On Being a Spoiled Bitch

After self-funding and freely giving away a web series, blog posts, and even an app, I was being labeled a “spoiled bitch.” Hurt and somewhat confused, the realities of success were a bit hard to stomach as a young creative just starting out.

I talked about how created “High Class, No Cash,” the travel show that largely creating my entire career for me. It was filmed in New York and Paris, and was given away for free via YouTube, iTunes, and a blog. The entire purpose of the project was to be something positive and encouraging. I wanted to help get people out there into the world so they could have amazing experiences, and to see places and cultures they might be intimated to otherwise experience. Yet not long after launch I was continuously being branded a “spoiled bitch.”

[sociallocker]

Once someone off of Twitter wanted to meet up for drinks to chat, and pretty much the first thing out of his mouth was that “I must agree” I’m kind of a “spoiled bitch” because I traveled while I was young. I was dumbfounded, and made my exit while trying to remain polite. Another time, someone I considered a friend said that I had to know I was a “spoiled bitch.” So glad she informed me while I was helping her not only find a job, but also plan a trip. My crime was apparently nothing more than experience.

These are just two examples, but this phrase continued to arrive uninvited, and I was genuinely hurt by the comment. People I’ve considered friends have said it half-joking, half-mocking. It’s come from total strangers, and people I’ve known through work. “Spoiled bitch.” As a writer I do have to give them all credit for the continuity, since this is the single phrase I’ve heard on repeat for the last 5 years.

At the same time, I just couldn’t quite understand where this was coming from. Nothing in the project was boastful or “look at me,” especially in the selfie obsessed way that’s so common today in social media. Moreover, I felt people were totally missing the mark on who I even was as a person. I guess being a travel host and taking photos might draw some attention, but from my perspective, I didn’t even want that particular job — I was entirely uncomfortable the whole time, but I needed to step up and do it. For me the project was always about the idea and the vision.

The truth of the matter is I grew up in a somewhat nameless city of 40,000 people in the suburbs of Boston. My parents didn’t come from wealth, far from it in fact, and while I grew up comfortably, I never had everything I wanted on a matter of principle. I didn’t need Abercrombie clothing, so I never got it. Even though all of the cool kids had it. And there were lots of other things I never got because they were overpriced and unnecessary. And now, I’m very grateful for that.

I went to public school, took a smattering of honors and AP classes because that’s what was done, and I wrote my essays to college like everyone else. I got into the three schools I applied to, and the only real scholarship I received was to go to Dubai for a semester, all expenses paid. I worked throughout my entire college career, making about $8/hour as a desk clerk, waking up most often at 6:45am to cover the first shift of the day, since nobody wanted to be awake at that time.

I still don’t think  it’s necessary to talk about all of the hard work that goes into projects. I believe in sprezzaturra, and the studied art of effortlessness.

Hard work should always be part of the equation, and people should always be supportive. That’s how I was raised, and that’s how I’ll continue to operate. But because I don’t talk about everything, people tend to fill in the blanks for themselves. Saying less gives people the window to fill in the blanks for themselves, and like all good horror filmmakers know, what you can’t see is usually the most impactful. It lets the imagination build far grander things than any writer could create.

If I say I lived in Florence for 4 months, people assume I was off in some castle getting drunk on wine and wandering through the olive groves. Which is only partially true….

I worked as a peer advisor to pay for housing in Italy, and was forced to live with a social abomination as part of my job. It didn’t matter how terrible he was, I couldn’t leave. He once stumbled home bragging about the two boxes of wine he had just drunk — for only 2 euro each! Five minutes later he projectile vomited both boxes and I had to mop up the mess. Because that was my job. He never said thank you, and was a belligerent tit the entire time I was trying to get him cleaned up and out of the way. Another time, I awoke at 2AM to a girl peeing on my floor. She was a “guest” he had brought back to our room, and she looked at me like I was the crazy one when I asked her what she was doing. As she was leaving a lagoon of piss on my bedroom floor. When I complained to my bosses, they said there was nothing they could do, I just had to deal with it.

So yes, I lived in Florence for four months, but I also had to live with a character plucked from Dante’s “Inferno.” And my version of Hell also came with office work, as per my contract.

There are plenty of people out there who have had a much harder time and balanced more, and I appreciate that. My point is I worked hard for what I had, and nothing was ever handed to me. I worked a lot, studied a lot, and I made it work. Welcome to life, that’s just how it is.

“We’ve spent so much time judging what other people created that we’ve created very, very little of our own.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

When I was in college, the people who I thought were a close group of friends were actually some of the only people who were making snide comments about my work. A clever bunch, they loved making puns on the name, and a petty bunch, they also loved gossiping behind my back. This not only gave me a sense of paranoia, but it also made me question why I was working so hard on something that I cared about. Was this the way people were always going to react?

When I moved to LA, I was working on some really great projects but I felt like I shouldn’t talk about them or celebrate what I considered victories. I felt like the people who I considered friends wouldn’t want to hear about it, or would make disparaging comments as jokes.

But if they’re talking behind your back, it means you’ve already passed them. Just keep on keeping on.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize, but you can’t surround yourself with assholes and then be surprised when you inevitably get shit on.

I might be an introvert, but I am very much a people person. I love being able to make people feel good about themselves, and I love sharing stories and knowledge with people. I love cooking and food, and there’s no quicker way to my heart than talking for hours about what you had for breakfast/lunch/dinner.

But not everyone is structured that way, and some people have a penchant for pessimism the way I gravitate towards cheese. They simply can’t help themselves. And without delving into moral judgments, I can say that for me these are the kinds of people who are the most toxic to be around.

Distancing myself from them allowed me to realize that they were the problem, not me. Their insecurities and jealousies were the cause of their remarks, not the project that I was working on and creating. They talked badly about me because they had nothing good to say about themselves.

Jealousy is as much a part of the creative industry as anything else.  Especially when you’re starting out. Everyone thinks they’re entitled to the same things you are, even if they’ve not done the same work you have. It might seem self-evident to older people, especially those in the arts, but nobody ever really said that to me and I think it’s an important topic to talk about.

As a creative, I suppose I should have taken it as a compliment that these people had such wild fantasies of the life I led. Nothing I had ever said claimed that was the truth, but rather it was what I didn’t say that in the end said the most. But that was my job. And that still is my job. Crafting wildly addictive narrative that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go as it brings you to entirely different world.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so offended by these people’s perceptions: it was a testament to the fact I was doing my job well.

Now that I’m about ready to launch my largest project ever, which has been two years in the making, I find myself really just not caring about what people think anymore. As someone who worries and tends to overthink things, I’ve already thought of the litany of complaints and critiques I’m sure people will toss my way once the project launches. Because I’ve already begun to deal with this kind of reception.

I was working with someone new and I told her that I was starting a perfume line. She snortled, asking “Who are you to start a perfume line?” Her question wasn’t entirely malicious, I think it was a half-hearted joke, but it was dripping with bitchiness and was entirely demeaning. Who was she to judge my credentials?

But that’s just the reality of the gig.

I oscillate between terror that people are going to tear me apart for my work and complete indifference to their opinions. This is my pride and joy and I’ve invested so much of myself in the project, so the opinions of others really just doesn’t matter. But at the same time, snide remarks hurt, even if they come from nobodies watching on the sidelines.

Pop culture has shifted towards some kind of rat race to quickly tear down whoever is at the top. Build them up and then watch them burn. It’s some tragic modernization of the Trojan Horse, except pop culture builds its own horse and then destroys it from the inside out, with no regard for the humanity of the person involved.

You have to learn how to take the good with the bad, and not let the negativity eat you alive. It’s part of learning to walk the path of success. Because chances are pretty good what they’re saying has little to do with you, and everything to do with their own insecurities.

“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”
-Coco Chanel

From about 2nd grade all the way through high school I was bullied. Lots of rude names and comments were thrown about, and while I usually kept quiet and just took the abuse, I did eventually start to fire back insults. And while it was great practice for my wit, engaging with the negativity was a waste of time. And it’s usually hardest when the negativity comes from people you consider friends, but passive aggressive comments and belittling remarks cut deeper when they’re coming from what you thought was a safe place.

But you have to learn to remove yourself from those environments, and really take care of yourself.

The thing that got me through those elementary school years, which were rather terrible, was the knowledge I had deep down that I was meant to do something better, and greater, than they ever would. Now doesn’t that sound pretentious? But the fact of the matter is most of those bullies are now in jail or live in nowhere places, with terrible, dead-end jobs.

It was faith in myself and my abilities that got me through it because I never stopped believing in my own potential.

You have to train yourself to hear the good that people are saying. I’ve never had so much positive feedback on a project that hasn’t even launched, and the people I’ve met along the way have been incredibly kind and caring. I could choose to focus on the few negative comments, or I could do my best to forget them and just focus on the positive things I’ve been hearing.

You also have to be kind to yourself, and forgive yourself of your own mistakes and shortcomings. I talk about Self Love and Self Awareness in this post, and I think that’s a good place to leave this.

[/sociallocker]

Photo courtesy Kristin Booker for Giafrese
Jeff Smith

Jeff started in photography and short format video, and he's been at the forefront of the web tv movement. He’s worked on haute couture shoots in Paris, shot street style in Milan, and is currently developing a steady roster of beauty, fashion, and digital clients in NYC.

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed