Salma Hayek told Oprah a story: When she was 10, there was a neighborhood flasher. This man accosted her and exposed his full frontal nudity. “I was terrified, just so scared…” She went home and told her grandmother who then gave this advice (Hayek offered a disclaimer – she is by no means telling little girls they ought to do this) BUT…
“The next time that man flashes you – even if you are terrified and alone – LAUGH at him. Point at his groin and LAUGH.”
The man DID flash her again. And little Salma stopped. She felt her entire body tighten with fear. But she remembered her grandmother’s advice. So she stared, pointed at his groin and laughed.
“He ran away, he cowered and ran away!” Hayek says, still incredulous.
Artists are powerful because they appeal to people’s hearts and minds. Painters, sculptors, writers, musicians and other artists are changemakers. Writers, for example, can be drivers for social equity.
Two Asian actors in “Hawaii Five-O” just left the show. When they signed on, they were the big names. No one really knew the two white lead actors (Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan). Daniel Dae Kim was coming from “Lost” and Grace Park was famous for her work in “Battlestar Galactica.” The Asian actors were really the draw for the show. Now, seven years later, the Asian actors are still not making as much money as the lesser known leads.
NPR had an intriguing and informative interview with writer Rick Najera and Jeff Yang (podcast host). Najera made the assertion that the power lies in the hands of the writers:
NAJERA: The writers’ room can decide whether that actor is a supporting actor or a leading actor. So it’s very easy to make that decision. So you can sit there and say, well, we have two Asian actors on a show set in Hawaii, which is predominately very Asian, let’s make them leads. They can make that decision early on. I think Hollywood’s kind of catching up to that thought and wants to. It’s just everyone in Hollywood wants to be second, no one wants to be first.
I believe artists outside of Hollywood – the independent filmmakers and artists – are the people who will make (are making) this happen.
There’s power in “no.” Saying no to boring parties, mindless gossip and other wasteful diversions will save you valuable time and energy. Just make sure that while you say “no,” you are saying “yes” to something constructive or restorative.
“Seppuku” is a traditional, excruciatingly painful and public way to commit suicide in Japan. It has not been displayed since World War II, but was widely observed and expected in Japanese culture up until then. Ingrained in Japanese culture is the concept of shame and the expectation of suicide in the face of that shame. In fact, it was not only men who committed suicide (sometimes through disembowelment), but their wives would commit suicide should their husbands have brought shame to their house.
You may have heard of honor killings in India and Pakistan. This, too, is part of their culture. With Internet and social media, some cultures are changing. Closed cultures are opening up due to their youth using social media. They no longer want to embrace these traditions.
Yet, it speaks to the power of culture. Disembowelment? Kill your sister? If your culture dictates that it is right, you will do it, no problem.
Leadership is so critical because leaders help create and maintain culture. An exceptional leader inspires employees and societies. Leaders help create strong, empathic cultures. Thus, it is critical to choose our leaders carefully.
They pushed the boundaries within their respective genres.
Bowie created music (and himself) in ways that the world had never seen before. The same could be said of Prince. Muhammad Ali is arguably the greatest athlete ever.
But something else separated them from others. Bowie was said to be down-to-earth to the very end. Prince loved his hometown Minneapolis and stayed loyal, building his empire there. And Ali was sentenced to five years in jail (which became a three year abstinence from his work) for refusing to be drafted for the Vietnam War. He famously declared, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” Bowie, Prince and Ali lived in accordance to their values, while disregarding any possible financial or career damage.
Perhaps, instead of simply working, we can work simply: with our values as our guides.