I’ve been creatively stunted for probably about two years. A lot has happened in those two years to bring me where I am today. I shifted careers, became financially (somewhat) stable, got married, and found a semblance of peace.
I’m back in therapy, which has been tremendously helpful. I don’t care who the fuck you are — the happiest person on earth who shits out rainbows for breakfast — therapy is the tits.
You know why therapy is the tits?? Because therapy allows you to just speak your truth without fear of judgement, and have an objective voice who often mirrors what you say back to you with just the right amount of difference that you figure out what the hell is wrong with you.
I have a little story for you gals and guys. I’ve often kept this a big secret because I was initially embarrassed, but now, looking back, I’m just fucking angry.
Early November 2012, post Hurricane Sandy, I was looking to grow in the music industry on the business end. I had finished my degree in Music Business Management from the Berklee College of Music, had a successful internship, and was ready for a new adventure.
I was given an incredible opportunity to interview at one of the top agencies in the industry for an up-and-coming hip hop artist’s agent. This hip hop artist in question is now incredibly famous and nominated for several GRAMMYs this year.
I was interviewing for the position of Assistant to the Agent; a late-twenties/early-30s white man, who had escalated quite quickly, and made a name for himself in the Industry.
I dressed in a professional, Calvin Klein, sea-foam green dress, complete with belt buckle, nude pumps, and natural makeup. I pulled back my long hair into a low bun, to seem direct, not flippant, and was ready with a notebook and pen.
After going through the elevator, I gave myself a pep talk, “You got this Shan Babe. You can do anything! You a strong, confident, and have an iron will. Let’s GO!”
Walking up to the receptionist, I said in a soft, but stern voice, “Shannon Allen. Interviewing with…”
The HR rep came to meet me and bring me up to the main office. I clicked up the transparent stairs that made the office look sleek and chić. I was then showed where my potential cubicle was, and where my hopefully future boss’s office was.
I walked in and he was finishing up a call. His voice was booming and he had a powerful, assertive presence.
He seemed distracted, short, and acting like he was too busy for the interview. He spoke very fast and loud, which I figured was just a trait of someone who was wielding so much money and power in music. His newest, most exciting artist, was to become one of the biggest names in hip-hop and social change in music in the upcoming years.
I answered every question with intense calmness, and precision. I would not let his energy shake me.
Then he said something that I will never forget. It all happened so fast, that I can only paraphrase.
He told me that he was uneasy about hiring a woman for this job because I would have to speak to this artist’s inner circle: hustlers, drug dealers, men who could not take a “soft” woman seriously.
I felt a little dizzy; slapped in the face. Had every other answer that I given not been proof that I was clearly qualified for this job. I displayed quick wit, organization, my work ethic was par to none, my references were air tight.
After a few more questions, I spoke to the HR rep, who happened to be a woman. She started talking salary, sick days, culture of the office, etc. Her and I bantered back and forth like old friends. She told me that even though I was applying for a job in their “Urban” division, she liked that I was dressed sharp and polished.
All things considered, it was an excellent interview. I’ve always prided myself on the ability to be my authentic self when interviewing for a job. I did not waiver, I did not falter, and I believed that I was a strong candidate for this job.
Afterward I sent an email to the agent, telling him how much of a pleasure it was to interview with him, and how “extremely confident that I [could] handle not only the day to day work, but also deal with any challenging exchange with the right amount of professionalism, calm and confidence.”
I kept that email. I referenced it directly.
I followed up with the HR director and then was unceremoniously sent a one sentence email several weeks later saying the position had been filled, and “thank you for your time.” The agent never responded.
What did I do wrong? Why did it take two weeks for a response for a job that needed to be filled as they said “ASAP?” What. The Fuck?
Then I remembered the one thing that made me incredibly uncomfortable during the interview. The line that gave me the gut feeling that something wasn’t right.
The part where I was told that he didn’t want to hire a woman.
So why do I tell you this story in such detail? Because I think this is a paramount reason I have excluded myself from the music industry, performing arts, and creative industries these last two years:
And the problem I have with this whole situation, is it took me so long to realize that situations like this were slowly demoralizing me.
Other instances where this Industry has failed me with these seemingly small, but powerful sexist views
- A former superior of mine quit his position. When we went out for his going away party he drunkenly told me that he thought I was an arrogant, loud, bitch who took too much control.
- Hearing a respected woman in the industry tell me that maybe “Taylor Swift needed to close her legs for a bit,” in order for tabloids to leave her alone.
- Getting cast as an extra “party girl” and having wardrobe throw a fit because I could not fit into a skin tight leather skirt with my thighs. I could just feel their eyes on me as I was stripped into my bra and underwear, trying to squeeze into clothes that were clearly not made for my body type.
- Being told that I needed to cry on national television in order to get air time and sympathy views.
- Having a fellow musician tell me that no one “wants to hear a chick sing rock.”
- Hearing “you’ll be more popular if you just wear less and sing pop music”
- A fellow extra on a set telling someone, “Ew look at that girl with the huge disgusting legs,” and then have it repeated back to me. This person later would friend me on Facebook and be fake friendly to me every time we saw each other on various sets.
- Every single damn casting director I’ve ever seen telling me “you’re just not right for this,” when really they are just saying “You’re not tall enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, for this part.”
I could go on, but quite frankly, I’m fucking exhausted.
That was exhausting.
I feel like I’m going to have a whole new can of worms to talk to my therapist with this week.
Now, in the wake of the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, and the wage gap, and the Women’s March, and the #MeToo movement, I simply don’t know if I can be a part of this machine.
I don’t even say this because I’m trying to be some kind of martyr. I just don’t feel like I will make it out alive. This industry has eaten up women far stronger than I, so why would I be able to permeate the bullshit and stay true to my art?
Is it possible?
So this is why I’ve been so afraid to write, or play, or sing, or create.
I’m hoping I can move past this; develop an ars gratia artis attitude, but I don’t know.
I don’t know.
Hope you enjoyed me writing, and (nice) opinions or (constructive) criticism is always welcome. (Mean people — go away!)