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The SXSW Debacle

Sarah shares her side of the disagreement with Hermione.

By Sarah Austin

As the Butthole Surfers once sagely noted, “. . . you never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.”  But last week, when Bravo’s Start-Ups: Silicon Valley aired to 88 million homes, it was virtually guaranteed that I would know exactly how I looked through other people’s eyes.

Episode 1 of any reality show is dedicated to introducing each cast member and establishing their relationships.  This “packaged intro” is spliced together from hundreds of hours of interviews and footage and aims to give viewers a sense of each character’s traits, habits and flaws.

As anticipated, my character was received with a predicable combination of: 140-character psychological assessments by strangers, perfunctory “likes” from friends, enthusiastic “comments,” old school hatin’ from the haters, and some darnn good questions about what the heck I was thinking when I said:

1. "My tweets are worth $10k!" God, I wish -- I would do nothing but sit home and write haiku tweets! I was talking about my work for a large software company (hint: think Washington based tech titan who dominates the PC operating system market) who was doing a major promotion around their new search engine launch.  They approached me at a time when Vanity Fair had dubbed me “America's Tweetheart,” the Huffington Post named me one of the ten Hottest Girls @Twitter, I was writing for, and was occasionally touring with Lady Gaga as one of her backup “monsters.”  I misspoke to say a single tweet went for $10k -– it was actually a handful of tweets (5-7) and it was part of a larger body of work which included a video.

2. "It takes me 3, 4, sometimes 5 hours to get ready!" Most days I lack the time or inclination to do much more than slather on sunscreen and Chapstick. In this case we were talking about getting ready for big events, photo shoots, or other high profile outings. Yes, it’s dorky, but I love having my friends over so we can all get ready together. Three to five hours isn’t me in a room by myself spackling cake on my face –- it’s a group of us sipping wine and catching up on the latest while we slooowwwlyyy get ready. This is not to say I won’t dilly dally if I’m left alone -– but never more than an hour, I promise!3. "SXSW was such a sh-- show." The South by Southwest topic rears its ugly head again and again throughout the episodes.  It’s the crux of the Hermione v. Sarah breakdown, and truly I don’t get it.  Here’s the deal: Ben introduced me to a sponsor (a sponsor is someone who supports either short term or long term), purchased both our tickets using his credit card and, as promised, I paid him back. She did not “step up” and sponsor me -– perhaps she takes credit for the sponsor Ben facilitated. So there was tension before we arrived at SXSW and things got weird there as well, but whatever sh-- happens. For weeks after SXSW, I reached out to Hermione because I missed our friendship and wanted to work it out. She was unresponsive so I eventually gave up. The toga party at her house was our first encounter in several months, so naturally I was nervous. I hoped for decorum, but pretty much was greeted with sarcasm, disapproving once-overs, and back-handed compliments, always punctuated by the sycophantic giggling of some backup dancer. I did my best to ignore it, but it made the whole party AWKWARD. On my way out the door, Hermione cornered me and demanded we speak privately, and I’m thinking, “Uh, privately at a party?” I wasn’t feelin’ it. I really didn’t believe anything could be solved right then and I really didn’t feel her outreach was coming from an authentic place. She interpreted my hesitation as a lack of regard for the friendship. Whatever it was, I’m embarrassed. It was never my intention to represent business women in a catty and competitive light. I have phenomenal female friends and mentors who’ve helped me along the way- – I wish we could have gotten footage of that instead.

So what’s the take-away: it’s tough to look cool and awesome on TV! We were in a TV bubble trying to act normal and unaffected while also being entertaining. I’m pretty sure Hermione would never power nap under a VC’s desk in real life –- but we all got a little caught up in certain moments or went too far with the bravado. Heck it is Bravo! Live and learn.

Till Next Week,
xo Sarah

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