I was born and raised in Haiti, but currently living and working in Brooklyn NY, since I was a little girl my ambition is to build a career in the entertainment business as a solo singer, specializing in R&B, Zouk and Reggae. This goal brings me into contact with famous producers like Wyclef Jean, Kevin Little and Beanie Man and it is against this group that I have developed a deep and abiding prejudice.
The idea that producers are only considered with getting a female singer on to their casting couch and seducing them is definitely a stereotype, but I have found it to be a cliché that is actually quite accurate. Many of the producers with whom I have come into contact have made it quite clear that if I did not submit to their sexual advances, I had no hope for finding employment or building my career. I believe that this is one of the major problems why there is a gender gap in the entertainment industry and it is one we all heard about frequently. There are significantly fewer good roles for women than there are for men. This pertains to all aspects of this industry including film, TV, and music.
In addition to being lecherous, another stereotype that definitely applies to producers is that they are greedy and selfish. If they are not concentrating on my body, rather than my voice, they are implying that a favorable impression with them depends on my willingness to offer a kickback from my expected salary or a percentage of the net on any record sales. As a solo singer, it is also fair to say that they are focused completely on themselves, rather than developing the talent of a singer.
Haiti is known for its beautiful scenery and its extreme poverty. But, it less well known that Haitian culture if also extremely moral. I was reared to believe that sexual conduct should only occur between a husband and wife and, also, that spouses should be faithful to each other. Certainly, the casual sex that producers indicate is their expectation is completely outside my realm of experience and my value system.
However, I desire a singing career with all my heart. Therefore, when producer after producer focuses on my body, rather than my talent as a singer, and makes it clear that I must have sex with them in order to receive any attention as a singer, I resent it. They are trying to make me feel cheap, shabby and dominated and my subsequent prejudice towards them arises out of resentment and frustration.
For example, I went to an audition in mid-town Manhattan and, rather than asking what song I want to sing, the first thing the producer said to me was to tell me that I should unbutton my blouse another couple of buttons and let him see some cleavage. When I ignored the instruction to unbutton my blouse and I began to sing my audition piece, the producer interrupted me, telling me to “Sell it, baby. Swing those hips. Make it hot.” As this suggests, many producer treat female singers as if they were so-much meat, rather than as actual, feeling human beings, with desires, goals and talent in regards to their art.
Too often have I walked into an audition and have an aggressive producer pursue me to great lengths. The absolute worst part of my struggle is when a person, usually a producer, tries to intimidate me or coerce to be sexual. They often start off very polite and thoughtful, appearing to be sincere. They will compliment me on my hair or my eyes, but then all too soon they will move to other parts of my anatomy. “You have a really nice figure” or “you have a great body” is usually how they act next. Then they will tell me to take my clothes off, or worse. When I refuse, I receive the inevitable intimation that I loathe so much. “I need to see if you have the look to match your singing talent.” And then slowly they will regress into suggestive behavior: “You want to be famous don’t you.” Eventually they will say sexist and hurtful things like, “you can’t go out like that not expecting to get hit on, you are asking for it.” I have to pull through these hard times and I usually just walk out if it becomes too much. They will often resort to name calling, stating that I am a “tease.” When they get really desperate they will tell me that I have no chance of making it in the music industry unless I give them what they want. I have even had attempts at black mail, saying that they would send my parents, work, or school photos of me, or slander my name. I have realized that this is indeed how the world works, and that it will never change unless women like me stand up for our rights and demand respect from men.
This prejudice is maintained by my continuing to encounter producers that fit the lusty, greedy, self-centered stereotype that I have come to associated with this group. It is difficult to alter my perception of producers when they all seem to fit this pattern. For example, I went to another audition recently where the producer had the audacity to grope my breasts, having just met me. He hefted one of my breasts and said, “Cool. They’re real. Nice rack.” When I continue to meet producers who behave in such a crass, immature and rude manner, this naturally substantiates my prejudice, as they conform to all the negative stereotypes that abound in media and among the stories exchanged among my friends.
As this indicates, my friends, who are also attempting to establish singing careers, have all told me of having similar experiences. When other women, whom you trust, have all sworn that they had similar experiences to my own, it supports the suppositions on which a prejudice is based, as this indicates that my observations are accurate. Additionally, the financial insecurity that results from not getting the jobs and positions that I audition for undoubtedly contributes to my prejudice as this results in increased anger and resentment for their persistent refusal to make my talent, rather than my body, the focus of their attention.
As indicated above, my prejudice against producers is directly related to my career and my chances for employment and career advancement. It has become so engrained in my belief system that I have observed it affecting my behavior at auditions. Rather than being open and friendly, which is part of my natural behavior among other people, now, when I go to auditions, I become guarded and defensive, as I anticipate the producer initiating licentious and rude behavior at any moment. Furthermore, the anger and resentment I feel at the focus being always on how I look, rather than on how I sing, is something that I know is evident to the people observing and listening to my audition.
My extreme prejudice against producers does not fit into my larger network of interactions and beliefs in any manner. I tend to see the positive in everyone and, typically, my outlook on the world is one of tolerance and love. As I am a woman of color myself, I embrace diversity and honor the beliefs and cultures of all people. Therefore, it disturbs me deeply that I harbor such resentment, anger and prejudice against a group of people. It also concerns me that my prejudice will blind me to the experience of appreciating a truly competent producer when I have the opportunity to encounter such a person.
I know that my stereotype of music producers is not one hundred percent accurate. I know that generalizing an entire group of people based on a nonscientific sample is suspect at best. However I also know that it is within human nature to make such sweeping generalizations, as all people tend to do. It would be unfair to say that all music producers are unethical, or that all music producers are interested in only promiscuous sex with their clients. The difficulty lies in finding a reliable legitimate producer who will respect me for my talent and my work ethic. I try to do my best right now, dressing conservatively, trying my best not to “flirt” or lead them on in any way, and trying to be as professional as possible. One of these possibilities is changing the type of music that I sing to gospel, and trying to apply at churches or Christian labels. My problem with that is that I feel like my strong suits are rooted in the musical stylings listed above: R & B, Zouk, and Reggae. I think that the single most important thing I can do is keep my head up. If I continue to project being a strong, talented woman, than eventually producers will have no choice but to accept me for who I am. They will learn to respect me and word will get around that I mean business, and that I am career-minded. My goal in life is to succeed at my career in singing and vocals, and if stay strong than soon those around me will recognize that strength.
Changing my prejudice will undoubtedly be very difficult, but I believe it can be done. I truly wish to do this, as I believe that it will increase my chances for furthering my career and will constitute a positive step for my personal development if I can rid myself of negative stereotypical assumptions prior to an audition and react to circumstances as they arise, rather than meeting them with a prejudicial attitude.
One technique for eliminating the prejudice would be to use affirmations. In other words, I can repeat to myself that I will keep an open mind and go to auditions with the no assumptions or expectations about a producer’s behavior. Another technique that would undoubtedly help me in eliminating my prejudice would be if I could meet and get to know a producer that did not fit with the prejudicial assumptions or associated stereotypes. Perhaps, I can accomplish this by becoming involved in a theater group or some other venue where I can meet producers under different circumstances.
However, the event that would have to occur for me to completely eliminate my prejudice against producers would be if I went to an audition and the producer was completely professional, polite and focused on my singing. It would not even be necessary for me to get the job, as this would be such a change and breath of fresh air that it would convince me that producers are capable of acting professionally.