Hollywood is infested with blood-thirsty producers. This is not news. And for every young, wide-eyed actress/model/musician/dancer looking to make it big, these producers have mastered the art of luring naive talent into their sticky webs.
I’ve had my run-ins with a few of the Harvey Weinstein’s out there. These encounters have been fewer and further between as I’ve grown apart from my career in the modeling industry, but they’ve put a significant dent in my opinion of many of the men running the show in Hollywood.
In early January of 2014, a top producer invited me to read for his new show set to air one of the main networks on TV. We first met when I was out with a bunch of other girls, all top models doing big campaigns, for dinner in the West Village. He has produced several major motion pictures and is constantly rubbing shoulders with A-list actors and celebrities. He’s also the type of guy to parade around with flock of flamingo-esque girls whose faces you see on billboards from Sunset Blvd. to FDR. The night I met him, he asked the waitress take a photo of the table of models sandwiching him, in which I was once squeezed right beside him.
At first, I was oblivious to his slimy ways. I judged him by his IMDB prestige and the thousands of star-studded red carpet photos he popped up in on Google. All the the girls who knew him told me he was the real deal. So, when he emailed me a script, I was elated. The part being cast for was a side roll on his new primetime show; a “tall and gorgeous young model.” I read the confidential script carefully to myself. Since we were supposedly friends— having met only once— the reading would be with him off the books, meaning it wouldn’t go through my agency. I told my agency about the reading and they thought it was great, but advised that I’d keep them updated.
The producer invited me to his luxury hotel in Flatiron where I was met by his female assistant; a stunning red-head who was heading out as I entered. There, the producer and I sat down at the sturdy desk in his room and the reading began. After going over the lines a few times, the producer gave me some direction. Then, he told me I was ready to read for a recording which would happen in L.A. at a later date. He suggested flying me out to stay with him the following week to meet some of the other people working on the project.
I was a bit surprised that I had done so well, but also somewhat guarded. I asked if he would book the recorded audition through my agency this time, something I would have felt more comfortable with. He hesitated and reasoned with me that this request was too complicated, explaining that this was a top show and we didn’t need a middleman. He also pushed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be seized quickly. This brought the conversation to my dwindling modeling work, and how I was dreaming about transitioning out of my life as a professional poser.
While we were chatting about my new potential career, he slowly traveled behind me and began rubbing my shoulders.
This went on a little too long, and then he took things a bit further— moved my bra “out of the way”— as he unclasped it through the top of my shirt. Right then I saw my face freeze in the mirror ahead of me. Never having encountered this sort of thing before, I didn’t do anything. I just sat there. Then, to my relief, he disappeared into the bathroom for what seemed like 20, maybe 30 minutes. In that time, I became still as a statue. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to just leave or wait a little longer to say goodbye. When he finally returned, in just a bathrobe, he was bewildered that I was gathering up my things. My intention was to bolt out of there to process why my guts were turning inside out. Just as I was opening the door to leave, he put his hand on my shoulder and I paused just long enough for him to deliver an unsolicited peck on the lips.
As I fled, my face burned in the freezing cold wind on Broadway. Maybe this was a Hollywood thing, I thought. I felt so strange and also confused as to what the encounter meant. Was I going to get the job I didn’t even know I wanted?
The producer texted later, asking for my full name to book my L.A. flight. I was increasingly uncertain about this, but my modeling jobs were at a standstill in sub-zero NYC. I didn’t want to close the door on an opportunity, so I asked some of my peers what thought about the situation.
Not Your Type
Confusingly, the people I consulted completely enabled this behavior from the producer. Girls I knew who were friends with him admittedly accepted trips and gifts from him all the time, and they told me he was just like that. I only trusted this producer because he seemed safe to these other women, but I grew increasingly isolated as my creep radar was sounding off.
Even my boyfriend at the time said I should jump on some of the opportunities the producer was dangling over my head. He saw that I was struggling to figure out my calling in life, and thought I’d make a great actress. But when I really weighed the pros and cons of pursuing this role, I realized something: I had no real desire to act. In the next few days as I grappled with what to do, I made up my mind. If this was a glimpse of the kind of relationship this producer expected of me, I wanted nothing to do with him or the role, or any kind of off-the-books networking, or whatever you want to call it.
I decided to stay put where I was, splitting a studio apartment with my best friend in Harlem where I slept on an air-mattress on the floor. I sucked it up through a long winter instead of jumping into the unknown with a free trip to L.A. with someone whose intentions didn’t seem quite right. I didn’t want to have anything to do with this guy, so I ended up texting him that something had come up in NYC and I was no longer available to try out. Then I blocked him from my phone, Facebook, and Instagram.
It must be hard to be a woman who feels vulnerable as she tries to make it in Hollywood, especially if she doesn’t want to close any doors for future work. Lucky for me, I had nothing to lose and could simply remove myself from any association without thinking twice. I took this as a learning experience, almost as if I were an investigative journalist exploring the world of aspiring actresses.
And let me tell you, I was scared straight and vowed to never get into that kind of situation again. What’s even more frightening is how far these producers can go before someone finally has the courage to speak up. As a woman who wasn’t chasing the dream of fame, there I was in a hotel room and a big name attempting to unclasp my bra with false promises. If something like that could happen so easily, I can only imagine how it could escalate when there’s more at stake. While my story is only scratching the surface of what else goes on behind closed doors, I’d like to think women who are pursuing their career goals are beginning to see these kinds of industry figures for who they really are.
(ph: Drew Reynolds)