(This article was originally posted in The Indie Chicks Magazine, 12/7/13)
Once again, I’m here to share my findings from the years I’ve put into reaching for my dream: Stardom. My journey hasn’t been easy; hasn’t gone according to plan. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that your journey, no matter what you do or where you’re from, has had its challenges as well. See, I believe that Hollywood is a weird microcosm of the rest of the world’s rat race. Navigating this city has made me into quite the fighter. I may no longer be bright eyed and bushy tailed, but I am, for the first time in my life, a businesswoman. I’m CEO of my own damn enterprise. And whether you know it or not, so are you. So start building your dream. Or like Tony Gaskins says, someone will hire you to build theirs. Ready? Almost. The University of Hollywood has a few more lessons to teach:
Make Your Own Luck
Some actors handle the waiting and struggle better than I do. I get antsy, frustrated and sad. I discovered the cure to this restlessness is keeping busy and especially, creative. If no one is casting you, create the project and cast yourself. I wanted so badly to be in a musical series or film because I’m a singer. I have never dreamt of being a writer or producer, but when I couldn’t get in for the projects I wanted, I created my own musical web series, “Destroy the Alpha Gammas” with a role I formatted to my own strengths. It was a huge amount of work but it has also resulted in a ton of press for myself, not to mention the opportunity to perform in something that showcases my skills. I was tired of waiting. So stop waiting and start doing. The elevator to success is broken? Take the stairs.
Capitalize On What Makes You Different
I’ve been told that I’m not special. I guess, on paper, I’m a dime a dozen. I’ve had to evaluate: What makes me unique? I’ve really only got 2 things I can think of: I sing, and I’m half Nicaraguan. Neither are that money, but it’s all I got! So you better believe I exploit the hell out of them! I’ll bet you have something very cool, very interesting about you, and I promise you, it’s an asset and a blessing-and it just might be your ticket. Don’t run from what makes you different; find a way to make it your calling card. Danny DeVito did. So did Ellen Degeneres. Lena Dunham. Why do we love them? Because they embrace who they are, what makes them unique, and it gives us the freedom to do the same!
Dump Your Plans -Marry Your Goals
I always dreamt of getting a record deal by age 19. I finally got that record deal when I was 23. I thought to myself, “It’s about damn time!” I have lost years to make up for! But by 24 the label had folded and I was back to square one. I felt like a divorcee; like damaged goods. I was devastated. Since forever I had had this very clear idea, PLAN, of how my life would turn out. The reality was such a departure from my plan that I felt like a failure. As I began to heal, I decided to let go of this blueprint I had designed for myself and start simply working my ass off towards my dreams. I don’t care when and I don’t care how, but I’m going to make it happen. And as long as I’m fighting in the trenches, I’m not a failure. So set goals for yourself and spend every day working towards them. When you get there, it may not look the way you always expected it to, but it will look the way it was always meant to.
Don’t Treat Your Passion Like Your Hobby
Unless you’re satisfied with it being nothing more than a hobby, treat your passion with more respect. Here’s the reality: no one is handing out jobs-in any field. It’s all tough. But if you’re working a day job while pining away for another profession, I hope as soon as you clock out that you are treating your fledgling career with as much respect as your bill paying job. That’s one of the hardest things about LA- It’s a full time job just getting by: paying your rent, utilities, food, car, insurance… When do you have time to make any headway in the most competitive industry in the world? And here’s the answer: you make the time. From what I’ve observed, people don’t leave LA and head back home because they don’t love acting anymore. They don’t give up because they couldn’t take the rejection. They give up because they are tired of fighting just to stay afloat. It has gotten to the point that they do a whole lot of waiting tables and very little actual acting. I get it. So here’s your tough love: Treat your dream like your number 1 job. Don’t let your day job fool you into thinking it’s the most important thing in your life. It’s not. Unless you let it be.
Donate Your Services
Anytime I hear snobby thoughts in my head, I think of my friend Sara Fletcher. Sara has voiced characters on Family Guy. She plays a mermaid this season on Grimm. She was the star of a show on Comedy Central. She works more consistently as an actress than almost anyone I know. Yet, Sara won’t even say no to being an extra on a friends’ project. She played a lead in my web series for no pay. She loves being on set. She loves to work. She doesn’t act like she’s better than anything or anybody and for that reason, who doesn’t want to work with her? She knows the value of investing- she knows that there’s more to life than money. If you’re willing to take a chance and put in the work and time, often times you will be rewarded. I’m sure you’re very talented yourself, but until you’re making the big bucks, don’t think that working for free devalues you. Work because you love it and because you are good at it, and the world will take notice.
Get A Life
This was a concept introduced to me by an amazing acting teacher, Cynthia Szigeti, and it is some of the best advice I have ever recieved. Cynthia said that if you want to make it in show biz, get a life. An apartment you like, friends you like, a boyfriend or girlfriend you like, because you’re going to be here for a while. If you put all your energy, time, self-worth into your career, you will burn out. You will give up and you will head home. Instead, carve out a happy little existence for yourself. Get comfortable. Learn to enjoy the journey. I know it’s easier said than done. Have faith that you will get there, and set up shop. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but who doesn’t love an adventure?
Off you go! Chase those dreams to the end of the earth! And if you end up chasing them all the way to Hollywood, give me a call.