Living For The Job, Dying For The Applause
Just how far will you go for applause?
When Andre Leon Talley died, a lot of people communicated their shock at what they saw as Vogue’s (and Wintour’s) poor treatment.
I read the outraged tweets, shook my head and wrote this post.
Talley was once the editor-at-large at Vogue, one of the most powerful men in the fashion industry (the first and only? Black man to be in that position), as well as a judge on four seasons of America’s Next Top Model.
He’d also written two memoirs; they say he dragged Anna Wintour in the second one. I don’t know as I haven’t read it.
But what I know and keep telling creatives or people who want to get into entertainment, till I sound like a broken record, is that NO AGENT, CLIENT, MANAGER OR FAN GIVES AS BIG A SH*T ABOUT YOU AS YOU HOPE.
Here’s the thing; in life, businesses only care about you as long as you’re productive and that’s arguably fair enough cos that’s why they’re paying you, right?
But the media and entertainment space, eh? It has different (level) demons.
There’s a reason they say you’re only as good as your last book/record/picture/movie. It’s to drive you crazy and fill you with fear.
So, this is not the industry for you if you’re desperate for external validation. Why?
This industry, maka Chi, is very vicious and unforgiving.
Quick to penalise you for real and imagined wrongs, quick to forget your wins and relegate you to “one hit wonder” or “they’ve had their glory years” status. And it can only work by inflaming your already existing self-doubt or by giving you self-esteem issues.
One very early morning in 2016, my husband called me and I let it drop that I hadn’t been sleeping. And he got mad.
So, I had travelled to Lagos cos I was told that was where I had to be if I wanted to be known in the entertainment industry. 🙄🙄
I didn’t want fame; I wanted work. I wanted to get the opportunity to prove myself.
The month I landed in Lagos, I booked a writing gig with one of the biggest brands in Africa. As you can imagine, I was chuffed cos I thought this was my big break. Who wan try me? I had “arrived”.
I wasn’t under any illusions about overnight success, but still…
I wrote a grand total of one episode and while I was waiting for the footage to be approved by the brand, I couldn’t sleep.
My husband called and when I told him, he said, “How much are they paying you, that you want to die?
“You want them to call to tell me that you’ve collapsed, abi? The way you push yourself, I don’t like it!
“Do you know if you die now, this client will replace you before anyone remembers to observe one-minute silence for you?”
Not very supportive…
By then, my head was paining me and I was like, “I swear you don’t talk to your patients this way.” So, I told him to stop shouting at me.
He said, “Am I shouting at you? Why won’t your head pain you when you won’t sleep?
“What you’re doing, is affecting me, too. My friend, goansleep!”
Ladies and gents, I didn’t have to die to be replaced. What we didn’t know at the time was that my replacement was being signed.
Which I learned, about 48hrs later when I was informed in a phonecall. Because travel was involved, I’d actually been waiting for a call to let me know where we would be travelling to next. Instead, I got fired/bounced/let go in the call that I received.
I was stunned. But I asked why and was told that the feedback from the brand was that I didn’t sound Nigerian enough.
They had seen my CV and portfolio before they OK-ed my being hired, so they KNEW how I wrote.
I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even call to tell my husband. How was I supposed to tell him that a) I got fired b) from this gig that I truly thought would be my big break c) for the reason I got fired?
I just focused on another writing gig I’d secured, on my blogazine (for which I’d win a BEFFTA some months later), and on my weekly radio show.
Basically being told, “We don’t want you, not because you were rude/disruptive/an a**-hole on set, but cos we don’t like your sound” stung.
But that’s how the industry is.
Sometimes, even when you put in the work, you can be too tall, too short, too dark, too fair, too thin, not curvy enough, too foreign-sounding, too local-sounding, not this enough to book a particular job and stay till the end. That IS just how this industry is.
BTW, they still used the footage written by the “not Nigerian enough” writer. I know cos I saw it on TV and on social media. Lol!
See, you’d be very stupid to throw away your life because you’re chasing after validation of an insatiable external force via awards made of glass/metal/wood, or applause of an audience who don’t (literally or metaphorically) go to bed with you at night.
I tell the women I coach, “While I want you to succeed, you can’t do this at the expense of your soul. It’s just a JOB!”
I think what’s kept me on the straight and narrow is that I truly liked myself and already had self-esteem before I entered the industry as an adult.
So, some things others may have been pressured or bullied to do, I’d just laugh in the faces of those suggesting it and move on – even when I was so broke, I didn’t have two N5 notes to rub together.
Cos I’ve always felt some things are really not that deep or even compulsory. I’ve NEVER had the desire for fame, public adulation or for my name in lights.
In fact, I tried to have my first book published under a pseudonym but my publisher wasn’t having it.
I already KNEW myself, what was sacred to me, and what/who I wouldn’t sell for clicks. I knew my own definition of success BEFORE I gave my first interview.
And while I definitely wanted to make money, I determined to “remember who can see you when the lights are off”.
Which is why I don’t hesitate to sack and cut off ANYONE selling personal stories on me, even if they say we share DNA.
No matter how talented you are, you are NOT your art, please. It’s really not that deep. You are just a human being trying to figure out life while doing a JOB.
If you f*ck up your personal life because you buy the hype that you’re a star, you will live unhappy (despite appearances or applause) and die sad.
Agents, managers, fans and clients only care about you if a) you’re giving them what they want, or b) they can bully you or manipulate you to do what they want.
That’s why SOME managers will introduce you to drugs cos they want you to pump out another banger in the studio, whereas you’re just tired and need to sleep. Then, when e shele, your PR will tell lies that don’t even make sense – just before they dump you.
And it’s why SOME agents will pimp you out to depraved people to sell your dignity for a car or house to flaunt on the ‘gram for gullible folk to give applause or salivate over, while your soul is crying and your heart is bleeding. They don’t care!
You cannot win every award in your category every year, even if you rig. You will NEVER be the richest around in monetary terms, no matter the applause. Know this and know PEACE.
No amount of money, applause or fame will make you happy. An hour after I won my BEFFTA, I was like, “I don’t feel different to how I felt before I knew I’d won it.” I was already happy in my life personally and professionally, so I wasn’t relying on an award to make me happy. Else it’d have been a disaster!
If you disappear today, your fans will move on. Respect your fans but love yourself and create boundaries you definitely enforce.
Do the best work you can – meaning find the 1) BEST projects you can be involved in, 2) that will give you the BEST returns, 3) put in your BEST – and go home.
I won’t lie, I work hard. That doesn’t mean I do 200 projects a year. It means that even if I do four projects a year, they’re the best they can be so they have my stamp, they’re the best in their category, and they hit the mark. I do my job and I go home to play. Hard(er).
Cos no matter how loud the applause is, it will stop one day. And no matter how bright the lights are, they will go out eventually.
And when that happens – when the applause stops and the lights go out – will you be happy or content with the you that you see staring back in the mirror? Or will you be too afraid or ashamed to even look?