How to Be Loyal to Yourself First
By: Paulana Lamonier
If you know what it’s like growing up in a Haitian-American household, or Caribbean household at that, when it comes to deciding which career path you decide to forge, most traditional Haitian parents will try to persuade you to chose the traditional career path, like becoming a doctor, lawyer or nurse — of course with your best interest at heart.
As for Manecha Guillaume, an associate producer at BET Networks, this is a conversation she knows too well.
“I remember my dad was like ‘Oh become a doctor!’ They mentioned it, but they never pushed me to do it. And I’m so grateful for them for that because my father said ‘Ok, you want to be on TV, let’s embrace that,’” said the New Jersey native. “My parents always told me ‘At this point, we can’t force you to do something, but whatever you want to do, you better be the best at it.’”
And that’s what Guillaume always found herself doing in every position she’s gotten since she first interned in the entertainment business. The 27-year-old first interned with the Maury Show in Connecticut, before she took her talents to BET in 2011 as an production intern, when Terrence J and Rocsi Diaz were filming for 106 & Park. She then went off to work for various production companies and TV shows like Live! With Regis & Kelly and American Idol. After leaving BET for some time and expanding her horizons, Guillaume returned in 2015 as a production assistant and has been working her way up ever since.
With the plethora of experience this young Haitian-American has under her belt, her dream became a reality when she was asked to work for Vh1’s Hip Hop Honors “All Hail the Queens” edition produced by her role model, Queen Latifah.
Whether she’s on the red carpet, editing videos or scouting talent for an upcoming series, Guillaume work ethic remains unwavering. The Montclair State University alum took the time to speak to TLC and explains why it’s important to have a strong work ethic, what’s it like working on the red carpet, her biggest career mistake, and why being loyal to yourself is the most valuable lesson she’s learned to date.
In entertainment, you have to have a great personality and know people. But at the same time, it’s really important to talk about work ethic. So what is your work ethic like?
I am a proud Haitian-American. When you come from two parents who are immigrants, and you see their work ethic, you kind of inherit it yourself. But I think that’s because I love what I do and I went to college for TV production as well. And people would tell me ‘Manecha get something stable. Manecha, don’t do it, you won’t be successful.’ I stay on it because I just knew that God put me in this position and gave me this dream to work in this field for a reason and I never gave up on it.
So the more that I see that I didn’t give up on it, the more blessings came and it just pushed me to work harder. When I was a production assistant, I would be the first and last one on set. But even now as an associate producer, I’m always first and last. It really never changed. There’s this Biggie quote where he quotes Puff in an interview and Jay Z used this quote in a song called “My First” on The Black Album. And he says ‘Just like you’re an intern, you’ve got to treat everyday like it’s your first day’ and that’s how I treat everyday like it’s my first day at the job because I can’t take anything for granted and you’ve got to keep pushing.
I went back to Haiti, and I can see why they would want us to chose those traditional career paths because that’s what they’re used to seeing back at home. That’s their normal.
It’s crazy because my twin sister went on to become a lawyer, she studied political science. My older sister wanted to be a fashion designer. I was like ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do but it’s going to be in the TV field.’ I remember my dad was like ‘Oh become a doctor!’ They mentioned it, but they never pushed me to do. And I’m so grateful for them for that because my father said ‘Ok, you want to be on TV, let’s embrace that!’ When I wanted to play the violin, my parents bought me the violin. They put me in piano classes, they put me in tennis class, so I was always stretching that creative muscle in the different things I wanted to do.
My parents always told me ‘At this point, we can’t force you to do something, but whatever you want to do, you better be the best at it.’
I really want to talk about mistakes. We tend to focus on the highlight reel, but at the same time, we tend to push our failures or mistakes under the rug. Can you tell me your biggest mistake and what you learned from it?
When I was very naive, getting in the industry, I was assuming that everybody thought like I did. And everybody was proud to be in the industry and there were no slackers and we all hustle hard — big mistake! I had to experience being on a team where I was the hardest working one, the person who was over me was reporting the wrong things and I was basically doing her job. It turned out that the person wasn’t hustling the way that they were supposed to and as God would have it, the person was no longer at the company. But my biggest mistake was thinking she thought like I did.
Radio personality Charlamagne Tha God says ‘I don’t judge people by their actions, I judge them by their motives.’ I basically had the impression that we were on the same playing field. I was very naive for that and that was a big mistake because it ended up being bad. I don’t like to burn bridges, but in some cases bridges need to be burned so you’re not associated with the work ethic of the person. That’s important because everyone’s dreams are different and everyone isn’t passionate about the same things.
That’s important that you focus on you and hustle for yourself, but I really want to go back to ‘being loyal to me’ if you could elaborate.
Being loyal to you is knowing your worth. There were sometimes I was just happy to be in a room. I went to the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and Maya Brock Akil said ‘After a while you can’t just be happy to be in the room. Just know you earned that spot to be in the room.’ You’re sitting at the table, you’re supposed to be here because I know the work I put in to be here. My favorite Maya Angelou quote is ‘Ask for what you want, be prepared to get it,’ and I was asking the Universe this is what I want but I had to prepare myself to receive it and I thank God for that because I was always asking ‘I want to get to the next level’ and when it came I was ready. It’s a test and I passed my test. When you’re taking a pay cut you’re saving that company money, but you’re taking a pay cut for yourself.
I remember I had an editor come to me and ask me to buy them something personal, and I said no. That was part of being loyal to me. She said ‘I thought you were the PA,’ and I said ‘I’m the post-production assistant, that means I edit, rough cuts, I submit the drafts, I do logging, but that does not mean I run personal errands,’ and she quickly said ‘Ok!’ So, I had to start saying no and start saying yes to me.
I’m a firm believer that it takes a village to raise someone’s career. What are some organizations and programs you think helped you in your career?
First and foremost, Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN). When I graduated college, I was one of very few black women in my program and my professors were telling me ‘This is your network,’ and all of the guys were predominately white or wanted to work at Fox Sports or ESPN and I didn’t want to work where they wanted to work.
Thank God I came across WEEN, and I was in the inaugural class. And the biggest thing that I got from WEEN was my network, my sisters. A lot of people think they can make friends in the industry and think they can trust them, but I went through the trenches with them. It gave me an amazing experience and I’m so grateful for them which is why I continuously give back. I bring them to BET every year.
Another organization is the All Stars Project. It’s based in New York and New Jersey and it’s for inner city youth. When I was in high school, I was in All-Stars. It was supposed to be for one summer. I was eighteen or nineteen making twenty dollars an hour and I purchased my first car. I worked in a Fortune 500 company, and it had nothing to do what I wanted to do, but it helped me write emails, spreadsheets and more. That program really helped me become a business professional. So, those two programs I benefited from a lot!
What’s a bit of advice you would give to someone starting out?
My advice would be the same advice Puff gave Big. Treat everyday like it’s your first day as an intern. My production supervisor at NBC would tell me ‘never take anything personal’ so when someone yells at you, you will get yelled at and you will get cursed at if the pressure is on, but don’t take it personal because you don’t know the demand that person has on their back.
Also, never get too comfortable. Those three helped me from an intern to an AP.
Paulana Lamonier is a multimedia journalist & edu-tainer who loves to educate and entertain her audience with compelling stories. She loves Jesus, chocolate and still cries when she watches the ending of 'Set it Off.' Check out her latest updates on her new site, Paulana.co.