Authenticity — use people with disabilities — not only in roles that call for disabilities, but in all roles. Who’s to say a woman in a wheelchair can’t play a doctor and the script literally never addresses her disability? A person with a limb difference can play more than a zombie, veteran, and murder victim. Additionally, people with disabilities can serve as incredible consultants! Think about toy design, clothing, shoes — all focus groups should include PWD’s.
As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Marnie Nathanson, Founder and CEO of The Social Status Co. Marnie comes with a background in Television Development, Content Creation, and Talent Management. With a degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, Marnie has had a well-rounded portfolio with experiences at Sesame Street, AMC, Queer Eye, Radio Disney, and NBC Olympics. The bulk of her career was at MTV Networks, where she worked in the Programming, Comedy & Animation, Scripted and Unscripted departments. Prior to launching The Social Status Co. in 2015, Marnie helped get two startups off the ground, spearheading their Social Media and Public Relations departments. She is inspired by her team on the daily, and is grateful to her husband and kids for supporting the hardworking mom hustle.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I always knew my career would lead to something creative. As a child, I was very involved in theater and dance. My post-college career was in Television Production and Development, which I absolutely loved.
I had an ongoing playlist of songs that were ripe for tv/movie scenes, I people watched wherever I went, inspired by characters in the real world that would ultimately come through in creative brainstorms. When social media as an industry was bubbling, I took my background and applied it to bite-size storytelling. I fell in love with the idea of being able to react in real-time and blast it out to the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Five years in, we have many stories at The Social Status Co.! What’s really exciting is that many people from my past have moved into new careers, and we keep finding one another. I love that the competitive nature we were so used to in the TV industry seems to go out the door in this chapter of our lives, and everyone is willing to help.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Is there anything funny about a mistake when you’re first starting out? I can feel the anxiety of my younger self! I would say that the best advice for making a mistake in the beginning, or ever, is to 1) forgive yourself 2) laugh it off if you can (the alt is rocking in a corner, which I have also done) and 3) be honest and upfront. We have all been there.
Ok thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our discussion. Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?
The Social Status Co. is really proud of the work we are doing in the disability space. Our clients Runway of Dreams, Gamut Management and Special Angels Adoption work exclusively with the community of people with disabilities. Some of us on the team have a direct connection to this community, and it’s really fulfilling to not only stand behind these incredible brands, but help shatter any preconceived notions about this community. We’re working toward flipping the script, and showing the Fashion / Entertainment industries how capable these people are.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?
We are honored to work with Mindy Scheier, the crusader behind adaptive clothing. She is the Founder and CEO of both Runway of Dreams and Gamut Management. She inspired an entire industry to look at this population in a new light.
As an insider, this might be obvious to you, but I think it’s instructive to articulate this for the public who might not have the same inside knowledge. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in Entertainment and its potential effects on our culture?
- 80% of all “disabled characters” on the small screen are portrayed by non-disabled actors. 80%!!! There are one billion people, 15% of our population, who experience some form of disability. In that group are actors / singers / motivational speakers / dancers etc. who are being overlooked or simply unseen by the industry. With the help of Gamut Management and some of their incredible partners — we are helping shatter stereotypes.
- You know what you know. If all you see is able-bodied people on TV, in magazines, and websites — anything other than “the norm” will be labeled as such. If our kids grow up seeing people who are different from them on the screens, and people who are just like them on the screens, it makes for a much more inclusive conversation. Sesame Street has and always will be a prime example of doing it right as they continue to introduce new characters.
- Voices — we need more voices in all spaces. We need people with disabilities to speak up, have a voice, and share their experiences. This makes our stories ripe and raw. This is part of the human experience.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
- Ask questions! Many people with disabilities will tell you that they welcome questions — it’s far less offensive than staring and pointing. Advocates like Misty Diaz take to social media with awkward interactions she has with people in public, and how best to be approached. Cory Lee posts about similar experiences.
- Authenticity — use people with disabilities — not only in roles that call for disabilities, but in all roles. Who’s to say a woman in a wheelchair can’t play a doctor and the script literally never addresses her disability? A person with a limb difference can play more than a zombie, veteran, and murder victim. Additionally, people with disabilities can serve as incredible consultants! Think about toy design, clothing, shoes — all focus groups should include PWD’s.
- Focus on social media — so many companies forget that social media is a great place to connect with this population. Thanks to captions and alternative text, it’s possible for every single human to connect on social. Use these platforms to help amplify your stories and to ask for advice.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is never being the smartest person in the room. It means leaning on your team and knowing that you’re building a really strong team to handle things without you hand holding.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You will disappoint people, including yourself. It’s never fun to let down a client, or even worse, someone on your team. You will have to let friends go, you will have people who are not invested in your vision, you will have to sometimes be boss before friend. It is really hard.
- Find your lane. What makes you special? What can you offer that nobody else can?
- Be collaborative. There is room for everyone. I promise, it works out better in the end when you stay out of drama.
- Winning feels really freakin’ awesome — when your hard work pays off, you should absolutely celebrate.
- Don’t discount yourself. It’s so easy to quickly discount or add services just to close a deal. In the end, you’ll do the same amount of work. Can you talk a dentist into a discount for a cleaning? Nope. Get gas for cheaper? Nah. Price of jeans at the register negotiable? Not really. So why should you automatically come down on pricing when pushed?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have two! The Power Someone Has Isn’t the Power They Take From You, It’s The Power You Give Them. My dad instilled this in me at a young age — and it applies to everyone.
Good Timber Does Not Grow With Ease, The Stronger the Wind, The Stronger The Trees, by Douglas Malloch. This one is from my mom. You will be pushed and tested in life. Stand tall, plant your roots, lean into it.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
My husband — post COVID — I miss our dates!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
Thanks for having me!!