There has been a lot of commotion in the media lately regarding abuse in the industry (to which I say: IT’S ABOUT TIME). Much respect to everyone who has found the courage to come forward – here’s hoping that this finally gets the ball rolling in the right direction for everyone.
The sad truth is that many of the stories that I have been reading have resonated with me and, in some cases, even feature people who I have come into contact with personally over the years that I have spent in the biz. It seems that no one is impervious to dealings with seedy characters and it has become not a question of if it will happen during your career but of how often. Similarly, it is also readily apparent that many of these people are repeat offenders who attempt the same nonsense with every new face in the industry. Frankly, I think we can all agree that this is both alarming and pathetic.
First of all, nothing that I have experienced has been as, shall we say, “substantial” as the ground-breaking cases being presented publicly. I am thankful that I did not start out full-time when I was a young teenager because I believe that this has saved me a great deal of grief in terms of being harassed by unscrupulous photographers and other industry “professionals”. However, that has certainly not rendered me immune to a pretty hefty helping of bs, some of which I will share in today’s post.
My first foray into the world of the industry creep was when I was probably fifteen years old (it was certainly pre-driving licence because my mom carted me to the audition). I was on set for a “Close Up” toothpaste commercial and had just spit out the lines “For fresh breath AND white teeth, use Close Up toothpaste. Close up…you’ll love that Close Up smile!” (I remember it like it was yesterday, apparently). Anyhow, the director wasted no time in coercing me to “do it again…but way more SEXY”. I was a kid. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know the difference between sexy and freakin’ oven mitts. This, however, didn’t stop the guy from persisting. He even went so far as to tell me to lick my lips and give him a little smile “as if I wanted it”. I was confused and rather embarrassed while my mom was, justifiably, horrified. And with that, my “career” as a teenage actress was put on hold until my formative years were behind me.
A little later came my tenure with the “Miss Canada” pageant. I don’t recall anything particularly worrying occurring during my time there, other than the girl (ahem…teenager) who did some sexy dance in a bikini top beating out my painting presentation in the talent contest, which was judged by a group of middle-aged male executives. Goodtimes never seemed so good, I tell ya.
Time marched on and I began getting approached by some scouts from various modeling agencies in Montreal and Toronto. Eventually, I ended up breaking into this thing we call the “modeling industry” and it has taken me to places I never imagined would be possible, both beautiful and very, very ugly.
I recall sitting down to a nice dinner with some friends and family when my phone started ringing. I had just started working full-time and things were going pretty smoothly. However, I’ll never forget what happened next. First, the gentleman on the other end booking me for a perfectly normal-sounding catalogue shoot, which was fine. But then it got weird. He proceeded to ask me if I shot nudes (nein). He immediately expressed his great disappointment at this and ultimately persisted in trying to convince me that I could get a “little extra pay” if I stayed after and did a “personal shoot” with him. The particular catchphrase that he repeated more than I care to remember was: “Your job is to show up on set and my job is to try to get you out of your clothes once you get here”. He had that sort of loud, aggravating phone voice that people seated adjacent to you can hear without even trying to eavesdrop, so of course most of the people at the table heard this conversation and were sufficiently horrified. I informed him that I would not be attending said shoot and he followed up with an e-mail calling me a prude.
Not all of the untoward behaviour has run in the same vein. There was another guy, an – I dare say – loser “club promoter” from Toronto who began bothering me incessantly over social media over some hair shoot that he was supposedly booking that I had already told him I was not available for. ***What club promoters have to do with booking hair shoots remains one of life’s greatest mysteries.*** Anyhow, this person somehow got ahold of my phone number (I certanily did not provide it) and called me while I was out in the boat on one of those Friday nights of yore. First of all, who calls to arrange work on a Friday evening at friggan’ 11:00 anyway?!? Nonetheless, figuring that it was someone from the biz trying to reach me due to the YYZ area code, I texted his number to explain I had only sporadic service and to feel free to text or email me details or that I would return the call once I had phone service again. I guess his reading comprehension was not up to snuff because that’s when the calls started again, many, many in a row. Not dissimilar to that one crazy ex that we all have. No, seriously. It was insane. Finally, I picked up and immediately stated “Idon’thavegoodphoneservicesoIwillprobablyloseyouanysecond” before my service cut out. Of course, Mr. Wonderful immediately called me right back and began berating me and calling me every name in the book – and some I didn’t even know existed. Before blocking his number, I was treated to another dose of crazy in the form of text messages, explaining that he would ruin my reputation because, like, WOW, who “hangs up” on him, etc, etc, etc. That was followed up by an email that taught me a few more swear words and contained some hollow threats that apparently made him feel like an important person again. Oh, and he also let me know that I would never be safe walking the streets of Toronto in the future.
I’m now getting steamed so, on that note, I am off to treat myself to a Diet Pepsi. I shall continue my thoughts and experiences in PART II in the days to come.