Theory of the white woman
The title has nothing to do with the post. But I do have a theory and it’s at the bottom of the post, so read on.
Last Tuesday, I unexpectedly engineered the sound for the vice president’s speech at the S*mm*t of the Am*ricas, an event that last took place in the US the year I was born. It is a conference for Latin American issues, as I understand it. I booked the job the previous weekend, with my contractor giving me zero details as to what I would be doing. I only knew that this was my first gig as an audio lead, and really, my career has started with a bang.
I arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles on Monday for the setup day. The first clue I had to what was going on was that a three block radius from the Intercontinental had been completely blocked off, with 6-ft high metal barricades installed on the streets. Then I checked my group chat with the contracting team and was told that ‘nobody with felonies was allowed to be on-site for this show’. A few people were complaining.
As this was my first lead position, I’d spent much of the night previous reading the manual for the Soundcraft Performer 2, which was the console I would be operating. I was nervous. I had thus far only been a secondary audio operator, assisting the lead, and I knew how complicated the lead’s position could be. When it comes down to it, the lead is the one in charge; the fault of anything going wrong lies with them.
After about a half hour of navigating the hotel (the tallest skyscraper in the US west of the Mississippi), I arrived in a small conference room of about 200 capacity. I meet my fellow operators: Gabriel, a video and streaming lead with audio experience who helped me considerably, and Guido, a camera guy who always said something funny.
I was told some time around lunch that the conference would be several VIPs: a former supermodel, some Latin American ex-presidents, the CEO of P*psi, and the vice president. I was like, whoa. But the setup was altogether fairly simple and I believed I had it under control. Really, I was in disbelief that I had been booked for this, but I could hardly complain. Life is crazy, I kept thinking.
The coordinator onsite was a white lady named B****. She was slim, tall, and pretty. She had a face like a bird, the type of woman I admire from afar but am not attracted to. She was clearly somebody who was made to be in charge of this event but had little experience, and that would show throughout the next 24 hours. She told me she had a Spotify playlist that she’d like to play in-between speakers and such, so I let her download the app and log in on my iPad.
The next day, show day, I arrive at 7AM and am locked down on the 7th floor while the Secret Service secure the building. The conference doesn’t start until 3PM, so the day begins slow. Accordingly, as is the nature of this job, as we get closer to showtime people start asking me for things at an exponential rate. I begin to deal with a dozen things all at once, comforting the event staff in their inexperience while satisfying the White House’s various needs and restrictions. I am told that hecklers ‘are allowed’ and a Secret Service member almost chokeholds me after I try to get by him quickly. Overall it is an exciting morning, and I feel prepared. We skip lunch, so I get paid the meal penalty.
I run the press conference like I’m piloting the Millenium Falcon. I tightly control my board, I clip mics to a supermodel’s blouse, I fade in Beyonce’s Girls Run The World, and I maintain a consistent focus. I listen to the head of the organization bitch about this and that on the live microphone that only I can hear, I comfort the woman who was just yelled at by her boss, and I fade out the vice president’s fanfare music after she finishes her speech. I talk to the White House AV person on the phone to get the cues right, and I get them right. I do the job well, and my audio goes on Fox News and CNN. I break a personal record for my hourly rate.
My theory is this, best illustrated by a moment that happened. Early in the conference, before the VP’s speech, I am overhearing the committee president having a fit over something not being right for VP’s entrance. He’s tall and good-looking, almost like he was bred for this exact purpose. What machine do these people come out of, sometimes I wonder.
He’s really having a fit, he’s being a little hoe over the microphone, but internally I’m thinking uh oh something’s about to go wrong. Thus far, this has been a conference of entirely white people talking about Latin American issues. Then we play a video from P*psi that shows poor brown people, and it’s about empowering women but it’s very corny. It gets cut off halfway for some reason. This man comes to the stage after an awkward pause in-between events and apologizes for the ‘technical issues’ (pffff) and says we will take a short break before coming back.
And in this moment, it’s my job to fade in the next song on B****’s playlist, so I do and I swear it’s the worst stereotypical Latino music that could have possibly been played in that moment. Just absolutely classless in its selection and ignorant in its context. The entire crowd, filled with Latino millionaires, light-skinned and perfumed in tasteful suits, lets out an uncomfortable laugh.
I am so embarrassed, I can’t believe this woman has just made me do this. At the closest opportunity, I change the playlist over to Motown and I never bring it back again. I still just can’t understand why she’d do such a thing. The crowd will cringe, but they’ll forget. I, on the other hand, will never forget. But that’s the job.
At least I’m getting overtime.