Actor-writer-producer Helenna Santos founded blog Ms. In The Biz (and compiled the companion book “Thriving in Hollywood!”) as a guide for women seeking a “positive community that shares resources, imparts wisdom, and fosters success.”
What made you want to start Ms. In The Biz?
I’m a person who loves connecting people and sharing information. I knew all these women using the Internet, taking their careers in their hands, and actors who were sick of playing the waiting game. I thought, Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could write about these women’s experiences in a simple format, this collaborative, magazine-style blogging community? I launched it in 2013 with 80 writers, and now it’s 140 women with 40 regular contributors.
How does your new book address women’s issues in entertainment?
Women are still completely underrepresented. Even with this year’s Oscar-contending performances, there just weren’t as many strong female performances in lead roles as men simply due to the fact that there aren't as many of our stories being told. There is less opportunity for women. We need more strong leading roles so that we can really show what we can do. It’s the cyclical thing that we keep going through. Alexandra [Boylan], who’s my partner for the book, pointed out we just need more women in power positions who can hire women so we get our stories told.... What’s best about the book is that we focused on the tactical stories and tales that help women push through hard times. It’s about creating community, not the glitz and glamour. This is how we develop as artists and make progress.
Do you have any networking advice?
I always go out of my way to ask, “What is this person about?” Always be interested, not interesting. That’s a great way to go about things. People think networking is about pushing yourself, but if you’re trying to network, with air quotes, listen to who they are and what they’re about and create an authentic connection.
What do you love about the site?
Fifty-four percent of [Ms. In The Biz] is male readership. There’s a lot of amazing content for women, obviously, but I feel men are our allies. We think oftentimes men don’t want us to succeed, and that’s an old story. We need to progress, and “Old Hollywood” is kind of out of date now and people are hungry for change. There is the current story that Hollywood is all about the sexualization of women, which is totally true, and there’s so much conversation around that and the reason I love the site is we encourage talking more about practicality in using our brains and not our bodies to advance.
What do you think the female dynamics are within the industry?
Alexandra and I have been asking, Why is it with women there’s this whole thing where we can be catty and jealous and bitchy and not help each other? I make sure the people I surround myself with are really collaborative, supportive women. But why does [cattiness] exist? Possibly because there is so little opportunity? When someone does have a shot, you have to hold on to it and not share in some way? If that’s true, it goes back into the cycle where we need to support women and give them more knowledge to become writers, directors, producers, gaffers, cinematographers—just getting women into every aspect of the business.
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