The Ugly Business of Being Beautiful

Saffron, a masochistic, people-pleasing Brit, desperate for a job and a new life, lands a position at Jolie Laide, an absurdly toxic, high-end clothing boutique in NYC. The seemingly picture perfect store is staffed by an ensemble cast of off the wall characters, including store manager Betsy (Markie Post), and booby-trapped for humiliation and pain. Things unravel hilariously from there in Rack & Ruin, a new comedy series created by, written by, and starring British born actor/writer Angela Dee.

Rack and Ruin PosterThe 5 mini-sode series, directed by Zetna Fuentes (“Switched at Birth”, “Pretty Little Liars”), captures the sensitive and impressionable Saffron’s struggles to become a “cut-throat” sales associate, while awkwardly taking on the sharks, divas, vapid posers, and insecure lunatics that prop up the fashion industry (co-workers and customers included).

Through smart writing and the spot on comedic timing of the almost all female cast, viewers get taken on the wild and chaotic roller coaster ride of all the things Saffron has to endure as she attempts to fit in and stay out of trouble. It’s Dee’s effort to show the ugly business of being beautiful by making viewers laugh and cringe at the ridiculousness of the high-end fashion world and everyone in it.

Dee, who also plays Saffron, explains, “She’s just coming out of a 10 year marriage that soured horribly. She sees Jolie Laide as the place where she can restart her life and get back into fashion, which was her passion prior to dumping everything she loved and everything she was for her now ex-husband.” She adds, “But it’s probably the LAST and WORST place she should ever put herself.”

In a classic example of art imitating life, Dee, who got her improv training with the acclaimed Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, was inspired to write and make Rack & Ruin after years of cataloging her own comedically disastrous experiences in the fashion industry… she spent a year and a half studying design and illustration in fine art at the London College of Fashion, and worked at posh retail stores in London’s Mayfair area and New York’s SoHo (both shall remain nameless, to protect the innocent).

“I’m a child of the 90s, the era of the Supermodel, Jean Paul Gaultier, fashion, fashion, fashion. I wanted to be part of all of it,” Dee shared. “But once I got into the business through school and work, I saw what it was truly all about. It was mind boggling to me how there’s this insecure, paranoid, petty, crazy world lying underneath a faux exterior of perfection and beauty that we’re all supposed to buy as real.” She continued, “At its core, the fashion world is rotten, it’s sad, and it’s lonely, which is also the formula for great comedy. So I wrote Rack & Ruin to essentially pants the fashion industry.”

As dark as her time in fashion so often was, the nasty bits were always equally hilarious to Dee. “There was this persona all the fashion insiders had in public, and the second that pristine shop door closed behind a customer, almost instantly, this piranha-like frenzy of tearing each other down erupted.”

The special Rack & Ruin breed of artificially quaffed and obnoxiously primped female piranhas that Dee created to bite their way across the painfully chic Jolie Laide sales floor and into poor Saffron’s thin skin, include a paranoid Saski (Shalyah Evans), a stern and perfunctory Magdalena (Arie Thompson), a carefree Kylie (Kate Armstrong Ross), and Gretta (Ashley Kuske), a humble, worker bee. The only man in the show is Frank (Raymond Cordova), Jolie Laide’s resident silent and anything-but-deadly security guard.

Then there’s Betsy, the eccentric, overtly manic, and completely insane store manager, who is played brilliantly by the legendary Markie Post (“Night Court”, “There's Something About Mary”). “Originally, I didn’t write this with Markie in mind, I wrote it with the character in mind. But when I saw Markie, I knew I had to get her to play Betsy,” Dee recounted. “I might as well have written it for her because she is the only woman who could ever play this role. She’s brilliant.”

With Saffron at the epicenter of all the entertaining dysfunction, women are the true heart and soul of Rack & Ruin, which was entirely by Dee’s design. “The ensemble nature of an all women cast lets female actors take on roles that we don’t get to play that much. We typically get to play the girlfriend, and the sex object, the girl next door, or the mom. We rarely get to have the fun in television and film,” said Dee. “So Rack & Ruin is a great opportunity for all of us women to roll our sleeves up and get dirty in comedy.”

As for how much she and Rack & Ruin’s anti-hero Saffron have in common, Dee says, “Saffron is a deep part of me. I battle with all the insecurities she battles with. She is the neurotic side in me that I am constantly trying to grow from. You can’t help but root for her.”

Rack & Ruin is the first comedy series to premiere on WYSKTV, the new entertainment programming arm of Women You Should Know.