Before landing top roles in blockbuster films, Olivia Wilde was a Hollywood assistant. There, she said, she learned about the contradictions of what makes for, well, appropriate professional attire. At Marie Claire’s “The Power Of Presence” event Wednesday in New York, she told the following story:
“I was an assistant — a terrible assistant — for the world’s greatest casting director, a woman named Mali Finn, who was the most powerful casting director in Hollywood. I had just come from school, and I was a little feminist and she was too. I remember an actress coming in wearing a too-short dress. And after she left, Mali said, ‘Why was she wearing that dress? She’s a joke, I’m not meeting with her ever again.’ And this girl was never heard from again.
Then a few days later, I was going for an audition and I was wearing this huge cashmere turtleneck and pants, thinking I looked very ‘executive.’ As I was walking out of the office, Mali said, ‘Olivia, what are you wearing? I said I was going to a meeting, and she said, ‘Oh! You can’t wear that! You have to wear something tight and sexy.’
I was so confused, because I had just learned this lesson of this actress who wore the short skirt and now her career is over. So she said, ‘You’re going to meet a male executive. You have to learn this game, you have to learn when to use sexuality and beauty and appearance in general, and when it’s inappropriate. That was my first kind of dunk into the world of Hollywood. It gives you this idea of the contradiction that exists, really in all fields.”