Two days ago a photographer (male) told me that “we could make some good pictures IF you can let go a bit. Push back the conservative and let out your crazy fun, sexy side that possibly you keep hidden. IF you can do that, I would love to see what we can create together.”
My feelings after reading this?
I. Was. Livid.
Let’s back up a bit. His project I submitted to was a portrait project showing various artists, men and women, photographed against a plain, white backdrop rocking their own vibe. In the casting description he listed that all body types, heights, vibes, hair colors, tattoos, piercings etc. were welcome to be a part of the project. I applied under those pretenses, wanting to bring my vibe to the project.
Nowhere in the casting did it say “looking for a sexy side”
I think it goes without saying that this request was totally unwarranted and extremely inappropriate, especially in light of the #MeToo campaign and the other stories that continue to surface.
You know what’s almost worse than his skeezy demeanor and lack of respect? The fact that I nearly went along with it. I almost responded back assuring him that I can bring sensuality to a shoot, eager to defend my talents as a model.
I also nearly responded by verbally ripping him a new one…but decided to rise above that.
I simply responded by saying that I felt this project no longer felt appropriate to lend my talents to. If he responds back baiting me, then I’ll happily shed some light on my reasoning and his inappropriateness. But honestly, I don’t have anything to prove to this guy and really I just wanted to move past this ASAP and get back to the many other clients who want to book me for me.
I’ve been doing this more and more lately. I’m putting my foot down on many opportunities and situations I feel are disrespectful, inappropriate or not up to my professional expectations. I’m ruffling feathers with every decline and each time I do part of me is worried I’m diminishing my reputation in this very small industry. I’m concerned that by advocating for myself I may end up becoming labeled as “difficult to work with” or “high maintenance.” The fact that a fear like that even exists within me (and many other artists) is a huge issue within itself.
Before I began my performance career I wrote out a mission statement for myself dictating what I want my “Becca Morello, Actor & Model” performer brand to convey. One component of my mission statement was:
“I aim to show others who want a career in the entertainment field that they can do so without losing themselves; without sacrificing their morals and integrity.”
I knew this part of my mission would be challenged the most, and this photographer is not the first challenger I’ve encountered. Although this was the first one that really got under my skin and made my blood boil. In reality I’m exceptionally lucky because most of the clients I work with are fantastic and courteous almost to a fault. Many artists encounter this much more frequently than I do, and that’s just disheartening.
When I set out on this path, I knew I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t negate my values. What I’ve learned is many photographers, directors, producers, etc. will push to see how far they can get you to go in the interest of “bringing you out of your comfort zone.” Trust me, I’m all about growth and challenging myself as a performer, but there is a time and a place for that. There needs to be a dialogue in place about the new level or circumstance being broached and a trusting relationship established between whomever is guiding the project and the performer.
Actors and models strive to tell stories, and their strongest tool in accomplishing that task is their body. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, this translated to the objectification of women within the industry. Seriously, if I were a male model applying to this casting, do you think the photographer would have responded the way he did? Especially when the project never specified sensuality? No.
I’ve known of many performers, some on a personal level and some only from their work, who entered the industry intent on remaining true to themselves by selecting projects that depict them in the way they want to be seen. Most are able to maintain that…for a while. But then projects come across that are “too good to pass up” with “great exposure” backed by a “highly accredited team” and results in compromises. I want to show others that they can pursue this career without compromising their integrity, even if it means saying no and ruffling feathers. Furthermore, this should not be something we fear. Everyone has the option to say “No. Not like this” and pursue their goal through another avenue. It is my belief that the right avenues will always appear if you stand your ground.
As difficult as it sometimes is to stand up for myself and other entertainers, I will continue to stand by my morals. I know myself. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I know what I bring to the table. I know where I need to grow and I know the circumstances in which I would like to grow. The unexpected boon of this experience is it reminds me that I always have to power to walk away. No matter how great an opportunity may sound, if it doesn’t feel right intuitively, there’s probably something wrong there. Those are instances where you should walk away and understand that the decision to walk away is perfectly acceptable. I am recommitting to my goal written in my mission statement and re-enforcing my right to say “No. Not like this.”
When it comes down to it, I’d much rather be known as the artist who isn’t afraid to advocate for herself. Even if it prompts some to label me as “difficult” or “conservative.” Even if it means passing up “incredible opportunities.” My work ethic, integrity and dedication to my craft will precede me and eventually connect me to the right people in this industry. The professionals I ultimately want to work with will be the ones who respect my stance, admire my self-awareness and ability to stand up for what I believe.
Here’s to proudly proclaiming, “No. Not like this.” Have you tried it lately?