Why I Almost Sold Out for a Job Selling Vanity & Vibrators. ~ Brenda Clevenger

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Background: I was one of five selected to be on the reality TV show The Job, which aired February 8th and 15th. I was on the February 15th show. The show was canceled after that, but this is my story about why I’m blessed not be be selected to work for Cosmo.


When a New York fashion magazine called about a job that would provide cash and clout in an office overlooking Manhattan from the iconic Hearst Tower, I jumped.

I didn’t think twice about what I’d be peddling just about the ego candy, career boost and corporate perks.

Thoughts of bylines and glossy business cards muted any reservations about producing copy that no longer hit home with me or other women my age, let alone making a difference in the world. I simply snatched and bit the apple from the tree with the biggest apples of all, New York City.

Preparing for the interview, I dusted off my stilettos, bought three back issues of Cosmo, and headed to the east coast to see if my clips could impress Joanna Coles, known as the Simon Cowell of fashion.

There was one caveat: I had to sign an agreement that to get offered the job, I had to outshine four candidates half my age on national TV.

I reluctantly consented in writing to sell my soul to the devil who did indeed wear Prada, and write copy about Versace, vibrators, what vixen Lindsay Lohan would wear before and after her court appearances.

I silenced my conscience by reminding myself that my savings were gone, love life dead, and my freelance writing career dry as day-after-Thanksgiving turkey. If Drew Barrymore, Ellen DeGeneres and Betty White could stage career comebacks, why not me?

I was going to go for it because I wanted to be the poster child of a midlife crisis gone right. I wanted to carry the torch for midlife women on a great big stage and scream, look at us—we’re not invisible, we’re invincible.

If we don’t risk it all, we may as well not write at all.” ~ Anne Stuart

Arrival Day

Upon arrival, I’m told to wait in my room until the producers come to screen me. Four hours later, the phone rings, “Check your hair, check your makeup.” Fifteen minutes later eight people enter my room.

I back nervously to the bed and plop down. They form a circle around me and fire questions.

Then leave.

Two hours later I receive another call, “You’re in. Be dressed and in full makeup at 6 a.m. tomorrow.”


Day #1

Entering the hotel lobby I see my competition: a gay male, two blondes and an exotic bombshell. All stunners and old enough to drink.

We receive no introductions and are forbidden to speak.

Throughout the day I entertain myself by giving them nicknames. I name Carlos “Diva” Bell A.D.D. Boy because he can’t sit still or quit talking, which he gets reprimanded for often. Then there was The Stick (Rachele Trainor), Chicago Girl (Kristina Leng) and Cosmo Girl (Diandra Barnwell).

Watch “The Job” and tell me if the shoe fits.

We hit our first shoot location and I come out firing—my mouth. After shooting six hours in a frigid park, we wrap.

Day #2

We silently enter Cosmopolitan magazine’s corporate offices. It’s surreal with nearly a 300-degree view of Central Park and Manhattan, 27-inch Macs on every desk and picture-perfect people as beautiful as the models in the magazine, but none are smiling.

Holy Helen Gurley Brown, what have I gotten myself into showing up with a blistered lip from a wax job gone bad and a Walmart tote?

We receive our assignment to hit the streets, learn what’s on people’s minds and get them to sign photo release waivers. I know there’s some secret Cosmo code or section to what the hell this means, but for the life of me I can’t recall it, so I do what I do best—make something out of nothing, create something uniquely my own.

Oh hell, I faked it.

Three to four hours later I feel good about showing the editors my ability to bond instantly with strangers, get juicy quotes about their thoughts on living fiercely and fashionably, and a few interesting photographs. But 14 hours into this long, weird day, I no longer feel fierce. I feel like I’m about to become a bug on a windshield.

When they put me on camera and ask me if I still want the job, I lie.

Spoiler Alert

Starring into the hot lights and Joanna Cole’s cold eyes, I get cast back into the land of unemployment first. Despite Joanna being rude to me both on and off camera, and Carlos condemning me for being only a “writer” and wearing flats when off camera, I’m relieved.

“Brenda, I can’t offer you the job,” makes tears well and a false eyelash pop off, but secretly I just want to regain the feeling in my feet, have a steak and never hear “check your hair, check your makeup” again.

While the CBS crew was kind, the Ms. Coles was catty. I believe she wanted someone to worship her, not work for her. And though I do like expressing myself through fashion, my preferred ensembles come from Lululemon or Target.

I’m back in my yoga pants once again writing for my fledgling midlife blog, which coincidentally was what got me on “The Job,” and for my small Kansas City clients who I appreciate more than ever before—especially those with a casual dress code.

I’ve learned living your storybook life for me doesn’t include buying Prada, knowing 613 sex positions or being more familiar with celebrities than your own family.

Living your storybook life means following your heart, being yourself, wearing flats when your feet hurt, saying no in front of millions if your heart isn’t truly in it and not getting seduced by the thought of your name in a top-selling magazine where it doesn’t belong in the first place.

All that is glossy is not good.

And for me, the blessing the universe handed me was a chance to concentrate more on writing stories of spiritual empowerment, not fashion slavery.

To work more diligently on blogging about what is in people’s hearts, not what is in their closets, to write about how to be beautiful through inner radiance, not outer adornment and how to love all mankind, not just those 18-35.

“When you align what you do with who you are, you will become who you need to be.” ~ Excerpt from the Good Life Project Living Creed


*There are more photos and footage at www.cbs.com/shows/the-job.


Brenda Clevenger, aka Midlife Mona Lisa, is a freelance writer and PR consultant in Kansas City who helps cities and women reinvent themselves. She believes storybook endings are within reach for all mankind. You can follow her on Twitter if that’s your thing.


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Assist: Sara Crolick
Ed: Brianna Bemel

The Elephant Ecosystem

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anonymous Mar 7, 2013 11:47am

Love the lipstick!

anonymous Mar 6, 2013 2:03pm

Excellent article….Brenda you are capturing some of the key psychological issues for women — and with humor..

Dr. Linda L. Moore

anonymous Mar 6, 2013 11:27am

Brenda – what a great article. I totally agree with your assessment of our young women today. The important things in life aren't what lipstick to wear and how many sex positions you can do. I love your blogs and your state of mind for women our age – mature!!! Look forward to more up and coming things from you Girl!! Keep blazing trails.

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 9:29pm

Yes, blessings. Like Garth sang, sometimes God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 9:28pm

Rajean, congrats on Career Person in Cosmo at the ripe age of 22. Hope you saved that clip or framed it. Did that accolade fuel your current writing career? WOuld love to know more.

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 5:49pm

Regardless if it was a good experience or not at least you learned you were happy with what you were doing or being stuck doing something to prove yourself to others.

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 1:15pm

I had a 15 minutes of fame moment when my photo and a small photo appeared in the Cosmo Tells All section. I was named Career Person of the Month at 22! I laugh now, that seems so funny, but I was in the right place at the right time, or rather, the right people who were supposed to be there didn't show. Instant exposure. Your tale shows how a good opportunity solidifies why you are where your experience shines, not to be swallowed whole by the wrong environment.

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 10:34am

Oh Brenda, I have been waiting with baited breath. The only thing that would have made it better for me would be pictures..maybe on your own blog? Great details. (PS. I would have tried it too, just for the experience!)

    anonymous Mar 5, 2013 9:26pm

    Lots of photos at the last url in this post, wish they would have given me the cut footage to use instead of tossing it. Bygones. You must share with me sometime your experience and how things panned out. Did it make you feel alive? Did it crack open your world in a positive way? Please share on Facebook with me. Thanks Shelley!!!

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 9:30am

HI Brenda! Thanks for sharing, this! This was my favorite message: "Living your storybook life means following your heart, being yourself, wearing flats when your feet hurt, saying no in front of millions if your heart isn’t truly in it." Glad you followed your heart!

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 4:51am

Brenda, U did not loose “the job”..was no failure.U won you! An experience that popped up out of nowhere and only really,defined who you already are, solidified YOU! Proud that your reality, is in tune with reality.:):) Great read..keep typing!:):) Lean forward in the saddle and dig in those spurs!!!!!!

    anonymous Mar 5, 2013 9:25pm

    I did wear my cowboy boots today Bruce so I'll take your advice and get back in the saddle again and ride Sally, ride.

anonymous Mar 5, 2013 2:19am

Brenda, Sorry to hear it was such

a horrible experience for you but, what an

inspiration to me that you enthusiastically made that

leap (even though it was into a pit of hungry jackals).

I, too would have probably been overtaken with the

same level of blind, holy helen gurley brown

excitement given such a terrific sounding opportunity

even if the Joanna Coles' of the world would

never condescend to speak to me much less show

interest. Painfully clear to me that

the type they're seemingly interested in

are less than humble, chameleon, ass

kissers who are, instead of living their dream,

living as cosmo puppets and wannabes with ice in

their veins. Maybe not selected

as another of their fashion slaves for now,

and for that I'm sorry, but in the eyes of so many

others, you're still the duchess of fashion and more. And, as

for the Joanne Coles' out there… hmmm well….

    anonymous Mar 5, 2013 9:23pm

    The Duchess of fashion. I like that. And I thought I was the writer. XOXOX

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 10:01pm

[…] Here’s my full, snarky story about all the behind the scenes barbs and BS, cleverly titled Why I Almost Sold Out to a Job Selling Vanity and Vibrators. […]

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 8:24pm

Cosmo reflects the superficiality that has invaded almost every aspect of life. Mad Men told it best. It's not what you can prove, it's what you can sell. Contemporary America fits this more than ever. It makes me sad that style trumps substance in almost every instance. I agree that you were lucky to not get The Job. Stay out here in the Midwest with all of us hillbillies and sodfarmers. You do good work with all of us simpletons.

    anonymous Mar 4, 2013 8:47pm

    Thank you Terry. I'm so glad our work for cities brought us together as I'm so impressed with your mind, heart and spirit. I hope we can do more good in the world together, one city at a time. Carrying in the torch for startup cities, the arts, and sustainable development.

    anonymous Mar 5, 2013 11:09pm

    Enter text right here! Monte likes this! I do not know you Terry, but I just love the comment. You'd win my vote for president. This "Contemporary America" at best is a potential train wreck in disguise. This country is in need of a big time cleansing

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 6:59pm

It's really fun to get an inside perspecitive on how these reality TV shows actually function. Of course it's obvious there is a lot of created drama, and I'm impressed you were brave enought to throw yourself into the fray! I hope your national exposure brings more attention to your Real Life blog about being fabulous in mid-life! People are hungry for substance that satisfies and it's obvious that there is not much beyond surface glitz at Cosmo.

    anonymous Mar 4, 2013 8:44pm

    People are hungry for substance and authenticity thus the reason I was thrilled when Waylan at Elephant Journal was open and kind enough to let me tell my truth here at this site, which is the home of authentic people doing good in the world. Go Waylan.

    Go everyone who is being true to themselves in tempting times when doing something not so good for you or the world hangs in front of you like a grape waiting to be swallowed. Don't swallow.

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 6:41pm

You're lucky to be beautiful inside and out. You're loved for who you are, not what you do. That's a really good thing.

    anonymous Mar 4, 2013 8:41pm

    XOXOO Dave — would that be the famous Dave Duncan, Realtor of all Realtors who I bowed down before when I came to an open house your were holding back in 2005? Beautiful message that I will try to live up to here on out!

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 2:54pm

Thank you rockin April. And I loved the your kick-ass boss, Gail Worth, the Queen of Harley Davidson called upon me to help build her You Tube Channel filming that hottie named Josh. What a fun project.

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 2:41pm

Brenda, I love love LOVED it! I love that you had an opportunity and took the leap. I love that you figured out that sometimes failure is lifes way of telling you that's not where you're supposed to be or who you are. And most of all I love that you came back with a fire to be who you are and inspire others to as well.

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 2:06pm

I found Brenda's article to be very throught-provoking. Her experience on the show tells me that we live in a society, which has become increasingly self-absorbed, out of touch with its past and future, and totally focused on the moment where everyone is seeking decadence and immediate self-gratification.

    anonymous Mar 4, 2013 2:53pm

    So try wise Ana. How is the culture in Brazil where you were raised?

anonymous Mar 4, 2013 1:48pm

Brenda’s article makes me want to watch The Job. I have heard so much about it. And I can’t wait to see if “the shoe fits.”

    anonymous Mar 5, 2013 9:22pm

    Thank you Diane. I believe I pegged the nicknames and on a grand note I heard Kim W. had her baby. So happy for her.