The Reluctant Stylista

I was reading a friend’s list of his 10 personal rules for dealing with people, when I remembered my own “character-building” encounter with another person from the industry not so long ago.

Before I go on, let me just say right off that I myself am not exactly the nicest person around.  Sometimes, I’m not very patient in giving explanations.  I constantly fight the urge not to roll my eyes when people waste my time don’t get to the point (this despite the fact that I like to waste time, too).  Close friends can attest as to how short-tempered I am, but to my credit, I never hold a grudge (like I sometimes forget offenses an hour or two later).  I may be quick to retort and snap, but I am just as quick to laugh.  I’m not really the chatty, ma-PR type of person like some of my friends are, so some people who work with me think I’m a little cold.

I worry about this sometimes.  But one thing I hope I’ll never be seen is rude, egotistical, and well, a plain ‘ol diva.

I have enough reason for worrying like so.  The industry I’m in isn’t exactly known for nurturing humble egos, though I’ve been fortunate so far that most of the people I’ve met–models, photographers, celebrities, stylists, actors and actresses–are quite talented, professional and a joy to work with.  They seem so normal and down-to-earth, far away from the glare of the lights and the flashing of cameras that had you worked with them, you would easily imagine yourself having coffee or a bottle of beer with this famous person.  In the beginning, I often went home with a changed outlook of the industry and its people.

Unfortunately, there’s a chance you’ll be meeting a few bad apples.  And I can’t help but wonder what made them that way, as I’m sure we all started somewhere (or at least most of us started at the bottom).  Did the success go to their head?  Did they forget how it was like at the beginning?  Have they forgotten how to work with a team?  Why do they get away with such attitude?  And why do people forget that unless proven otherwise, everybody deserves respect?

A week ago, I was styling for a fashion show in Trinoma.  Since it was an important production involving big brands, it was no surprise that they called in one of the best and most reliable teams to work with.  I was fortunate to be in Noel Manapat’s style team, so I was helping out in any way I could.  My mentor is often busy with numerous details that while he attended to other urgent matters, I made myself available to the people handling the event, the store managers and the attendants who were in charge of the pull-outs.  I’d be checking the stock, going over the clothes and accessories per model and signing release forms.  So at one point, when the events people asked me worriedly if I could please check how the hair and make-up were going, I obliged.

Okay, I hesitated just a teeny bit.  The models were being prepped up at the highest floor of the mall and possibly in the farthest corner where their admin office stood.  There were a lot of other things to be done before the show, there were over a hundred looks to go over and I had to get some sourcing done.  But Noel’s instructions for the hair and makeup were in my phone’s inbox, and it may not have been enough that I relayed this to the organizers already.  It didn’t hurt to check, right?  I did ask them (the organizers) if there were any problems, and the reply was, “We just don’t want to be answerable to mistakes, if there’d be any, with regards to styling.”  After all, I supposed, they were there to make sure the show would be in order.  I was there with the style team to make sure everything related to the look and style would be in order.  I didn’t want to take any chances and fail Noel in any way.

So up I went, and entered with a few of the junior staff members of the events group trailing behind me.  When I reached the place where they were prepping up the models, I asked one of the people there who was in charge of the make-up.  The person I asked (let’s call him PR) immediately quieted down from his animated chatter with another stylist, and I could see his whole demeanor visibly change.  It was like his whole face closed down and in its place was an expression I could only describe as a mix of anger, irritation and condescension.  In that one look, I immediately surmised that he was in charge.  He didn’t even have to say anything, and in fact, he just answered my question with his own.

“Why?” PR said, and I was a little confused because it sounded so hostile when all I did was ask who was in charge.  I wondered if it seemed like I had on a superior look, as sometimes people misinterpret my deadpan face into one of snobbishness.  I asked if they had already been told about the look for the models as per Noel’s instructions.  He glared and replied an angry “yes”.  I think he cut me off twice during my questions, and from then on, I paused and let him finish, as I was still bewildered as to where all this hate energy was coming from.  He went on to rant that, didn’t I see they were already doing the models’ and make-up and there were about three or so girls done with theirs (there were maybe 50 or so models in all)?  If he could’ve walked over to the printed pegs they had taped on the walls, he probably would’ve pointed to them angrily as well.  He was saying something like we were repeatedly bothering them with all sorts of “unnecessary” info, changing things, and I was taken aback, since that was my first trip upstairs and all this time I had only gotten around two sentences or so.  I wondered then if the events people were also checking up on him prior to my visit or if he were usually so friendly.

The look of condescension didn’t fade away, either, as he even demanded, “Sino ka ba? Who do you work for?”  I suppose I should’ve been insulted, as I was dressed pretty well, I was polite (compared to some people in the room anyway) and here he was talking to me like a peon.  I answered him then, and he didn’t say anything.  I figured, as Noel’s representative, it really wouldn’t do to make a scene, so I excused myself after asking the staff members behind me if they needed anything else.  In that stressful moment, I forgot to turn back to PR and tell him one thing:

Thank you.

Those two words can jar people back to reality, and I was sorry to not have told him so when his anger was seemingly uncalled for.  Then I realized later on, had I said it, I probably would have meant it, too.  After all, it’s people like him that will constantly remind me of that one thing I never want to become.  I don’t want to be that person who can’t work in a team, who people would whisper and complain about.  I don’t want to be a stylist with a major attitude problem who’d burn bridges and never be booked again.  I don’t want to grow old in an industry who’d call me washed up instead of looking back at me with respect and gratitude for knowledge and skills that had been shared.  I don’t want to be “that psycho with creative outbursts”.  I don’t want to be an ugly person.

And for that reminder, PR does deserve some gratitude.

As I walked outside that office, the staff member beside me chuckled nervously and said, “Ang taray no?“  I just shrugged and wondered out loud what PR’s problem was.  Who was he?  He acted like I ought to have known him, short of bowing or curtsying to him, really.  “He’s P.R.,” I was told, and I was right.  I know his name.  And it’s a pretty big name among make-up artists that even I had heard of him, but that was the first time I met him in person.  I immediately texted my friend Carmi David (she works with us, with KC, and I love her to bits!) and asked if she’s friends with him and shared my tales of woe.  I wanted to know if PR was normally like that so I asked her.  Maybe he was just having a bad day.  Maybe it’s his artistic temperament (though I hate that excuse).

Artists, stylists, talents–we all have our moments.  We have reasons.  But at the end of the day, most of the people you work with will NOT bother to find out.  Then maybe not even your flowery name can bail you out of the consequences.


Thanks at least, to the people who worked with us and made that show all worth the effort.  Thankfully, not everyone was a wet blanket.  And how!  I had fun reuniting with two of my DFW classmates again, Jund and Nio, and I met the new batch of junior stylists under Noel Manapat who had their baptism by fire that day:

Style Origin
I collaged photos from Nio’s gallery!

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