How one starlet proved being nice is more memorable than being a jerk.
The late 1990s and early 2000s were hard on the male hair if you belonged to a boyband. It was during this era my retinas were scalded by the frosted, spiky tips of many warblers. This time period was also challenging for their skin. A deep-rooted orange-y glow accompanied them from stage to stage.
I caught these guys on their way up. As an online reporter tasked with keeping track of all things "pop", I attended concerts, sat in hotel boardrooms for interviews and talked to a bunch of them as they sat on their tour bus. I interviewed actors too, bright-eyed sparklers with dreams of making it big. Sometimes, when AllPop.com got lucky, we hosted these celebs in our offices. We'd offer them cookies from the cafeteria downstairs (they always remained untouched) and got them to participate in "Online Chats" a.k.a. the old-fashioned version of a Twitter Q&A. Fans would submit questions to an online tool, we'd sort them out, talk to the celeb and he/she would provide answers, which we'd hastily type up.
Most of these people are a blur. Many of their careers faded fast. Some went on to tragic fates, some ended up on Mad Men (oh hey, Jessica Pare) and some just kind of ... went away (oh hey, that guy from that Britney Spears movie who was an idiot over the phone and Jewel, kind of, where is she?).
During my time on that job (and an awesome one it was), a certain fame equation became apparent:
Years of Fame = > 1 X number of media interviews completed = > 50 = probability of not being a jerk.
The more experienced the star, the more time she or he had to recognize how important not being a jerk was, the more experience the person had with fans and the media, the nicer and more respectful the person. Of course, there were and are always exceptions to this rule, but generally, in my experience, it applied & applies. Back in my day, the more fresh the frosted tips, the newer the single, the more likely these guys were going to make me want to give them a wedgie.
When news of Mandy Moore's split from husband Ryan Adams hit the Interwebs, it got my mind whirring back to the time she came to our office for online chat. My friend and former colleague Paul Cantin sent me a message about her too. We've often talked about her niceness. I mean, this is a person we've met once who we would both defend endlessly.
It's because Mandy showed up with only one handler, exclaimed her thanks over the cookies, signed autographs for the children of colleagues and took question after question.
She was 18. Here's a screenshot of the chat transcript from 2002:
I am trying to think of how I could add a greater moral to this story, but basically, I just feel like everyone should know that when Mandy Moore was 18, she had every right to be a jerk. She was young, had money, fame, an acting career, a music career and she was crazy pretty. (Seriously, so pretty.) There was no reason for her to be poised, thoughtful, kind and mature - BUT SHE WAS. She'd been around long enough to understand the importance of giving thoughtful answers, of making her fans feel heard, of being respectful to those interviewing her.
I have no idea if she's still super nice. But in my heart of hearts, I hope she's out there, spreading sprinkles of niceness dust on everyone she meets.
Oh wait! I found the moral of my story - I think no matter where you work, no matter what you do, no matter how senior your are, no matter how smart you may be, you will seem like a foolish amateur if you act like a jerk. Be respectful, be nice, give considerate, thoughtful answers to questions and say thanks when someone gets you a cookie.
Hey, Mandy was even nice when asked about her hair and she actually gave an interesting answer.