She takes on life with the urgency of a firefighter. No time for waffling. No interest in double-talk. Tomorrow’s work must be completed today … right now.
That’s the feeling you get from chatting with Teej (pronounced “T.J.”) Mercer, a reality TV coach with a refreshing personality and candid wit.
You’re asking, “what is a reality TV coach?” The answer is just what the title asserts: Mercer is one of the people who molds, guides and instructs the participants in our favorite reality TV shows. The verbal (and sometimes non-verbal) interaction between these famous and almost-famous actors is honed by someone like Mercer who has the ability to delve into the inner-most corners of the individual psyche and bring about an entertaining show.
“I teach coaches and entrepreneurs how to get on TV. They have to know that their souls have something to offer … that, deep down inside, the individual must be believable and interesting,” she said. “At this point in my life, I submit to God and ask Him how I can help the individual answer a prayer. Dreams can come true, if you truly believe and have faith. Yes, that’s my goal: to help fulfill dreams.”
Mercer has many monikers from which to draw—from the “Walking Exclamation Point” to the “World’s Greatest Hugger.” Now retired from 20-plus years as a television editor, Mercer has influenced the lives of millions as a result of her storytelling, having worked for ABC, NBC, MTV, OWN, Bravo, Dreamworks Studios and the Walt Disney Company.
You once found Mercer among the ending credits of the TV entertainment magazines “Extra” and “Access Hollywood.” She also had a long stint as a talent scout for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Mercer knows the in and outs of Hollywood. She can identify so-called “star quality” in an instant. Who is “photogenic”? Who can headline a cast? Does this person have “breakout” capability?
In Los Angeles, so many people have entertained the idea of working in Hollywood. But “making a star” is not her goal these days. Mercer insists that there is a “star” deep inside everyone … but there has to be someone to help cultivate the soul or “inner magnitude.” That’s where she comes in, and her entry is like gangbusters. Speaking with her for just five minutes reveals that she’s immediately sizing you up and determining the value of the dialogue.
Facebook and the various social media platforms have been a godsend for Mercer. She has substituted her traditional “fact-to-face” interpersonal skills for the chance to reach thousands of persons who have innate dreams of success but do not know how to actualize them. Social media, she explained, has allowed her to reach a vast numbeer of “Media Mavericks” who someday could find themselves on any number of reality formats, talk shows, news hours etc. where they may have the opportunity to chime in on today’s most relevant topics. Mercer spoke of one woman whose Facebook post stated she has learned how to “visualize achievement” or, rather, stop making excuses and turn your dreams into a reality.
“This woman played ‘small’ among her colleagues,” Mercer explained, adding that the woman felt professionally insignificant. “She’s in a very demanding field; her coworkers generally have advanced degrees, and she didn’t finish college. We talked about what she wants in life and how she can better contribute. I helped instill confidence in her, and she returned to school and is well on her way to (achieving) her degree. People have the ability for success already inside them. I try to help release that inner strength … those positive ‘vibes’ inside you that we all have but get hindered by way of apprehension and lack of motivation.”
Not everyone is cut out for “The Bachelor,” “My Cat From Hell” “Bar Rescue” or even “L.A. Hair.” Mercer crafted the storylines for these and dozens more reality television shows. Now she operates the Media Mavericks Academy which is a kind of marketplace of ideas for crafting the next TV personality. Authors, experts, entrepreneurs, etc. seek Mercer’ guidance and judgement prior to stepping onto the set; they eventually learn how to book themselves on a show and, she explained, “get invited back” to further enhance their media staying power. Her clients are the first to let her know if she’s been successful in cultivating the latest TV sensation.
“I’m a hugger. My fans and friends always let me know, if I’ve made a difference in their lives,” she said. “I want people to reach their potential; … it’s inside them, but they have to release it. It’s there not by accident. It’s God-given. I always say ‘oops ain’t in God’s vocabulary.’ He has provided you with a gift since birth, and there’s no reason to sit on this gift, if you want to achieve prosperity not only for yourself but for others.”
Although she has retired from television production, Mercer offered a little insight into the wayward and sometimes wacky world of reality TV. For those persons interested in this type of entertainment format, be prepared to spend a minimum of 10 hours a day prepping (wardrobe, makeup), rehearsing, shooting and re-shooting. Are these shows scripted as many may believe? Mercer said about 90 percent is unscripted, meaning that most of the posturing, one-liners … even on-going tiffs, angry “storm-offs” and the occasional table-flip by participants are indeed real.
“The camera follows you 24/7,” Mercer confided. “Sure, emotions will flow. Good television means genuine emotions and real comments. But the story must make sense. We once had a very real fight on “R&B Divas” and I had to step in and calm the emotions and bring about some consensus between the two parties. All of the interaction the public witnesses are issues that are relatable to the audience … even flipping a table or two.”
Buddhism often points to the legend of Boddhisattva—the spontaneous wish to obtain peace and goodwill for all human beings—and Mercer seems aligned with that type of unique benevolence. But what keeps this energetic, sprite-like woman going through all of the ups and downs in life? Why does self confidence and an exuberant spirit seem to ooze from her very being? “God puts something in my spirit, and I’ve just gotta ‘jump,’” she explained. “God instructs me daily and I have that faith that it’ll be something good.”