A student recently asked me, “Is it necessary to use sex to sell my image in the entertainment industry?” Initially, I began to define ‘sex’ as being case specific. It is evident that sex holds an ever-present dominance in the entertainment industry and has for quite some time.
However, the idea of what is acceptable and what is profane has been constantly evolving. I left it up to my student to explore this question, “Are you willing to, according to cultural tendencies, ‘exploit’ yourself and your own morality for the sake of popularity?”
The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems. Without a doubt, sex permeates the very fabric of the entertainment industry’s primary marketing strategy. Appearing in all major forms of media and even in public education, it is as direct as it is subtle. Some people associate ‘sex’ with love and positive feelings. Others see a more lustful and negative connotation (e.g. moralists). The true discrepancies surrounding ‘sex’ arise when these different social norms clash at a live performance where a fifteen year old girl is thrust on stage with little more than two pieces of fabric separating her from the audience. Again, to some, this is what makes the artist more attractive. Others, however, see this behavior as deplorable and even offensive.
In order to gain a foothold in the entertainment industry you must have unique qualities that distinguish you from your competition. Sometimes this entails piercings, tattoos, tennis ball colored felt shoes, stylish haircuts, or even steamy photo shoots. Some people frown on the sight of a tattoo or piercing. Others shun the sight of a young girl on stage wearing a leather push-up and a mini-skirt ala commando. Ultimately, the public will always have a choice to play or pass when it comes to your material so you should constantly ask yourself, “Would I be entertained by this?” The next question that begs to be asked is, “Am I comfortable using sex, or other image enhancements to sell my artistry?”
Remember though, this generation’s fashion can be the next generation’s faux pas. You will always be remembered by the image you present. The public will never know any different. Ultimately, people have the choice to purchase your music and support you as an artist. Who you are on stage doesn’t necessarily portray who you are as a person. If you have found success through an image that some view as objectionable but you find entertaining and acceptable, you should always go with what is best for you. Having said that, you should know exactly what you want to be remembered for; being a sex symbol or a great artist. That choice is always up to you.