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(and the Top 5 Things Women in Entertainment Say about Sexual Misconduct)

Preface: I'm prepared for criticism and threatening phone calls as a result of writing this, and I understand that I may be banned from walking into a few doors on Wilshire... at least for a little while.

“Congratulations. You five ladies no longer have to pretend like you’re attracted to Harvey Weinstein,” said Seth MacFarlane introducing nominees for best supporting actress at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Foreshadow! I have nothing to say directly about Weinstein or any of the allegations surrounding him. Is that because I have no right to do so, as I've never worked directly with him (but only with his employed agents)? Or is that because I'm scared that I will be shunned from lucrative business opportunities? In Hollywood, so many women are convinced that sexuality and sensuality have the power to influence decisions - from the hiring process to talent casting to rising up on the corporate totem pole.

That's because it's true. I’ve got to be honest: I’m one of those women, who shares with fellow entertainment industry females, the perception that we have to strategically use our allure to thrive in the business.

It's always at a Hollywood girls' dinner at table 13 of Craig's or during the attempt to hide out at a corner table at The Peninsula's Afternoon Tea hour (while waiting to see who gets kicked out of Avi Lerner's table down the corridor prior to his arrival) when I partake in quietly-spoken conversations about the behind-the-scenes synergy of the Hollywood workplace. Whether it be a "[Big Agency]," major studio, independent film business, or even a mom-and-pops unscripted television production company, every workplace has its stories - the anecdotes of sexual harassment or post-happy-hour forays into drugs - of how someone either became vulnerable and a victim of the madness, or trudged and dodged the uncomfortable, yet inevitable male-female interactions while doing business.

During one of our tea talks about abusive executives and clients, one friend (a male marriage and family therapist) said to me and to another female friend in the industry, "You don't have to tolerate verbal abuse and sexual harassment. It's not right. You have a choice."

Our response?

"You don't get it. It's Hollywood. That's just the way it is."

That's because the other choice is to quit or get fired.

In 2013, I was in a meeting at EOne to negotiate a programming deal on behalf of a client. Three chairs at the conference table were filled by their team members, all of whom were male; and on the other side sat yours truly, my male client and his male interim talent manager. I recall the meeting vividly, as it was March 13 and my ESPN alert notified me that my future-ex-husband aka Danny Amendola was leaving me, I mean, St. Louis. Right after that moment, the then-VP of the department completely halted the business talk and made an excursion into a brief one-way conversation with me, during which my innately sarcastic defensive mode turned on:

VP: Mary Beth, what are you?

MB: I'm a publicist.

VP: I know that, but like, what are you? Chinese? Asian and white?

MB: Filipino. (rolling my eyes with a smirk)

VP: Mmm, mm, mmm. I'd love to have a piece of that.

MB: (smiling) Allen, let's finish this deal and we can talk about it later.

And the meeting promptly resumed.

Then there are the occasional blunt words spit by the ego-driven, on-his-way-up-in-the-industry male, "Join me in my hotel room?"

My usual response: "You have two choices. You can either f*ck me, or you can f*ck with me and make money."

The smart ones choose the latter. (The first time I gave those options to a man was an attempt to blow off Rich Dollaz at Ryan Leslie's BET Awards afterparty in 2009.)

Somewhere in my inbox I'll find an e-mail written by a then-Alchemy film distribution exec. Within, he had written that he had been envisioning that I'd "...take his hand and walk him into the bedroom [and passionately lay with him]."

Via e-mail? Seriously?

We, women - we talk. We discuss our questionable experiences involving males and how we are in fear of jeopardizing our clientele, colleague relationships and career tracks, we contemplate and, unfortunately, we stop right there and do nothing more.

Here are the Top 5 paraphrased statements I've heard from professional and executive women in Hollywood regarding sexual harassment and misconduct:

1. If a man harasses you, strategically use it against him.

2. Get over it. Sexual harassment is part of working in Hollywood.

3. If you report being sexually harassed by a top executive, sure you can try to make some money through a settlement, which is our way of blackmail. But then you'll be blacklisted and won't be able to work in the industry again.

4. Don't give in. Just smile, keep your mouth shut and move on.

5. You've got do what you've got to do.

My male colleagues have even told me, "Mary Beth, flaunt what you've got, bat your eyes, be sweet and strong. Just flirt a little - not too much, but just enough."

Having mentored college students and new grads, predominantly young women, in public relations within the realms of sports and entertainment, I’ve made it clear with my (female) interns:

“If your boss or another male senior executive comes on to you sexually or in a way that just doesn't feel right, you don’t have to sleep with him to get what you want. Use his corporate credit card to feed him because he can’t talk or verbally abuse you when his mouth is full. Never blatantly reject him. Just respectfully respond to him with your glossed-up lips and postpone his flirtation with, 'Very funny, boss. Let's finish this project and then I'll find a solution for you.' And get him an escort in the meantime.”

Was this poor advice on my part? In a way, I am prolonging the use and abuse of women when suggesting escort services. Or am I just being realistic and rational for these young women just trying to make it? As I mentioned, I always tell my female apprentices that they don't have to sleep their way to the top (just get the man f*cked by someone else).

Note: Yes, I mentioned names. Get over it. I have no intention of suing anyone or tainting reputations. Just stating facts. Old ones. I'll buy you a drink when I see you at La Scala.

UPDATE as of Oct. 12, 2017: Below are responses I have received privately regarding this article.

#WME #HarveyWeinstein #EOne #RichDollaz #sexualharrassment #sexualmisconduct #entertainmentindustry #Hollywood #SexandHollywood #SethMacFarlane #film #workplace

Mentoring is my favorite - and most crucial - aspect of my work life. Teaching and helping others to grow helps me grow too... professionally, mentally, emotionally and intellectually. I spent the last 24 hours co-leading team-building activities at a teen summer camp. Missing passion in your work life? Go out and volunteer, apply your personal and professional values when doing it, and be of service to someone... BE THE IMPACT!

#Mentorship #Volunteering

A Look at Lochte, Phelps and Cleveland's Josh Gordon

Originally published in MONEY Magazine / Time Inc.

How Ryan Lochte Can Survive Bad Publicity

by Kristen Bahler @kristenbahler / Aug. 25, 2016

As millions of dollars bleed from Ryan Lochte’s endorsement deals, the beleaguered Olympian faces another challenge: rehabilitating his image.

Four sponsors have already severed ties with the swimmer, following news he trashed a Rio gas station bathroom and embellished claims about being robbed at gunpoint. And while Adweek reports the Pine Bros. throat lozenge company has made Lochte the face of its “Forgiving On Your Throat” campaign, the ads will no doubt lack the sultry style—or big bucks—of his nixed Speedo campaign.

Lochte isn’t the first American athlete to suffer a PR nightmare — professional sports are riddled with career-derailing controversies (we’re looking at you, Lance Armstrong). Just yesterday, Olympic goalie Hope Solo was handed a six-month suspension by the U.S. Soccer Federation for calling the Swedish national team “a bunch of cowards” after they ousted the Americans from the competition.

A handful of high-profile bad actors, though, have managed to escape scandal relatively unscathed. If Lochte stands any chance of redeeming his professional legacy, he’d be wise to take a page from their playbook.

Here are some lessons to heed.

Admit you’ve made a mistake

Michael Phelps may be the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, but his off-seasons have been marred by a catalog of bad behavior.

In 2009, a photo of the swimmer smoking a bong went viral, resulting in a three-month ban from U.S. competition and the loss of a rumored $250,000 Kellogg endorsement. In 2014, Phelps was arrested on a drunk-driving charge (his second), and was suspended for another six months.

After a 45-day stint in rehab in late 2014, Phelps made a number of press appearances, acknowledging that he’d had a lapse in judgment. Phelps’s adoring fans took him at his word, and he went on to be the most-mentioned athlete on Twitter during the 2016 summer Olympics. His six new medals and $12 million in endorsements are another sign of a solid comeback.

“When you make a mistake, own up to it,” says Matt Crevin, a Seattle-based career coach for athletes. “Everyone likes a bounce-back story, especially if your personal brand is one of accountability.”

Apologize for your actions

In 2007, Andy Pettitte admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs to recover from an injury. The Yankees’ starting pitcher immediately apologized to his team, and was quickly forgiven by fans. In 2015, Pettitte’s number was retired — a high honor for any player, and particularly noteworthy for one who’d been involved in a doping scandal.

“After you’ve admitted you’ve messed up, recognize who you’ve affected,” says Mary Beth Sales, a PR expert for Wilshire Austin, a strategic communications agency that specializes in sports and entertainment. “Make amends with everyone standing behind you, and let them know that the bad behavior isn’t going to continue.”

Be true to yourself

The public is quick to chastise athletes for reckless behavior, but relatable challenges can sometimes help forge a deeper connection with fans.

After testing positive for marijuana in 2006, Miami Dolphins rusher Ricky Williams was forced to sit out an entire season. Williams knocked the habit and came back to the NFL for five more seasons. Today, he’s an advocate for medical marijuana, and speaks regularly about using it for stress and anxiety management. Williams may be retired, but he’s found a new group of supporters off the field.

Going forward, aim to do the best job possible

Often, the best damage control comes from the quality of your work. If you’re an indispensable team player—whether athlete, employee, or manager—your reputation will precede you. In a good way.

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns is a shining example, Sales says. Last year, the star receiver was handed a long suspension for failing a series of drug tests, but is set to return to the NFL in October. Rather than issuing a slew of public mea culpas (see: every celebrity on Twitter), Gordon stepped out of the spotlight and onto the training field.

“[Gordon] hasn’t gone out of his way to create a flowing stream of persuasion; he’s proving he’s back on track by going out there and fighting,” Sales says. “He’s not spinning a story, he’s executing.”

Update: This story has been updated with information about Lochte’s new endorsement deal.

Source: http://time.com/money/4465074/ryan-lochte-career-advice/

#JoshGordon #MichaelPhelps #RyanLocte #PRExpert #ImageExpert #TimeInc #MONEYMagazine