the Greek system, slavery, segregation and other bad things society shouldn't be encouraging or offering silent acceptance for.

Second, most models don't have professional jobs. In particular, most aren't attorneys in their day jobs. Even fewer are entertainment attorneys like I am. It seems some people view this as a license to treat models like crap.

In my case, that's a fatal mistake. Attorney Monica & Film Exec Monica don't shut off or forget what happened to Model Monica or Actress Monica or Writer Monica or Singer Monica; I don't have split personalities that don't remember what happened to the other ones. I've got a damn good memory & if you were nasty to me in a fashion show or any other creative context, do you honestly think I'm going to bother helping YOU when you inevitably want my legal services or my referral to an entertainment attorney? Do you think you're getting anywhere in working with my company if you're being an ass to me? Do you think you're going to have more cred than an entertainment attorney doing all the stuff I do, where people know me from these worlds & respect what I have to say along with me the individual (put like or dislike aside)? A smart person knows you don't alienate the entertainment attorney, especially the one closest in proximity who's more likely to be accessible to you. Attorneys are a major marker of difference b/t someone being an amateur or hobbyist in entertainment & someone being a professional. Oh, and if you're going to work professionally in any aspect of entertainment, you WILL need an attorney sooner or later. Major companies aren't talking to you without you having some representation & many have specifically asked to speak to attorneys (potential clients & other creative contacts have told me this outright).

I personally am not a masochist or the type who likes having more stress in her life. If I don't like someone, no way am I lifting a finger for them. In fact, I'd not piss on you if you were on fire if I didn't like you but you have to do something extremely egregious to get on my bad side. Something that if I told the average person, (s)he would say "What the hell?!" I might be the most prominent Undercover Boss to work on the creative side since blending in is impossible for me.

Third, it seems that adage "you never know who knows who" hasn't gotten around to the world of fashion in a global sense. It's ingrained in your skull if you do acting. Yet I have seen some egregious behavior & gotten some attitude from certain jerks. I absolutely remember those pricks & no way in hell would I do for them.

They've established that they are not part of that community or MY allies so they aren't worthy of my extra effort. People who do respect that community, who I like or at least haven't had outright disrespect from are more likely to have me care about their success or at least listen to a respectful request. Film & TV people hold grudges and you can get permanently blacklisted there; I've heard countless stories & worked with people who did it since they have no time for that stress or hassle. I do it with everyone in all aspects of life but I'm outright shocked when I see someone being nasty to me.

For one thing, how would you treat my non-lawyer colleagues? For another, I'm a natural redhead. Do you not follow popular culture & stories on natural redheads? We're known for having tempers & not being the people to mess with. I'm also more quiet in life; aren't you aware about how they say "it's always the quiet ones" when some mass murder or other major violent event happens? Very surprised there's never been a story about a guy getting his penis chopped off at the hands of a naturally redhaired woman. I'm a redhead so I get to say this but society would suspect us of that stuff long before anyone else. Not to mention I seem to give off an air of authority or responsibility or something. Everyone tells me I'm smart within 15 minutes of a conversation if not sooner. It's kind of freaky.

Because you never know who's friends with who or who you're dealing with & everyone deserves basic human dignity unless they prove otherwise, I don't start with nastiness as my default. I can at least be civil, as we all can manage. Not nice, but not insulting people or treating them like garbage unwarranted or implying they have no right to be there. Professional, you can call it. If you can't manage that, then I have to wonder what you're doing in mainstream society.

I may not outright say "fuck you" but a professional doesn't have to. I merely wait for the inevitable moment the light bulb goes off in your head, knowing I will get the last laugh. Professionals also tell their colleagues so their colleagues aren't having to deal with the same shit. So that light bulb may be going off after you've shot yourself in the foot. Perhaps I've also gotten more mature in the face of the living hell I've had to endure the past 2-3 years.

So before you whine about other people not being professional or bailing on things, take a look at yourself: Are you paying these people? Are you expecting them to drop everything like they live exclusively to serve you & your whims? Are you showing up on time & prepared? Do you treat everyone with respect & stand by your people? Do you create a climate of fairness or do you tolerate or silently condone unprofessional behavior? Whose backs do you have? People who know the business can tell quickly who is or isn't professional, who is worth dealing with & who isn't. It's a TEAM effort so having unrealistic demands or being an asshole are things you do at your own peril. "It's your funeral," as they say.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Does "The Scarlet M" Exist?

You may notice there's not been a new post lately. Well, one big reason for that is a very nasty divorce. Kind of hard to be yourself when your ex is trying to engage in character assassination against you. Never mind the fact that the motherfucker knew all about this character when he married you, took wedding vows, agreed to set up a life with you, that kind of thing. For someone to claim you deceived them after being in a long time relationship with you when you always stayed yourself & you have a hair color that shouts "I am different from everybody else!" is absurd in my book. Thankfully, plenty of rational people agree with me. I have found some of those rational people in the fashion world.

Not sure if this is just a trait of me or if this is something applying to all natural redheads or all smart people but I'm the sort of person that if you tell me not to do something or try to discourage me from it, I'm going to make it my mission in life to do it more just to piss you off. I also never do anything in life half-assed; if it's worth doing, you do it right & do it well or you don't do it at all.

Since my ex & his horrible family tried sabotaging my career six ways to Sunday & then some, it's my goal to land some job where I end up in a huge national ad or billboard in Times Square so that loser is forced to see me. He'll be forced to confront the fact that he threw me away, treated me like garbage & he so fucking lost out. Have I won? I don't know; I like to hope I've won by being a human being who didn't kill herself or let that piece of garbage take away everything she worked for. People hear about the circumstances & keep telling me I'm strong. One friend even told another, newer friend that he respected me. I'd like to hope he respects me for going through all this & not doing what most people would have in my shoes. I could have easily become a hopeless drug or alcohol addict, gone back to Mama's house, murdered my ex or menaced him in some fashion (which he totally deserves but I'd prefer a more random misfortune like an anvil falling from the sky & hitting him in the head like in a Looney Tunes cartoon).

In recent times, I've been doing more modeling & found my profile increasing in that world. These days, I've gone places & people who didn't know I was a model thought I was one. When I've gone to casting calls, people took one look at me & assumed I was a model. Seems I'm carrying that model swagger more than I did when I started out. The model hat seems to be really fitting me well at the moment & I figure so long as that ride is going, I may as well hang on, enjoy the ride and keep taking opportunities as I get them. I've started meeting more models & seeing the same ladies more often at various events and shows. That's sort of a plus in my view since you can build your camaraderie & your network in that way. People are also starting to see where I'm going and how modeling fits in with what my role in the legal world always was. Stupid The Angry Redheaded Lawyer is not. This model stuff is also a fine distraction from things along with the ultimate act of feminism in my book. But more on that soon.

One of the observations I've seen in modeling is a lot of people outside this world don't get it. A model friend told me recently she'd wanted to give up modeling for fear of what I call "the scarlet M." She'd been told by an industry colleague that as long as she was modeling, she'd never have a serious relationship with anyone (including her present guy).

Having seen this with my ex-husband, I told her that modeling or not was a choice she should be making on her own & for herself. We're talking about someone over 18, after all. It's one thing to say you don't want to be a model b/c you're sick of wearing the heels or the hustle & bustle of it is getting to you or you don't like the world or the people as a whole. It's another to have family members, significant others or anyone else try to shame you or guilt you out of doing it. I lived having people not support me in my modeling career & simply didn't feel she ought to be making a choice like that based on what she thought some guy would want or how he might perceive her. I told her about my own experiences & that frankly, any guy who wouldn't give you a serious relationship or stand by you in something you love is a guy not worth having in your life. That is a guy who doesn't deserve you or respect you. That's someone trying to sabotage you, steal your soul, basically deny you of who you are & your potential. No one should have that kind of power over anyone, be it a spouse, parent, grandparent, lover, whoever.

Now I don't think this colleague was trying to be nasty in saying that. It's no secret that lots of people don't respect modeling or the fashion industry as a whole. If you asked lots of people's significant others, I'm sure they'd be secretly thrilled if their loved one left the fashion industry. Some of them just might have more tact & respect to directly tell the person that. Or they're also married to people with the stubbornness of natural redheads & know their spouse will do what they want to no matter what they say since some of us won't be in marriages where we're treated like 5 year olds. Whether you should tell people that or not at random is a whole other discussion but I felt it my duty to give some advice as a woman of the world who'd been there & is now far better off not letting her spouse steal her bliss or her identity. Nobody deserves the stuff I've had to deal with.

I think there's a scarlet M in other ways, such as hate from other women who aren't models or pretty enough to even be considered models if they wanted to (and not just larger women since there are plus sized models & I've met them in my travels; we aren't talking Hollywood "plus sized" either). I'm sure if you started out doing this without building your education or getting a professional license like I did you'd also have problems with people taking you seriously as a capable, intelligent person. I can also see guys just assuming models are good for a roll in the hay but not to take home to Mama.

Since I'm crawling out of limbo & completely fearful of getting hurt again, I could care less if a guy perceives me as one to get into a serious relationship with. I'm too "been there, done that" to be worried about getting married like the average girl who'd never been married would be, especially if she's pushing 30+. I'm also too tough & direct to tolerate being treated like some side chick or secondary when I'm from the tradition of manners and natural redheads tend to engender obsession in guys they get involved with. We're rare, we have some superhuman aspects about us (science even says so; go look it up) & we're far more interesting; it's us & then there's everyone else. We're the natural divas & most of us know it (especially those of us who are models); we just try not to be assholes about it.

The upside of making mistakes is you hopefully learn from them & shut down familiar bullshit quicker and quicker. Once you get punched from that particular angle or you recognize a particular look before someone punches you, no one has to tell you twice to avoid the inevitable since you'll see the punch coming before it happens.

I may have even finally found my tribe in that world. Back in the day, I thought my tribe was the goth/geek culture. Until I started modeling, I never felt I fully fit into the cheerleader/model/sorority/"pretty" girl archetype (this despite being a founding member of a sorority chapter; we identified ourselves as being the antithesis of the typical sorority girl image). I loved getting to be a cheerleader last Halloween since it was the prime symbol of what I'd felt for years I wasn't worthy of being & it felt fitting to do that after everything that happened the year before. It was like "I am worthy of this now & I will rock it." I did.

Now why do I view modeling as the ultimate act of feminism?

1. No slut shaming. As I said when I started out 2 years ago, no one's going to tell you "that's too short" or criticize you or a designer for his/her outfit being too showy. That'd likely be fighting words.
2. If you're doing it right, you are going out on the runway as a confident, bold woman. Confidence, boldness and bravery (since going out like that requires not being afraid to go out in public and put yourself on display) are the ultimate feminist traits. How do you think rights for women happened? Women had to go seek them out & demand them, despite men trying to hold them back and keep them down. They still have to do that today.
3. You are going out as a proud woman. Feminism is about being proud of being a woman, not trying to be a guy (in my book, at least). It's about celebrating & respecting women, which is what we do with models. We celebrate their beauty & as proper guests, respect them & the designers for their craft. A real fashion show isn't filled with people catcalling and trashing the models.
4. Finally, it was patriarchy that told women to cover up. Men in the Christian church and elsewhere are the ones that have been telling women sex was evil and they should be ashamed for centuries. It's men who've told women to cover up in modern times & shaped society to function that way. Violating the patriarchy & defying men is most certainly a feminist thing to do.

For my own part, I consider it an act of rebellion since my ex and his patriarchy supporting relatives were down on me modeling & having that pride in who I am or how I look (which is completely natural). I've always been in favor of rebelling against nonsense & that's probably a big reason I'm an attorney. I also feel if my religious conservative mother & sister respect me modeling and support me in it, no one else gets to tell me not to or bash me for it. I'll just view them as being jealous assholes who wouldn't last a second there; as I stated before, a LOT harder than it looks. Having evil forces in your life stressing you out & trying to sabotage you makes it even harder.

Whether I end up getting serious with anyone again or not, I don't think me modeling is going to make a difference there. At this point it's "I do this so you'll take me as I am or I don't want you to have me at all." That's with everything, in fact. My life is too short & my time is too precious to settle for anything less. I wish all people viewed themselves that way. It would solve a lot of problems & prevent some bad marriages.