I have never been proud to be a woman.
I grew up in a family of farmers, cowboys, and lawnmower salesmen. My aunt is a star mechanic. My cousin Amy won more rodeo championships than anyone I know. Girls and boys were never separated in the Trusty activities – we all rode horses, forewheelers, and sleds together. My snowsuit was never purple or pink. My riding boots were brown just like my boy cousins’. I know what sparkplugs are. I mean we were just never told any different.
So I don’t know that I ever cared about being a girl.
I’ve never thought about it really – I just continued to participate in activities without realizing being a girl is bad or good or even all that different. I wasn’t aware that it was a big deal.
Years later, I still have moments where I don’t realize I’m a woman until I’m riding behind my man on the moped and my boobs hit his back at a stop sign before the rest of me does, as ignorant as that sounds, it’s true – sometimes it really does take me by surprise. And of course on my yearly gynecological visit, I have a very ridiculous moment where I realize I am part of the only gender that ever goes to such a doctor and experiences the annual duckbill party. But other than that, in my brief lifespan, I haven’t given much thought to the fact that I’m a woman.
I know that this makes me sooooooo not a feminist.
But does it really?
I’ve lived my whole life thinking that I’m an equal human being.
I pursued dance, which I suppose is often considered a “girl’s thing”, because my mom put me in dance at age
three. My first leotard was royal blue. I had a good memory and I was well-behaved and I continued to progress each year because I had a sensible attention span. I played soccer during this time, which was more of a “boy’s thing” I guess. I hated the running, but loved the oranges at half-time and adored being part of a team. At age nine, we moved to a different dance studio and someone saw potential in me and by age twelve I was competing with dance and no longer playing soccer and I don’t know that I ever did not want to dance, but I
don’t know that at age twelve I was obsessed with it either. It was just what I was doing and I did not hate it and so it all just kept happening.
Again, I was not aware that I was a “dancer”. I just identified as a human being who went to school, rode horses, played with cows on the weekends, and also flap ball-changed in mascara and purple sequins sometimes. Grounds for teasing of course, being a “farmgirl” and a “girly dancer”, but I guess I didn’t realize that teasing wasn’t a normal thing at that age – I thought everyone got teased at school.
By age thirteen I was auditioning for the school musical because that’s what other dancers at my dance studio were doing and because why wouldn’t I if I totally sang in church from age four to four and a half, said my mom. In no time, I was being fitted for a Hot Box Girl costume. There were approximately 97 hot box girls on stage in Southern Junior High’s production of Guys & Dolls, Jr. Talk about a musical that separates the sexes; it’s right there in the title. However I didn’t really notice the separation and just went along with all the things. I was just another face in the crowd and I just happened to already own tap shoes before auditions and so I was tagged as a tap dancer and thus started the journey that lead me to tap dancing in my underwear fifteen years later for millions to see…I guess.
After my big breakout in Guys & Dolls, Jr., years passed. High school happened, viciously and painstakingly slow. Freshman year of college came.
The cast list went up for The Will Rogers Follies, a tap dance show for showgirls. Knowing my experience – tapping since I was three and performing for like ever, I knew my name would be on the list.
Um. It wasn’t there.
I looked again.
It wasn’t there.
A bunch of non-tapping ladies were certainly typed up, first name and last name in Times New Roman, size 16. But my name just, was not there.
Later I found out that during the feedback session with the director, weight and body type were discussed. Showgirls and tap dancers have certain body types and in musical theatre, we had to learn about this sort of thing so that’s why casting in college would be super specific and “just like the real world.”
Suuuuuuper not aware that I was too big to be cast in the tap dance musical that I had studied, listened to, and prepared for during my first semester. Suuuuuuuper not aware that as a woman, my size mattered – not my talent or my work ethic.
It sort of shaped the next nine years for me. I mean that’s when Weight Watchers became the most significant relationship in my life, and when I started dating really bad, bad, just baaaaad men, but I still wasn’t aware that it was because I was a confused and broken woman with low self-esteem and body issues.
I just thought that I was an outcast with an amazing skill for failing. Which is of course, an oxymoron in itself.
And so I don’t know that I was aware that women could be so strong and speak up and change things. I honestly just wasn’t paying attention.
I was very caught up in my own little world. I was getting by, but I wasn’t proud of who I was. I was fat, a dancer, and a failure. And I don’t even know that I was that embarrassed by these things so much as I just felt that they defined me. Like that’s just who I was now. A fat failed dancer.
When I was younger, I never identified as any of these things. I was just a kid that thought I was a kid who did a lot of different things.
Something changed in my twenties that caused me to believe that I was only what I could describe myself as – a fat failed dancer – nothing more.
And because of my lack of awareness of the world around me, I didn’t know that any of those things could be used to my advantage, or that any of those things were the reason that I was put on this planet.
Until June 17th, 2013.
When I published my first blog post about eating disorders and weight struggles in the showgirl, show business, show-me-what-your-body-looks-like world that I’ve been living in since my freshman year of college, I realized I had unleashed something larger than myself. When my voice went viral via the internet, I realized that the only person who could speak on these issues was a woman who had been there and experienced it.
Specifically, a woman like me.
It took me 26 years to realize that being a woman is a very big deal, and it is only now, in my 27th year on earth, that I realize how proud I am to be different.
Yes. I said proud. Proud to be different. Proud to be a farmgirl and a girly dancer. Proud to be a fucking curvy, sexy, loud, outspoken woman.
Because of this.
There are certain impacts that women can make in this world that would not be as powerful if done by men.
For instance, Roar. A man stripping down to his underwear and peeling off masking taped words of “fat” and “cellulite” on areas of the body that women’s magazines label “flawed” and “troubling”, would not have the same affect on the human race as a woman who actually bares those “flawed” and “troubling” areas doing the same thing.
A man teaching young girls how to hold themselves in dance class and embrace what it’s like to dance as a female, is not the same as a female dancer – who can be a female role model for the young girls for a lifetime – teaching those exact same things.
A letter to a (maybe) daughter from a mother’s point of view is an entirely different letter than what her potential daddy might write. Not in a good way or a bad way, just an insanely different way.
And these things are what I choose to see if we must be labeled as different.
I don’t have time to sit here and focus on why men have it easier in show business. Or why I, a female, got banned on Facebook for sharing The Militant Baker’s Expose project but I’ve had men with their balls as their profile picture try to friend me after Roar went viral with no repercussions.
We could sit here and make lists of the differences and inequalities between men and women and grow old and gray as we run out of paper and continue to list them on our fingers.
Or we could stand up proudly, as women, and own what we can do.
Which is influence the young women, and men, of the next generation.
Which is continue to participate in movements that mean something to us even when they aren’t necessarily well-liked or easy to participate in.
Which is to set a great example for our children and students by keeping the smack talk about our bodies at bay and owning our strength, intuition, and compassion.
And to stand up tall and be proud to be a human being who also has the pleasure of being a woman at the same time, and owning whatever that means to us.
I don’t know that I was ever proud to be a woman until I realized what an incredible opportunity it is.
But hey sister, better late than never, I’m coming to find.
I will continue to use my body and my voice to raise awareness on the issues that matter to me. And that includes every venue possible. From the internet to the dance studio to the jungle in Hawaii where I will change the way women think about their bodies to my home in Pennsylvania when I explain to my grandmother what body love is.
As a woman, I have a body and a gift that could be looked at as objective and outspoken, and in my opinion – that’s the best fucking part. I see that oppression and that misogyny my dearest world, and I challenge you to a duel where you cannot begin to be prepared for the things in my toolbox that will cut you down to size.
Today I proudly say, yea, I’m a woman. And you better watch out if you don’t think that’s a big deal, because when you least suspect it, I will show up for myself, and others, and speak with a voice made up of thousands.
The discovery of my feminine pride has been a huge stepping stone for me, and I wish it for everyone. Everyone.
And I just want to remind all the women out there who have lost their pride, or have struggled with their feminism, or are battling something hard and fierce, that “well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Girlfriend, you are so brave that you might not even know what you are capable of until you try it. But when you’re ready to, I know a hundred women who will be right there with you saying, “let’s do this shit.”
*This article is in no way dismissing feminism, dismissing the impact men have on this world, or dismissing the fact that there are women in all parts of the world struggling with issues that are way more dangerous than being a showgirl in a Broadway musical. I also do not dismiss the fact that show business’s version of “fat” is very different than what the rest of the world sees as “fat”, which I realize is controversial in itself. These are my personal struggles and personal discoveries as a woman in show business and also as an advocate for the body love movement. Everything is relative in this life, and I did not write this piece to minimize women’s issues in any way. May women everywhere benefit from one more woman stepping into her power and owning everything that she is – I am proud to be an empowered woman today and every day and I wish it for everyone.
I know, that in this day and age, guilt takes over when we let the Kardashians take over our Sunday afternoon instead of spending time donating to breast cancer research or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I know that scrolling Perez Hilton instead of reading about Gaza is enough to make me feel like I don’t even deserve another day on this earth. It’s come to the point that anything celebrity related is deemed “pointless” and “trivial” compared to the rest of the world’s problems.
I’m not here to argue that point.
I’m here to say that Robin Williams doesn’t fit into that category.
Robin Williams made art that changed my generation. His humor, his storytelling, and his thousand and one different impressions is what I watched growing up.
He was no celebrity. He was an artist.
He was no Kardashian JWoww Honeybooboo nonsense. The man taught the world lessons.
In Aladdin, we learned to believe in things that seem impossible.
In Jumanji, we learned to finish what we started with dignity, even when it sucks, even if we get dirty, even if it’s been haunting us since childhood.
In Mrs. Doubtfire, we learned that a father’s love is fierce, and humility is of the essence when trying to keep a family together.
The list goes on with Hook, and Patch Adams, and The Birdcage – all movies where we learn that humor heals. All proof that laughter really is the best medicine.
See, Robin Williams was not just a “celebrity”. He was a representation of dozens of different characters in humanity, and more. Besides being a creepy photo developer, and a doctor, and the bicentennial man, he was there to be the lost boy, and the genie, and the scientist that made green Flubber.
FLUBBER YOU GUYS. DID YOU FORGET ABOUT FLUBBER TIL I JUST SAID IT?
See, exactly. Childhood memories, eh? A little chuckle over the flubbski? I bet.
Not just any celebrity can bring about epic feelings of childhood. Robin Williams is one of the few artists in our time that has that gift.
Robin Williams is to be celebrated, as his wife has asked, as his talents demand.
But it’s also okay to mourn our loss.
We, as a people, have lost something really huge. We lost the man who wasn’t afraid of letting us in. We lost the man who brought us along on his journey even though we couldn’t possibly believe someone would be crazy enough to take it in the first place.
And most devastating, we lost another battle with depression.
Robin Williams signifies the real struggles that are taking our friends, our family, our artists away from us. We can no longer ignore the mental health issues that torture even the happiest “seeming” of souls.
So this loss is a wakeup call and perhaps, one final lesson that we can take away from Robin Williams’ brilliant and colorful life.
No matter how inspired or creative one may be, we never know the dark forces that haunt an individual behind closed doors. And it’s not for us to judge – or detect – or prescribe.
There’s only one thing we can learn from this.
We have to love one another.
Compassion is key in the survival of the human race, quite literally. Your difficult boss, your horrible sister, your emotionally unavailable boyfriend – you might not know what’s happening inside their troubled minds. Even on the most horrific day, compassion is key. Compassion is key.
You never know what someone else is going through. So compassion is key.
If we learned anything from the movie Jack, where Robin Williams was treated as an outcast for his aging condition that made him look like an adult even at age 10, we learned that compassion is key. He showed so much love for his fellow classmates that eventually, someone saw past what he looked like, and saw that he was a beautiful loving soul despite his outward appearance.
Compassion is key. Art is essential. Laughter is medicine.
That’s what I learned in my twenty-seven years on this planet with Robin Williams movies. As an actress, I admire his ability to think on his feet, and to step into any character, and to blow my mind with creativity. But as a human – from age five and up – he taught me that compassion is key. Art is essential. And laughter is medicine.
Robin Williams made me laugh so hard that I know he was put on this planet for a reason. He entertained us and moved us and made us feel things we needed to feel. He inspired me, and I’m sure countless others, to want to perform and share myself with the world as he did – authentically and unapologetically.
And so it’s okay to mourn someone who could do all of those things. It’s okay – necessary even – to grieve for the loss of a talented artist who represented so many things you and I might never get to experience. It’s okay. It’s okay to be sad.
And then, as hard as we grieve, we must equally celebrate what Mr. Williams did leave behind. Start the films rolling. Celebrate what we do have on film – those thousand and one impressions he did so fearlessly and consistently.
After all, we can never take films for granted. There is always something new to see. I’m sure we have plenty of new lessons to learn that we’ve forgotten about since Aladdin first graced our living rooms as kids. I think Robin Williams had a lot to say, and I’m willing to bet, that we can spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out all the things he had to share and still not discover everything he had to offer.
And I don’t even know if that’s what he would have wanted, but I do know that artists take great pleasure in having their art outlive them. To have their art influence future generations. To make this world a more beautiful, more compassionate, more alive place. That’s why most of us get caught up in the arts to begin with – because we’ve seen it outlast centuries and we know that it’s timeless.
And you and I both know, that Robin Williams’ art is more than timeless – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
So I loudly declare, that there’s no need to feel guilty for realizing and mourning our loss.
Because as Mr. Williams said in his unforgettable portrayal of Hunter “Patch” Adams:
You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.
I think that Mr. Williams treated us – as a whole, as a people – and we are all better off because of it.
And I ask you, how can anyone feel guilty for mourning the loss of someone that could do that?
May this world continue to be blessed with fearless artists who are inspired by Robin Williams’ comedy, courage, and creativity. May we pour out compassion. May we be aware of mental health and the sickness that comes with it. May we cherish each day and the moments that make life worth living. And may we always be thankful for the one thing the genie, voiced by the late, great, Robin Williams, cherished most.
Freedom. From freedom comes art. And I’d like to think that Robin Williams is now free from whatever demons have been haunting him these past couple years.
But oh, to be free… Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.
Rest In Peace Mr. Robin Williams
and thank you for giving the world the gift of YOU.
I’m here. I’m in New York. My thighs are chafed, my backpack straps are saturated in sweat, and I had a $23 salad for lunch yesterday. I’m back. And apparently, I’m on island time.
I stood in tap class on Tuesday watching the eager young college grads, decked in stylish leotards and tap skirts, frantically try to figure out what Randy Skinner (most well known for his 42nd Street choreography on Broadway) was saying in his soft voice while a few of us veterans stood in the back hugging each other and delighting in the random encounters that occur in this city when we least expect them.
My friend Robert came up to me halfway through class and said, “Girl, you’re on Hawaii time.”
“What does that mean?!” I joked.
He smiled. “Honey, I just got back from a month in Puerto Rico. When you return from a laid back place, you carry an easy energy that can affect the whole room. I can see it in you. You’re just here for the party. You ain’t tryin’ to impress nobody anymore.”
What an incredible way of putting it. Robert was 2000% correct. I’d gone to Randy’s class for years in my tap skirt and my magenta halter top leotard, nervous that he could see me struggle or that I wasn’t thin enough to be one of his girls. Years of knowing that the class wasn’t an audition but still treating it that way.
To stand there in my larger-than-it’s-ever-been body and enjoy the class for what it was, in my capri pants and my tank top, was a goshdamn relief. I didn’t “try” once. I just took class. I barely even looked in the mirror – I was too busy playing and laughing with my friend Topher who was also there to enjoy class on his birthday. Neither of us felt like “trying” or “working” or “auditioning”. We were just there because Randy gives a really excellent tap class.
Which brings me to my ultimate point. If you need a break from being a New Yorker, you can take one – while living in New York. Here is how, I think, I’m avoiding being a New Yorker while in New York this summer.
1) Stop trying so damn hard. I mean, it’s the culture. It’s what we do. We try to walk faster, we try to work harder, we try to give up gluten, we try to look better, we try to get it (whatever “it” is) faster than the next person. But like, where’s it gonna get us? I mean, don’t be late for work or anything but stop trying so damn hard. At the end of the day, will your sprint-life moves through the crowd on 34th Street really bring you a richer life? I know. Easy for me to say. I don’t live here right now, I’m just frolicking through Central Park in my tap shoes. I know. I don’t have to try. But I’m telling you because all I used to do was try. I would book it from one end of Manhattan to another with fifteen minutes to spare, not without using many profanities for each and every tourist that got in my way, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere any more special than you, other than almost in the looney bin.
Lululemon has a quote on all of their shopping bags that has always stuck with me. It’s something like, “replace the words ‘wish’, ‘should’, and ‘try’, with ‘I will”. I also say, replace the word “try” with “do”, or “enjoy”, or “live”. Because you know, it was just so interesting to take tap class this week with an acclaimed Broadway choreographer and not try for anything – but just simply watch and learn. You know, like what you’re supposed to do when you take a class. It was amazing last night to take Shrink Session with Olivia and not try – but just simply to move. Which is really what exercise is all about isn’t it? To move your body. All this burning calories and toning up and losing fat came along with magazines and diet books but if we go back to ancient times, people moved their body for joy, and for endorphins, and for celebration. An exercise class can be just those things if we stop reading Women’s Health all the time. Just consider it. Because I’m saying that all this “trying” I’ve done over the past eight years has given me the ability to walk very fast and swear very loudly, but other than that, I don’t have much to show for it.
2) Accept the heat. I swear the more we complain about it, the bigger the pool of sweat in our cleavage becomes. It’s summer. It’s New York. The heat sits on the streets like a protective mother hen sitting on her eggs. And aye aye aye, hens are known to sit for a while. Be thankful for the days the hen gets up and we gain a breezy day with cloud cover. Have a moment where you accept Mother Nature and her moods. Try to wear clothing that does not touch your body whatsoever. Cold showers seventeen times a day. No soup. Seriously why are you eating chili? No underwires. Comfortable flip-flops. Hair up. This is how I’ve dealt with extreme humidity, constant sweating, and curly hair adventures for the past year. At some point, we have to find the gratitude in the situation. After all, didn’t y’all just go through a polar vortex or some shit?
3) Walk everywhere. As Restore Your Roar superstar Olivia would say, “wwwwwhat?” Yes. I walk everywhere whenever possible. I am going to sweat whether I stand underground at West 4th waiting for the F or if I walk those 24 blocks, so why not walk in the open air with the pooping dogs and the screaming old ladies? Much more visual stimulation and for the same amount of sweat, I get to walk by the very air-conditioned GAP and/or Balducci’s and/or how much do we love the shops at Columbus Circle this time of year. It’s not even about saving subway fare as much as it’s about spending as little time underground as possible. It’s the best thing you can do for your well-being this summer, I swear to Buddha.
4) Make coffee at home. Do you know how many messages I’ve received from readers saying that $975 is out of the budget and there’s no way they can come to Restore Your Roar in Hawaii? When Olivia and I came up with the hard costs that we needed to cover to make the retreat happen, I was determined to keep it under a thousand dollars. Because I knew, that in just one week in New York City, I can easily spend $100 on Starbucks and two lunches at Whole Foods. I knew, that if I was living here, and I wanted to go to Hawaii, (which last year at this time, I did), that if I made my coffee at home and packed my own hummus and carrots six days out of seven, that I could save $900 in nine weeks.
Restore Your Roar is six months away. Imagine the money we can all save if we skip the morning latte. I mean this isn’t news, people have been writing about skipping the morning macchiatto for years, but when you have a REASON, a WANT, a NEED, or a GOAL that you’re working towards, making the coffee at home seems more important. It carries more weight because you know that it’s money saved, which equals money spent on a trip that you deserve and have worked hard for. You can literally GIVE yourself money if you really want to. This coming from the woman who has spent over $40,000 (not an exaggeration) in binge-eating and social-eating habits in just the past four years, let me tell you. If you want to make that money stay in your savings for a trip to Hawaii to change your life, you can do it. I am living proof.
5) Quit buying what you’re supposed to. Now maybe I’m absolutely biased, but darling, I have so many sundresses from Urban Outfitters that are gathering dust in my closet in Hawaii that I just HAD TO HAVE because they have a bow on them or because they are “my colors” or because they are “so me”. Funny how every single season, a new slew of dresses comes out at H&M that are just SO ME. These dusty dresses aren’t even going out on the town anytime soon because they were impulse buys and they quite simply just do not cover my ass. A short sundress on you is a long shirt on me. My thighs rub together painfully when I wear a dress in this city and I have to hold it down when I walk over the grates and so unless I hold a dinner party in a breezeless room, these dresses have no opportunity to dance or twirl in public anytime soon.
If I could take all of these dresses back to the stores from which they came, I’m sure I’d have at least $1500 on my hands and that’s just since 2012 when I tried to turn my binge-eating habit into a binge-shopping habit. Not only did that little trade not work the way it was supposed to, but I’ve always had an obsession with buying clothes in the size I WANT to be rather than the size that I ACTUALLY AM and so I am the lucky owner of four billion sundresses in a size four or six. If you’d like to raid my closet, you’re more than welcome to join me in Hawaii this coming year and I’ll send you home with anything you might want to take along but until then, quit buying those dresses if you’re never going to wear them. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to abide by fashion rules. Sorry Carrie Bradshaw’s, but it’s what I believe. I wore Lululemon Groove Shorts and a baggy tee that said “Normal Is Boring” all day long yesterday, even to a fancy lunch at The Smith, (sorry about that KM), and it’s the most comfortable I’ve been in a New York summer since 2007.
Wear what you need to. Don’t buy what you won’t wear – even if it is SO TOTALLY YOU. And even though this topic needs a blog post all it’s own, the greatest piece of advice I can ever give you is to buy clothes in your size. Your current size. You know it never works to buy a dress two sizes down. You and I both know it makes you feel like shit eternally. Eternal shit. If you are legit a size 12 right now, there is nothing wrong with buying a damn sexy shirt that is a size 12 and looks perfect on your body. If you’re gonna spend the money, buy something that you can wear RIGHT NOW. You never know where you’re going to end up tomorrow, and it’s not mentally or emotional fair to your well-being to buy something that you can only wear if you drop twenty pounds immediately.
6) Find gratitude for New York. This is the last thing I’m going to say because it’s the most important one. Whether you moved here for a job or you moved here for an adventure, there has got to be something here that you appreciate. For me, my closest friends and family live right here in these five boroughs, or in a neighboring state. But for years I hated everything about the city. The audition buildings and the tourists and the lack of open space and the expensive groceries. Now, living 5,000 miles away, I long for the $23 salads and the hour long commutes to my friend’s Brooklyn loft. Once you move away, those commutes to Brooklyn become a lot longer. There’s no dollar pizza or 24-hour Duane Reade or Billy Porter sightings in Hawaii. There’s no Broadway Bares or Al Blackstone classes or Po-ta-topia. We have luscious jungle and crystal clear water and beautiful men but my goodness do I appreciate even the smallest things in New York now that I’m here soaking as much of it up as I can before I head back west. There’s probably a reason why you are here right now, and if you really can’t remember why that is, then it might be time to move on, but take it from me – cherish everything about the city now, because you have no idea how much you will miss the little things once you have moved on. I know the trek to Astoria sucks if you live in Washington Heights but like, do it anyway. The 45 minute M60 trip has nothing on an 11 hour plane ride.
Now pardon me while enjoy my eighth cup of coffee with perfect New York tap water and the sound of sirens in my dear friend Ruthie’s downtown apartment. It’s good to be home.
If you’ve read my posts before, you’ll know that I have a very intimate relationship with self-help books. I’ve never been able to afford therapy, and I truly believe that certain books saved my life this past year.
I believe that the official book for anyone who ever auditions, should be The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Please buy it (clicking on the title takes you right to Amazon), check it out of the library, steal it from a friend, read over someone’s shoulder, please. Please read it. It will change your life – not just auditionwise and careerwise, but it will change your entire life. Randy Skinner used to talk about it, but it wasn’t until Johnny forced me to get it (or else), that I picked it up.
The agreements are simple: Be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. Mr. Ruiz writes in simple text, that sometimes makes me feel like a child, but I don’t mind at all. I like that he breaks down the crucial information into easy reading and eye-opening sentences that I can comprehend.
This week, in a continuation with my promise to make February about audition preparation and coming together as a performing ohana across the miles, I tweaked all four of the agreements to fit the life of a performer. There’s even a bonus for you at the end.
The First Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz says: Be impeccable with your word.
Trusty says: Just be honest.
I know that it’s extremely hard to follow through with everything we say during audition season. We sure do plan on getting up every day at five to get to the gym by six to get to the EPA by eight so we can do three different calls today before work at four. And there is nothing wrong with ambitious plans. But sometimes, we’re just pooped. Or sick. Or PMSing. Or whatever. So I think that we have to twist the first agreement a little bit to fit the actor life, just this once. We would love to follow through with this daily plan. We make ambitious plans in hopes that one or two of them come to fruition. But the more we beat ourselves up about not keeping every plan we make, the worse the gray cloud around us becomes, and we can throw ourselves into a personal guilt trip that spirals so far out of control we are just staying home every day to eat the cookies and cream for breakfast. No? Just me? Okay. Well, hopefully you get my drift.
My suggestion? Let’s just be honest with ourselves this year. As actors who sometimes audition for jobs more than we work jobs, we are constantly coming up with different tactics to deal with rejection. “They were only keeping tall girls.” “They only wanted Asian guys.” “The accompanist played my song way too slow.” Sometimes, this stuff is true. But sometimes, if we step back, these things are merely ego padding to keep us going. And that’s okay. It’s so okay. My suggestion is to be honest with ourselves in every other aspect of our life, so that there’s as much truth-facing as possible to keep us sane. Are we really being ourselves in our relationships? Are we lying to our mothers that we had a callback when we really don’t just to keep her from asking what’s happening every day? Are we eating our feelings because we’re so busy trying not to eat at all? Those three questions lie closest to my personal life, so they’re the first three I thought of, but there are more. I was myself in my relationship with Stallion last year unless I had to cry, I had to poop, or I was sober. I’ve lied to my mother a whoooole lot over the years. And the third question about food, well, c’mon, have you read the catch line for the blog? So in the midst of all these white lies and exaggerations we share on our OkCupid dates and our family visits during the holidays, let’s just observe what’s coming out of our mouths, and try to bring it back to honesty. The closest thing to honesty that we can get. And it’s not always gonna work. But like the fourth agreement says, just do your best, right?
That serious problem we’re ignoring, or the general assholery of people we date, or our love/hate relationship with Cheetoh’s whenever we have a bad day, is something to be observed rather than ignored, noticed rather than pushed away. It’s hard. It sucks. It like, totally sucks. But it leads to a better you. A more real you. An honest you, who you can fall in love with. And all of this personal growth that might come from more honesty, might also carry over into our artistic work. Our writing, our singing, our acting, our performing, our general persona when we walk into a room. We will find our authenticity through our honesty, and it will reflect in every aspect of our life. After all, aren’t we always being asked to bring authenticity to the characters we play? Authenticity starts with you. You at your very core. What makes you you, is fucking awesome. And the more honest you are, even when times get tough, the closer you come to staying true to who you awesomely are. It’s worth a try, no?
The Second Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz says: Don’t take anything personally.
Trusty says: Ditto.
I’m not going to preach on taking rejection personally. Your mom preached it to you, your college professors preached it to you, your dance teachers and your roommates and anyone you’ve ever taken a master class with has preached it to you. Don’t take rejection personally. Easier said than done, but at least you’ve heard it before.
I want to talk about the question we all hate the most. The awful, the dreaded, the “what are you up to?” Listen. We have to stop taking “what are you up to” so personally. It’s a question. It’s a thing. Instead of hating whatever mouth it comes out of, let’s figure out some tactics for dealing.
First of all, the “what are you up to” is not a personal attack, 98% of the time. There are always the malicious ladies who I see every season who love to ask the question and get my blood pumping, but even then, it’s not about me. It’s about them. They have their own shit to figure out. I can’t take that personally.
“What are you up to” has caused many, many interesting answers to come out of my mouth before I had time to think about them (hence, my paragraph on honesty above.) I’m sure you can relate with your own stories and your own exaggerations, and I’ll give you a moment of silence to reflect with me about what we do to save ourselves from looking like we are jobless, starving artists who have to bartend at 5pm tonight. And seriously, is that really so, so, so bad? Cut yourselves a break. Seriously.
Ways to deal:
If an acquaintance, or a casting director asks you “what are you up to”: Kate Galvin, who used to cast shows for the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, gave me one of the most excellent pieces of advice I’d ever heard back in 2011. She said that people in that room just want to see if you’re a real person. Instead of stuttering over what job or what callback is going to make you look like “the shit”, just be honest. Answer the question by telling them about your sister’s new baby, or the wedding you just went to in New Orleans, or your yoga teacher training, or how you just moved to Brooklyn and you don’t own enough fake glasses to fit in. Tell them anything honest, anything about you, anything that could be funny, or interesting, or a conversation-starter. People love to compare stories – who knows where your answer might lead you with that choreographer who was just in New Orleans for a wedding as well. You don’t have to tell them about how you just closed Les Mis (four months ago) and how you’re in callbacks for Chicago (well, you got seen at the EPA, so). Don’t feel drilled. Don’t feel put on the spot. Just be yourself. Just show them you’re a real person who lives life outside of your career (even if it feels like most of the time, you don’t.)
If a family member asks you “what are you up to”, or better yet, “have you been on the Broadway yet?”: I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard to breathe, and try to empathize with your grandmother’s lack of understanding for your performing pursuit, but try to remember, she is not out to get you. She is not out to tell you you’re stupid for doing what you’re doing, or tell you to get a real job, or whatever. I mean, maybe she is, but I know that mine is not. My grandma, and my aunts and uncles and cousins and high school friends honest-to-God just have no idea what auditioning and performing really means. If you can, forgive said family member for making you feel like you’re doing nothing with your life, and answer with this: “I’ve made a lot of promising contacts this year, and in my business, who you know is just as important as what you know, and I’m really looking forward to continue my networking while I audition.” This will cause 90% of said family members to start talking about how politics are everything in this world, and Sue, their manager, just got promoted because her husband plays golf with some higher-up’s brother, and can you believe this Obamacare stuff and also, they saw Sue’s husband the other day at the grocery store and he looks like he’s gained weight. I mean, I’m not guaranteeing anything but people love to talk about themselves and if you open a door – like the “who you know not what you know” thing, they will probably let you off the hook and change the subject to something they know. After all, they might have just been asking “what are you up to” to be polite. They’d actually rather talk about something that they know, instead of feeling ignorant to what Broadway really is and whether or not it’s the same thing as that Times Square place.
If a close friend asks you “what are you up to”: Try and recall the last time a close friend did this. Most of the time, close friends respect the question asking process and avoid traveling down that road that they also don’t want to travel down. If you are a close friend of someone who is an actor and you find yourself asking them this question a lot, consider cutting it out of your vocabulary. We hate it, and we don’t want to hate you for asking it.
If your mother asks you “what are you up to”: Tell her you miss her and you love her. Don’t hate her for asking. She’s asking because she wants to support you and be there for you.
The Third Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz says: Don’t make assumptions.
Trusty says: Seriously, ditto.
Don’t assume the girl across the holding room is looking at you with disgust. She might simply be picking blueberry seeds out of her teeth with her tongue.
Don’t assume the casting team will only be thinking about Chipotle if your audition is at 11:30. They might have had a big breakfast and are very intent on listening to you.
Don’t assume the dance call will be easy just because it’s non-Equity. Ever.
Don’t assume you won’t get a callback just because a casting intern is in the room for the EPA.
Don’t assume that the director is over it. Don’t assume the director hates you. Don’t assume the director thinks you’re too fat just because your birthday was yesterday and you feel like you look like the chocolate cake you treated yourself to. Don’t assume the choreographer wants you to fall out of your double pirouette. Don’t assume the accompanist can play obscure shit, unless it’s Joshua Zecher-Ross behind the piano. Don’t assume.
Don’t assume. Go in, like we talked about last week, fully respecting the people behind the table. Go in with no expections, no assumptions, no doubts at all. Go in there to do your best and be yourself, nothing more, nothing less.
The Fourth Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz: Always do your best.
Trusty says: Always do your best.
It’s audition season. It’s cold. It’s exhausting. It’s a lot of things. But it’s also an awesome time of year. It’s not December, and it’s not July. There are auditions and opportunities and people to meet every single day from here until the end of April, at least. So listen, if you’re not honest with yourself today, or you flipped on your mom because she asked you how your audition went, forgive yourself. It’s today. Tomorrow is a new day. Do your best today. Your best today might be different than your best yesterday and it might be different than your best tomorrow, so focus on doing your best today. I know you work tonight, but for the next half hour, you’re dancing for Gerry McIntyre so honey, focus on this half hour and enjoy yourself! He’s teaching you soft-boiled egg hands – enjoy this moment brought to you by Gerry McIntyre yourself. If you don’t know who Gerry McIntyre is, get off Facebook this instant and google him. Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing, just do something about it instead. Do your best.
Nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s doing it all right, all the time. And this year, remember that. You’re up against thousands of other performers, yes. There aren’t enough jobs to go around, I know. But none of those performers are perfect. Nor are the jobs. They’re all just doing their best too – and their best, is different than your best. You are the only person who is best at being you. So rejoice in that, and rejoice in the authenticity you find this season as you bring more honesty into your life.
The Johnny Agreement
Johnny says: Do not make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on love.
Trusty says: Johnny’s right. Again.
Johnny (who is my boyfriend, by the way) reminds me of this when I have pitfalls along the way. He’s always right.
Fear is an ugly character in our personal stories. If Fear is the antagonist, make yourself the leading lady who knocks out Fear with your stilettos. If Fear is the bad guy, make yourself the dashing prince who crushes Fear to a pulp with one, good, stage combat punch.
We did not choose an easy career path. We did not choose the most lucrative career path. We chose this journey of ours out of love for all things music, all things dance, all things comedy, all things beautiful and creative and moving.
Remember to continue making choices and decisions based on love. Our love of art is what got us here. Let the love continue to carry us through our daily lives as we bring honesty and authenticity to everything we do
“We have to choose life. Choose risk. Choose love. The only safe place for our hearts is to dive deeply into magnificent, eternal, ridiculous, overhelming love. Really, do you have an option? How is that life of fearful control working for you? Better to ask, how it working for those who have to live with your fearful control? Come and be free in the love.” – Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself
I can’t elaborate much more. Just think on this one, The Johnny Agreement. It’s not really his agreement by the way – he’s just sharing it because he’s learned it in his own personal experience. It’s a learning experience we will all continue to have for the rest of our lives. Better to consider embarking on the journey now, rather than waiting until fear has completely overtaken us.
This week’s post has been spiritual, I admit. But isn’t audition season sort of spiritual in a way? We have to keep the faith that it will all work out the way it’s supposed to. Faith that our hard work will pay off. Faith that our karma will come back one day. Faith in ourselves.
I hope this helps in the next few weeks. I wish you faith, love, and freedom this week.
PS: Mahalo to those of you who submitted pictures and videos to Roar Part 2. I’ve received pictures from brave breast cancer survivers, women with C-section scars, men who think they are too skinny, and things that moved me beyond words. I couldn’t be more humbled, and inspired by all of you. You are all so much braver than you give yourselves credit for. It’s truly amazing. In order to proceed, we need about forty more submissions. Please consider contributing this week so we can move forward with this amazing, inspiring project.
So the SuperBowl is over. Christmas has passed. Chinese New Year has come and gone.
Now all we have to look forward to is the 50% off candy on February 15th and…
Audition. Seeing that word stirs up all sorts of emotions inside my bones.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the “season” lately. Living in Hawaii is extraordinary. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful. But I admit, missing the summerstock audition season keeps me up some nights. Five seasons in NYC have, well, seasoned me. But like all of us do after a tumultous relationship ends, I look back at my previous audition seasons with a fondness. I find myself only remembering the good things and conveniently forgetting the pain and the heartache.
This season, I can’t be there with my friends at Ripley-Grier digging for a photo I.D. on the one day a new guard starts working the ground floor and actually requires it. I won’t be there to tie my friends’ jewel tone halter dresses, or to take turns bringing Starbucks to an EPA at Nola, or to lend out my baby blue stapler at an open Gateway call.
But just because I can’t be there to take part, doesn’t mean I can’t be there in spirit.
So this month, I dedicate each post to you – my auditioning friends who are bustin’ their tail every day in the cold, tryna getta job for the summa.
Now if you aren’t an actress, or a dancer, or a singer, and you are lost as to what “audition season” pertains to, I welcome you to continue reading. Because you can probably relate to us more than you realize.
You know how you head to a job interview excitedly, making yourself presentable, and wearing a nice outfit, and updating your resume, and hoping – praying really – that they like you, and then leave wondering if you’re qualified or not, knowing that you did all you can and the decision is now all theirs and it’s completely out of your hands, and maybe having a lot of anxiety about it, not being able to completely let it go?
Actors do that process every single day, sometimes more than once.
Auditions are like interviews – only we have to sing, dance, and act on top of having a fabulous resume. And also play nice with others. And also look amazing. All the time.
So actors – this month is for you. This blog was born for you really. For us. For all of us who struggle with the ups and downs of this labor of love we have pursued for so many years.
And non-actors, this is for you too. In reading the next few posts, I hope you find yourself gaining new appreciation for performers at your local regional theatre, or for your granddaughter who has big dreams of moving to NYC after attending college for musical theatre, and even, for yourself. Whether your significant other is pursuing their dream this spring, or your brother or sister is traveling up and down the east coast to fill up their 2014 with gigs for their health insurance, these posts are for you as much as they are for the artists.. Empathy is a powerful thing. I hope this helps everyone find empathy and understanding for the lives of performers and artists.
1. The respect for “auntie”.
There is so much respect for elders in Hawaii. When we come across a woman older than us, we call her “auntie” as a sign of respect. The same applies to men – we call them “uncle”. It’s still not ingrained in me, and I forget sometimes, but I didn’t grow up here. It’s a different story for children who are born here. As soon as they learn to speak, little kids call everyone older than them, including me, “auntie”. It’s part of their culture. It’s how they’ve been raised.
When the four and five year olds that I teach forget my name, they call me “auntie”. Those children walk into my classroom without questioning how nice, or mean, or boring I might be. They give me the benefit of the doubt. I am immediately respected, and I am immediately “auntie”.
What if we walked into each audition room in the same manner?
Often times, I find myself walking into the audition room assuming I won’t get kept even if I do well. I assume the person sitting behind the table is “over it”. This is partly a protective measure for my ego, but it’s also the result of many audition experiences that have, what’s the word, oh, right, “jaded” me. Rarely do I find myself heading into that room full of respect for the people casting the show I’m auditioning for. But truth be told, we’ve all auditioned for some visionaries. We walk into that room expecting a casting intern, and much to our surprise, Kathleen Marshall is standing there waiting for us to line up. Shit. Hello, Kathleen Marshall. I wasn’t expecting you at all. I left my A-game in the changing room. I’ll…be right back. #jaded #shit #whydidn’tIwearmyflourescentleotard
This season, I just thought it might behoove all of us to walk into that room full of respect for the pianist, the director, the choreographer, the music director, the casting director, and even the intern who is taking lunch orders. I know that the people behind the table can sense the energy that comes through that door. Although they might not be able to put a name to the powerful aura we let off, they will feel it if we walk into that room full of respect for them – those “aunties” and “uncles” behind the table. Leaving our cynical attitude in the holding room and giving each person in that room the benefit of the doubt might change our entire thirty seconds in that room. And then, we can walk out of there feeling like we #nailedit.
2. Only use your fins when you need to.
If you ever have the opportunity to sit on hardened lava and observe sea turtles in the wild, I highly recommend you put your iPhone away and do so. You’ll find that sea turtles often float in the roughest of seas, near cliffs and rocks that would prove fatal for any human who finds himself so close to a dangerous shoreline. As a turtle comes up for air, you can spot his fins flapping above the surface, enabling you to follow him through your sunglasses as he floats in the treacherous water.
The turtles have been around for centuries, and when you watch them float, you can almost see why. They allow themselves to be carried into shore by each wave, but they never, ever crash into anything. As the waves ebb and flow, the turtles only use their fins when they have to to keep themselves away from danger. They float in, and swim away from the rocks just in time to get back into the flow of the sea. Over and over, they float with the waves looking helpless, and just when you gasp in fear that they’ll be crushed by the powerful water, they use their ancient fins to steer themselves clear of peril. It’s truly amazing to watch, and we can all learn a lesson from these protected creatures. By only using our fins when we have to, we can go with the flow a little more.
This audition season, things might not always work out the way we want them to. We might not get the time slot we want, and we might not get called back for the character we really wanted to read for, and we might miss one ECC because we’re caught dancing a second time at another. But hey, e ho mai baby. Let it come, let it flow. Flow with the waves this season, so that when you really have to use your fins – aka cut a bitch who jipped you in line at the one EPA you got up at 6am for – you’re calm, collected, and ready with a piping hot cup of Starbucks to chug after the confrontation. Don’t exhaust yourself on anything that doesn’t really matter in the long run. Only use your fins if you have to.
3. Don’t forget to look up.
Before I left for Hawaii in August, I made a final trip home to say goodbye to my family in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful day in July when I drove down the lane to my Poppop’s farm and hugged him, assuming I’d see him again in November after my time at the yoga retreat was done. We both looked up at the sky and he said, “Man, that’s a blue sky. You know, sometimes I call Rick just to say, ‘Rick, did you look up today?” Rick is my uncle, my Poppop’s oldest son, and he shoes horses, so he’s often looking down when he’s working. Grandfathers are always full of simple wisdom, aren’t they? I’m so lucky to have mine in my life, even if it’s only over the phone ever two weeks.
Here in Hawaii, we’re blessed with beautiful skies most every day. But we’re also blessed with the humpback whales who make their home here for the winter. They come here from up north to have their babies and mate before beginning their trek home in April. Johnny and I are kind of obsessed with them, and often find ourselves in danger of rear-ending the car in front of us because we’re watching the ocean for whales breaching instead of the road ahead of us.
There have been times where we’ve been chillin’ on the beach, and a whale will breach two, three, four times in a row and we fist pump and cheer. We look down the beach and everyone has their nose in their phone. They only look up because they hear us cheering and they have no idea why. They miss the humpback breaching, and then they board their plane back to the mainland complaining that they didn’t see a single whale on their trip.
This season, don’t forget to look up. If you take your nose out of your phone in that holding room, who knows what might happen. You’ll make a new friend who will sign you up tomorrow morning at Chelsea while you’re at Nola. You’ll catch the eye of the casting director who is familiar with you who ushers you into the room just before lunch so you don’t have to wait all day. You’ll spot a girl across the room wearing your same dress, giving you ample time to change into the second dress you bring to each audition for emergencies like a good little actress always does.
Observe your surroundings. Pay attention to who gets kept and who doesn’t. Make nice with the monitor. While everyone else is playing Candycrush, you could find opportunity for networking and inspiration without even trying. Don’t miss the whale breach. Don’t forget to look up.
4. Finally, show off when everyone else is resting.
We have spinner dolphins here who live up to their name whenever we have the privilege of swimming with them in their natural habitat. These wild dolphins feed at night, and rest during the day in quiet bays where snorkelers and paddleboarders don’t seem to bother them. The dolphins shut off half their brain when they rest, and travel in small groups for protection.
However some of them, don’t seem like the resting type. They’re actually little stars waiting to be discovered by their snorkeling audience. The dolphins jump, and play, and shoot so high out of the water that they spin multiple times before splashing back into the clear blue sea. They’ll often do this jump-spin several times in a row, and you’ll hear lots of people chuckling that the beauties are “showing off”. Because they rest the majority of the day, everyone squeals with delight when the dolphins “show off” because it’s a real treat.
This season, pull out your element of surprise, and show off when everyone around you is resting.
It’s a Thursday. You worked late last night. You’re in the third group of men to be seen at an afternoon dancer ECC and you’ve already been to a singer call this morning and you’ve only had time to pick up a banana and a coffee today. You look around you, and every other guy in the room bares the same, bored, exhausted look on their face as yours. No one even feels like going in that room to learn any sort of dance that might require physical exertion. It is now, that the spinner dolphins can inspire you. It is now, that you can think of the sea turtles, and use your fins.
This is a time to pull your energies together and show off when your exhausted group gets called to dance in front of the casting team. Make those poses pop. Use your face. Walk into that room respecting those “aunties” and “uncles” and find the passion in your heart to make them look up with your energetic dancing. The same applies to a singer appointment late in the day, or pulling a second monologue out of your ass even though your boyfriend kept you up all last night crying about his fear, of your fear, of commitment.
Show off in the room (and I mean seriously, in the room only, none of this holding room show off crap) when everyone else is resting. When everyone else is “over it”. When everyone else walks into that room hating the casting team with a passion without an ounce of respect for their artistry.
This is YOUR time to shine.
This is your season to shine.
I can’t be there to shine with you, but honey, I am cheering for you like you wouldn’t even believe. That cheer that Johnny and I do when a whale breaches – when we fist pump like idiots and yell “YEAH” like big burly men who just watched the Seahawks kick the Bronco’s sorry asses – that obnoxious cheer is for the whales, and the turtles, and the spinner dolphins, and for you.
Go get ’em, Broadway baby. This year is yours.
And I don’t know what it’s worth, but I’m sending you all the aloha. All the love. And all the support. Because you’re my ohana. And ohana means family.
Shit, I’m crying. I gotta go. But next week, more audition season February Hawaiian love for you. Also, I made a shitty poster of these tidbits of Hawaiian audition advice so you can hang it on your bathroom mirror if you so choose: Hawaiian-Audition-Wisdom. That’s all.
*If you haven’t yet considered contributing a positive body word picture for my next video project for the Roar movement, please read the guidelines here (short version) or here (more specific, long version.) I would LOVE love LOVE to have your participation!
Last night, for the first time since moving to Hawaii, my friend Ethan visited me in my dreams.
Ethan was from the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and he passed away in his East Harlem apartment very suddenly when he was 23 years old.
Ethan and I went to the same musical theatre conservatory in NYC, but didn’t really get to know each other until my theatre company produced a production of Lucky Stiff in 2008. The musical is a hilarious story about a man whose dead uncle has left him six million dollars and he can only have the money if he takes his dead uncle’s corpse on a vacation to Monte Carlo. If he doesn’t, all of the money goes to a charity instead. Basically, just know that there is a man who is trying to acquire a fortune by pushing his dead uncle around in a wheelchair pretending that he is a alive and chaos ensues.
In our production of Lucky Stiff, all of the roles in the show were cast by August of 2008 except for one.
The dead uncle in the wheelchair.
That’s when Ethan contacted us and said he’d like to do it. Not to be morbid, but he was the best dead character I’ve ever seen in a show, ever.
He didn’t just sit in the wheelchair and play dead. He bounced up and down when the characters were on a train and he fell over when the train hit the breaks, like a dead body would if it was merely sitting in a wheelchair. He had his head and limbs move loosely when he was wheeled around and he literally stole the show. He had people doubled over in laughter – especially when he came to his nephew in a dream and tap danced as a ghost.
When I first found Kalani, the yoga retreat I volunteered at this past fall, and found out it was in Hawaii, I knew that it was right. I had always felt a pull to come here, especially once Ethan passed away. I wanted to see where he had come from, and to see where all of his closest friends had traveled to in order to celebrate his life in the summer of 2009.
The entire time I’ve been here, I’ve thought of Ethan often, when I’m alone looking at the ocean, or when I have one of those spiritual moments at the end of a yoga class.
But last night was the first time he visited me in my dreams since I arrived here on August 1st.
In the dream, we were doing Lucky Stiff and for some reason, Ethan was wearing a mask. Under the mask he had a ton of eyeliner under his eyes – in black and white – and he had ridiculous red lips.
He went missing halfway through the show. The actors were cueing Ethan and the actor who played his nephew onstage, but Ethan was no where to be found. In the dream, since I was offstage watching the show, I went to look for Ethan.
I found him in the backstage area trying to put his mask back on, but for some reason, the eye holes of the mask were glued shut. So every time Ethan put the mask on, he couldn’t see anything.
We both tugged and pulled at the eye holes to get them to open up and they wouldn’t budge.
So, I took the mask off and looked at Ethan. His face was full of fear.
“What if they see my face? They shouldn’t see my face if I’m supposed to be dead. What if my eyes flutter by accident?”
I looked at him and said “Honey, it’s just a show. All we can do is our best with the circumstances we are given. This is live theatre. The unknown of it all is the best part.”
We wiped all the makeup off his face (why the hell was he wearing makeup?) and he went back on stage and tap danced his face off in the ghost number, maskless.
After waking up from the dream this morning, I remember almost every detail of it. I remember what the black box theatre looked like, what his dressing room looked like, and most of all, what his face looked like when he turned from me to go back on stage.
He went on stage as though he could care less what happened, but yet he loved that part of what he was about to do. He was ready, and fearless, and excited.
I feel incredibly calm this morning, for the first time since I returned to Hawaii after my two and a half week visit home to the east coast.
I think Ethan was trying to teach me a lesson.
First of all, the whole mask thing with the eye holes being closed?
Simple lesson. Take the mask off. Take the hard shell off. Let the guard down and be vulnerable. Shutting life out is not the answer.
Since I’ve returned to Hawaii, nothing has gone right. I almost set the apartment on fire this morning, I had only one student in the hip hop class that I taught on Saturday, my boyfriend and I are sharing a car that I don’t know how to drive (fucking stick shift man), and I’ve felt extremely lost and confused, wondering if I’m doing the right thing.
So I clench up and hunker down in my cold-hearted, New Yorker shell that I brought back with me without realizing it, and pretty much snarl at anything that comes within a six inch radius of me. Including my beautiful roommate – the man I love.
First lesson of the dream is to open my eyes and take in whatever is happening – even if I don’t like it at the time.
Second lesson: life isn’t a movie.
One of my directors used to say, “This is live theatre, baby. If you want predictable perfection, go to the movies.”
Life is live theatre, guys.
Sometimes, people are gonna forget their lines. Sometimes, zippers don’t zip in a quick change. Sometimes, we trip over our own two feet because we were too focused on the next scene instead of staying right here in the present one.
And finally, today, with the help of Ethan, I woke up from my obscene obsession with perfection and laughed a little bit over the smell of burning plastic in the kitchen.
It’s like, dude, we have to laugh.
Okay, so there’s traffic and you have to pee really bad before work. (No, just me?)
Okay, so the milk in the fridge is sour so you have to drink black coffee and it’s horrible. (No, just me?)
Okay, so you’re only back in Hawaii for less than two weeks and already want out because everything isn’t dreamy and tropical and easy like you assumed it would be. (Yea, probably just me.)
But dude, in the next five years, will any of it matter?
This isn’t a movie. It’s real life. Shit happens.
Five years ago, Ethan and I were putting together Lucky Stiff. Naive, young, and full of hope for what the future would bring.
We literally never, ever know what tomorrow will bring. So we have to live today.
Right now, I’m lucky enough to be living in Ethan’s home state, just trying to do the best I can while I’m starting a brand new chapter from scratch, with not a clue of what I’m doing. I’m just going off my intuition.
My gut tells me I’m supposed to be here, so I’m figuring it out one day at a time.
I want to honor Ethan this week by spreading the message I think he was trying to share with me.
Stop expecting perfection, and just move through your day the best you know how.
One of the four agreements in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, is simply, “do your best.”
Just do your best.
I guess, this is my newest mantra.
Life isn’t a movie, baby. This is live theatre. Shit happens. Hiccups occur. We trip and fall. And as soon as can, we gotta laugh about it.
So, Ethan – man oh man, mahalo, my friend, for visiting me in my dreams last night and reminding me that it’s all gonna be okay. You are deeply missed, madly loved, and forever appreciated.
Mele Kalikimaka, everyone.
And to my entire Company 1B family – my Lucky Stiff family from days gone by – look at how far we’ve come. Know that five years ago, we were naive, young, and hopeful. I hope all of us still have bits of those traits in our hearts even now, as we grow older. And all of you – no matter where you are across the world – are always in my heart.
So the thing about Roar, is that it was a celebration of where I am at right now on my journey.
My journey started long before the four minute video that you see today.
And Roar, is a symbolic event to celebrate how far I have come.
My journey has taken me from the depths of hell – when I didn’t want to get out of bed for days, when I could down an ice cream cake before my roommate got out of the shower, when I would commisserate over beers from 11am to 11pm at night with other friends experiencing depression as well – to fucking Hawaii, where I am roaring and drinking coconut water and getting my ass kicked in Kundalini yoga and sleeping for what feels like the first time in ten years.
My journey has included ups and downs and hospital visits and black out binges and financial crisis and unlimited mimosa brunches and a lot of self-help books. Not to mention multiple packs of Marlboro Menthol Lights, shameful (and I mean SHAMEFUL) booty calls, and at one point, an absurd amount of Splenda.
My journey is only my own to know the details of. Many friends know bits and pieces, but only I know the extent of the ugliness.
And so, my journey is in the paragraphs that make up this blog, but also in the spaces between.
Because sometimes there are no words to express the pain and sorrow and guilt and anger that life can bring while you just sit there and attempt to fight back with weak, Nutella-covered fists.
And that’s when you have to dance.
In musical theatre, we were always taught that when you become too overcome to speak, the only thing left to do is start singing.
And then, when you’re too overcome to keep singing, the only thing left to do is to dance.
So Roar was my body being too overcome with emotion to sing, speak, write, or express.
All there was left to do, was fucking dance.
Dance, and celebrate everything that has happened up until this point. Because even the darkest moments can be celebrated when you finally accept that they have brought you to a point where you can party in tap shoes and a tutu like that.
So, in response to the comments that Roar is me promoting obesity, I say this:
I understand that obesity is a disease in this country.
What people need to understand, is that it’s something none of us has chosen.
Binge-eating is a disorder for over eight million Americans, and a habit for millions more. Just like the alcohol, narcotic, or sex additions people may have, food is our drug.
So while we overcome our addiction to using Oreos and Domino’s Deep Dish to fill the void and mask our feelings, we have to be okay with where we are at right here in this moment.
And although we’ve grown up being told otherwise, I’ve learned that it’s okay to find happiness in our journey along the way, instead of waiting until we are perfect to finally be happy.
You see, “happy” is part of the definition of healthy, in my book. Probably in your book too.
And so Roar was a celebration of how happy I am to be alive. To be strong. To be able to drop down in a cooter slam, even if my thighs have cellulite. And to celebrate how healthy I finally am.
My weight has fluctuated thirty pounds up and down an obscene amount of times since the age of 18. There is no possible way that that fluctuation is more healthy for me than the extra weight that I have been holding on to since May when I became aware of my serious binge-eating.
I understand that I have extra stomach fat from my poor choices when it comes to nutrition over the years.
I understand that Nutella has no nutritional value.
But I also understand, that the first step of recovering from anything, is awareness.
I am now aware of my habits. And so during my process, I’ve had to learn to look in the mirror and love what I have right now.
Even if its an extra twenty-five pounds.
Looking in the mirror and looking straight at the parts of you that you’ve avoided accepting for your entire life, is something that takes time, patience, and quite frankly, big balls.
But it will literally benefit the planet, when we all start to do it. For the sake of everyone around us, the sooner we start to accept what’s happening in our stomach region or our ass region, the sooner we can stop beating ourselves up and aquaint ourselves with this crazy concept called “self-love”.
And as soon as we find the “self-love” that we’ve been forgetting about this whole time, the sooner we can offer more love and compassion to the people that we surround ourselves every day, instead of letting our own insecurities get in the way of our relationships.
In response to the comments that I am not fat, and I made people bigger than me feel fat:
I just want to reiterate that this was a piece about how I am often too “fat” for the entertainment business.
I’ve been told that I am too heavy for roles, too big for roles, too curvy for roles, and too thick for roles.
“Fat” is just the umbrella that all those words fall under.
And so I wrote that word on my body in order to peel it off, and prove to my industry, that I will never ask their permission to perform in a role again – no matter what adjective might describe me right now. I will forever dance, and sing, and laugh, on my own terms. I don’t know what those terms look like yet, but from where I’m standing in my newly painted rainbow tap shoes, they look pretty fucking joyful and creative.
I peeled the words “fat” and “big” off my body to prove that no adjective will ever define my state of being again.
Because for the first time in my life, my state of being, is healthy.
This was a loud and clear message to my inner self, my soul, that I am still here. I am still alive. This bitch is still kickin’.
Literally. Like, fan kicking my face.
And finally, to the hundreds of comments from people who felt inspired by this piece and who took the time out of their busy days to write me and let me know that they benefited from this story, I say this:
Thank you, from the bottom of my masking-tape covered heart, thank you.
I am so thankful to be a part of your journey, because you are now a part of mine. Just when I thought that I was just another statistic – the woman who has a problem with eating and writes about it – you all took my journey and blasted it across the web to let people know that good things are happening.
You showed your 12-year old daughter and your 9-year old son – so that they could understand that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and we can’t tease people who don’t look just like us, even if we are skinny and they are not.
You sent me emails to let me know you got out your tap shoes for the first time in thirteen years because you realized it doesn’t matter what flounces and bounces as you shuffle ball change – it only matters that you are doing something your body finds joyful and inspiring.
You sent me messages on Facebook to let me know that you stood in front of the mirror in your underwear and looked at your stretch marks on your stomach for the first time since your baby was born, and you learned to love them because the little person who caused them is coloring you a picture right now at the kitchen table.
And yes, you sent me messages to let me know that you, beautiful YOU, are not going to give up on your performing career just because you are not tiny. And you are not going to leave New York City, or the theatre world, until you figure out how to make your career yours, instead of molding yourself into the career.
To you, my performing family, I must quote a very wise YouTube commenter from about a week and a half ago:
“You are beautiful and by the way, good job for taking your own career in your hands. You tell people who you are, not the other way around.”
Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of you who have shared this journey with your friends and your family. We have reached a million people in just over two weeks, and I feel that this positive body image celebration has the potential to change everyone’s mind, eventually. Let the self-love and the body confidence spread like the plague. We will continually change ourselves, and the next generation, for the better.
If you are new to this blog, let me remind you of my mantra:
None of us have to go from zero to hero today. None of us have to give up Nutella cold-turkey today. Awareness is the first step to everything. And so let it be celebrated, that a million of us are aware, today.
Whether you come to the conclusion that you will start looking at your legs each morning, accepting them despite their imperfections, and thanking them for what they actually do – carry you through your day every single day – or you decide that you are going to listen to your feelings just once this week instead of drowning them in a bag of Reese’s Pieces, you are aware of your personal journey and that’s all that matters today.
So I just want to say thank you to all of you, and encourage you to remember the mantra baby steps. It’s the least overwhelming mantra that there is, and I’ve also found that it’s a fabulous key to happiness along the way.
As the whole of us take these baby steps together, since my dearies, we are literally all in this together, let us open our mouths and hearts and continually make a loud and raucous sound of celebration from here on out.
I don’t know what the sound is that is louder than a “roar”, but I know it’s the sound that we are all about to make together.
And to that I say, mahalo, mahalo, mahalo, for your time.