If I had a billion followers I would just be asked to come do a role on Broadway, I would be invited to every party the industry threw, I would be asked to endorse products I've never even tried. I would be asked to tweet about things to influence consumerism. I would be in movies, TV, recording, guest starring in everything I could and squeezing in as much work and opportunity as possible.
But it I don't have a billion followers. I have 3 decades of dance, singing and acting training. 20 years of experience in the highest levels of theatre, I have TV credits of acting for all 4 major TV network, NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, doing film for Disney, and Paramount Pictures. I have legendary artists telling me I have a gift and never to squander it and producers and casting praising my work and my commitment.
But I've been bankrupt, I don't own any property, I have no fame, I have no agent and manager and.....I haven't had a real audition in over a year.
But if I had a billion followers, I would be set. I would be influential and what I tweeted would be on Extra!, Entertainment Tonight or CNN.
What does this teach our youth? What does this teach me? Work hard and know your craft or be shocking, make a sex tape, gain followers and become famous?
I'm afraid the latter is the lesson they are learning, and sadly so am I.
And yet still, I want to do the hard work, protect my artistry and passion, be classy and hopefully be able to pay my bills doing what I love.
Sounds like a solid Sunday evening confession to me?
I was 24 years old when I got my "lady parts" Brazilian waxed for the first time. I was a professional dancer on Broadway, and I needed to be well groomed.... in every respect.
Let me stop there, back up and start from the very beginning
It was 2001, I was about to open the mega revival of 42nd St on Broadway. This was a multi million dollar production and all of us were young, excited and ready to make our Broadway debut!
In one epic musical number were dressed in skimpy flesh colored leotards, sheer twinkle tights and choreographed to lay down on a huge turn table with a huge mirror over head kicking and spreading our legs...WIDE. It was a wonderful number called "Young & Beautiful", and might I be so bold to say that all of us girls were....young and beautiful.
We noticed how people, mostly men, were suddenly gathered in the wings during this number. I mean, I get it, were 24 half-naked young dancers on stage spreading their legs, who wouldn't be watching in the wings? We suddenly, or at least I did, felt a little "too aware" of spreading our legs (yes, I realize we probably should've been before, but ah well). Then, aside from telling the people to get out of the wings, we began to all talk about how high cut the leotard was, and how some of us hated shaving, the razor burn, and how it would be so much easier to just well, "be 12 again and not have any hair to shave down there."
In the theater, women have very candid conversations in a dressing room. Some women in general are very open about everything. But in my business we meet, and then see each other completely naked about 20 min later, especially in a chorus dressing room of women. So, this lends itself to most of us becoming very intimate, very soon. We talk about everything. Life, drama, sex, and of course shaving, self waxing and grooming our lady parts. Because generally, as dancers, we are costumed very skimpy on stage.
Also, this was the big time, Broadway, were about to open this huge show and perform 8 times a week in front of 1,000 people a performance. We needed to be groomed!
So at the time "Brazilian Waxing" your "lady" ( or your Who Ha, Chani, Sweet Girl, I have a lot of names for her) was a pretty new concept in New York City. At least only a few of us had actually done it or heard of it. One of the girls in our show was the only non "Brazilian Virgin" and she told us how it was done. We all listened to her describe this ritual of removing most, if not all of your hair down there. Even going as far as turning over and spreading your cheeks to get the bum hair. Wha!? I had never heard of such a thing at 24! She suggested we all "pop our collective cherry's" together and get our first brazilian wax done for opening night!!
She told us of a salon that had a great women of polish decent who was the best in New York City. She used only this blue conditioning wax. She was forceful, but gentle. She guided you through it step by step and made your first time wonderful.
Her price tag was $80
I made an appointment for the very next day! I was excited and scared. After my morning coffee, off I went to be waxed for the first time.
The Brazilian Waxing Service was described at the salon as going "from the front, all the way to the back with an added butt strip". It went on to say "it is perfect for a completely nude look or you can leave a neat triangle, strip, or square on the front. Choose the style that best fits you!"
It was descriptive, and I was curious.
I went into my appointment and was asked to strip naked from the waist down and lay on a table. A women came in with a thick polish accent and was very professional. She seem to already know I was one of the "dancer girls from show". She had apparently been flooded with appointments that week. Then she turned on an overhead craned light, and aimed it right between my legs! I suddenly felt SO exposed (I know, suddenly? I'm naked). She then told me to lift my leg. Shouldn't we have a drink first? Talk? Then she pulled out that blue conditioning wax, brushed some on, tapped the wax a couple times until it was cool, pulled my skin back and told me to breathe....and 1-2-she pulled fast!!!
Then she smiled at me and said "First time waxing?" I nodded, biting my lip in such pain. She went on to explain that the more I wax, the finer the hair will get. It hurts more in the front that actually on the Va jay jay. I can go 6 weeks in-between waxing, and being not very hairy anyway, I could go longer. She was trying to have a conversation with me as she is pulling, tapping, waxing and puling again. I don't know how I remember anything she said. But she went on to say waxing will save me money on razors and make me feel clean and sexy.
She went on to wax and pull, have me spread and lift in areas of my lady that I just don't do with strangers. But she promised to get "every bit of hair". And she did! Then she said,
(I'm sorry, Wha?)
"You want me to get butt? Spread cheeks."
So, after a deep breath, I flipped over. And as I'm "spreading my cheeks" and getting this done, I'm just giggling on the inside and then I start giggling on the outside. I'm sure this woman has seen it all. I mean, she had to ask me to spread my cheeks.
The things women go through for beauty is incredible isn't it?
All done. I got dressed. Paid my $80 plus tip (even though it felt slightly dirty to tip her), and I walked out of the salon hair free. I distinctly remember walking down the streets of NYC feeling smooth, silky and like I had a secret.....in my pants. Ha ha! It was wonderful!
I would love to say when we came back to the show that we all collectively got naked and showed each other our new "lady do's", but that's just ridiculous. Let's just say we noticed, we told stories of our first time, and were all just so happy that we weren't waxing virgins any more!
Our show opened a week later to rave reviews and that season we won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival! I can't say our collective "waxing experience" had anything to do with those accolades, but it was a part of it! And for some of us, waxing was a part of our lives from then on.
For those of you who saw that production of 42nd ST, you might not look at it with the same eyes, or thoughts again after reading this?
Tell me, did I layer it with some "knowledge" that may have ruined it for you? Or made it better?
"You don't know what it is to be an actress. If you're a writer--if you feel something you can write it. But I can't act unless they let me. I can't just walk up and down your room, being an actress!" --Terry Randall in Stage Door
I just watched Oprah's Master Class with Kevin Hart. I have always admired him and I think he is damn funny. He openly and candidly talks of his struggles to be taken seriously, combat massive defeat, to go beyond and work hard...and he repeatedly says that your fate in life is up to you.
I agree with this, but a comedian and an actor have very different journey's in the entertainment industry.
Comedians always have a place to perform. They have the comedy clubs, they always have stand up to go back to.
Just like that quote above says, "I can't act unless they let me". I can't act unless I am cast. I can act at home to no one but I don't have place that I can just go and get up and perform and get paid (or not) and act. I have a very small chance to create a following. Periodically I can sing at a club or restaurant, but to be able to stand and talk (not pay musicians to back you up) is such a gift. Unlike Kevin Hart, no one pays actors/singers/dancers to get on stage and just do pieces that they created? No one pays a unrecognizable actor to do monologues, or a singer or dancer to just get up and sing and dance routines they created? (Somewhere in the world, someone is getting to do that, but the norm is that it doesn't exist.) So the artist that I am can create all day, but its not the same journey where you just work really hard and your fate is up to you. I hustle and create as much work that I can but it doesn't propel an actor as far as a comedian.
A comic is a unique type of performer in this industry. They ARE self generated. They have to be. They have to play the comedy clubs, and once they breakthrough in TV and Film then they get to call the shots. If you are a dancer, singer, actress like myself.....you don't have a club to go to and gain recognition in that same way. Even if you have starred on Broadway, which I have twice, you don't have the recognition. You go back to zero every time.
Does this make sense?
I also have the unique situation of having 2 young children (ages 5 and 2) so my momentum constantly gets challenged. I in NO WAY ever want to have my children believe that they have stopped me from living my dream. They haven't. THEY ARE MY DREAM. It is possible to have many dreams at once. And how I wish my fate in he entertainment industry was up to me. That would be awesome.
What Kevin Hart did say that I totally identify with is that...Hollywood is fleeting and fake. The people aren't fake, but the opportunities and the stature is fake. It can be given to you and then immediately snatched away.
Which is why my friend (and now massive movie star) Chris Pine said to me, "Career's are fleeting. Family is everything". He may not know how much that meant to me to hear at that time. When I was very low in my career. For someone who was (and is) very high in his career to have that kind of perspective just goes to show you the kind of person Chris is. And that this community, the entertainment industry, can be true, close knit and authentic.
Its not the people that are fake, its the opportunities.
Everyone knows there is an up and down, an ebb and flow, and you have to be ok with that. You have to be willing to ride that wave. I never thought that when I was young. I thought the harder you worked, the more focused you were, the more secure your career would be financially and otherwise.
But I have been at the top of my game and still had someone tell me I wasn't good enough. I wasn't talented enough. I wasn't pretty enough. I didn't do the exact right thing at the exact right time.
And what I learned, from Kevin Hart and my friend Chris Pine is, you need to be aware of what is real and what is fake. Work hard, be good at what you do, treat others how you want to be treated, don't take anyone's opinion as word, and never lose sight of your dreams.
The rush of excitement and adrenaline you feel when you get "the call" that you booked the role is intoxicating! The passion and love for what you do, or now have been cast to do, is like no other. You cheer, cry, collapse, call everyone you know, status update, tweet, snap chat, story and go nuts on every social media site you have! Right?
Or or at least this is what "the little kid" in you wants so desperately to do. Let your love and passion loose and shout your excitement from the rooftops!
But you are stifled, you are silenced, you feel the implications of being so celebratory right? You don't want to seem so full of yourself, conceited, or brag? You have to be humble always, think of others first, and step back a little.
The honest truth? Because of other people's envy and jealousy of you and your success. They can be your closest of colleagues, true friends, even family. They can be there for you as you cry on their shoulder about your lack of work, not booking, auditions sucking, being poor, etc. But when the tables turn and you book a lead in a Broadway show or become a series regular on a new show, have dinner with Julie Andrews or get a award nomination? Suddenly these same people can seemingly be smiling but behind their eyes have a twinge of bad and jealous energy. And then they position themselves to see what they can get out of knowing you.
Now of course this isn't everyone, but you know who it is in your life. Think about it. I'm sure a few faces and names come up in your mind. Of course it is not your concern how they react or don't react towards your success. That's on them. What others think of you is none of your business right? But listen, let me save you some valuable time. The more successful you become the more you will begin to feel the hateful and jealous eyes of others begin to surround you and people positioning themselves to be your friend.
This is hard to say, but it's the truth.
So, what do you do? Most just play the game and douse their excitement. They stop talking about what they are doing. They become calculated and stop having that public childlike excitement when they book a role or have an awesome meeting, or get a nomination or award. They begin to protect that information and protect their excitement and passion. It's not like they don't have it (let's hope they still do) but they save it for those who share the excitement with them.
They protect their environment, and the people they surround themselves with.
They raise their standards and protect it
Let me ask you, are there people in your life who support you when you are down and not up? Are there people who are more friendly when you are successful as opposed to not? Who love to complain and bitch about how hard life is all the time? People who openly judge others who are successfully doing what they want to be doing? They are doing this to you when you are not around. This is a huge realization. Who are these people in your life. This should make you uncomfortable to figure out. Go through that uncomfortableness and dive deep into it. You need to "exfoliate" these energies out of your life as soon as you are done reading this blog.
Why? I am speaking from personal experience.
I sadly was married to a husband and fellow actor who was extremely jealous and envious of my success, opportunities, and relationships within the entertainment business. Quite frankly he was jealous of anyone who got "his part" or was doing what he wanted to be doing. His pouty and negative "victim" energy was so draining to be around. This indirectly doused my passion. When something awesome happened to me, I felt I couldn't express it fully, because I had to be empathetic to his failing career. And to make him feel better about himself, I would energetically hide my excitement, and focus on how to help him succeed. A lot of his opportunities came from me calling in favors, asking for him to get an audition, introducing him to agents and casting. I was happy to do it because I believe its good to give, but its not good to give to a person who only takes. It was exhausting. And once he took all that he needed from me, he withdrew and left. But I'm thankful. We were not a good match and sadly after years of this kind of treatment, I realized he was holding me back in my life. He was holding me back from evolving in my career but also mentally and spiritually. And after we divorced, I realized just how much.
I also had friends and colleagues (just a few negative Nelly's who I have since ceased to know) who would make side comments and jokes about my success. They would be "shocked that I got that part" and say things that made me cock my head to the side. Back handed compliments and comments concealed as jokes. It would be small, but enough to make me wonder what they meant? I call these comments the "things that make you go hmmm?" And when it came down to it, they definitely meant what they said. And now, anytime anyone makes me go "hmmm", more than once, they are out of my life.
Now letting these ex husbands and ex friends go, completely out of my life, I don't consider harsh treatment. I don't consider myself quick to judge. I find that I have a very good intuition about people and how I'm being treated energetically and verbally.... and a very low tolerance for bullshit and bad energy.
My advice from my experience? Listen to your intuition about people. Trust it above all.
Now, in my life, when something awesome happens, I book a big role or get a new job or have someone praise me. I don't douse the little girl in me with big dreams. She comes roaring out and giggles, laughs, jumps up and down and cries with excitement! She is let loose and she is supported in her excitement. And when my friends have the same happen to them, I jump up and down with excitement and support for them! Its a circle of giving, not just taking as it was in the past.
Not everyone is kind, awesome, authentic and lovely. And not everyone is your friend. No matter how nice you are to them. Please learn this lesson. I have now consciously chosen to surround myself with the best positive energy I can find. The best and most authentic awesome people. I hold close to the ones who lift me up and whom I lift up. And that's my rule. That's what I live by.
My standards have been raised. I intend to fiercely protect that because this is a huge life lesson for me. Not matter what your industry. Raise your standards and surround yourself with love and light always.
It's not that you aren't going to interact with negative, jealous, envious, judgmental people? Oh my god, they are everywhere! Every day I still interact with them. But I don't choose to engage. I don't keep them close. I don't spend any more time with them than I have to. I smile and move on.
You may not think you have a choice. My friend, whom you decide to spend your time with in this life is absolutely your choice. I am not saying its easy, but it is always your choice. Set boundaries and raise your standards today. And once you make that decision? Watch what positive and wonderful things begin to emerge.
My Mommy is 41!!
My sweet 4 year old boy yells as he skips with sheer joy through the aisle at the supermarket. He's so happy he knows my age, he looks at me with his wide eyed sweet dimpled grin and says "Mommy! You are 41! And on November 24th you are going to be 42!"
I kneeled down to him, sharing his excitement and said "Yes baby, you are right, I am! And I think 42 is a magical number. Did you know that!? I can't wait to be 42!"
He pumped his fist and said YES! and continued to skip down the aisle and naming everyone he knew, there age and their birthday. He was elated and so excited that he knew all these numbers.
People are staring at me to see my reaction to my son admitting my age in front of anyone and everyone. I found myself smiling..... until I saw their faces. Many of them were shocked and looking to be to have a negative reaction or to shush my son? Ugh. He has no idea that getting older is considered a bad thing in our society. And I suddenly got protective of this little man's innocence. I never want him to know that its not ok to talk about anyone's age. I looked away from the negative people's glare and walked away.
Why on earth are we so obsessed with age? The number? And getting older. When did we stop thinking it was a privilege to get older and began to think of it as a burden?
I live in Los Angeles, right in Hollywood, and of course I'm an actress in the entertainment industry. No matter if you are an actress or not, NO ONE in Hollywood wants anyone to have anyone shout out their actual age. So, no one at the supermarket thought it was cute that my son was yelling that I'm 41, except me. I mean, I distinctly remember my talent manager from years ago telling me I was "getting old at 27 and I better book something huge soon or it will be too late".
Fuck you, I remember thinking. My career is a marathon not a sprint, and I plan to be an actress and an artist until I croak. If I book something huge, great, but if I don't....am I washed up? Is that it? Giving yourself a time frame doesn't always mean you will be Jon Hamm and suddenly book Mad Men. It doesn't always work like that, and those awesome performers and actors who are beyond 30 or even 40 are still viable and wonderful artists. Fuck you sir, politely with a smile, fuck you.
I am 41 and I'm damn proud of it
I have lived a rich and wonderful life, and I am still living one every day. I consider every day and every birthday a gift.
Because that's what it is. For all of us.
I'm sick of people in society and in the entertainment industry wanting to shave years off their age and there life, or my life. I have lived 41 years! I celebrate that. Of course its great to have people tell you that you look or act years younger. Everyone wants to look happy, healthy, feel vibrant, and energetic. But I don't want to go backwards. I don't want to waste valuable time thinking about being younger? What a waste of time and energy! I am proud to be older.
I am grateful for every day I have. Why? It's in my nature. But I also come from a family that has genetically inherited a neurologtical disease called Huntington's Disease (HD). Not every day has been promised. My incredible relatives (my grandfather, great aunt, uncle and cousin) have all fell ill to HD and died young.
So if I ever get into a place where I feel "old" in life and the entertainment industry is telling me I'm washed up and being over 40 is death. I will snap out of it. Say fuck you to all of them with a smile and keep at it. Remember my son's enthusiasm at the store for birthday's, remember my family who wished they had just one more day of being happy and healthy, go outside take a deep cleansing breath and smile at the sun.
Because I'm so happy and grateful to be 41.
I met Alec Baldwin in 2003 in the Hamptons. I was starring in a show called The Boy Friend at The Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor and he and his daughter came to see a matinee.
It was a small theater and I could basically see the entire audience from the stage. He was one of many celebrities that had come to see the show. The production was high on people's list of "what to see" that summer. Why? Because it was the great Dame Julie Andrews directorial debut! I was in the hot seat because I was playing the role that Ms. Andrews had played when she made her Broadway debut in 1950.
So needless say, there was a lot of pressure on me to be glorious in the role.
I felt the collective arms folded/"show me" when people came to see the show, and celebrities just made it more nerve racking. But I just took a deep breath and did what I always do, my best and hoped no one criticized me too harshly for what I lacked. I was not Julie Andrews, and frankly no one is. So when I knew a celebrity was in the audience I just tried to fuzz out all the faces, forget and do my best.
The matinee performance ended and I quickly got dressed and entered the lobby. That day I was wearing my "patch pants" (some silly bell bottom jeans that I had sewed my patch collection onto). Suddenly I heard a little voice of a girl say "My Mommy was in that movie!" I turned around and this girl was crouched down pointing at a patch on my pants. The patch she was pointing to was a Batman Logo. Then, I looked at the little girls face and I saw a faint glimpse of the "Mommy" she was talking about.....Kim Basinger.
Batman, Kim Basinger....Vickie Vale!
Boy, I remember as a child wanting to BE Vickie Vale. Then I realized who was pointing to my patch pants, the daughter of two huge movie stars! I remained calm and squatted down to her level and said "Your Mommy was in that movie? Batman? Cool!"
And then I hear a deep and rough voice say
"Ireland. Sweetheart. Leave Ms. Patterson alone"
And there he was, Alec Baldwin walking towards me, parenting his young daughter.
"Hello, Mr Baldwin" I said shyly
"Oh no, please call me Alec." He said very casually "Nice to meet you"
It was surreal and awesome. He was a pure gentleman. He complimented me on my performance, shook my hand, told me I would do great things, and said he hoped to see me again. I was just dumbfounded. I had met movie stars before, but not in such a casual setting and never with anyone calling me Ms. Patterson. Throwing any respect and equality my way?
He was a class act.
I honestly thought I would never see him again. Then month's later, through mutual entertainment business friends, Alec Baldwin asked me out to lunch. Nothing romantic, he said he just wanted to get to know me. Now, I was hesitant, I was newly married at the time, and honestly, I knew Alec Baldwin was single. But my husband at the time didn't seem to care if I went out with one of the sexiest movie stars on the planet.
So you know what? I said I would. It was just lunch and why did it have to be romantic? Alec saw me in a show, had a production company, had connections, and maybe he did want to ask me about my career and help me out?
Naive? Maybe. But I said yes.
I met him at his apartment on Central Park West. He had just returned from a trip and was running late. It was the summer and I remember he was sweating a lot when I met him. It was just us. No entorouge, no assistant.
We casually walked down the side street, talking and looking for a place to eat. No one really stopped us on the street to ask him for a picture or an autograph. This was his neighborhood so he was suggesting places. I casually said, whatever is good around here, is good for me. It felt very casual and comfortable. Nothing romantic or strange. I do remember he asked me how old I was. If you know me, I never feel I need to lie, so I just told him I was 29. I remember he laughed at my candid answer. He also sighed deeply. "Oh! To be 29 again!" And he started telling me about his life at 29. And not his movie star life, his life.
It was fascinating because just like anything. We were getting to know each other.
He suggested a place that looked closed, but he walked in anyway. Immediately a waiter was preparing to set a table and he stopped upon seeing who was in his restaurant.
"You guys open yet?" he said
"Oh no Mr Baldwin, but give me a minute and we can set something up for you if you'd like?"
This guy was scrambling. I've never seen anyone just jump to do whatever he wanted. Alec was gracious and said "No, no its ok. Don't worry about it. I love this place. We will come back another time".
I honestly found Alec fascinating, I didn't know him well, but I mean I found his celebrity fascinating. I have always admired him as an actor, but at this point I hadn't been in public with a celebrity and seen the impact it has on people. Maybe it was his knowing fame and the way he walked into a place knowing he would be recognized. It wasn't in a cocky way, but in a way of knowing that he has significance in this world, he has made an impact, people pay attention to him. He was a movie star. I only knew a miniscule of a fraction of that impact, having starred on Broadway. But being around him, I can see why people are intoxicated by fame and money. It makes you important in the eyes of others.
And honestly, we all want to be seen, to be important. And at that moment, I was important to Mr Alec Baldwin. Enough for him to ask me to lunch, alone and ask me about myself.
Looking back on that day, I don't imagine Alec Baldwin really remembers it. It was so many years ago. I mean, it probably wasn't a day that impacted his life or made him feel important. But it made me feel important, valued, like a colleague.
We sat down in a place that was small but quaint. I remember we shared a stuffed artichoke appetizer. We talked about life in Los Angeles vs New York. How to break into Television (I hadn't done any TV work at the time), what Pilot Season was like, working in movies, fame and just life. It was about an hour of talking back and forth before we left the restaurant and got a cab.
Never once did I feel like it was romantic. Like it was uncomfortable or forced. And I kept thinking, why can't a man who's a movie star ask a woman to lunch and just connect? Maybe I'm naive for thinking this, and I can't speak for Alec Baldwin, but he never made it seem like he was trying to date me. Or that he wanted to. It was just lunch and it was awesome.
I also have never been the type of actress, or woman, to knowingly use my looks or sexuality to get what I want. I have never used sex to get a part or get "discovered". I know many stories of people who have. For some it works out, they get where they want to be. But I know, I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror if I did that. If I chose to be with someone romantically because of where they could get me in this business. Or what they could do for me, money wise, fame wise, any of it. I couldn't stomach it. And don't you think that the other person, the celebrity or wealthy man knows they are being used? I mean it's all so deep seeded and shady, so inauthentic and shallow. I would rather sit here in my comfy small apartment with my beautiful babies and the love of my life authentically living life....... than rich, famous and spiritually gutted because I slept my way into every opportunity, and was with someone because of where they could get me in life.
All this being said, I took my lunch and my conversations with Alec Baldwin at face value. I didn't read into, or expect anything from it. And maybe that's why it was so comfortable? I now know celebrities have to be on guard, and honestly check their gut and see why people are contacting them.
I believe they always think that people want something out of them. And I imagine, its a somewhat sad existence to not be able to trust anyone's motives? Almost every celebrity I have known, I have to emphasize that I'm not friends with them or contacting them to "get something" out of them. Its sad, but I sometimes feel I have to say it. Most of them tell me thank you. Because they have people clamoring at them all the time. From the past and the present.
But that day in New York City, Alec Baldwin and I had lunch and got to know each other.
We kept in touch via email for a few years after that, but not much. I would invite him to shows I did, watch my TV Debut, and would congratulate him if he booked something huge, like when he got the role of a lifetime and became Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock.
After that, I didn't hear from him and I didn't contact him. He was off into the stratosphere of fame yet again and I quietly celebrated him from afar, just like I do now.
To Mr Baldwin. Thank you so much for that lunch and for treating this young actress with admiration, curiosity, giving solid advice and being a pure class act.
I have been trying to figure out my whole life how not to associate my self worth or happiness with my success.
Let me explain.
When I am in a successful place in my career and at the top of my game, I feel a high. I feel important, loved, & happy. The best long term example of this was when I was starring on Broadway in 42nd St. I was playing my dream role on Broadway for a whole year. And I had never been happier stepping out on stage every show. Dancing my heart out and seeing the faces of the audience at the stage door afterwards. I loved doing interviews and feeling involved with the Broadway community I so admired.
Also I felt a high from the molecular energy only a live audience can give you 8 times a week.
It was a drug.
But I also felt valued, I felt like all my hard work in the dance studio as a kid was finally paying off and I was just doing what I had dreamed of my whole life. I was doing what I had passion for. What I loved and craved. I felt like people felt that energy from me and that in turn just kept giving me more joy.
For years I kept striving to get back to this place. For 10 years after that to be exact. I was in NYC striving to get back to that feeling. I did it briefly, for 2 months, get to star on Broadway again with the musical White Christmas, but after 12 weeks I was "back on the street, looking for that fix again".
I sound like a drug addict. But those of us who have been there, know that feeling. And there is no other way to describe it.
It is a drug.
But, if you are lucky, you get your fix, you get the opportunity to work. And I did, for years, but after awhile I wasn't working. No one was calling, I wasn't getting hired. Nothing about me or my work was being appreciated, praised or valued. I was being rejected right and left. My skills were the same, my talent hadn't changed, but people just weren't biting anymore. And as much as you try, when you are at this point, its very hard not to feel worthless, sad, lonely, and depressed.
From the time I was a kid I have loved Madonna. (Stay with me, this has relevance)
I know Madge has her faults, but truly I think she is a brilliant mind. I think she is an incredible business woman & artist. To have survived and thrived in this business from the time she was 24 is impressive. I don't care who you are.
So the other night I was feeling "worthless" and happened upon an old interview of hers while surfing YouTube. Random... but it helped me put things in perspective.
It was an interview with another powerful women I love, Ms Oprah. Madonna had just become a mother and was talking about her life now, the ups and downs of motherhood, her career and then she got to a part where she talked about fame. She talked about the high's and low's of this business. I was fascinated to think that she, someone who I think of as having everything, has times when she is feeling worthless and sad.
Of course she does.
She is human.
Oprah chimed in about how she deals with the high's and low's. and I was just glued to their every word. There they are, Madonna & Oprah, two insanely powerful women talking about how they have had to learn to disconnect from the power of connecting your self worth to your success.
Ah ha. Moment.
Now if they have to learn that, with all their success, what does that mean to someone like me? It means it is much harder to be Oprah & Madonna with the high's and low's because not only do you have yourself to face....you have millions critiquing and judging every move you make.
So in a way I feel lucky because my low's are on a much smaller level.
No wonder Madge says she doesn't watch TV or read American magazines. Its too hard to be exposed to the criticism's. Hey I get it. I would shield myself too.
After hearing all Madonna and Oprah said on the subject I thought...I don't think I would've been mentally fit for fame. It takes a certain personality to survive those high's and low's. Thick skin and a thick heart. But...don't get me wrong.... I wouldn't turn it down because the "high's" I know are incredible. Being able to do what you love and have people call you, want you to perform, have tremendous influence and not to mention the financial benefit.
I would take it in a heartbeat.
See? Even after all that....I still am a drug addict.
I am going to be a STAR! That is my plan!
Said by every performer, ever.
Said by me when my parents asked what I wanted to be. I had no back up plan because I wasn't going to need one. I was going to succeed!!
Oh, Show Business.
No matter if we "make it" and we are a star, at some point in our career, we all feel the same sense of not being enough, questioning our talent, and deep down just wanting to be accepted. Struggling or full blown stars……we are all the same aren't we? Our careers go through massive highs and lows, feast and famine, that would make anyone else's head spin. Show business brings heartache, and many of us allow that heartache to rob us of our every day happiness and forget the joy that comes from doing what we do.
So how can we be a happy, fulfilled, confident, blissful? Deep down, its a choice, really. But here's some tips I found in my career that help me. I hope they will help you too.
Love Acting. It sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised by how many actors focus on the negative and allow the indifference of the business to validate that self-deprecating voice in their heads. "If you didn't get the callback you must suck." No, you must focus on the art and love it. You do this by engaging in the joy of acting on a regular basis in classes, in scripts you write and shoot, and in the work you do on stage. If the extent of your acting is in an audition room a couple times a week for 10 minutes at a time at best, you're not choosing to fall in love with it. Love it for it's own sake.
Get a Life. You need a day job. Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, and Meryl Streep all have day jobs. Yes, I said have. Whether it's child advocacy, Politics, parenthood, music, or women's issues, they all have passions that extend beyond show business. Sometimes their day job is acting! The point is they all have full lives that keep them engaged in their communities in ways that are fulfilling. If auditioning and occasional acting on set is all you do, you probably have a more narrow view of the world than an artist should. You're limiting yourself and your art. So, get out there. Get a job. Volunteer. Make time for friends and family. Travel. Experience. Your art is bigger than the business, and it requires fuel or else it gets stale. Living a full life is your power source.
Care for you instrument. You must eat well, sleep well, and – during at least one workout a week – engage in exercise that isn’t driven by vanity but by the desire to connect your mind and your body. This business is stressful. It requires constant self-care. If you're putting things into your body that deplete your physical and emotional energy, the artistic expression that comes out of your body will reflect that depletion. You won't be able to do the work you need to consistently do. This goes for spiritual engagement as well. You have to be feeding your soul – whatever that means for you. In a town where business is our master, we have to find ways to nurture our spirits and find something bigger than the industry and ourselves. You can only find joy and engage in deeply connected work if your heart, body, and spirit are tuned.
Let go of the drama. The drama is on the page and in the work, but not in your life. There'll certainly be struggles, disappointments, and big feelings. But don't turn that into drama. Live simply. Don't create chaos. That's wasted energy spent in avoidance. Deal with what's right in front of you: the work. Everything else is in the way of the thrill of your artistic exploration.
Comparison is death. You're not Jennifer Lawrence. You’re not Daniel Day Lewis. You're not Octavia Spencer. But they're also not you. Comparing your career to another actor's career is not the work of an artist. You are a unique actor with a unique set of experiences so your path will be unique. Likewise, comparing your bank account to that of the kid you grew up with who went to law school, undermines your unique journey and prevents your experiences from being expressed through your art. You are like no one and no one is like you.
Find your gratitude. Appreciate what you have; it's a lot. Every morning and evening, in the shower, in traffic, at the post office, etc. – Identify three things for which you're grateful. Let that become a practice. It keeps you out of the muck that actors can wallow in. "She didn't bring me in on that part I'm perfect for." "That other actor got the part." "I'm too old, too fat, too insignificant, too, too, too…" Gratitude leaves no room for the negative voices that don't have your best interests in mind. Even when those voices pop up in the waiting room as you're about to walk into the room. Be especially grateful then!
Be gentle and kind to yourself and to everyone around you. Nobody deserves to be beaten up. Begin with yourself. Forgive yourself for anything you think you did wrong. Treat yourself as you would a new lover. Go out of your way to be generous. Be compassionate. Be mindful – to the casting director, the other actors who always book your parts. Be kind. It will create space for happiness.
Meditate It is not a religion. It is an exercise in stillness. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness. If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.
The Tony Awards are coming….or as I call it "Prom night for the Theater World". ;)
This time of year reminds me of the time the cast of 42nd St Revival performed on the Tony's in 2001. How exciting it was to run down the isle in our tap shoes and dance on stage at Radio City Music Hall!
We were all living the dream!
Being on Broadway is truly amazing, but we know there is no real guarantee our show will run. A closing notice can go up on Tuesday that says you are out of a job on Sunday afternoon.
Crushing. Yeah, I've been there.
Not only does that kind of news suck for anyone....it also means you don't have that fat paycheck coming in anymore. We always have to be prepared for this to happen.
This is where I hope I can help. With some advice on what I wish I did while I was on Broadway.
For those of you who aren't actors, let me school you a little on what we call "survival jobs". "Survival jobs" are what actors call the jobs we get in between performing gigs that fuel our bank accounts long enough for us to survive. Some people are fortunate enough to never have to work one of these jobs, but those of us who do have been through a myriad of them.
Me personally? I have done almost everything. Coat checked at The Rainbow Room, Hostessed at The St Regis, Catered in Hollywood, I have even done singing birthday grams as Marilyn Monroe. Nothing that made me a lot of money or money that made me feel like I was thriving. Sometimes we take some performing gigs we hate just because it's money...right? Imagine if we didn't have to do that. Imagine if we could pick and choose and build a career because we had a steady flow of money coming in.
I'm not talking about having a Sugar Daddy.
What if we could be our own Sugar Daddy.
Yeah....lets get into that idea!
So a few years back I was racking my brain to figure out what I could do to GET PAID. Start my own line of tap shoes, make jewelry? Uh.....not really interested in having a jewelry factory in my apartment and designing tap shoes is a thought but I don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to start that kind of a business.
Early on, I realized that Film & TV actors get paid residually (get paid for work they already filmed) and I realized THIS is what I want! So, I luckily started to do some TV and Film work and got some nice money and even residuals coming in. I still do every so often. I get paid for the movie The Princess Diaries II, Law & Order SVU, The Good Wife, Person Of Interest, etc. This is awesome, and I wish I had more work like this. But as we all know, those jobs aren't in our control to book.
So where does this leave me? Needing more residual checks and still having to work survival jobs
I am also a Mom. I love my babies and spending time with them is precious to me. Most every mother feels this pull. I want to be active in the world, contribute financially and otherwise, but also spend quality time with my babies.
It's all about balance. No one wants to be burning the candle at both ends working day and night.
So...with all this adding up. I know I wanted a "survival job" that pays me residually, leverage my time so I am not away from my baby boys, allows me flexibility to audition when I need to, gives me purpose and is social, I can do from anywhere (since I may be working in NYC or LA) and makes me good money.
Doesn't exist right? That's what I thought. But it does. Read on my friends.
The Survival Job is Network Marketing
I know what you just said. "OK, thanks Mer! See ya! Not for me. Scam. Pyramid Scheme. Nope."
Please don't stop reading because that is everyone's first reaction. Working a Network Marketing job is where I feel actors and performers don't understand how this is the only job they could do and do very well during gigs and in between gigs that will make them residual income.
Trust me. Some of you know me. I am a stickler for looking at things with a fine tooth comb.
Network Marketing is a real job and can make you real money on a steady basis.
I was hesitant to begin anything because I said, I'm not going to sell some product and be known as the "Avon Lady". Then I thought, fine then I'll just be known as the broke and cranky hostess, the bartender, the catering and struggling poor actress who never has any money. Cause yeah…that's appealing. Or worse yet, my children never see's me because I'm always working outside of the home and I turn around and they are all grown up….and I missed it.
I am so not the "salesy type". I hate being "salesy" and frankly being sold to. But...when a network marketing job was presented to me I went through all these thoughts and had all these reasons why I shouldn't do it.
Pride. Ego. Fear it was b*llsh*t, etc.
But I then looked at my acting life. I have had so much success and have been so lucky. Yes, I could be famous & rich with a great TV gig or star on Broadway again. But in the meantime, I'm a working actor, like a lot of us, who's always in fear of not having a paycheck and I hate that.
Bottom line? I hate the feeling of being poor and powerless more than my pride or ego about doing a network marketing gig.
The longer I'm in the entertainment business (over 20 years now) the more I want security for me and my family. And being "salesy"? Please! I'm doing it all day every day with my acting business! I'm selling myself. Which I feel is a lot harder than selling an external product. And I'm always, for years, investing a sh*t ton of money in head shots, resumes, buying new audition outfits, make up, hair, getting a website set up, travel to NYC or LA, and paying an agent 10% of my income. The list goes on and on.
And I haven't even got to the part that makes the most sense.
Are you ready!?
As a performer, it is part of our job to look and feel good. Let me say that again. It is part of your job to look and feel good. So…we pay other companies to take care of our health & wellness needs when we buy their make-up, skin care, vitamins, detox, etc.
So connect this. Your survival job can be investing in yourself and simply telling people what you are doing. Your business is where you invest in your health, beauty and wellness. You invest back in yourself. Not MAC, not GNC, not Clinique or Lancome, or whomever the f*ck you pay a lot of money to.
You buy from your own virtual online store.
This is my store - check it out. I love shopping here.
So....let's get on with explaining it shall we?
I know this is long but STICK WITH ME.
This is solid advice!
Let's get past the stereotype and learn something. Network Marketing is just a form of marketing to your "network". Or people you know. That's it. (Example: Your Facebook Friends, your Instagram Followers are in your Network). Working this job is just like recommending a good restaurant you love to a friend or two. You practically do it every day anyway. Do you get paid for that by the company? No.
Within Network Marketing, there are many companies out there to choose from, and I encourage you to research them. Clue: You must love what you are recommending and should use it yourself. No one wants a recommendation from someone who doesn't even use the product themselves.
The company I chose has the product and philosophy that I fell in love with. The company is called ARBONNE (named after a town in Switzerland). It's a certified vegan, botanically based, environmentally conscious health & wellness company that has the best skin care products I have ever used. Plain and simple. I won't sell something I don't love and like I said, you shouldn't either. So find something you love first and foremost. And it should be consumable (repeat sales) and something that has a market need. Most everyone wants to feel and look good, has skin, hair, and a stomach (we hope).
There are many true and real Network Marketing jobs out there and product. The Direct Sales Association is where you should look to make sure they are legit.
But I digress....so how does this tie in with Broadway Actors?
Here's how. I love my theater community. I have always wanted to find a way for all of us to support each other financially as we do emotionally. Money = Power & Freedom.
I started selling Arbonne backstage in-between shows to my cast of "White Christmas" on Broadway. I didn't use the traditionally used MAC Make-up on Broadway, because it tore up my skin and bank account. So I started using Arbonne Make Up for the stage to see if it would hold up...and guess what, it did! The cast started asking me what I used on my skin, what make up colors, also protein shakes was I drinking (in-between shows I drank them and even during to keep me fueled for my dance numbers)...people asked me what it was, and I just told them. They said "I want that!" and I just helped them order.
That was as "salesy" as I got.
For November & December I got a checks in the mail from Arbonne for up to $600, my residuals from my sales to my cast members. I wish I had a copies of those check stubs to post for you. So you can see that it is real money, real commission, and a real job.
So this is my advice to performers out there. Do something like Arbonne while you are in your show and have money to invest in it. Its not a huge investment, less than what you invest in your acting business. Put the money you make in a savings account for when you don't have a job. Build up your client list and every time they order from you, collect that residual check.
I'm not the only Broadway person doing Network Marketing. Many awesome and highly respected Broadway performer friends are doing a Network Marketing as side gigs too. Talk to them, support them, buy from them instead of the large corporations who are taking over the world.
So my Broadway friends....as you are watching the Tony's or performing on them....just think about your Plan B, whatever it may be. Because Arbonne is something I WISH I began doing while I was on Broadway. So take my advice, and start a business tonight.
f you want to join my bad ass girl boss team, check out www.meredithbrayley.arbonne.com and email me any questions.
That's some solid advice from this Broadway Baby to you.
Happy Tony Season!!!
Take away the location, the millions of dollars, the media attention and elitist status that comes with it.....and Broadway is just a word. What I mean by this is, incredible Broadway calliber artistry is everywhere. And Broadway is not the only place you can see incredible artists, designers, and award worthy creativity. Sorry to burst your bubble. It just isn't.
Broadway is simply a location in New York City. Its also an incredible community full of lovely talented artists that is considered the pinnacle of the theatre community around the globe. But, know this, great theatre exists everywhere. And what brought me to write this is I am sick of incredibly talented and hard working theatrical artists feeling less than because they haven't climbed and conquered the mountain called Broadway. I'm also quite tired of those who have been on Broadway acting like they are better than those who haven't, but that's another entry all together.
Listen, I love Broadway. I am one of the lucky ones who, at a very young age, had the privilege of performing and starring on Broadway many times. But, I also love artists, performers and designers. I love creative souls. And this expression, without having the stamp of approval that is a Broadway credit, doesn't diminish an artists brilliance. I feel the need to talk about this because it is such a wound in so many theatre artists....not having been on Broadway. Or having been on Broadway, but only for a moment, and feeling the rest of their lives like they will never measure up to that Broadway show ever again. And this is simply not true.
Listen, Broadway is incredible. But having been on Broadway, does it make me better than another performer who hasn't? Absolutely not. But this business seems to think so. The notion that someone who has a Broadway credit surpasses someone who doesn't, is ludicrous. Because I have seen some incredibly talented performers who blow me out of the water, but they have never booked a Broadway show. Why? Who knows? Maybe they never went to New York City or wanted to? Its a rough city to live in. Maybe they tried and after a few years wanted a better quality of life? We all know that getting to Broadway is a mixture of many things. The right show, the right role, knowing the right people, getting an audition, being the right age, voice type, dance type, etc. The list goes on and on. But I tell you, there is SO much talent all over this world that will never see a Broadway stage and will never win a Tony Award. And they are still very viable, brilliant, talented, and incredible artists.
And that is truly the way the entertainment industry works.
But Broadway is still a goal that may not ever be attained by some, and this is the most frustrating part of being a theatre performer. Not attaining it and feeling less than because you don't have the B word on your resume is heartbreaking. And lord knows, the business is hard enough as it is. The struggle to find a great theatre job is real, but also there is a struggle to be taken seriously if you don't have that Broadway credit. You are always climbing the mountain. Especially when the years begin to creep on by. People look at you and think. What's wrong with you? Why haven't you been on Broadway yet? Or why aren't you back on Broadway?
Nothing is wrong with you. Nothing, my friends.
I am not more talented than the next performer. I am not knocking my talent, the countless hours and dedication to my craft that I have done, I am just saying, there are SO many out there who have done the same as me. And they haven't made it to Broadway. They don't have a Tony Award (neither do I).
But we are all worthy. We are all SO worthy.
I booked my first Broadway show in the ensemble of the musical On The Town (Revival). But before we went into rehearsals the choreographer was replaced. I was told that they needed more ethnicity in the show and so I (and a few others) were also replaced before we even began rehearsal. This wasn't about my ability or talent, or work. I simply wasn't the right ethnicity. Do you see where I'm getting with this?
My second and third Broadway shows I booked were a new musical called Footloose and a new musical called The Jazz Singer. Neither were actually on Broadway yet but they had plans to be. I had done the workshop of The Jazz Singer and decided, based on my taste in shows and tap dance ability, to choose to be the understudy to Ruby Keeler in The Jazz Singer instead of the understudy to Ariel in the musical Footloose. Did I choose wrong? Some would say yes because as you may guess, The Jazz Singer never made it to Broadway and Footloose did. Could I have predicted that? Nope. I was 22 years old and I didn't know which potential Broadway show to choose. So, I went with my gut and my love of jazz and tap dancing and picked the show that felt good to my soul. Side note: I still believe I picked right....because a few years later that choreographer of The Jazz Singer, Mr. Randy Skinner, ended up casting me as Peggy Sawyer in 42nd ST which lead a long 20 year work relationship which included my Broadway musical debut, many regional productions and onto originating a starring role on Broadway in the musical White Christmas.
The fourth Broadway show I booked was a Comedia Del Arte play, and this was the show I actually made my Broadway debut in. For this musical girl, I never thought in my wildest dreams, my Broadway debut would've been a play, but it was. It was directed by the incredible Julie Taymor, with music by Elliot Goldenthal, and included a cast of tremendous actors (some of whom are still my friends today). It was called The Green Bird. It debuted at The Cort Theatre in the year 2000 and I cried as I stepped onto that stage for the first time. It was magical. But the show wasn't loved by critics, and we closed in just 7 weeks.
I detailed all of this journey to show you the craziness that can happen in order to not only get a Broadway show, but be in one. Imagine if my Broadway journey ended with The Green Bird and I was only on Broadway for 7 weeks? And i didn't even mention the countless Broadway auditions I have done and didn't book. It is am exhausting mountain to climb.
All in all, I have been a part of the most amazing productions that never made it anywhere near Broadway, nor planned to. I have been a part of transformative shows with exquisitely stellar performers who, within a phrase of song, could bring you to tears. And they have never been on Broadway, nor planned to be. These artists are Broadway caliber, they are humans who should grace the stage with their talent, their designs should be seen, there transformative artistry should be on Broadway....but it just isn't.
Listen, I hold Broadway in the highest regard. I always have. But when I moved into the Broadway community, many of my beliefs burst. There are a lot of factors that go into a show getting birthed, a performer getting a shot at auditioning and maybe a celebrity wanting to take the role you wish you could audition for, politics and money. It's a crazy and awesome puzzlement how Broadway show's even get made.
But whether or not you make it to Broadway doesn't define you as an artist.
I will leave you with this, I am in the Appalachian Mountains, working in a small yet awesome theatre, performing a role in a show with some of the most wonderful artists I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with. And we are all doing transformative work, loving our craft and perfecting it every performance as we take the audience away on a journey. Add millions of dollars, the geographical location, and media attention...and its Broadway because let me tell ya....these artists are giving Broadway caliber performances. And that's the truth that I'm trying to convey. That stellar artistry, no matter where you happen to be, is truly the pinnacle of what live theatre is all about.
Keep on keeping on my friends.