QESB - Unpacking My Closet: My Fanbase

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 41918.2

Bonnie Gillespie is a name you should know if you’re pursuing a career in film. Or in the arts. Or maybe even just trying to be a good human. Her book and related online course work called Self Management For Actors (SMFA) has a number of mindset and practical tools for running a successful business.

Currently I am progressing through her “SMFA – Get in Gear For the Next Tier (GIG) 100 Day Program.” It’s genius, for what’s included it is VERY reasonably priced, and I am finding it enriching in all kinds of incredible ways. I cannot say enough about what this person and her work has to offer.

The day I just opened talks about our fan base. She breaks it into three categories, and each one is a third of the population. The people who get us, the people who are “meh” about us, and the people who do not get us. Her advice? Without spilling all her secrets (you gotta pay for that just like the rest of us…it’s worth it) she suggests that we spend all of our focus on finding, developing, and encouraging engagement with the third of the population who do, or will, get us. The other 2/3 will never come around, so it’s not worth the aggravation. And, by trying to appeal to people who are “meh” or not into us, we might end up changing ourselves enough that those people that DO get us no longer recognize us.

A perfect example is a comparison between two albums of two incredibly talented pop artists. Christina Aguilera and P!nk. In the same year, P!nk released “The Truth About Love,” and Christina released “Lotus.” One did well (Love) and one did not (Lotus). I will confess…I never listened to “Lotus,” but “Love” was the soundtrack for a huge turning point in my life for about a year.

Here are two women who got in the game around the same time, are both insanely talented, and are both sexy, (sometimes) blonde women. So what happened? Here’s why I think people love P!nk. As she’s matured, her music has grown with her. Her fan base, who totally get her, have also matured. So, they recognize themselves in her changing attitudes and can continue to connect to her story.

From what everyone told be about “Lotus,” Christina went in a different direction. Reviewers and friends of mine felt like she was trying to reach a “new, younger audience.” They said the sound was inauthentic. The kids wondered who this old person was trying to sell them music, and her original fans didn’t recognize her sound. In trying to reach fans who didn't "get" her, she ended up alienating many of the fans that did. 

Yesterday, I wrote about not fitting into the “cool” crowd in seventh-grade and a painful attempt to make that work. In this context, I was trying to convince people in the other 2/3’s of fans to “get me.” That was never going to happen. Looking back, there’s a part of the story I don’t often think about. I did have some friends. Not many. Only one that fit into the “cool” group, and he was someone special to everyone. But there were a few people that year who “got me.” But I actively chose not to engage with them. It’s seventh-grade, so navigating the social field is always tumultuous. Nevertheless, I added insult to injury by not accepting the friendship of my “fans” in the attempt to woo those who would never be.

There’s a bright side. That summer, I engaged with a summer theatre program that, no exaggeration, changed my life. This program operated out of the other junior high, Percy Julian. This was the CAST (Communication, Arts, Speech and Theatre) Program. There I found like-minded people with the same interests, the same drives, and the same “outsider” mentality that I’d been wading through. My amazing parents pulled some strings and by the fall of eighth-grade, I was enrolled at Julian, an active member of the CAST program, and had found my path.

As I unpack my mental closet, I am tossing out any of the baggage that may still carry over from those seventh-grade choices. I will no longer be seeking approval from people who are not my “fans.” This goes for friends as well as professional relationships. There are people out there who will and do, totally and completely, “get me” and my work. It’s time to give them more of what they love.