South African guest blogger Beatrix du Toit has been a fashion model for over 15 years. In her blogs she reflects on her modelling career.
In this article Beatrix tells us about the pests and gremlins among clients, crews and models that she encountered on set, dividing them into the classic characters: ‘the gossip’, ‘ the fighter’, ‘the complainer’, ‘the backstabber’ and ‘the bully’.
How does she handle them? And what is the most important lesson she learned from all these characters?
Beatrix: Our working environment exposes us to many different personalities and especially in modeling we are exposed to some of the most extremes you can find in personalities.
In my years of modeling with different clients, crews, models – all from varying nationalities – I have come across a fair share of challenging characters. The best trait I developed was thick skin and how to deal with these gremlins and pests we are sometimes confined with on set. If you do not address their toxic personalities with your self-preservation skills, it can tap your energy and dim that little light of yours without even realizing it.
Character #1: the gossip
So let me discuss some of the classic work pests you may encounter and what could possibly save you from a draining, tedious and uncomfortable shoot. ‘The gossip’ usually loves to discuss other people in a bad light and play models, clients and crew up against each other.
During my most recent job I was at the hands of a make-up artist whom earned her Doctorate in gossiping. I could not see myself putting up with all this negative energy for the next three days and told her outright that gossiping makes me feel uncomfortable and I would rather not discuss people I will be working with for the next few days. She apologized and turned a pink color in her cheeks and kept the conversation light for the rest of the shoot. I think however that my hair being brushed and curled like it was Bob Marley’s dreads, was her showing a bit of dismay for me putting her gossip tongue in its place.
I have also been the subject of gossip on shoots and instead of reacting just steered clear of it all by going about my business and turning my focus on my own happiness and thoughts. Thinking before you speak is a good practice since it is almost guaranteed that what you say will be repeated and grow a tail. Remaining impartial allows you to witness other people’s motives and chaos that surrounds them, thus you do not give your power away by letting your light be dimmed due to pettiness.
Character #2: the fighter
‘The fighter’ makes me sweat in places I should not be sweating as I am not a confrontational person. Fighters are quick to lose their temper, insult co-workers and step on toes. In worst case scenarios they may even become verbally abusive and in the most severe case I witnessed, violent. I sincerely hope that no one has ever experienced a photographer throwing his camera at you or being caught between the AD and Director having a fist fight and accidently hitting me in the head.
The best thing you can do when confronted with such a character is to remain calm and just let them vent and scream. Never take it personally or try and defend yourself in that moment as it will only make things worse and fuel the fire. If the anger is directed towards you, remove yourself immediately, phone your agent and speak only to whoever is in charge on set or who can defend you.
Character #3: the complainer
‘The complainer’ is never satisfied with anything. She or he will complain about co-workers, rates, agencies, the client, the hours worked and even the fly that happens to be sitting on the craft table, as long as they can complain.
The best trick that works for me is to steer them into talking about things that make them happy. I find that helping them find solutions to the things they complain about just prolongs the agony of having to listen to more complaints. And if all else fails plug in your earphones and read that book you packed.
I personally see complainers as reminders to practice gratitude and focus on what I am blessed with even if the rates are low compared to back in the day when advertising budgets were huge.
Character #4: the backstabber
‘The backstabber’ needs no formal introduction; all of us have met them somewhere along the path. Confronting backstabbers however is never a good idea as they will just deny having anything against you.
I once asked a featured extra I was getting along with, to call me if I am needed on set as I had to run to the ladies. As I got to the bathrooms my gut just said to me ‘turn around and tell the AD where you are at’. Walking back to set I realized they were already rolling and the featured extra was standing in my position about to act out my scene. The cheeky monkey tried to outshine me as lead in a beer commercial! Thank goodness the stylist called it and pushed the issue of continuity etc., I was placed back into position full bladder and all and gulped down my beer like a real leading lady.
After the AD shouted “that’s a wrap” I walked up to the girl whom tried to back stab and thanked her for a great shoot. She looked stunned and perplexed as she expected me to give her a piece of mind. Instead I thanked her because she taught me to watch my back in this industry and I valued that lesson.
Character #5: the bully
The last pest on my list I have encountered is ‘the bully’. Bullying is subtle, intentional and malicious. It happens on a regular basis with so much ego flying around in the modeling industry and it has the likelihood of challenging your right to dignity, respect, your wellbeing and emotional health.
I am so glad that I have been bullied by models, agents, clients and photographers as their meanness taught me to be strong and my believe in self. Many tears were shed in the bathroom between fittings and castings and every time I would look in the mirror to wipe my face clean, I repeated to myself over and over again . . . . . ‘it is their stuff B, not yours, it is their stuff’.
At the end of the day it is all about who has the upper hand and how they are willing to go about it, to feed that need for being superior, to be the one and only in the spotlight. So let the bully ride their horse of self-glorified power, smile and bless them and know that it’s just a job and they are just another character in this entire universe finding or losing their way. Even if that bully is your friend or partner, this industry breeds insecurity and a nasty competitiveness for attention and recognition that is not healthy, so best to see it for what it is and rise above it all.
The most important lesson that I’ve learned
This brings me then to the most important lesson that all of these pests and gremlins during my modeling career has taught me:
“For you to know who you are, you have to experience who you are not.”
So instead of getting frustrated and reacting, I just smile and feel gratitude when I am around them, as they are little reminders for my character to not get trapped in those negative spaces anymore but to continue seeking a more gentle, truthful and kind way that resonates with my character.
So chin up all you models having fought the gremlins on set and let’s go practicing pest control with a different way of seeing and thinking that is suiting to your character.
Hope this helps! With love x B
Thank you Beatrix for this motivational article! Have you ever encountered one or more of the characters Beatrix describes in her blog? Or have you encountered another kind of character on set? How did you handle it? You can leave your experiences with pets & germlins in the comments below.
I personally have luckily never met ‘the fighter’ on set (yet) and I truely don’t know how I would react to that. I think it is a natural reaction to go into defend mode, but as Beatrix writes, this will only fuel the anger. My addition to Bee’s advice is to breath in, breath out and listen to what’s behind the anger and where it comes from, instead of focussing on emotions.