A few years ago I did a reality show, a really embarrassing reality show that I hate to talk about. It gave me a lot of recognition and some loyal fans. Most people who watched the show really liked me and still do.
No fortune came with my fame, though. It also didn’t do a damn thing for my acting career. I think it’s made it harder for me to get the kind of acting roles I want. People consider me a “reality” star and don’t offer me gritty roles or consider me for anything other than a no-budget indie comedy.
I had no idea this would happen. When I moved out to California to pursue my dreams of acting on the big screen, I thought all work was good work and any publicity was good publicity. I was so happy to land a gig that would get me on TV and in front of peoples’ faces that I never considered negative things.
I thought that fame was fame and fans were fans and the reality show would help me change my career like it did for Jacinda Barrett. She ran around naked on the Real World and still lands movies like “Bridget Jones” and “The Namesake.” I didn’t do anything nearly as risqué as what she did.
I just feel like I’m starting all over again and this time, with less respect from others than ever before. I want a career in film. I want gritty dramatic roles that challenge me. I want to be seen in a completely different way than I’m being seen now.
Should I just bite the bullet and own up to my past? Or should I drop it from my bio completely? What about the YouTube clips? How can I create an image that will show me the way I want to be seen?
First, let’s rise out of the shame sewer. It’s not doing you any good to wallow in coulda, shoulda, woulda. Bottom line: you could and you did. You’re in a very particular place right now and this place has to be your starting point. From a pure publicity aspect, you need to figure out your game changer. This can involve myriad things - anything from the way you utilize your fans to the projects you choose to brand associations.
Rebranding is a long process that requires deep strategy and fastidiousness. When A-listers rebrand, they get very quiet in the media and try to calm the media frenzy. They stay quiet until a huge project that’s backed by a big budget gives them a reason to be back in the spotlight. You can’t necessarily afford to go radio silent and wait for some big studio project to give you an avenue for reemergence. You have to change while staying in motion.
You don’t have to make it the first paragraph of your bio, but you don’t need to eliminate the factoid from your life, either. People know you were on a show and recognize you for it, so just make this fact work for you. Mention the show in conjunction with a reference to how you started winning the hearts of your fans, such as, “She began winning the hearts of America through her memorable moments on XYZ show.” How this fits into your bio is a matter of semantics and angles. Time to test your verbal contortionist skills.
Let’s talk about the fans. Since you have them, I would suggest you figure out ways to stay connected to your loyal supporters and utilize their numbers to your advantage. So, wrangle those Twitter followers and Facebook fans to drive traffic to your IMDb page and website. Those fans can help keep your IMDb numbers in the popular range. By now, you should know how helpful that can be.
Once you know you have your fans documented and mobilized, seek out projects that will help you utilize those numbers while also flexing your acting muscle. Fundraising plays or charity readings (especially celebrity charity readings) usually focus on character driven, gritty material. They can also be a great opportunity to get fans buzzing, send a media alert to the press about your new fab role, and essentially start showcasing that different side of yourself.
You may also want to look at pursuing webisodes or other cool online projects. I know you’re craving the silver screen but, don’t get stuck on stupid about it. There are some amazing web projects that are actually union and winning awards. These will give you something unexpected to publicize and, again, you can utilize your fans to increase the popularity of the project.
Another script flipper can be the right kind of spokesperson or brand ambassador opportunity. If you can find a nonprofit or product that you truly believe in that will also paint you in the desired light, signing up to be its face can go a long way for changing or elevating your image. Whether the brand publicizes you, you publicize you, or you do no publicity at all, being associated with the brand will showcase you in a way that should garner respect. That is, if you choose the right brand.
I can’t emphasize enough how involved and tedious this process is going to be. You can’t half-way this. To rebrand, you have to go all out or just stay home.
During this journey, you also need to remember that your goals might not materialize as is. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon the goals. Just amend them. Think of a strategy, implement your plan and stick with it. This is going to be a true test of endurance.