It’s just another day at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I’m sitting at the entrance to the hallway that leads back stage. My job is to protect the backstage area (which would make you laugh if you saw my small 5'2'' dancer frame). I held the list of people allowed backstage and it was my job to make sure those were the only people back there.
The first few hours of this job are painstakingly boring. Mostly, I just greet the famous people who are going to be on the show that day. Most of my time was spent leaning back on the rear legs of chair and counting how many seconds I could stay balanced without falling over. 1... 2... 3... 4...
The day usually looked like this. First, the band would show up. They were always the first to show up because they had to do camera blocking and sound check before we could load in the audience.
Then, the second guest of the night would show up. I always loved the second guest of the night. They were usually the up and comers who showed up wide-eyed with a smile, excited to be on The Tonight Show.
Then, the first guest of the night arrived.
I would hear the stirring of a large group of people outside. And before I knew it, there would be a group of people standing in front of me.
They were all busy talking on their phones or checking their email or trying to look important. And almost every time, an assistant or publicist would be the only one to speak to me. I'm not important enough for the famous person to take time out of their day to speak to me. After introducing myself to the group, I would escort them to their dressing room and there was very rarely even a thank you from the famous person. It was expected that I would know them and I was to serve them without even a thank you or being acknowledged.
This time, it's Angelina Jolie.
She has a bigger entourage than any I had seen. One woman is carrying a bag full of shoes. There were at least 10 pairs of brand new shoes still in their boxes. Two women are carrying multiple dresses so she could chose. I’m nice to the assistant who checks in with me. I try to say something funny, Angelina is unamused and then looks at her assistant and says "Can we move on? I don't need to be standing out here being bothered by random people."
Oh man, I get mad. I feel like a cartoon character and that line of red was moving up my face. (When I look back, I have no idea if she was calling me one of the "random people", but I do know that I took it very personally and just thought of her as a jerk who was way too high maintenance for my taste.) I mean really, who needs that many clothes for one 10 minutes spot on a TV show? And seriously, she has one of the biggest entourages I had seen. Why do you need all of these people? What are they doing and why do they need be here for the one day you are at The Tonight Show?
After work, I go out with my friends (who aren’t part of the Hollywood industry) and tell them all about the jerk, Angelina Jolie. I tell the story of the straight out rudeness of her telling everyone that I bothered her and how she was so complicated...
They suck up every word. Every eye is glued to me, every word cementing in their brains. And they say things like “I could tell she was like that.”
Fast forward a few months and I see on the schedule that Angelina will be on the show again. I let out a great sigh. I’m quite the opposite of excited. I've seen people skip work and their lunch breaks just to see her walk by, I would have done anything to get out of this. I don't want to put up with her high-maintenance needs. I don't want to have her eyes roll at me or make me feel like I'm a nuisance. But like always, I will put a smile on my face and be as kind as I can.
My stomach knots up as the time draws near for her to arrive. I look over quickly when the door from the outside opens, but it's just two people. I sit back in my chair waiting for the entourage. I lean back on the rear legs, 1.. 2.. 3... 4... I tip forward quickly onto all four legs when I realize the two people are standing in front of me.
I look up and it's Angelina and her assistant. Her hair is down and soft with a beautiful smile on her face. Her one assistant is carrying her one dress. And to my shock, she introduces herself and on the way to dressing room asks me how I’m doing and then genuinely thanks me as I left.
I’m confused. Who was this woman? She's a jerk... Right?
So, dazed and confused, I head back to our pre-show meeting and I’m telling my friend Ryan about what just happened, and how I’m confused because she's usually such a jerk. He looks at me shock on his face and says, "What are you talking about? She's a sweetheart... to everyone." And everyone in the room agrees.
Suddenly I realized, you know who the jerk is? Me.
I took one small interaction with a person and judged her by that. I spread false information about her and her character because I got attention for it. I know that what I think of Angelina Jolie probably doesn’t matter to her. I know that telling my small group of friends something won't ruin her reputation, but it ruins mine. I showed my character by jumping to conclusions and trying to make myself seem more important by telling this disparaging story about her.
I know that I would be terrified if someone, knowing no information about my day or situation, drew an opinion of me by judging me on a bad day and then told others that was what I was like. I will keep my eyes open and give people multiple chances because that is what I would like done for me. Grace. I just need to remember grace. And spread it around like crazy.