Collette McLafferty – Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer is available from New Haven Publishing.
“How do you find meaning in life when you see your identity hijacked and rewritten by an army of strangers? Writing Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer presented a challenge to answer this since there were two separate yet interconnected dragons to slay.
The first battle, of course, was the infamous lawsuit…
“If this book is in your hands, there’s a solid chance you’ve already heard my story or at least some version of it. In 2014, I was dragged into a $10,000,000 lawsuit between two adult men over a P!NK cover band. The band members were former lawyer and client who became good friends. Their friendship and musical partnership disintegrated when the client found himself investigated by Chase Bank for elder fraud and asked the lawyer to borrow $15,000 to bail him out. As a result, their collective mission to start Long Island’s first P!NK Tribute Band evolved into a bitter rivalry. They split up into two competing bands. Unfortunately, I was hired to sing in the client’s band with no knowledge of this backstory. The lawyer sued his former friend, claiming he stole his idea, and named one other band mate and me as accomplices.
“As I was reading the 112-page complaint I was named in, I did not recognize ‘Defendant MCLAFFERTY’ who the Plaintiff spoke about in such detail. Despite bearing my name, there was little resemblance to the real me. ‘Defendant MCLAFFERTY’ was described as a broke, unskilled and unattractive singer so desperate for a gig, she co-conspired to steal The P!NK Tribute Band away from the Plaintiff while he was getting shoulder surgery. In reality, I was a full time working singer squeezing the band into my schedule. The insulting language in the complaint towards me was indeed jarring, yet hardly the focus of the lawsuit. I was more concerned about being accused of ‘Conspiracy for Fraud’, or the fact that the complaint sought to ban me from deriving any income from singing P!NK’s music in perpetuity. These were issues I felt infringed on my rights as a performer. To anyone reading the case, it was a dispute between the two men. Learning I could be in a legal battle for years for playing one show made it necessary for me to talk to the press, which brought me to a whole other fight: the media.
“Tragically, the majority of major media outlets decided the case should center around me, even though it didn’t. In the court of public opinion, being deemed unattractive by a man or by society can feel like the gravest offense a woman could dare commit. This is media gold and an easy sell. Collette McLafferty, the singer who got sued for $10,000,000 for being too old, ugly and off key for a P!NK Tribute Band, didn’t exist. She just happened to bear my name in news articles, just as she did in the 112-page complaint.
“In addition to navigating a sometimes corrupt legal system, I got a front row seat to the multi-billion industry of shame. Marketed to women in abundance, the ‘shame machine’ drives disposable income to fix ‘flaws’ that may not even exist. This ‘other’ Collette McLafferty made the ‘shame machine’ money for a solid seventy-two hours via click-bait headlines. The headline “Singer Sued for Being Too Old and Too Ugly” made advertisers quite happy with the number of clicks and shares it garnered.
“Every time a woman asks “Do these jeans make me look fat?” there is a team of media professionals sitting in a boardroom, painstakingly force feeding her that thought through images, headlines, and photoshop.
I should mention the third dragon in need of slaying – which was sometimes a more significant pain in the ass then the lawsuit and media combined – the one within myself. How do you find peace when the world is reporting how terrible you are? How do you stop negative chatter when every insecurity you have ever privately held about yourself is now on display for the whole world to see? Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer embarks on this journey in search of answers, but not without occasional detours and disasters.
“I started writing Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer in real time, back in 2014 when the lawsuit and media circus were going full force. The climate for women was astonishingly different. I could have never anticipated the national movements of women breaking the silence, blowing whistles, and informing the world that business, as usual, is now closed. Body shaming and age shaming became official terms. Body positivity became a mainstream conversation. Kesha blazed a trail and stood up to sexual misconduct in the music industry while revealing the levels of acute control pop stars work under.#metoo and #timesup ushered an age of accountability at the top executive level that once seemed inconceivable.
“I hope to expand the conversation and put the culture of shame under a microscope. I’d love to see women have a collective “Aha” moment and question why there are people who make a living circling cellulite on the thighs of pop stars and actresses. My hope is we collectively assess our massive spending power, demonetize the business of shame, and help shape a media that reports the real story.
“On the flipside, I can say from experience that some of the things our legal system tolerates are beyond unacceptable. This conversation may feel less universal, as many will be lucky enough never to get wrongfully sued for millions of dollars. Some people who do, however, may find themselves locked into the system for years even though they have done nothing wrong. This could happen to anyone and this must stop.
“The conversations I’ve had with people who have suffered from lawsuit abuse are usually in confidence. People are reluctant to talk about their years-long battles for fear of further retaliation, or just for not wanting to relive the trauma of the ordeal. Going forward, I hope people who are wrongfully dragged into the legal system like I was speak out, kicking and screaming. Keeping the status quo of “don’t talk about litigation,” in these types of instances, keeps a broken machine well-oiled and functioning.
“I should note that I have completely forgiven the man who sued me, although within the book it is a long and sometimes rugged drunken journey. I’m telling my story not from revenge, but from an honest desire for a kinder world that wouldn’t tolerate what happened to me to ever happen again. From this experience, I learned how to stand up for myself utterly and unapologetically. For this reason, I’m glad it took me four years to get a book deal. Had I put out this book even a year ago, it would have been a very different book, most likely with a tinge of bitterness and not that fun to read. Now that I have had some distance, I’ve done my best to inject some humor into it. Let’s face it, getting sued for $10,000,000 for singing in a P!NK Tribute Band by Michael Bolton’s ex-drummer is… well, kind of funny, despite the seriousness of the circumstances.
“I’d like to point out there may be times when I may not be using the correct legal terminology for the circumstance. I knew next to nothing about the civil legal system when I first got sued. Many ‘civilians’ who don’t have ties to the legal industry are in the same boat. I felt it was important to write in the voice of a novice drowning in the system to give an honest depiction of what the journey was like for me. If you are a legal professional reading this book, there may be times when you might want to scream at the page for my decisions, the way I would yell during a horror movie when the group of friends splits up and goes outside in the dark to escape the killer.
“I hope you enjoy reading Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer as much as I didn’t enjoy living it!”
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