Whitney Port, Olivia Palermo and Why Friendship and Business Might Not Mix

Whitney and Olivia in happier times.
If you're one of those intellectuals that only read books and never watch reality television, let me fill you in. On MTV's The City last week, emerging designer Whitney Port called on her "friend" Olivia Palermo at Elle Magazine in hopes of getting press for her new clothing line.

Since Whitney and Olivia worked together in the past, Whitney assumed that Olivia would be willing to support her latest endeavor. Wrong.

It's important to note that Whitney didn't expect Olivia to automatically love her work. However, if Olivia didn't like Whitney's clothes, she could've still helped Whit by...I don't know...giving her advice. Isn't that what friends do? Of course, the opposite happened.

Olivia begrudgingly attended Whitney's press appointment and then, talked smack about Whit's designs back at the Elle office. She even denied Whitney the perfect press opportunity: a Rue La La "New Designer" video interview on Elle.com. Tsk tsk tsk.

They were BFFs until business got involved.

But, as always, the plot thickened. Olivia's work nemesis, Erin, loved Whitney's clothes and pushed for Whitney to be interviewed against Olivia's wishes.

Not pleased, Olivia retaliates by not showing up on the day she's supposed to interview Whitney...on purpose. (And our favorite boss, Joe Zee, told Olivia off for ditching Whitney.)

That doesn't sound awful friendly to me.

This dramatic, catty reality TV scenario is sadly all too familiar. When it comes to business, friends can become overly competitive, jealous, negative and most of all, counterproductive.

On one hand, people feel that friendship and business should stay entirely separate. Friends, like Olivia, feel they don't owe their girlfriends any favors in the professional realm. I've seen friends withhold contacts from their girlfriends seeking jobs, decline writing recommendation letters, badmouth their friends to potential employers, the works.

Conversely, I feel that friendship and business can coexist under specific terms. I'm open to pulling friends up in any way possible. But there has to be a line so opportunists and users don't take advantage of my kindness. (Because as Kelly Cutrone says, "nice people end up on welfare.") I make a point to only help people that help themselves. 

I do this without looking for something in return, but I do appreciate when a business favor is reciprocated. I am a firm believer in the saying "You scratch my back, I scratch yours."

To be sure, there are downsides to my way of thinking. I find you run into a lot of phony people who forge a connection in order to get "the hookup" by way of friendship. Also, there's the notion that everyone should work hard and pay their dues to get ahead instead of relying solely on favors.

Do you think Olivia is wrong for refusing to help, and even plotting to hinder, her friend's professional success? Do you help your friends professionally or do you keep business and friendship separate and why?



1 comment:

Dana said...

I am more like you in the sense that I am willing to help out a friend or associate who I believe are natural go-getters. My only weakness is that I do not seek help or assistance as often as I should. I try my best to be as independent of others because I highly dislike being disappointed.

But I do tend to flock towards folks that have my strong personality and I try to learn from them as much as possible.

Olivia's behavior reflects her own insecurities. It's sad and God does not like ugly. Her actions towards others will come back to haunt her soon enough.

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