Gabourey Sidibe takes Gentleman Caller to a whole-nother level. That’s right! Our girl once worked as a phone-sex operator to pay her bills?
In her upcoming memoir, the 33-year-old opens up about her experience entitled, “This Is Just My Face”.
I was 21, couldn’t afford to go to school, and couldn’t get a job. I searched for one for weeks. Months. But since I had very little experience, no offers came my way. To be fair, I was unqualified for most jobs that didn’t involve flipping burgers. All I had under my belt was a one-day stint selling knives during my freshman year of college. I’d also tutored a girl who could barely read when I started working with her. Am I a wonderful person for teaching a child to read? Obviously! I’m basically Jesus. But did that make me employable at 21? Apparently not.
My therapist suggested telemarketing. This felt like something I could probably do; I had a pleasant speaking voice that didn’t match what I look like in person. Listen, I could lie to you and say that I happened upon phone sex while looking for telemarketing jobs, but we’re friends now! You know me! As soon as my therapist suggested “telemarketing,” I heard “phone sex.”
I’m not sure how the ad was worded. It may have said, “Phone actress.” I know it said, “No experience necessary.” Base pay and the potential to make $15 an hour. Yasss! I called the number. A woman gave me an appointment to interview to be a “talker.”
Honestly, I thought I’d be walking into a dungeon with girls in ripped underwear chained to radiators, moaning into receivers. I was surprised to see a normal-looking office with pictures of employees on the wall. Inspirational quotes on banners hung from the ceiling. I sat down with two other women who were also being interviewed. First, we talked numbers. The talkers made a base pay of $7 an hour, but if you were a good talker, you could make up to $15 an hour in commissions. Commissions broke down to about 10 cents a minute for every phone call, but after 10 minutes, they doubled to 20 cents a minute and tripled to 30 cents a minute after 30 minutes, and so on. If a caller liked you enough to request you by name, you made $2 before you said hello.
Then the interview turned into a workshop about what to say and what not to say. Tips included: The caller will tell you what he wants you to say, and all you have to do is listen and then say it. For instance, if the caller says, “Are you wearing something sexy?” the answer is “Yes.” We learned that phone sex isn’t about getting the caller off; it’s about stalling so you can make money. A good talker makes the caller forget he’s paying to talk to you. She makes her answers as long as possible to keep the money rolling in. So, “Are you wearing something sexy?” “OMG! I am! It’s new too! I went on a shopping spree with my roomie! We’re the same size in panties, but my boobs are bigger than hers, and I borrowed her bra and stretched it out so we went shopping for more bras, and I saw this super-cute lacy teddy. It’s red with black bows on the bottom with these straps that hook to my panties! My butt looks like a heart when I bend over! The seat of the panties is mesh, and you can see through it so…! But I’m wearing a silk robe over my teddy because I just had a visitor. My weird neighbor asked to borrow milk. Really? Milk? He’s like obsessed with me. What are you wearing?” See what I did there? If that guy’s not already coming or whatever, he might want to know more about that roommate. He might want to know more about those panties and maybe even that weird neighbor. If the caller is freaky, he might want to know more about that milk.
We also learned what we shouldn’t say to a caller. There were FCC regulations that meant we couldn’t discuss certain things on the phone: drugs, weapons, blood, or anything of a sexual nature pertaining to anyone under the age of 18. A lot of men would call and say, “My stepdaughter is eight,” and the talker had to say, “Let’s keep the party for people above the age of 18.” Some men would then say, “My stepdaughter is eight…teen.” Creep. But just so you know, there’s more than likely no stepdaughter at all. No wife. Every call is about a fantasy. If a caller wants you to stab him, you politely decline and make him aware of the rules. You can spank, but no wounds and no bleeding. Some callers want to be choked to death. You offer to choke them until they pass out, but they are to remain alive.
Another rule was that you, the talker, were not allowed to be any race other than good ol’ American white! The average caller is a white male. After oppressing the rest of the world all day, that white dude wants to go home, call a phone sex line, and talk to girls he’s seen in porn or on TV. The average porn or TV actress is white. According to what I had already seen at this company, the average talker was a plus-size black woman. That’s right, white dudes! You might think you’re talking to Megan Fox, but you’re actually talking to…well…me!
But hold on! I didn’t have the job yet! We were still at the interview. Now it was time for the audition. We moved to a room with computers that showed how many talkers were on phone calls and how many were available. We were given names to use based on the sound of our voices. Mine was Becky. Then we waited for calls.
I was pumped! I was ready to be sexy! My phone rang. “Hello? This is Becky! Who’s this?”
“My hand is on my cock, and it’s so hard!!!”
My 45 minutes of training left my brain in .045 seconds. I had no idea what to say! I was 21 years old! I wasn’t a virgin, but I certainly wasn’t some hot and horny temptress who knew what to do with that hard cock. I didn’t know what to do with it in person, and I didn’t know what to do with it in a white-male fantasy. I mean, damn! Where was the romance? I remembered that we’d been told to get the caller’s name, location, and age. I started again.
“Hi! I’m Becky. What’s your name?”
My very first caller wasn’t having any of my “Hi! I’m Becky” bullshit. Three more calls came through; none lasted more than a minute. I wasn’t sexy, and I couldn’t pretend to be. Finally, the trainer said, “OK, you’re done.” I took the headset off so that I could hear that I wasn’t getting the job, but just as it touched the desk, Becky got another call. “Hello? This is Becky! Who’s this?”
“Hi, Becky. This is Connie.”
A woman! A female caller is rare. We ended up talking about Victoria’s Secret bras for more than 40 minutes. I forget how the call ended. I think Connie ran out of time; I don’t think she got off. Actually, I have no idea how to get a woman off. I know what gets me off, but I can’t be sure that pizza and being left alone to play The Sims will do it for other women.
When the call was over, I was offered the job! It had yet to dawn on me that the accomplishment involved men breathing heavily into my ear. I was Melody, girl 1266.
I started the next day. I was given a headset with my number etched into the side of it. The talker floor was a huge dark room where the shades were always drawn. There were usually about 30 talkers sitting in cubicles with a computer sitting on every other desk. A talker never sat next to another girl because the caller wasn’t supposed to overhear the next talker.
We haven’t received our copy yet, but, it’s sending Sparkles to us for now! For more from Gabourey’s memoir, click here.