I have been told from those who actually lived in The Golden Age of Hollywood that I belong in The Golden Age of Hollywood. AC Lyles, a producer at Paramount Pictures and the late great Ms. Ann Miller used to tell me MGM would've swept me up from the stages of Broadway and put me in movie musicals.
Our job as actresses and performers is to take care of our "product". And what is our product?
Our bodies, our minds and souls.
So many of us do not take care of ourselves. Especially when we are young. We think we are invincible.
When I was 14 years old, I got shingles. Shingles is described as a disease characterized by a painful, blistering skin rash that affects one side of the body, typically the face or torso coming from the same virus as chickenpox. Thankfully my case was on my torso and out of plain sight. Shingles is what people 50 years and older get so why did I have it at 14 years old?
I had just started high school (and hated it); I lived for going to the dance studio after school for 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. I was also performing in a musical at night at the local theatre. Not to mention I was doing my homework and trying to get some sleep too. One of the reasons you can get shingles is stress. So that absolutely made sense to my mother who brought me in to the doctor.
The doctor said "You are too young to have shingles. I can't believe I'm saying this to a 14 year old, but you need to lessen your stress level." Yeah, yeah. I didn't listen. I put a band aid patch on the blisters and went and did my shows anyway. Because my Mom truly could not stop me. That's just who I am to the core.
This was my first of many issues with health and being a performer. The one that truly launched my search for holistic health and body/mind/soul balance was during my time starring on Broadway as Peggy Sawyer.
I was contracted as the starring role for 1 year. I had been in the show as the understudy for the lead 3 months prior to taking over the role. My chorus track was harder than Peggy's track. I just loved every minute of performing in this show, but I knew this kind of "burning the candle at both ends" pace wasn't sustainable long term.
First, I couldn't keep the weight on. I couldn't have a full stomach 2 hours before the show because of the heavy dancing, so, I was eating in my dressing room at intermission. Apples with peanut butter and a banana became my intermission food, still is. When I got home, I was eating half a pizza every night, giving myself hot Epson Salt Baths, and trying to go to sleep before 2 am. I was exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time. I was living my dream, playing my dream role, and trying to balance it all as best I could.
However, I wasn't taking very good care of myself and my mental health either. I had surrounded myself and was living with a boyfriend who was extremely jealous of my career and toxic. Friends would curb any minor complaint I happened to mention and "joke" with me that I can't handle starring on Broadway. I was also picked apart every week by the shows director.
I was never his choice for the role so when I took over, he was on a mission to fix everything he saw wrong with me. He would give me numerous notes on every show, tiny little things that had nothing to do with the direction of my character. He would comment to me about my appearance, picking apart every detail. I remember a few notes specifically "The shade of your lipstick isn't reading bright enough." and "In this particular scene, you need to bevel more, the ankles should touch together and yours don't" and my favorite, "If you can't land the end of 'Go Into Your Dance' exactly on the 0 of center, maybe we will have to change the steps so they are easier for you?" The cast and crew around me saw this treatment and would privately assure me I was doing a tremendous job. And other cast members, who were also being picked apart by this director, told me to just breathe and go out and do my show.
But I didn't know how to compartmentalize this treatment at the age of 25. He would say my wig was off, the lines on the back of my stockings needed to be straighter, everything from the make up contour on my face not being dark enough, to the tonality of my voice being too high when I spoke. It was constant. He also didn't think I was a good enough singer for the role. He gave me deconstructive notes about that, further putting me inside my head.
To a mentally stronger individual, his comments wouldn't have meant anything, but it began to bring me to tears before every show. It took a friend and fellow cast mate, who's dressing room was across the hallway, to help me mentally through this period. She may or may not know how much her little talks helped me. And to a two-time Tony Award nominated actress and friend, Mary Testa, I am forever grateful.
Mentally I had to navigate murky waters in that show, but also physically. The worst came when suddenly a few months into the run of the show, I had terrible numbness happening in my 3rd and 4th toes, on both my feet when I was dancing. I didn't understand what was happening because I never had a problem with my feet or with my shoes. The podiatrist said I had what is called Morton's Neuroma, a condition where the nerve between your toes is being compressed (often by a high heel or a shoe that's not wide enough). If the shoe or problem isn't fixed, the nerve rubs together and creates a kind of callus. Common for women who wear high heels a lot and have high arches. I have extremely high arches and have always tap danced in heels, so it's a perfect breeding ground.
So what do I do? My doctor suggested I get the neuroma's shot with cortisone once a month, which I did. I then had to be out of the show for a whole week. It was a terrible battle with the producers because I was sent letters every month about how the show was "severely altered when I was absent". I had fabulously talented understudies and tremendous swings, so I highly doubted that the show was altered that much, but the pressure was on nevertheless.
Finding a solution was critical. My health and the health of my feet and dance career was at stake.
The podiatrist finally told me upon examination of my show shoes, that the shoes were not properly made and were not evenly distributing my weight. Therefore every time I tap danced, or put any pressure on my feet, the base of the shoe would wiggle.
Solution found! I asked for my shoes to be replaced. The producers refused, as each pair of my Peggy shoes cost $450.
I was at a loss. Either I get shot with cortisone every month for the rest of my time in the show, or I was told I should have surgery. The doctor told me how the procedure would go down and I never got past the "cutting my feet open and cutting my nerves." He also told me I would forever lose feeling in my toes.
I'm a dancer! I need to feel my feet and toes! This is just a horrible solution.
My final attempt at curing myself and my feet was my saving grace and the reason I believe so wholeheartedly in a holistic approach to health.
I called my chiropractor, Dr Steven Margolin's, office Longevity Health and got an initial appointment with the acupuncturist on staff named Noah Rubenstein. And everything changed.
In just 16 consecutive weekly sessions, he cured my neuroma's without surgery or any invasive methods. We did traditional acupuncture, with thin needles up and down my legs. But then Noah put on the needles, what I like to call "jumper cables", of electrical stimulation. And I could feel my muscles flexing along with the electrical current. I just relaxed into it after a few sessions, truly magically, it helped me cure my neuromas.
What I learned from that experience set me on a course of finding the root of the problem or health issue and always exploring alternative methods alongside the western medicine's diagnosis. The mental journey of navigating toxic people within my life and work also took center stage. I no longer allow that kind of energy into my being as an actress or a woman.
I learned so much going through that period of my life. Let's just say, from then on, I made sure I got in my contract that I get to pick who makes my tap shoes. And that's how my friendship with Phil LaDuca began.
But that's a whole new blog altogether.
Until next time....
So far in my career, I have starred in 3 National Tours and one International sit down gig that lasted 16 weeks in Moscow, Russia. I have also done numerous weekend concert gigs in different cities all over the country. Being on the road or touring is something I know very well.
Let's just say, I know how it feels to just pack my bags and be free to roam. But every gig is different, some destinations are tremendously exciting (on the beach in Barbados) and some are not exciting at all (Sorry Erie, PA)
But with all the excitement and exploring, the hardest part is being away from family and the comforts of home. And it’s much harder as you grow a family of your own.
But being on the road is something a performer must adapt to. Whether you are Beyoncé or Chorus Member #10, you will pretty much spend a good portion of your career traveling or touring. It is where the money is made. And as an entertainer, a lot of those times you are working the hardest when everyone else is chillin’....weekends, holidays, during the summer and especially during Christmas.
What is exciting is getting paid really well to go all over the country and the world! I used to go to every art museum I could in the major cities I was in. I’ve seen the French Impressionism painting collections in almost every major city in America. Standing in front of A Sunday On The Grande Jatte by George Serat at The Art Institute Of Chicago is exhilarating. While I was in Moscow, I made a point to go sight seeing every chance I got. I saw the inside of every onion domed gold plated church I could, I saw Lenin’s tomb, watched The Bolshoi Ballet perform at The Bolshoi Theatre, shopped at Gumm, marveled at St Basil’s Cathedral, and even tap danced on the cobble stone in Red Square.
Traveling is always something I wanted, and still want, to do. Traveling as a performer is phenomenally exciting! It is also can be emotionally, physically and spiritually draining if you are out on the road too long. You need to take a breath and "ground in" with wherever you call home. Relationships in your life also need to be tended to, family and friends, marriages and children. If you don’t have the latter in your life yet, it can be easier to be away for a long stretch of time. But it is still like living in a bubble and can be very lonely.
What I found is personally, being on the road can take its toll on you as a person. You can’t and should not have your life revolve around your work. A lot of times life on the the road is 90% business, 10% life. And this can cause you to burn out. I have said it before that this business is fleeting, and family and friends are everything. Finding balance between the two can be challenging but it’s so necessary to focus on. You must connect and let that part of your life thrive. The business can be warm, loving and inviting, pay you more money than you have dreamed and praise you with awards and accolades. But it also can turn around and walk away without an explanation. The business can be super cold and dismissive. So don’t give it your everything and forget to nurture the relationships in your life. It’s all about balance and authenticity.
Being on on the road isn’t just for young performers, I find it exhilarating to get out at any age and see the country and the world. Performing anywhere you can is brilliant and feeds the soul! But staying on the road for years on end can drain you and make you forget how to make your own bed (because you are so used to hotels). The awareness of that crucial emotional balance between life on the road and life in the world is my advice to any performer.
Know when it’s time to come home.
The best of both worlds, for me, is weekend or week long gigs on the road. It’s a chance to recharge as an artist. If you are a parent as well, it’s a time to sleep, feed your artistic side and then come home to your children refreshed and renewed. Fill your cup so you can give to your children. If I was to carve out my ideal touring life now, it would be to do awesome weekend or week long gigs out of town or a month long summer gig where I can bring my family. That balance of family and work is my priority, and it feels right to me.
As with anything in life, what feels right and feels authentic is what you should be doing. Life is short and savoring it every day is what i try to do. A life constantly on the road can be long, lonely, exciting and then over. Choose what is best for you.
See you on stage!
I was cast as a starring role in the original cast of the world premiere of the stage show “An American In Paris” in 2008.
The show started at The Alley Theatre in Houston.
Far from Paris and Broadway, but The Great White Way was the eventual plan, and this production was the beginning.
I love being a part of the birth of a project. Exploring the show, the role and given the privilege of playing. My character was all French but just loved American Movies. At one point in the show I impersonated 10 different American Movies, and it was the first time you heard me without my French Accent. It was a very surprising part of the show but so fun! And I had such a ball impersonating everyone from Judy Garland to Greta Garbo.
On Opening Night, I was told by the heads of the Gershwin Estate that when this show gets to Broadway my role will earn me a Tony Nomination. I have never heard that before or since! I thought, Wow! If that comment isn’t job security, I don’t know what is? Whether I was going to get a Tony Nom or not, I believed in my soul that I was going to go on with the show and be on Broadway. I loved the show, the dancing, the comedy, the role was tailored made for me and everything I did well.
The show was a hit in Houston but honestly needed some revamping before it continued to Paris and then Broadway. That revamping included my role. The creatives decided to change the show and so, my lovely role ended with the production in Houston. In fact, no one from that production really continued on.
It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t intended or malicious. It wasn’t about my performance or anyone else’s at all. It was just what happened. That is what we as artists have signed up for in this business.
And this isn’t the first time it has happened in my career....nor will it be the last time.
And I will admit. sometimes it feels very personal. It feels very silly, like when someone replaces you, regardless of skill, simply because they have more social media likes and followers (happens all the time). It hurts, it makes you take deep breath’s and maybe even cry. That’s ok. Give yourself your 5 minutes.
But then move on. Let it go and move on.
The point is you, as the artist, have to bounce back. Be resilient. Know it’s part of the game. You will find another role. You will get another job. You may not find something so perfectly suited for you and your skills, but that’s the game. You can’t live your life bitter and angry about what was not truly yours.
We have to be so emotionally accessable and yet incredibly thick skinned.
Every performer has these stories. Roles they didn’t get or were close to, that may have ended up giving the other actor an award or a career changing advantage.
Celebrate them anyway. Celebrate your part of this business, however complicated. I used to believe there was room for everyone to thrive in this crazy business, and the truth? There really isn’t. But maybe life has more in store for you?
What is meant for you will not pass you, what isn’t you can’t hold on to.
Let it go and love what you do, when you get the chance to do it.
I loved my role in “An American In Paris”. I know I knocked that role out of the park every performance. I got to work with some of the finest performers, creatives and musicians in the business. That was what I was supposed to do.
And that’s all I can do ❤️
There are a lot of douchbags in the entertainment industry. There are a lot of douchbags everywhere frankly, but specifically in show biz....douchbaggary is rampid.
Now let me give a shout out to the incredible, funny, awesome, chill, "non douchey" pure of heart people that are also in the entertainment industry. You are the reason we all love what we do. I celebrate you
But this blog isn't about you. There is a need to celebrate you but there is more of a need to expel the opposite of you. And that's what this blog is about. The energy suckers, the malicious, dark, viciously competitive people...the douchebaggery. We need to talk about how we can weed out the pricks and find the “transparency of the douchebaggary” in this biz we call show.
First step is to identify them and call them out. I find this isn't done enough. Example: in my own life it took me years to get the balls to call out people who treated me like douchebags. And when I did, do you think they came back and said "Omg! I'm so sorry. I totally walked over people, slept with so in so to guarantee me the role. I shouldn’t have done that “ Nope. They are douchebags let's not forget. Douchebags don't think they are ever wrong and they lie, cheat, and find a way to make everything work in their favor.
Seems like the world we live in sometimes right?
Why do we need to weed them out out of the business? Because the entertainment industry is SO nice when they aren’t around. It’s hard to watch douchebags succeed. It’s so hard to watch those people whom you know have cheated, lied, harassed, their way to the top get celebrated by fans.
Wouldn’t it be so nice if they are all called out and carted away?
Is there a point to all this post? I thought there was but not really. Just a rant about wishing everyone who was good and decent were celebrated profusely, and the douchebags were called out.
Point made 🙌🏻
You are super fancy pants actress and starring on Broadway! You are booking guest starring roles on major television networks opposite Emmy Award winning actors. Your work is seen on NBC, CBS, ABC. You are going straight to producers and Network Testing for leading roles on 20 pilots ranging from comedy to drama. You have a fancy manager and a group of bi coastal agents that talk to you twice a day, they laugh and plan with you, and you are getting calls for up to 9 producer auditions a week. Casting directors in Hollywood and New York know and love you. You are invited to red carpet opening nights and premeire's. You are so fricken fancy that Dame Julie Andrews tells you she just called Garry Marshall to tell him to write you into the movie she's doing...and he does! You begin filming in a week! You are happy and soaring, flying back and forth from Los Angeles and New York and life is just on the upswing!
You are golden right? Its just going to keep getting better right? You are making more money than you ever have, and at 28 years old you are finding out about the alternative minimum tax bracket and the benefits of becoming incorporated from your accountant because you are raking in the dough!
These network auditions for leads on NBC, opposite Matt LeBlanc for the Friends spin off Joey, will only solidify your security as an actress right? Your starring and co starring roles on Broadway will only build on top of eachother and allow for more opportunity as you run this well planned marathon called your career right?
This is what you are made to believe in the entertainment industry.
Great work ethic, a killer resume, and a stellar reputation of being easy to work with and prepared is what you should have to secure any job and any career's longevity, Make sacrifices young so you have a solid foundation right?
That "fancy pants actress" I described above? That's me. I had all those opportunites and more. I worked so very hard for them and I thought I played the game so very well. Some said I was so lucky, but I say I was hard working and committed. I was agreeable and listened to my representation. I put everything I had into creating new opportunites and being available for whatever my representation advised me to be available for. If I didn't have the money, I invested in myself and floated some credit card debt. Paid it off with my next job and then floated more. I played that game until I was told I just couldn't anymore.
And it all came crashing down.
If you have read my previous blogs, you know all of what happened. I won't bore you again with the sob story of a bad ex-husband, filing for divorce, bankruptcy and my manager telling me I wasn't a star so therefore I was a liability.... all in one year. Its enough to make you wonder why I didn't have a mental breakdown?
This entry is about how I can advise you not to be me. To learn from me. To hopefully transcend this stroke of bad luck and be smarter than me.
I want you all to have the opportunity, the auditions, the bookings, the money I was generating! I want that and more for you! But what I want you to do now....and find a way to do it...is to get a side hustle.
Money is freedom. At least that's what I think it is. If I had money, I would've bounced back from that period of defeat so much quicker. I would've gone right back to the drawing board and figured out how I could rebuild everything. But, I couldn't invest. I was tapped out. I just needed to find a way to survive. And I've been surviving (career wise), and not thriving, ever since.
Why do I say, get a side hustle if you are successful now? Because you are on a high! You have money to invest. You have people looking at you and what you are doing and wanting to listen.
Find something else you love and do it. I found being a Holistic Health Practioner and Licensed Massage Therapist is something I love. Do I love it as much as performing? Honestly, no. But its steady money. Its a side hustle that is worthwhile in the world.
Find something like that for yourself.
Even if its babysitting! I mean, nothing is more valuable than money in the bank for you and your future. You as a performer are a business owner and entrepreneur. You need someone to invest in you until you are self sustainable. No one can take out a business loan from a bank to become an actor. And if you have? Please comment below and tell me how you did it.
Be smart with your money. Invest in yourself when you are making money. Put away 10% and don't touch it. Use your credit wisely. But most of all, keep padding your bank account with that side hustle, because you never know when the wave of success will come crashing down.
Sending you love and prosperity always,
I was a guest star on Law & Order SVU in an episode called Branded. It was a pretty gruesome episode. I was so excited to finally be on such an iconic TV show, but honestly, more excited to be in a scene with Ice T.
See, I was a kid who was raised in the Bay Area during the birth of hip hop. And Ice T is a pioneer. He’s an Original Gangsta. I was scared of him as a kid because of the truth he was spilling out into the airwaves. I didn’t understand it fully as a white and privileged kid, but I listened. I respected him and all of the artists coming up in rap music. It was poetry and art.
And now I’m about to be on set with this artist from my youth.
So, the day comes on set and I hear that voice from across the way. That voice is iconic. Ice T was in the hallway. We were in NYC filming on location in an actually apartment building and it was time to rehearse and shoot the scene. On the outside I was cool, but on the inside I was all butterflies. My character was the “shocked and crying wife” of one of the victims, (my on set husband, actor Michael Gladis). We all did the scene, and the time came when Ice T just had to say a line to me and gently guide me by my arm off camera.
Nothing huge but I just was so giddy! So strange I had such a reaction to this? But I was just super pumped to be in the same scene with him! We filmed part of the scene, then cast and crew went to lunch.
Finally at lunch, Michael Gladis, who was playing my husband, asked me if I was nervous around Ice T? I admitted yes, I totally was. And he said, he was just as excited as I was! We began to talk at lunch and reminisce about Ice T, NWA, other rappers of that time and that era.
Then I made a joke to Michael that I know the lyrics to COLORS, one of Ice T’s hit songs. He dared me to rap a little to him, so of course I did. Michael laughed and insisted I rap to Ice T next time the opportunity arose. I said, No no no, it’s too embarrassing and I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself.
But the seed had been planted, shooting had just begun, and the day was long.
So we break from lunch and head back to the apartment building to continue filming the scene. There is an elevator going up to set and Michael and I get on, then a hand reaches out to hold the elevator and we see.....it’s Ice T.
Holy shitballs. It’s Me, Michael and Ice T all on an elevator alone.
Ice looks at us briefly and says “Hey” then is silent. Michael makes eye contact with me and hints at his dare for me to rap. I smile and begin to blush. Then something in me decides as we are ascending the floors to just say, Fuck it! I’m gonna rap to Ice T!
“Excuse me Ice?”
I used to rap one of your songs as a kid.
Oh yeah? You did? (more emphasis on the word YOU)
He said, “Which one?”
Then, with my head down, I just began....
“I am a nightmare walkin’, psychopath talkin’
king of my jungle just a gangster stalkin’
Livin life like a firecracker, quick is my fuse
Vendettas of death back the colors I choose
Red or Blue Cuz or Blood it’s just don’t matter
Sucka dive for your life when my shotgun scatters
The gangs of LA will never die - just multiply
I never truly looked up at Michael or Ice T’s face until the very end. When I was done, I was petrified. Did I insult him? Is this appropriate? I just froze.
Then suddenly Ice T just busted out clapping and laughing and with a big smile on his face said
“I ain’t never heard no white chick rap my music to me! Damn girl!”
He was happy. I was happy he didn’t get mad. Ha ha! Michael’s jaw was hanging wide open.
I can’t believe I fricken rapped to Ice T!!
The next thing that happened was quite possibly the biggest compliment to me. Ice sat down with me while we waited for the set to be ready and talked to me about life as a rapper. And how funny he thinks it is that kids now think of him as an actor. How most of his friends from back then are either in jail or dead. How the song Colors and Cop Killer were revolutionary. He talked to me for a long time, and I felt so privileged to be let into his life for that moment in time.
So, my advice? If you have a chance...take it. You never know what can come of it. Go with your gut and live for the moment. I’m so glad I did.
Now maybe, LL Cool J? I know all of “Mama Said Knock You Out”. My friend Barrett Foa could make this happen.
I recently watched a great documentary on a famous actor (who shall remain nameless). He talked about how early in his career he was lucky enough to start a family. He then went on to say he began playing clubs and going for long stretches on the road performing. What began to baffle me was, he continued with the story as if nothing in his life changed? I thought, "Whoa, wait, you left out a HUGE part of this success story dude. Who the heck watched your children while you were out on the road, on set, making your career happen?"
One of my earliest memories is me believing, with every fiber of my being, that I belonged in the entertainment industry. I remember it feeling other worldly, like it was deeply seeded within my soul.
I believed with my body, mind and spirit that I was going to be in show business, maybe adored for my talent and working on high level and amazing projects for the rest of my life.
That was my goal. Simple and direct. And I believed it to be true.
Everyone I know has always told me how focused and driven, ambitious and hard working I have always been my entire life. Almost to the point where they would say for me to relax. They always recall me having very specific goals: Star in Broadway at a young age and then get whisked off to Hollywood. Settle down in California and work in film, television, record albums, perform in concerts and go back during a hiatus to star in Broadway for a few months here and there. Awards never concerned me but sure, I threw in an Emmy, Oscar, Tony and Grammy into my dream for fun!
I would be married to the love of my life and have two beautiful babies. Somehow I would always have time to balance it all. Never needed extravagant wealth, but I would be able to live comfortably, vacation when I wanted and actually own a house and pay for my parents to do the same and retire.
This is the dream of SO many people in the entertainment industry. And this dream is nothing out of the ordinary for an actress like me. I have the skill set to do all of this. Not to toot my own horn but I can sing, dance and act and I am an extremely hard worker. I tenacious and up for any challenge. I have worked professionally in theatre from the time I was 13 years old with this goal in mind for myself. I knew it would happen with every fiber of my being.
So what happened? Why didn't it all come true? Some of it did happen in a round about way, but it didn't happen at all like I believed it would. I'm not quite sure where I went wrong other than never realizing that this business is unpredictable, hard work and talent don’t really mean you will be successful, I ran out of money to invest in my career and I got older. My manager dropped me and my agents shelved me. I fired them and decided I would start over and find a fresh start but.....when you are 38 years old and haven't made a significant dent in show business. People give up on giving you the opportunities and auditions anymore. The light they once had in their eyes when they looked at you has now faded. And as you approach 40, you paddling in the middle of the ocean without a life raft. And all those people who used to call you for work, have gone silent. There's no coast guard to help you. Your career and financial security has sunk to the bottom.
It is never where I believed I would be. And it's all about your belief and hard work right? I knew that this business was harsh, but I always believed if i worked for it and treated others as I would want to be treated, i would be able to do what i love for the rest of my life. And contrary to popular belief, never got success quickly. I always had to work for my success. So I thought, if I can't control anything else, I will focus on my mindset being positive and fruitful.
But it I still ended up here. I still ended up 40 and wondering where the opportunities went?
Life has had its twists and turns, ups and downs, challenges and successes. This next chapter is revealing itself and I am doing my best to know it’s not permenant. Things are always moving and shifting in the entertainment industry and....I’m far from done.
Believe it to be true, dream big, but also know that if you work hard, master your craft and love what you do....you may not be able to do it forever. So savor every moment and every chapter of your career.
If I had a million 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. Sure, 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 it's 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, 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 have not. 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 without explanation.
Which is why my friend (and now massive movie star) Chris Pine said to me, "Career's are fleeting and family is everything". He may not know how much that meant to me to hear at that time. He text me this when I was very low in my career. For someone who is very high and successful 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.
It is not the people that are fake, it is the opportunities that are fleeting.
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.
I am not going to sugar coat this because you love people who are honest, authentic and direct. I know you need to hear this.
I know what you have been through in this life. Every detailed bit of it. I know the tremendous pain and broken dreams you hide behind that beautiful smile. I know you believe in so much for others and used to believe in yourself and yet you have given up on yourself, your career and any hope that you will live to the potential as an artist that you feel you have inside. Just stop right there my girl. Stop.
You have so much to do, my love, so very much.
Your heart has been broken so many times personally and professionally. You have put your unending loyalty and faith in so many people. You recklessly believed in those people who said they would "be there for you always". You trusted them with every fiber of your being. You let go and let your heart be your guide and you have been crushed without remorse. Abandon without explanation. Forced into bankruptcy and divorce, felt like a failure, not picked for hundreds of career altering projects, cheated on multiple times, ghosted out of friendships and then laughed at when you expressed your pain.
Listen, douchbag's exist everywhere and they always will.
Have you learned your lesson? Stop giving them any bit of you. Trust your instincts always. Give no chances to those who hurt you the first time. You knew those people in the past were always out for themselves. You knew once they had nothing else to take from you they would leave you. You knew it from the moment you met them. Remember this lesson and believe in your instincts. Your instincts know best and they set the boundaries, not your giving heart. Unabashedly and completely. Never with an apology. Be authentically you and only give time and energy to those who are in alignment with that.
I am begging you, sweet and open hearted Merie, to mend yourself completely. Forget the terrible people of this world who have hurt you personally and professionally. Put everything you can into the love, honesty, passion and hope in your life you have now and always.
You are a bright shining light in this world. You are so full of love. You have so much to give! Remember those who have always believed in you, who delight when you tell them your dreams, who give you a boost of exhilarated positivity every time you see them! The true hearted, talented, unconditional lovely souls who are in your life personally and professionally.
Those are the only people who get your energy and attention. You don't have to explain yourself to those who find themselves on the opposite side of your heart. They know what they did. And if they don't, its not for you to teach them.
You have voiced your pain, we heard it loud and clear, and most importantly, you have no one to save from the douchebags of the world. Everyone has their own lessons to learn in this life. You learned yours.
Let it all go.
You are healthy, whole, complete, authentic, talented, immensley loved and cherished and not at all done with your flourishing career. You have SO many huge things to do in this world!!!
Begin now my love!! CARPE DIEM!!
I got you girl. Count on me.
You bad ass, girl boss! Go get 'em!
From the time I began in the entertainment industry I asked questions. I asked if people could help me. I asked if I could get an audition. I asked how I could work harder, be ready, I just asked how I could........you fill in the blank.
I asked a lot of questions of a lot of people. And for me, the worst thing they could say was no. And let me tell you, I got a lot of no's, but I also got a lot of valuable information, some great mentoring, loving suggestions, incredible advice, and many many yes's.
Here's an example:
One of the first auditions I "crashed" was for the role of Ginger Rogers in the workshop of a new Broadway musical called GINGER. In the entertainment business, I was a total nobody. No real credits, but lots of tenacity and training. I knew I couldn't get an audition for the lead role so.....I just asked and asked and asked until I found out where the auditions were being held. Then, I called the casting office and I was told not to come. Casting was just doing their job. I didn't have an appointment and it was agent appointments only.
But still, my little ambitious heart couldn't stay away. I knew the auditions were coming up and I just had to ask one more time....by just showing up.
So I arrived at the casting office where the auditions were being held. I was dressed like Ginger Rogers would be, I had my audition book of sheet music, I had my tap shoes and my character shoes. I had snacks and water in case I was waiting a long time.....let's just say I was ready and smiling.
They let me in, surprisingly, and I just sat outside the audition room with a ton of other girls. Everyone was auditioning, and one by one, people passed me by to go into the room, but... I just sat there. Waiting. I don't know why I wasn't kicked out after awhile? Every time the casting director opened the door to the room where the creative team was sitting, she saw me, and made a puzzled face, but closed the door.
I wasn't hiding. I was sitting tall, smiling and waiting patiently. I just wanted my chance.
After 3 hours of sitting there, you would think I would've left right? But no....I was still waiting. My presence there was me asking to be seen. I never bothered anyone. I didn't ask again to be seen. In a gentle, yet tenacious way. They knew I wasn't going home until I was seen for the show.
Then something miraculous happened. The door opened and the creative team walked out for their lunch break....and that's when I saw everyone for the first time, and they saw me. One by one they walked out. I smiled and said "Hello" to each of them. They smiled, said hello, and walked by for their break. Someone must've wondered why I hadn't been seen or asked who I was because suddenly as the break ended, and the creative team walked back into the room and I was asked to audition!! I was asked to come in the room!! I couldn't believe it!
I auditioned, I felt amazingly grateful.....and the funniest thing happened.
I booked the role of Ginger!
If I hadn't asked by sitting there for hours, I wouldn't have auditioned and won that role. That decision to sit outside that waiting room began a very important partnership in my career with choreographer Randy Skinner, his assistant Kelli Barclay and The Ginger Rogers Society. The chain of events that unfolded after that workshop led me (I believe) to being Peggy Sawyer in 42nd ST on Broadway, Judy Haynes in the World Premiere and Broadway show White Christmas, starring in numerous other productions with Mr Skinner at City Center and the world premiere of the musical An American in Paris. All productions and experiences that have shaped me professionally and personally. Knowing Randy Skinner and being able to dance his incredible steps has pushed me as a dancer and artist more than any other choreographer that I have had the privilege of working with.
If I hadn't been there that day, who knows? Maybe that chain of events would've been a whole lot different.
I found out later that it was the head of the Ginger Rogers Society who saw me sitting there that got me the audition. He said I took his breath away, he thought he was looking at a young Ginger Rogers. He just had to see me sing and dance. These are his words, not me tooting my own horn. ;) I am eternally grateful to that man for giving me that chance to audition, and when luck met opportunity I was ready. I was so very ready to be Ginger Rogers.
What happened to the Broadway show GINGER? Sadly, that was one of the many Broadway shows that never made it to fruition, but the moral of that story is....just ask. Ask with your presence, gently nudge and try everything you can. Yes, I crashed the audition, and that might not be possible nowadays. But I wasn't forceful. I was respectful.
Always be respectful when asking, but don't be fearful of asking.
If you are an artist, and you want to "make it big" you have to live in either New York City or Los Angeles full time. This isn't relevant for celebrities, but for those of us in "the trenches", its still the 2 cities we have to choose from.
Yes, this is changing, very very slowly with self taping and many production companies filming TV series and films in other cities like Atlanta.....but still, Los Angeles and New York are the cities you have to choose from if you are serious about the entertainment industry.
I lived in New York City from the time I was 18 years old. When I was about 6 months pregnant with my first child, my husband and I were visiting Los Angeles and had brunch with the awesome actress Julie Bowen. Julie and I became friends when we worked together on ABC's BOSTON LEGAL.
She is quite honestly one of my career idols. Authentic and awesome, and my advice guru. I was rambling on trying to figure out if I should move from New York (where I had worked on Broadway but work was slow) or if I should move to LA (where I had worked a lot in TV and Film) and to try to expand my TV and Film resume? My mouth dropped open when she all of a sudden said,
"Fuck the business, where do you want to LIVE!"
My husband Dustin and I both laughed out loud in a shocked chuckle. But this blunt reply was exactly what I needed to hear. She went on to explain herself, but that reply had so much honesty to it that I constantly refer back to it when I'm thinking about my life, not the business, but my LIFE.
Honestly, Julie has 3 kids of her own, she could see I was about to have a child, I was tired of the "hustle" and I wanted to just settle down into a house with a yard and raise my kids in my home state of California. Now, Julie has had many hit series under her belt (including the one she's currently on Modern Family) so she could've not related to what I was rambling on about, just sat there, listened and nodded and from her perspective said "Los Angeles is great! Move here". But no, she looked me straight in the face and with this exuberance of energy said
"You've decided your whole adult life where to live based on the entertainment industry so, I say fuck the business! Don't think about that. Think about where you want to live! Be happy! Then the work will come. Focus on where you want to raise your family and let the business be secondary for once."
She was right. In my entire adult life I had never thought that way. I have always lived where it was best for the entertainment industry. I moved across country at the age of 18 to NYC because I wanted to "make it", I traveled to and from Los Angeles for 8 years to audition for Pilot Season, I rarely took vacations anywhere. Now I love the energy of both of these cities, but in my latest 30's and about to be a mother.....that energy shifted and I realized....
Everything in my life revolved around the business.
I always knew when I had kids that I didn't want to settle down on NYC. Nothing against people that do, I just never wanted to raise my child in a large and harsh city, unless I had the money to do so. I think in the trenches of that city, you grow up so fast. I just wanted my kids to have a simple suburban childhood with a house and backyard with a swing set. Not have Central Park as their backyard and have to navigate the subway to school. Of course NYC is very different if you have money, lots of money, but I don't and for those of us who don't....raising children can be rough.
After that brunch with Julie, my husband and I went back to NYC and I gave birth to our beautiful son. We weren't sure what we were going to do, but we stayed for 3 months and finally.....the harshness of the city got to both of us. The straw that broke the camels back was waiting 30 minutes in the hot stuffy station for the subway to come with my screaming newborn in my arms. It broke my heart. Then finally we got on the subway and a couple shady people tried to touch my baby.
I had it!
I wanted a "normal" life with my child. I use the word normal loosely, and again in no way mean to offend those who do live and thrive in New York City. I just knew in my gut that I wanted to be able to securely lock my child into their car seat and drive with air conditioning and have some control over my transportation. Go home to a spacious place with a backyard and a swing set. I just think after 20 years, the NYC subway system just finally pissed me off one last time.
But the point is.....your gut is your compass.
You need to constantly check in with yourself. Check in and see if you are truly happy and thriving? I'm not saying Los Angeles is the answer to New York City. Maybe for you its doing awesome regional theatre in a small town? This is up to you and to what your compass is telling you.
And just because you don't live in New York City or Los Angeles.....know that you are still an artist. You are still awesomely talented. You are still thriving. Sometimes, you have find when its right for you to say to yourself "Fuck the Business" and find out where you want to LIVE...in the most authentic and loving way.
There are some artists who are truly creators. They have a vision for what they want to do, they are guided by a need to create and forge their own way and they are what you call pioneers in this industry.
I am an actress, dancer, singer, artist. But I am not a Pioneer.
I have never had a desire to forge my own path and create my own content. I have created some (songwriting, arguably this blog, etc) but most of the content I create is layered with self doubt or I just did it because someone said I should. Anytime I have ever tried to create my own content, the heart of it was to simply to get work. Or get attention to then hopefully get work. I could honestly say I am writing this blog as a creative outlet, but I could stop it at any moment, and happily. I do not want to create my own content, web series, YouTube Channel, segments or write scripts for myself. I just don't.
The honest truth? I would love to be someone's Muse.
Sounds old fashioned, I know. But, news flash, I am old fashioned. This is just what I have always envisioned for myself. I want to be guided, written for, cast, and created for. I am honestly a writer's dream. I want to do what they have written and create what they have created. I seriously have very little desire to create something on my own from scratch. I will give my input, if asked, but I want someone to bring an already fleshed out ideas to me and say "Can you portray this role, or song, or dance?"
Does it sound weird for an artist to say this, or dare I say, lazy? When all these people are creating their own content all the time? No, and trust me, I'm not lazy. I'm respectful. I have massive amounts of respect for those who do create and do it well. I know there are artists out there who are meant to create. Who have vision. Who are incredible writers, choreographers, directors, designers, composers. I would be insulting them if I tried to step into their roles. That's how I view it. I do not want their job, nor am I good at their job.
And for me, to create would be a job. It would be work. I would not be in a "creative flow" or get a "high". I honestly feel like I would be tortured. Now maybe if I was collaborating with a certain artist, that may be different, but I have never created with anyone who has made me feel that way, yet. So there is hope? I could evolve.
I was asked to choreograph a show once, I accepted it to challenge myself and then I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to back out. I have never had a desire to create dances or pictures on stage or otherwise. Yes, I have been dancing since I was 2, I love dancing more than anything, but choreograph? Not interested at all. Not every dancer wants to choreograph. It's a simple fact. And, I am one of those dancers. But to have an artist create something on me, use me, teach or create steps using me as their muse? Heaven! I will be in the studio with you all day long! But don't ask me to come up with something on my own. Sure, I might have a stroke of genius, but it would be rare.
I'm sure you get the point by now.
This is why I believe I would've thrived in The Golden Age of Hollywood. The infamous studio system would've been awesome to be a part of! Everything was done for you. I know, it is so very sexist of me to say, but I want someone to put me on contract, dye my hair, give me a persona and even a fake name. I would've loved that! Mold me into a movie star. Tell me what to do and where to go. Let me just do the craft of singing, dancing and acting. That has always been my dream.
But.....I don't live in that time. I live in an era where I am prompted to create my own content. Where it is necessary to create your own content, YouTube Channel, Instagram Videos, etc. So I will try, but don't judge me. I'm not meant for this era. It's something I have been told my whole life.
Until I can travel back in time, I will continue to carve out my artistry in this media heavy world.
The first order of business as an actress or an artist of any kind is to dream.
With all that is happening in this world it seems silly and almost pointless to be anything but grateful for the life I have.
So let's get that out of the way right off the bat. I am. tremendously and incredibly grateful.
But I also feel empty, desperate, and afraid.
For the past few years I have not been able to do what I love, and make a real living. I have been living on hope that things will turn around, but as of late, I am walking a very thin line of belief that the best of my career is all behind me and all my chances have already been given.
Negative thoughts, I know. But for some, that's what 20 years in the entertainment industry, can do to your spirit. You believe that all the work, sacrifices, networking and incredible passion for what you do will somehow level off “the hustle” when you hit a certain level in your career. I always thought when you have a few big credits on your resume that it will get a little easier. But the truth is, the rise and fall are unpredictable. And no matter your work ethic, reputation, or talent....you can always be back at square one. That may not be true for all, but it is for me.
In November, I was so lucky that a role in a play literally fell into my lap. This doesn't happen to me, ever. A writer here in LA asked a casting director in New York who he thought should play the lead role in her new play about Marilyn Monroe. She asked his honest recommendation. And this amazing casting director said,
"The only person who should play this role is Meredith Patterson"
My jaw dropped when I heard this. As an actress, you dream of people thinking of you in that light and recommending you in that way.
This writer thankfully took the casting directors advice, and I was asked sight unseen to portray Marilyn in this presentation of the play here in Hollywood. It was an amazing experience to play her; fulfilling with such incredible waves of emotion. And I was just sitting at a table and acting with some of the best in the business. The writer was so pleased, she then asked me to portray Marilyn at a presentation in New York for Broadway Producers & Investors.
I accepted of course, and the incredible high of creativity continued.
Those of us who do theatre, film or anything creative know that it "takes a village" to get any project off the ground. And the hustle for investors can take years. But I felt alive again. For a few weeks of performing this role, I felt reinvigorated and passionate. Now, I don’t know if I will ever play this role again, or if it will ever be done on stage, but this gift of playing Marilyn came at just the right time.
I know that performing is what I am meant to do. I have always known that. My earliest memory is watching the movie "Singin' In The Rain" at 5 years old and wanting to jump inside the screen and dance with Gene Kelly and be Debbie Reynolds. Ask anyone who knows me and they will say I have always wanted to perform.....but sometimes it takes a gift like this to remind me of that.
So with all these emotions and thoughts flooding my spirit, I decided to reach out to some influential people I know in the industry and over the past few months, share a video of the presentation of this play. The response has been incredible, heart-warming, and very emotional for me.
Most recently, my mentor in theatre, my teacher, my friend and an incredible performer herself watched this presentation and wrote me. She has known me since I was a child, and of everyone (besides my mother, father and husband) her opinion of my work means the most.
She wrote this:
“I just watched your performance. You are truly amazing my dear. Honestly, I was brought to tears several times. I am SO very proud of you as an actress. I was told you were sensational, but honestly I was blown away. And you know I wouldn’t say this unless I truly believed it. I do hope that some good folks will see this and that it will lead somewhere. What a waste of your awesome gifts - not to have you starring in something - all the time. Don’t give up Mer. You are gorgeous - and incredibly gifted. Please do try to get everyone you can think of to watch this presentation. I know you are trying to do that. I love you too - and my heart aches that you are having such a difficult time with your career. I know your wonderful family means the world to you - but I also understand the gnawing frustration about your career. However, NEVER GIVE UP!!!!!!! You have all of the gifts in the world!!”
It brings tears to my eyes to read this letter again. I share this with you all, not to flatter myself or to brag in any way, but more to let you see the struggle is real for everyone. And sometimes gifts come along when you least expect it. Everyone loses faith. People in this industry can think your awesome, and you still can't get work or even representation. But I tell myself as I am telling you.....hold on to your passions. Do whatever you can to hold on.
I think we all need to expose the raw vulnerably of what this business can do to you. It can be incredibly rough to be rejected so much. I am sharing this all with you because sometimes, just around the corner, someone is cheering you on and sending a gift your way....that you didn't even expect.
I have many irons in the fire right now, looking for work and representation, because its in my nature not to truly give up, to be tenacious and resourceful. But, I am also at a loss. I am hoping I will find my way back to being a performer full time, but maybe this presentation is my swan song? I don't think it is, but who knows?
I keep on keeping on. Trying every day to make a dent. It's what we do as performers when our life blood is entertainment. We rack our brains, hour upon hour, to see how we can make a living doing what we love. How can we still create, take care of our families, and thrive.
Being scared, desperate, and vulnerable is something I, and so many others, are taught to hide from the world. We are told to "fake it until you make it". We are taught to be fabulous all the time and not to show any weakness or fear.
We don’t ever want anyone to know we are struggling. Everyone is fabulous on Facebook right? But my friends, this business is scary sometimes. You can be successful and suddenly everyone's best friend one minute, and unemployed and no one will take your calls the next.
The truth is, I am scared but I know I'm not alone. I have that tremendous casting director in New York to thank, this playwright for blindly believing him and hiring me, and SO many others who have been my champion throughout my career of highs and lows.
So many other good, talented, awesome artists are also struggling. And this is ok. We are all one, we will come out of it and thrive. Art is made from struggle. Keep up the hustle and know we are all in this together.
For me, as long as this passion for performing is still blazing inside me, I just can't give up. My spirit won't let me.
These are confessions of my life as an actress working on Broadway, TV and Film for 20 years