Mae West was a force in the film industry and on Broadway as an actress, producer, and writer. These days, it seems that every actress is creating their own vehicles. In Mae’s this was unheard of; May was a trailblazer.
Mae knew how to deftly use controversy to advance her career. She also was a free creative spirit and wrote under a pen name “Jane Mast,” so that she could be as risque as she dared. One of her scripts brought her first leading role in a Broadway show. The play opened in 1926. It was called “Sex.” Critics paned it, but audiences loved it. She simultaneously began development for a drag queen play called “The Drag,” which she planned to bring to Broadway. The Broadway elite finally had enough of her controversial plays and complained to the police. In 1927 city officials raided “Sex” and threw Mae in jail. Mae was thus sentenced to ten days in prison. She took the sentencing in stride: she earned two days off for good behavior, spent most evenings dining with the warden and his wife, and upon exiting told reporters that she wore her silk panties the whole time.
The “Sex” scandal brought Mae incredible attention and launched her Hollywood career. She later said: “I believe in censorship I made a fortune out of it.”
Old Hollywood Lesson:
Note what Mae did NOT DO when she exited prison and spoke to the press:
She did not show her panties to the press,
sell them to the highest bidder,
or galavant around town wearing them -- she simply made a suggestion that she wore silk panties while in prison.
Because showing herself in that way would be cheapen her message.
And because she knew that it would piss off her detractors, which in turn would create more press.
The more press that existed about her unyielding character, the more she built her brand.
Mae used her sensuality to navigate the Broadway environment and later Hollywood, but she never, under no uncertain terms, cheapened what she had. She used her intelligence, while being comfortable and confident in what she had to offer. She wasn't the prettiest or most talented. No matter, it was her confidence and swagger that made people respect her. Mae was never out-of-control (drunk, raging mad) and she was always calculating, plotting her next move.
Mae was a voluptuous woman and a powerful force, and she cast her self in those roles in her own projects. She created her own brand this way.
And for this, Mae became a star.
And through this, we can assure ourselves that IT IS POSSIBLE to create an empowering career, life, or dating world without losing ourselves in the process. Intelligence, confidence, and classy authenticity are what you need to place yourself in the world in the most powerful way possible.
What about you?
Have you ever had a success in garnering attention and notice for your ideas? How did you do it?