In this essay, I will give you backstage pass for a glance into my life as an aspiring actress and how that ultimately led to my trials, tribulations, and triumphs of trying to make it in The Big Apple. This includes viewpoints on the vagaries of the business and tips I wished I’d known.
My most crucial piece of advice is surround yourself with those that support you unconditionally. I used to put on cabaret-style shows in my living room for my very loving and extremely patient parents, who clenched their teeth while clapping with sincerest support. With the blessing of my parents, who never questioned my desire to become an actress and worked harder so that they could enroll me in lessons, I moved from the living room’s amateur hour to America Dance and Drama Studios and then Centerstage Players.
My time devoted to acting whet my appetite for more, which inevitably led to auditioning for a spot in the Drama Studio of New York City’s prestigious LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and Performing arts – better known as the FAME school. The school was extremely competitive and often made me second guess myself. The intimidating auditions I performed in front of my talented classmates, including Ansel Elgort and Timothee Chamalet, proved to be the start of a long boot camp preparing me for what was to come. Going out for parts at LaGuardia was way scarier than living in the real world. Most of my time at LaGuardia was spent auditioning for various roles. I won some parts but lost many others.
Even though I found myself becoming more and more apprehensive, I met the most incredible educators and advocators who urged me to push aside my doubts, reach for the stars, and enjoy the difficult journey. Their support helped me understand that bringing who I am to the table was enough. “Be you and own your space,” was just one bit of advice that stuck.
Starting an acting career after throwing off my LaGuardia graduation cap was the last thing I wanted. I knew I wanted a real college experience, one that took me into worlds different from my beloved New York. One that involved college sports, dorm rooms, Greek life, and superb academic classes. I want a well-rounded education that would ultimately lead to a steady paying job.
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, my mother, a designer and my father, a buyer, encouraged me to follow my creativeness but caused me to be hesitant when it came to my own career path. The financial unknown often caused a burden on my family, and I did not want that for my own future. My grandmother was a successful businesswoman who sold leather goods. She had her trials and tribulations but the perseverance she had in the face of insurmountable odds was what inspired me. She was always able to help meet the financial needs of her family. What motivated me the most, however, was surrounding myself with those who led the life I aspired to have. Yes, sometimes that was materialistic, but it was truthfully what drove me towards a brighter future.
To support myself through college, I too became an entrepreneur at a young age by designing, selling and marketing accessories on Etsy. To keep up with my classmates, I competed for a scholarship to go abroad my junior year. One, without which, I would not have been able to attend. When it came time to move into my sorority house senior year, I had to get a part-time job. In order to pay my rent, I drove 3.5 hours home every weekend to work at a clothing store and get paid off the books. This somewhat circuitous journey never felt like a hardship, but more of a passage. It was hard when I compared myself to others who had it easier, but it was also easy to compare myself to others who had it harder. All I knew was, I was in charge of my own fate.
Once I graduated and really understood the complexities of becoming independent financially, I developed goals that were both practical and offered balance for working full time and continuing my studies full time. Even though I knew my passion lied in the world of Fashion, I watched my parents struggle in the industry my whole life, and ultimately decided that at the end of the week, I wanted to ensure I would have a certain amount deposited into my bank account.
I considered my qualities and interests, being enthusiastic, detail oriented, and hard working, and was encouraged to become a teacher. Teaching brings out the best in us, offering opportunities to be leaders, mentors and inspires thinkers. I enrolled myself in NYU, my dream school, and attended classes at night, after working a full-time job as a teacher in Pre-Kindergarten classroom in Soho.
Working in an up and coming neighborhood was extremely encouraging. I would be enthused by the shops, restaurants, residential townhouses, and outfits I would see on the streets of downtown New York City. Instead of engulfing in my studies, I was immersed in the New York City culture and knew I saw more of a future for myself there. I always fantasized about a career where I could develop revenue generating blogs for magazines or emerging businesses, particularly in fashion, or developing wraparound products for ad agencies that spearhead direct access to under tapped or fringe markets of consumers who are often disenfranchised by creative departments on Madison Avenue. It was terrifying to gabble in the same industry as my struggling parents, but I knew there was a different, more definite route to take. I was inspired. Inspired by the dark cloud over my life of unfulfilled potential, inspired by my financial confines, inspired by the girls who had it all, my parents who had nothing but gave me everything they could, and inspired by and inherent human hope for my future. The City, and the world were finally in my hands for control. It was priceless, and mine for the taken.
Taking the fashion world by storm also meant taking a hit to my wallet. Even though a teacher’s paycheck isn’t the dream, it was enough to keep me financially stable and independent. Leaving teaching, and going into fashion wasn’t going from 1 to 2; there were a lot of little decimal points in between. To build up my resume so that it was geared more towards a Fashion PR job, I started “The Concrete Blonde”. I figured that even though I did not have any legitimate background in the industry, if I built up my own brand being my own stylist and PR Coordinator, it would resonate well with future companies. Additionally, for my passion for fashion, I took two jobs and worked 7 days a week, sometimes 12 hours each day. One job was in retail, where I made a little over minimum wage plus commission, the other was an unpaid internship at Moschino and Jeremy Scott. Being a 23 year old with her masters, going from a grown up job to an internship was not easy for me to conceptualize, but I did get an amazing education in the world of Fashion PR, something that in hindsight, was priceless. That door closed and very quickly opened up new opportunities for me, which ultimately landed me a job at Kate Spade & Company with their PR team. I was with Kate Spade for 9 months before it was mutually decided that I go on to pursue my own blog more seriously.
Now i’m back where I started, in the unknown. Except this time, i’ve never been more sure. I am a full-time influencer who is hustling and grinding to try to grow my blog and inspire all of you! It’s my time to take chances, compete against the best, take risks and “Own my space”. I still have people who put resounding voices in my head, convincing me that this isn’t smart, I won’t make it, I need to think logically, and that this is just a silly dream. However, my acting career taught me a crucial lesson: some people will tear you down and rip you to pieces. The industry, as all will attest, is tough as hell. But it’s also full of people who will do just the opposite. Find those cheerleaders and hang onto them! They are the ones who count.
I can’t wait to prove everyone else wrong. Stay tuned.