This Christmas season, I was given the gifts of discretion and foresight. Over Winter Break, I was asked to be a part of a music video. The role would be simple: show up, sit in front of a vanity, and put on makeup. Or so I thought.
I should have expected that there was more to the task than initially explained. This role in the music video was not one I auditioned for, but merely one that had fallen in my lap due to an old friendship.
Texting me a couple days before Christmas, this friend asked if I could do him a favor and minorly participate in the filming of his first music video. He sent me the link to his SoundCloud page and had me listen to the track in question. The cool, urban, retro sound with a talented rap feature about succumbing to the desire of fame and fortune instantly conjured up images of a sleek, modern house in sunny Miami and a music video full of exciting energy. I was hooked and said yes.
He and I had had a rocky past as friends when it became clear that he wanted more than a friendship. Over the years, it had become a struggle to maintain a friendship, but the music video seemed like the perfect olive branch between two musically and artistically passionate friends.
As the date soon approached for the filming day, I began to grow anxious about my role in the video. The more I asked for concrete details about a time, location, and other important information the more I was rebuffed in order to talk about my “scene.”
What this friend had initially described to me as a solo glamour shot, became a tension-filled, on-screen romance between the two of us. Chills went down my spine—this wasn’t what I had signed up for. As the texts came pouring in, my anxiety rose. Suddenly, more acting and modeling was required. When he asked for my input on how we should demonstrate “a great love scene,” I broke. It dawned on me that my role as an extra was actually one as a major love interest. The lie further revealed the unprofessionalism of the project. Not only would I be providing my own clothes, hair styling, and makeup, I had no idea who would be filming the video or when or where.
After the other shoe had finally dropped, I told him that his new vision was one I couldn’t be a part of. His wish to have me play a pretend girlfriend would not come to fruition. I had always wanted to see a musical project come to life and the thought of being a part of one had sent me over the moon. The reality of the situation, however, was what brought me back down to Earth.
The experience taught me a valuable lesson about opportunities. I struggled with cancelling at first because I was worried about missing out on an opportunity to try something new and be a part of something fun and interesting. There is a fine line, however, between putting yourself outside your comfort zone for the sake of success and just being plain uncomfortable.
Often, naive individuals in the music and film industries are taken advantage of because they are blinded by their sheer want to be a part of something great, something bigger than themselves. In doing so, they miss big, waving red flags signaling a hidden agenda. Drew Barrymore’s pre-pubescent drug ridden ascension to fame instantly comes to mind. Due to her parents neglect and mismanagement she ended up in rehab by age 14 and emancipated from said parents by age 15.
It’s easy to believe that everyone is well-intentioned and worthy of trust. But, just like with any complicated, artful song, you must read between the lyrics, or lines, and decipher the truth. I’m glad that I pushed for the truth and set a standard of comfort for myself. I’m sad I couldn’t participate in the creation of something artistic and exciting, but this was not the right opportunity to be involved in.
I’m glad I didn’t wait until the uncomfortableness had settled in on set. I’m glad I didn’t stick around to find out if there were more scenes that this friend wanted me to be in that crossed personal lines and boundaries. Some favors are truly warranted and others come at too high a price. Considering our past and the vast array of other professional and artistic opportunities in the world, the choice was clear. Life isn’t supposed to be comfortable and easy, but it is meant to be honest and sincere without sacrificing art, edge, and excitement.
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