An Open Letter To Maggie Ghyllenhaal regarding agism in showbiz

Subject: An Open Letter To Maggie Ghyllenhaal regarding agism in showbiz
From: Collette McLafferty
Date: 23 May 2015

“Collette, I don’t care if you have a couple drinks after work, but you have to stop crying at the bar! Did you realize Maggie Ghyllenhaal was sitting right next to you?!”

That was my boss reprimanding me and being way too nice about it. It was my first month on the job at my new bar tending gig. Apparently, I got drunk and told a friend of yours to fuck off. Apparently, you were sitting next to me. It was a miracle I wasn’t fired.

5 minutes later, your friend and I hugged it out. I guess he was really pissed off about something…I was really pissed off about something…we locked eyes and took it out on each other. As things escalated, we eventually reasoned our tiff had nothing to do with each other and everything to do with ourselves. Every time I saw him at work after that, we were cool and laughed about it. If I was a betting girl, I would guess he had some Irish/Scotch in him like me.

I never found out what happened to him, but I did tell him what happened to me: I’d just gotten fired from a four month singing contract earlier that night. Earlier in the week, I was offered a pretty sweet gig at a hotel night club in Bahrain. I was going to leave my job, sublet my apartment and be halfway across the world in 5 days. The band had courted me pretty hard as they found me online.They were willing to change the wardrobe (It was too revealing for my taste) and rush me a passport so I could start rehearsing by the end of the week. They felt I was the best candidate for the gig. There were no issues, until my age came up. I had to come clean and tell them I was 38.

The band leader/bass player was also 38. Nothing about the way I looked or sang had changed as a result of being 38. The band leader seemed like he didn’t care, but said he had to “check with the hotel” to see if he could still hire me. He said the hotel was very “picky about their girls”.

That night, he sent me an email and thanked me for my time. They went with someone else. Interestingly, my replacement looked older then me, she just happened to make the “cut off” age of 35. I had gotten the news hours before locking eyes with your friend. Unfortunately, in my Jager-induced pity party I proceeded to rant about the hotel and the band on the internet. I think I sent a “Stop Age Discrimination Now” Facebook Page to the band leader. I woke up the next morning and tried to erase everything, but I had caused a bit of an online ruckus.

I did, however, decide from that day forward that I would shout my age from the rooftops anytime someone would ask. I would own it, proudly. Unfortunately, I was punished for this on a national scale.

Last year, a stranger sued me for $10,000,000 for singing in a band he once played drums for. In addition to some serious allegations against me, he stated I was “too unattractive” to front the band. When he expressed interest in hitting me with a second lawsuit, I spoke to the NY Post in hopes of getting him off my back. After all, I had never met him and I had done nothing wrong. I showed up to do a job I was hired for. Despite the fact my age had nothing to do with the lawsuit, I was treated to the headline, “Singer Sued for Being Too Old and Too Ugly for P!NK Tribute Band”. This story went viral worldwide. I had made it clear to the journalists that my age was a non issue. I wrote to the editor of the NY Post twice about this. Still, months later I saw my photo in the paper again with the words “Too Old and Ugly Gal Collette McLafferty…” underneath my photo.

My reaction to this went in reverse order of yours.

First I laughed.

Then it made me feel bad.

Then I got angry.

Then I went to therapy. First to process the lawsuit. Then the media treatment.

Then I stayed in bed for a couple of weeks, while my room mate took care of me…bringing me coffee and breakfast in the morning.

Mind if I try to metaphorically sum up what the events of 2014 did to me? It’s kinda gross, but then again so is this entire situation. Imagine your in a time machine. You open the door and there’s nothing but dinosaurs. A 20 foot tall Brontosaurus steps over you and poops on your head. While you are processing that a dinosaur just pooped on you, a Triceratops rams into you with his horns and sits on you. The Brontosaurus is the lawsuit. The Triceratops is the NY Post. It’s a toss up as to which one is worse….although the Triceratops would have never gotten you in if the Brontosaurus hadn’t cornered you first.

This may be a strange analogy, but I am just trying to communicate what a hellacious experience this has been.

All this age discrimination nonsense is rather old school. It’s got to go! Discrimination in the work place is just plain wrong. While some say Hollywood gets a free pass in regards to work place agism, it’s really not cool at all. Not in 2015. Values projected in Hollywood always ripple out through the rest of society. We can do better.

I am hopeful, however, that you are hopeful. I hope the conversation about this issue becomes front and center news until it is a thing of the past. Next time I read about you laughing about agism, I hope it is to laugh about the fact that it ever existed in the first place… as it dies out like the dinosaurs eventually did.

So there you have it. Just in case you ever wondered what was up with that drunk girl who told your friend to fuck off for no reason. Sorry for that.