The work of hostesses has been thrust into the spotlight, after claims of groping at a controversial men-only charity gala at London’s Dorchester Hotel last week.
I chatted to mum-of-one LAURA MCBRIDE, founder of Flo Promotions, an Essex-based agency supplying promo models – including hostesses – to events across the country.
Here Laura, who still works as a promo model herself, reveals how insults usually come from other women, protective security teams and who a typical hostess actually is…
Q What work do your promo models actually do?
A Different roles. Models assist with store launches, corporate events such as waiting on guests, taking coats, grid girling at events such as BSB (British Superbikes), leafleting, ring card models at fight shows, hostessing at events, working on stands at exhibitions, food sampling, product sampling, entertainment acts such as stilt walkers, fire breathers, character lookalikes and appearances and more!
Q What has been your experience of working as a promo model?
A I have done it for about eight years now and I love it. It gave me a new-found confidence, especially after having my little girl. Some jobs are really well paid and the friends you make along the journey is amazing.
Q Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you were unhappy/uncomfortable with?
A No, not really. I wouldn’t ever allow myself to be spoken to in a way I felt degraded or belittled in the first place and the clients are all for you being thick skinned and standing your ground and saying how you feel. Sometimes you would get the odd remarks like, “hooker” or “slag” but that was mainly from females.
Q How often do your models report they have been uncomfortable with the way they have been treated by clients/public?
A Over a period of five years since starting up an agency I have only ever had one issue. I have never experienced anything bad in my time being a promotional model.
Q What is your policy on dealing with situations that may have made your models uncomfortable?
A The models are informed in their briefs to come direct to me with any issues and I would then investigate with all the others booked on the job (if a group) and tell them to immediately leave the event/venue and would speak directly to the client informing them of what has happened and what will happen next. The interest of the models is my main priority. It is the models’ responsibility to keep the agency updated on any issues that arise.
Q What do you think the biggest misconception is about hostesses and their work?
A I think the biggest is how people are quick to judge and the lack of understanding of how the industry works.
Q What would you say to people who think that working as a promo model is demeaning?
A We are proud of what we do and do it well. Why shouldn’t a female be able to promote a product or be the face of an event?
Q What would you say to people who think it encourages sexism?
A I think that’s an unfair statement against promotional models as it’s a male and female industry not just female. The problem isn’t the women, it’s the people who attend these events and think it’s right to treat women like objects and think it’s OK to speak to women in a certain way – that’s the unacceptable part. I’d happily allow anyone to attend an event I’m at with models so they can see how its run and how well the models are looked after and how they deal with customers.
Q Some of your models work as ring girls, which is obviously a very testosterone-fuelled environment…how do you manage that?
A The event staff who run those events are very protective especially the security teams and look after all the models they book. If you feel uncomfortable in anyway, I would report it immediately to the events team who will then deal with the situation in house.
Q Who is a typical hostess?
A A bubbly reliable friendly individual who works well as a team and loves what they do. Every promotional model I have met has an amazing personality and each has their interesting background too. A good friend of mine is a professional drift driver, another I’ve booked before is a lawyer, a lot are parents wanting to earn extra pennies to feed their families.
Q Are you angry over how hostesses are now being vilified?
A I am yes. We need to stick up for ourselves and tell our side of the story and defend how we are being portrayed to change people’s perception.
Q Do you think the way hostesses are now being spoken about is fair?
A No, not in the slightest. I think a lot of what I have seen over the last few days from grown men and women is disgusting, imagine it was their sons or daughters being targeted.
Q Do you fear promo models are now being almost bullied?
A Yes, 100 per cent. One of my models was called a bubble head on twitter recently and compared to a prostitute for wearing a roll neck figure hugging knee length dress. I have had my personal information put on social media and been targeted and harassed by many ‘professionals’ and even been quoted as a “madam”. What people need to realise is I do this in my spare time finding these models respectable professional clients, who often approach me for staff. I work full time, have a family to feed and a good education behind me and years of experience in the customer service world.