Yes, that’s me dressed in a Hooters girl uniform.
That photo was taken in 2008. Hooters had just opened in Manila and I was going to write a story about the famous Hooter girls for UNO Magazine. Apparently, every other men’s magazine worth its salt had the same idea.
Since its opening, magazines (along with photography clubs) were queuing up at Hooters. I was upset that just days before, another men’s magazine had come in and interviewed the Hooters girl imports –who were in the Philippines briefly to train the new local recruits.
I was a few days late. I was desperate to find another angle, otherwise my story would look like a “me,too-press release”. So I decided to dress up as a Hooters girl and write about what it was like to be one.
It took awhile to convince the manager, but after explaining the story angle I wanted to take, he eventually agreed. I was whisked off for make-up and wriggled into the iconic Hooters girl uniform. I took dance lessons with the other girls, took direction on how to pose, made some drinks and served them, danced on the bar and posed for photos with customers.
The glares from the girlfriends/wives who came in with their partners, notwithstanding (that’s a whole other articIe altogether), I had a good laugh.
I posted the photos on Facebook after and one of my former subordinates saw it. She was completely mortified.
At this point, I think I should go into a bit of background. Just months before this “Hooters” incident, I had unceremoniously quit my PR job. For the first time in my life, I was trying to live off my writing.
My former subordinate, thinking that I had to resort to moonlighting as a Hooters girl to make ends meet, told my former boss about it.
I’m sharing this story today, International Freelancers Day, because I think it says a lot about what it’s like being a freelance writer:
1. You literally have to make your own money
Before becoming a freelancer, I would get paid just by showing up at the office. I could toil the whole day or just sit at my desk – it didn’t matter, I would still get my pay check every month. On days that I was sick or on holiday, I didn’t even have to be in the office physically and would still get paid.
As a freelancer, you operate under a “no work-no pay policy”. In the beginning, I waited for writing assignments to be given to me. It came in trickles and it wasn’t enough. I had to actively look for restaurants, date places, events – anything to write about; anything to get me another writing assignment.
2. You have to be unique to stand out
The impetus for me to put on the Hooters uniform was anxiety. I was afraid that editorial would not run another Hooters story, if already covered by a competing magazine. I had to find a different angle, impress my editor and get published otherwise, I would not get paid.
On a more macro-scale, in our writing workshops, we tell our participants to think of their byline as a brand name that needs to be built and protected. Being unique is the start of that process.
3. You shouldn’t care what other people think
I already knew what other people would think if they saw me in a Hooters girl uniform. But I didn’t care. I wanted my story. And if I had let what other would think consume me, I might not have gotten it.
4. You will need gumption in generous amounts
Whether it’s to follow up a check, negotiate a rate, interview celebrities, meet with heads of state or just network, you will need courage and confidence.
Oh, and copious amounts of patience.
5. You will have many many reasons to believe that you have the best job in the world
I lived out my fantasy of being a Hooters girl for a day. I was tickled pink right down to the ends of my toes to see that that after one child and a full decade more on the calendar, I still fit into a uniform meant for a 20something Hooters girl.
More importantly, after that day, it all became clear to me. I knew that I had what it took pursue an even bigger dream. I knew I wanted to be a writer and was ready to do anything to become one.
I know, I know. It sounds just like me to think of being a Hooters girl for a day as a defining moment in my career as a writer.
It’s all in the way you chose to view things, really. I guess it’s also called angling.