(interview is in English)
What is it really, authenticity? I realise that I should be the one coming up with an answer to this question immediately. In fact, I have a number of arguments at hand to state why authenticity is so important. I have been making the case of authenticity as part of the three As in my approach to the communications profession. I speak about it a lot and have addressed it in public on a number of occasions: at conferences, in guest lectures, at workshops.
Yet, do I put my practice where my mouth is? Isn’t that the hardest part in life, doing ourselves what we ‘expect’ – dare I say ‘demand’ – others to do? Be authentic! Be true to your identity!
I try. I try very hard. And I know that I don’t always get it right. A few weeks ago I find myself preparing for a Portuguese TV Show.
The programme is called ‘Mais Mulher’: ‘more woman’. Great! The focus of the programme is close to my heart. I sense authenticity. The lovely TV-host Ana Rita Clara would interview me on my life as an agent of change It cannot get more authentic than that. That is, if I would stay true to me in all my answers.
Now I have done a lot of preparing others for TV (and for other media) in my professional life. Yet, this was the first time that I would be the one on TV. So I prepared my own media briefing for me, and I did get some good communications advice from colleagues! I have been interviewed for print media quite a number of times in the past. So obviously I have walked the fine balance of being ‘authentic’ on me versus ‘deviating to versions’ that might fit the journalist – and thus his/her audience – better. I was conscious about the way I would want to present myself, what area(s) of me to accentuate, and those selections would obviously show a different picture.
Ah, authenticity: so accentuating one area means there are different sides to me?! Yes, there are. The TV interview would address both some of the personal side and the work side of me. And about the choices I have made in life. Going from the oil and gas business to Greenpeace was quite a change. And people in both worlds have been wondering about the ‘real’ Inge – in what job was she really authentic? It played a role when interviewing for the job at Greenpeace.
Then I find myself pondering what to wear. Obviously those thoughts started whilst packing my suitcase. I decided to take more clothes with me than I normally would (I love traveling light), so I could decide later. The night before the show I did a little personal fashion show with two of my colleagues. That was fun and we decided that different outfits might work. What Inge would I want to present?
Ah, authenticity, so there are different Inges, indeed? Well, there are. I could wear my black dress or my red dress? I could wear a jacket or a scarf? Sending different messages with different garments. What ‘uniform’ should I choose? We all wear uniforms, whether you wear your corporate ‘jacket and tie’ one or your activist T-shirt one. All authentic…
I was clear on what to wear, but that was not the end of it. Even though I knew I would get make-up (no shiny noses on screen please), I was not really prepared for the ‘full applying thing’ that happened to me in the TV-show. I found myself relaxing in the chair. I leant back, so the makeup artist could easily do her job. I closed my eyes and started rehearsing the interview topics in my head. Then my thoughts started to wander: ‘hang on, I don’t do make-up like this. This is not me. People won’t recognise me. Help, what is happening to my authenticity drive?’
Ah, authenticity, did I stay true to me when I came out of the dressing room? Some will say I did, some will say otherwise. How did it feel to me? Strange. I felt me, clearly, but with a layer, almost like a mask. And post TV-show I felt myself telling people who I met for the first time that I just had been on a TV show and that is why I was wearing so much make-up. Whereas for all they knew, this was me. Hence, I did not totally stay true or was it all right for TV?
A TV-interview itself is not really a ‘natural’ setting anyway. It is very hard for anyone to be really themselves, and hence authenticity is tough. Apart from the hosts, I guess, for whom the setting must have become their ‘natural/personal’ habitat. I felt ‘me’ during the interview. I was conscious that I sat in a calm way, straight back, legs properly aligned. I realised I was talking with my ‘hands’, a streak I have. I felt that was ok, it was authentic. I felt good about all my answers, yet the critic in me wants me to be even crisper and with sharp examples next time round. I have had positive comments, yet close (female) friends have said that though I did well, they did not really see Inge: ‘the make-up was strange’, ‘relax more, show more of the personal Inge’.
Ah, authenticity, so was it me during the interview? I felt I was, but does the viewer agree? I think it is ‘in the eye of the beholder’: what did the viewer (want to) see? What did the viewer take away? TV as a medium forced me to deal with authenticity in a way that real life, real conversations and writing don’t. Being on television pushes one to ‘project’ as much as ‘present’. In that dynamic I needed to select particular facets of the ‘multi-faceted me’. Furthermore, the distance from the real audiences prevented real connection, something that normally drives me enormously. Thus I was forced to literally see myself through the eyes of others, a single faceted projection of me. Yet, Ana Rita was super lovely and I felt a strong connection with her. Ana Rita became the one with whom I connected and I know that through both of us we hopefully connected with the viewers.
However authentic, truths are established in the relationship between the subject and its user. Hence, all of us will have different take-aways on the TV-show and thus on me. And it reminds me of what I learned at University: truths are the result of selection and construction. The TV-show was a selection and construction of many things, with the production team in the lead (for sure) and in which I played a part and in which Ana Rita was a driving force (of good).
Conclusion for me is that I would love to do more. Why? I am totally driven to sharing ideas and experiences in the area of change. With everything happening in the world, from total digital connection to climate change to economic spurts: change is the constant. In order to deal with all this, people will need to find each other. We will need many ways to listen and share, and we will need many media. To me TV felt like a good one in the total mix. I am on a quest to contribute to that connection though I cannot do this alone. I need you to partner with me on this quest. Come, join me! (And bring your audacity with you.)
It is a useful and very ‘authentic’ blog post.
Thanks Inge !