There is a line in “All About Eve” (my favorite movie) in which Bette Davis sneers,“It so happens there are particular aspects of my life to which I would like to maintain sole and exclusive rights and privileges!” In the movie, Bette plays Margo Channing, a famous theatre star who has taken in her die-hard fan, Eve Harrington, only to find that her constant mimicking of everything down to her movements was far from flattering. Now, before I go any further and sound completely petty, let me say this: I am constantly inspired by the amazing people around me and I have emulated women I have looked up to for years (and have been honored when others have found inspiration in me). It’s when inspiration moves into copycat, straight-plagiarism territory that things get tricky for me. When it’s a constant step-by-step movement, it becomes unsettling.
My boss, a man who inspires many and is copied constantly, pays it no mind. He gracefully refers to it as “a part of the business” and chooses to see it as flattering stating that his energy is best focused on his clients. Having experienced my own copycat recently, I have realized that I am not so forgiving. As have most people in the world, I have had relationships that have ended and exes who have moved on and married. Some of them are still good friends (as are their lovely wives) whereas others are better situated outside of my life. One of those on the outside is in a relationship with a woman who seems dead-set on being the Gaga to my Madonna.
It started with a change of hair color and strangely identical makeup routine (on a woman who, initially, rarely wore makeup) and began to grow legs with constant commenting after me on the Facebook pages of mutual friends (48 comments and counting). I ignored all of this while trying to remind myself that it was not my business and doing my best to convince myself that it was not what I thought it to be. Blocking her seemed as juvenile as her behavior. But when she began to mimic my blogs and social media posts (down to imagery), I felt more than freaked out; I was angry (and yes, I blocked her).
I sat in the purgatory between anger and feeling silly before bringing it up to the boss who (as usual) helped me figure out why I was so upset. Copying the looks of another can feel awkward for the person being copied, but it’s common. So common, in fact, that we call it “trending”. But when someone begins to plagiarize parts of your personality (your words, your intellectual property, your vision, your point-of-view), it can feel suffocating and deeply threatening, at least initially until you learn to deal with it. Perhaps the social media component hit me harder than her new penchant for blonde hair, near-exact staging of profile photos and Brigitte Bardot eyeliner, as this is a part of my work, something I put a lot of energy and effort into. To see someone else try and sink their teeth into that felt like an act of aggression. I know there is more to play here as I am the “ex” and I should feel rather sorry for her, but the reality is that I feel assaulted. I am angry at her refusal to be herself and steal what stems from my own authenticity. I know that one cannot replace another simply by following in their footsteps (Preston is a perfect example of this). Still, I find myself wanting to tell her bluntly to get off my path and I think that is quite OK. In fact, I think that is something most of us feel when in this position. I could be wrong and so I would like your thoughts on the matter.
How do you feel about someone copying your look or work? Does the context change whether or not you find it flattering?
Photo: Aisha Singleton for Lauren Cosenza/Makeup.com