Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, a true Renaissance woman, Gina Hole. With more than 30 years of experience in the photography, film, video and commercials industries, Gina is the founder and Producer of THEY Produce in Vancouver Canada.
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I’m a female entrepreneur, ex artist, business owner, agent, producer, director, volunteer, political voice, advocate and mother of four productive and independent teen & adult children.
Tell us a bit about THEY. How did that come about? Why THEY?
I began my career in 1981 as a professional makeup artist in fashion, film and celebrity. Before there were makeup schools we learned on the job and from magazines, but as well I learned from my Transvestite and Transgender friends, so really I learned from the best! Back then I would see and hear the news about hate crimes, homophobia and racism and it always dumbfounded me as, within our ‘fashion bubble’– a gay black man was considered iconic, like Andre Leon Talley, whom we were massive fans of and had huge respect for — and so I just could not comprehend that someone like Leon could walk down a street at night, even in ‘out’ Vancouver, and get beat up or even killed.
Skip to 2003 when I decided to open an agency representing professional artist, I began branding the agency I needed a good name. I had always found it interesting (and a bit irritating) that when I used to be working as a makeup artist on set, and the Creatives, directors or AD’s were talking about us the makeup/hair/wardrobe/etc. teams, and we would always be referred to as ‘They’, as in, “after They do the touch ups we’ll roll camera”…and I’d look around and think, “who is THEY? It’s only me, Gina here and I’m standing right here!”… This happened almost daily on jobs for over 2 decades, so it popped into my head instantly. Then I looked up the term in the dictionary and I was blown away to read that it was defined as, “an androgynous term for ‘he’ or ‘she’ “, as in “when THEY did my makeup…”. This was perfect, as it was an homage to my Trans friends in the 80’s that taught me to be a fearless artist (and attach lashes that do NOT fall off!) as well as it was my own personal inside joke and nod to my past career experiences. I am very proud of the gender-neutral name.
What has been your biggest challenge running your own company?
My biggest challenge at the very start was tackling an industry in Vancouver that had never had professional agency representation before for artists, models yes, but artists no, so in a way I pioneered representation of this nature, but it did not come without it stresses at the start! I am honored that all these pro’s in the city, all of the very best in Western Canada, put their portfolios in my hands and said, “okay Gina, rep me!” But I’m nervous as this has never been done and some photographers told me they’d “NEVER book me again if I join!” So these Pro’s that had been handling their own careers for 10+ years all of a sudden put their trust in me. When I think about it now, 14 years later, I am still blown away that they put their trust in me and I am forever thankful for that. To this day we still represent over half of these same artists that have been with us from day 1, or very shortly thereafter.
What obstacles have you overcome and walls have you broken down?
I feel as a strong, independent woman, I face obstacles everyday in business, even today in 2017. I see a few men still not being comfortable with a woman leader, I have sat in meetings in banks and with lawyers where they turn to my husband and start talking directly to him…this always makes me chuckle, as my husband stops that person and says, “you need to be talking to her”, and then I do all of the negotiating.
There are walls every day and obstacles, but the secret is to know who YOU are, keep your head held high and keep on going, or, my other favorite term, grow a set of women balls! That means be tough and believe in what you are doing’ even if no one else does, follow your heart.
Tell us about your passion project?
My passion project is my documentary I am producing and directing. I am following a young Transgender boy through his journey from transitioning from girl to boy. I am a year and a half into it, following him before he started his testosterone shots. I will be mostly likely another year and a half before I’m done and my hopes are the outcome is the documentary will help other trans or questioning kids.
What would you tell your younger Girl Warrior?
Oh soooo much! I suffered from so much anxiety as a child, was always fearful of the unknown and worried about being bullied because of my last name (“Hole”…can you imagine?), but somewhere deep down I always managed to find my power, I just always moved forward no matter how utterly terrified I was…and this theory has carried me through surviving a 35 year career in the business — even in Hollywood for 5 years — plus diving head first into directing a documentary. I NEVER set out to say, “I’m a director” but rather saw an opportunity that came to me and I didn’t say “no”, in fact, the basis to everything I do is never say ‘no’ (within reason and not illegal!), as you may loose out on something amazing. I have also learned that everything is “do-able”, everything!
What would you say to the next generation of Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
I see anxiety rampant in teens and youth today, perhaps it is as simple as being over anxious to ‘instantly reply’ to every sort of social media ping and text that comes in. I’m not sure about that as I’m not an expert, but what I do try to say to my teen daughters and sons in their 20s is, ‘you do not have to answer immediately!”… and that advice is coming from someone whose whole career as an agent is to answer everything immediately so we don’t loose booking and money!
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s)?
Gloria Steinem (who wrote a book about her own anxiety all the while being the face and leader of Feminism in the 70s)
Barbara Streisand (Another anxious woman who ignored that and pushed through to become an Academy Award winning actor, director, producer and of course, over coming her stage fright to be one of the best singers & performers in the world…we also have the same birthday!)
My Trans and LGBTQ friends and mentors from the 80s, the ones that taught me to be a perfectionist, and who we also lost to Aides, I am forever grateful.
Raising funds to finish my documentary so we can shoot in New York for the ending plus get my trans subjects into the studio to record their amazing music that we will use for the sound track.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still welcoming projects that come in via email, text or land in my lap…and my answer to all of them is “yes, and how can we do this the very best it can be done!”
Also I’m not going to lie, I also see myself, and my husband, traveling more together and with our family, and having a great gin and tonic in as many different destinations that have gin!