Undercover Sister: Ebony Tara Scurry gives goth career woes the boot.
Undercover Sister: Ebony Tara Scurry gives goth career woes the boot. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Lady Eve was having career trouble. When the 38-year-old fetish enthusiast and self-described “dom” began working 9-to-5 in a more reserved office last year, her day job began interfering with her bedtime rituals. “I was constantly petrified that they would find out about the fetish scene,” says Eve, who says she struggled to keep her extracurricular activities “completely secret” while on the job. “My husband, he’s a sub. He just enjoys being beaten,” she explains. “I know it sounds weird, but to some people, that gets a bad rap.”

While cracking the whip at a private BDSM party last December, Eve encountered Ebony Tara Scurry, a petite 25-year-old certified career management coach with a master’s in organization development and a fondness for patent leather. Since working with Scurry’s career service, Eve has started looking for a more tolerant job environment—and, with Scurry’s help, is now considering making her fetish her job. “A lot of people have been wanting me to go pro, and Ebony’s one of them,” says Eve. “For the time being, though, I’m just going to focus on paying the bills.”

Scurry, a goth since middle school and career “architect” since 2005, has emerged as an expert in the job woes of the darker set. Earlier this month, the Silver Spring resident consolidated her interests, re-launching her general career service as Eidolon Career Solutions, named for the ancient Greek concept of the “astral double,” the phantomlike spirit of a human being. Now, Scurry caters specifically to members of the goth, hellion, fetish, and GLBPQT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/pansexual/questioning/transgender) communities. Scurry says she locates clients in need through her social circle, and by posting free advice on goth message boards. One avenue Scurry hopes to avoid in the future: “My mom likes to refer me to her friends for résumé help and things,” says Scurry. “I have to say, ‘Mom, I don’t help everyone anymore.’”

Clients Scurry does take on pony up anywhere from $160 for a 50-minute “Lightning Round” session to $1,920 for one month of “Exploring & Solidifying Your Career,” tailored for alterna-types who “don’t know what the hell is going on.”

Scurry has four active clients but hopes to bring in more business by tailoring her advice to the unique challenges of the alternative subculture, from workplace wardrobe teasing to anxiety at staying “undercover,” goth speak for “in the closet.” “A co-worker might be afraid of you because they know that you’re goth, because of your face, or because you do strange things like play role-playing games and think you’re a vampire,” says Scurry. “People can get turned off by that in the workplace.” Beyond explicitly frightening co-workers, Scurry says that goths can find it difficult to identify with mainstream employees. “We don’t necessarily enjoy the same things the average person does,” she says. “A lot of alternative people just don’t like other people.”

Scurry first began experimenting in the goth scene while a middle schooler in Potomac, when she and her friends became fascinated with a live-action role-playing game called Vampire: The Masquerade. In the game, humans masquerade as vampires masquerading as humans. “That drew me to the darkness and all that fun stuff,” says Scurry.

Beyond her after-hours goth exploits, Scurry has always held down a mainstream day job, currently a human resources position with the federal government. At first, entering the workforce forced Scurry to suppress her gothness. “I didn’t want anything to impact my success,” she says. “I would never say, ‘I’m going to the goth club this Saturday,’ or wear black nail polish or anything that would identify me with my lifestyle.” Now, Scurry has been able to integrate her goth look into the workforce, adopting a style she calls “Corporate Goth.” It “doesn’t mean that you have to wear black all the time, but there’s always something on you that says, ‘This person is not normal,’” says Scurry, who now stays darkly professional by pairing suits from Ann Taylor Loft with black nail polish and gothic chokers.

Scurry has since collected her Corporate Goth tips in a 26-page manual, Corporate Goth 101: Top Strategies for Bludgeoning to Death the 7 Most Common Workplace Problems, available for $18.95—or free with a subscription to Scurry’s newsletter. Included are tips for dealing with a variety of corporate goth dilemmas, like this one: “I’ve been passed over for two promotions and I’m thinking about leaving. Each time they said it’s because I scare the customers. I’ve received nothing but kudos from the customers—I know who’s really afraid.”

The manual also includes suggestions for 35 other goth workplace challenges, including the 19th most commonly reported problem: “Having to hide Pentacles due to stereotypes that they’re satanic symbols”; the 26th: “Perception by other goths that they’ve sold out”; and the 29th: “Long gothic skirt always getting caught in the rolling chairs at work.”

Sarah Palaszynski’s workplace problems extend beyond wardrobe malfunctions. Palaszynski, a 25-year-old Gaithersburg artist, began hanging out with Scurry a couple of years ago at Saturday night goth haunt Midnight. But when interacting with co-workers at her Plaza Artist Materials sales job became “too unpleasant to manage,” Palaszynski turned to Scurry as a career counselor. “I’m not a normal person,” explains Palaszynski. “As an artist, a lot of my subjects are deities and gods, and I feel very spiritually connected to these beings. Sometimes when I draw them, I feel their presence.” Her co-workers didn’t understand. “More often than not, they just looked at me funny,” she says.

Palaszynski also felt uncomfortable discussing her synesthesia, a neurological condition where two or more senses become crossed. “I see numbers in colors, and I see colors in numbers,” she says. “I also taste names. The name Joey tastes like chewing on uncooked spaghetti. John tastes like pizza cheese,” she explains. “It’s difficult for me to talk to people about that.”

After working with Scurry, Palaszynski found a gig at Monart Drawing School, which she says has a more accepting corporate culture. “They immediately get it, because they experience those things as well,” she says of her new co-workers.

But even with the help of Scurry’s niche problem-solving, corporate goths can still find barriers to success in the workplace. One Eidolon client, Baltimore’s Artondra Hall, says that she’s “normalized” to take her current position—meaning that she’s chosen not to “initiate” her co-workers into her goth persona, known as “Ladie Artie.” Still, Hall faces discrimination. Hall contacted Scurry to help weather criticism not for her fetish boots or indigo hair but for a different physical feature: an unplanned pregnancy. “Goths have our own share of problems, but we have the same problems as anyone else, too,” says Hall. After a period of rude treatment from her co-workers, Hall has indeed been tempted to cast a curse on the “uninitiated.”

“There are times when I wish I had a secret power,” Hall wrote on a message board. “The power to broadcast my thoughts into their heads until the buzzing of my voice made them implode.”

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