You know that IG post from Will Smith where he's in his trailer talking about the 99% of people who are not willing to put in the work to make their dreams a reality? I re-watched that video and got super pumped about my life and career. Here is a 1% I am proud to be part of.
In the video he repeats what is obviously one of his life mantras: You must have self-discipline. In the last month I have proven to myself that I will never be defeated.
I am determined to never be defeated by:
The illusion of time (starting too late, passing time)
My life, my happiness, my hope are all choices. I have chosen to be victorious. I have chosen to activate all that I am in control of toward the fulfillment of my deepest wishes. I have activated the mystic law of the universe to rush to my aid in this mission. It's that clear. It's that definite. I am that sure.
Maybe all of this sounds too esoteric or just plain weird. The truth is, it doesn't matter how it comes off. What I have come to understand is that we truly are the masters of our destiny. We can transform our thinking, our reactions, our family and community dynamics, the trajectory of our lives, simply by being aware of the choices we make in every moment.
I have chosen to never give up on my career because I know that I have something of value to share.
I have chosen to keep fighting for my dream because the fight awakens my most powerful self.
I have chosen to be in a constant state of improvement in order to always be ready for the next step.
I have chosen to create happiness in my personal life in order to reflect joy in the world.
I have chosen to see the goodness of others in spite of all of the negativity we are inundated with.
I have chosen to regard all challenges and difficulties as an opportunity.
Therefore, I will never be defeated.
So on to the latest good news:
I booked and shot a co-star role on the new CW show All American
I signed with a new Theatrical Talent Agent
I failed to book, but was in high consideration for, a lead role in an international feature film
I have been called back for a large co-star role on a network show.
I have been called back for a lead in a pilot presentation
I re-qualified for that good-old union health insurance based on last year.
These are the benefits, be they small or large, that reaffirm my determination and fill my cup with gratitude. :)
enisha b jane
In my own words.
Seven whole years. It's been 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, SEVEN years since I moved to Los Angeles this week. It's difficult to quantify that much time having already passed... partly because time feels more like a construct in a climate like this one--it goes from a dry summer to a brisk fall. No winter. No rainy season. But also because, like this year, time flies by so quickly. Were we not just in March? My head is spinning thinking about it. And when you have back-to-back years like 2018 it just... goes.
So, I forced myself to examine each year that I've been in LaLaLand and QUALIFY each with a Big Win and a Big Lesson. So here goes:
Year 1 (Fall 2011 to Fall 2012)
Big Win: Booking Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
This would come about 6 months after I arrived. It was my first leading role in what would be shot like a film. I learned a ton!
Big Lesson: The Follow-up Opportunity
Yeah. I hadn't yet found consistency in my work. So I was not able to capitalize on the momentum of Halo or Footloose in the way I wanted to and missed some big follow-up opportunities as a result.
Year 2 (Fall 2012 to Fall 2013)
Big Win: Adding Humvee Driver to my Special Skills
I booked a recurring role on the show Perception and was tasked with driving this military "armored" truck in a desert scene. Cast and camera crew in tow. Loved it!
Big Lesson: The Consequences of the Wrong Crowd
Mmmhmm. I had to relearn this elementary school lesson. I was freshly out of what would be the last booking in a few years. It was the consequence of being highly distracted. My focus was completely off of my career and being drained in a toxic relationship.
Year 3 (Fall 2013 to Fall 2014)
Big Win: New Acting Technique
I discovered a technique that would gift me with the consistency that I had been so sorely missing. It also gave me something productive and career-driven to focus on. Acting class was my saving grace!
Big Lesson: No One is Coming to Save You
I learned that there are people who will laugh at your pain and watch you sink. True friends are rare. But ultimately, you are responsible for you.
Year 4 (Fall 2014 to Fall 2015)
Big Win: Learned the art of the Win
I had to defend myself in a small legal injustice with a landlord who unfairly refused to reimburse my rental deposit. After several attempts to solve the issue myself, I decided to take him to court. I won. At a time when I felt attacked by so many forces, I determined to fight and win.
Big Lesson: The Power of "No"
It was after that win that I reintroduced the word "no" and the phrase 'not good enough" into my life. It didn't feel good in the moments, but in the depths of my being I understood it to be right.
Year 5 (Fall 2015 to Fall 2016)
Big Win: LOVE
I met my husband-to-be! And despite a few battle scars and a few thick layers of protection, I was able to open and let love flow.
Big Lesson: Seize the Yes!
Career wise, I learned to be unafraid to cut my losses with dead-end relationships and seize new opportunities when they presented themselves.
Year 6 (Fall 2016 to Fall 2017)
Big Win: New Community, who dis?
I landed a spot in the ABC Discovers Showcase and found a new tribe of talented, silly, actors and a relationship with a studio. I also dove into a fresh spiritual practice that also came with a community of positive, uplifting people.
Big Lesson: New Levels Bring New Obstacles
I worked harder in this one year than any other year in Los Angeles. I was constantly faced with my own self-fulfilling limitations and was forced to move through them.
Year 7 (Fall 2017 to PRESENT)
Big Win: Purpose
This last year has allowed me to envision and outline a path to my purpose. My goals are clearer, bigger, and feel attainable. This year I have experienced genuine happiness far more than in years past.
Big Lesson: It All Counts
All the skills, lessons, and obstacles make sense now. I learned that everything I have ever succeeded or failed at are part of the story. Nothing is for nothing. It all counts.
•They say we are completely different people every seven years. I'd say that's true.•
My life is like my hair story.
When I was 5 or so, my mom put a relaxer in my hair because this 4C thickness with length was too much for her to handle. I didn't have a say. And my heavy-handed aunties who usually managed to wrangle my head full with beads, bristle brushes, bobbles, and pink rollers, were equally pleased. Meanwhile, I was starting school on Long Island, and my guardianship was being figured out too. I didn't have a say in staying with Mom, or Dad, or Nanny. The decision had been made for me. It was going to be Grandma's for a while.
By the time middle school rolled around, I'd been given some autonomy and started trying new styles and new boyfriends. The lifespan of each was never more than a week. Before graduating high school, Houston's heat and the heat of the curling iron had burned me out. My hair and my teenage heart had endured various exaggerated states of well-being.
Atlanta changed everything! I was incubating in the Atlanta University Center, absorbing and unlearning all the most poignant influences to my cultural identity. The AUC was like a pilgrimage and emersion into black mecca. Here's an excerpt from a poem I wrote during that time:
I float on cocoa satin as the communion fills my temple with the recognition of my own queendom.
I walk among goddesses whose heads are adorned with the music of coily roots -
Dancing out and upwards in time with the rhythm of the heart's djembe
I eventually "big chopped" all of relaxed hair, rocked a coif of curly, coily deliciousness, and then gave it permission to grow into the most glorious long afro it could. Ahh. The Atlanta effect. Neither I nor my hair had ever been more healthy, more full of life, more expressive or more confident.
I moved to Los Angeles still with the possibility of a fro, but a fro rarely seen. I had learned by then that I was ahead of the times -- TV and film-wise; and this natural hair had become a stumbling block more than a stepping stool. At the time, LA passively-aggressively required the illusion of perfection--which was most certainly not defined by the righteous indignation these frizzy ends represented. So I would allow my hair to find heat again. High heat. But I refused to relax it. Just add water and I am reminded of my old knowing, my own queendom... Though it does bear the evidence of a little damage, the price of compromise, I suppose.
LA has certainly caught up a bit. You can't see a commercial with a black woman without her hair being in her full natural glory. And the most successful among us--our A-Listers--have managed to link with hairdressers who seem to know exactly how to care for, and style the hair that naturally occurs from our heads. Revolutionary. But I have found little middle ground. These days, I experience a range of emotions in waiting rooms with other black women the moment I realize that I am the only one without curly, coily, or big, natural hair. It's almost become my advantage.
I have accepted the chameleon nature of my hair, and the transformative power of my self. But more importantly, I am the sum total of all of my parts: laid, twisted, big, full, added to, or cut off.
Closing remarks to follow by Deacon Solange of the Knowles House of Realness:
I feel like I've had the shadow of Cinderella following me all of my life, a sort of existential Cinderella complex.
I read a meme on IG the other day that said something to the effect of:
Cinderella wasn't looking for a Prince, she just asked for a day off and a new dress.
Some clever, modern, girl boss type woman must have written this to make my day. Anyway, what speaks to me most is the concept that Cinderella was not born a princess. She worked hard, even under duress, and managed still to be kind and loving. Somewhere hidden underneath her rags and dirt was always a capable, worthy, beautiful woman who only needed to be dusted off and seen.
I reject any analysis that Cinderella was faking it, or a "social climber" even, who was concealing her class with costume and shiny trimmings. Instead, I like to think those gifts, as temporary as they might have seemed at first, were a reflection of her indisputable virtues. Sometimes the world outside needs a clue, a symbol, a sparkle before it takes notice. Most times it is difficult for people to see beyond the top layer. All of the time, an individual needs an ally, a support system, an investment.
I felt like Cinderella at the ball walking the blue carpet for the premiere of Footloose way back in 2011. Enchanted by the lights and photographers, radiant in a gold silk ensemble, beaming from the atmosphere and opportunity of a lifetime to be seen... afraid, that it would all disappear and my life as a surviving actress would resume, leaving no more than a distant memory never to be topped or repeated.
Regardless, I was on a high for several days after. Singing and dancing, and reminiscing about the amazing night I had, finally reflecting how I always felt: Golden, Radiant, Important. And in the weeks, months, years to follow, that night would become less of a distant memory... and more of a target to aim for again.
The fairytale (idealism) is that Cinderella was instantly prepared to thrive in a new reality. That from one day to another, she could transform her perception and behaviors to match the circumstantial transformation happening. In real life I like to think that Cinderella, having been rightly seen, validated and supported, still needed time to adjust. And that it didn't take too long, 10,000 hours or so, perhaps.
A "Shit List" is one way to call it...
Another way to call it is a "Can't-Quit-Till-I-Prove-These-MFs-Wrong" List...
We'll go with the latter. It's more proactive. This list is not exhaustive. There are some strong honorable mentions not actually worth mentioning. But for the 5 people below, I have dedicated the following Haikus to their extraordinary contributions to my determination to win!
1. For "Mr. Springer"
That one producer
Never a Leading Lady?
Thanks for the inspo
2. For "Mr. Little"
That one director
You were lucky to have us
What's your claim to fame?
3. For "What's-Her-Name"
Threats to my career
Assume, then apology?
Next time just ask first
4. For "Ms. Cakes"
Said I'd run back home
Thought you were there to support
Why so bitter, though?
5. For "Ms. 4-Leaf" and the Like
You hope for the fail
Go ahead, keep checking in
You motivate me
Basically, Thank You!
It's a strange choice to pursue acting, to pursue an art form where there is no separation between the art and the art maker. There is no piece of music to play, no canvas or print to present, no sculpture to stand behind. The actor's work is contained within her. She learns to insulate her art with thick skin. She receives criticism and rejections not to a body of work that exists in her absence, but to the body of work that is her body, mind, and interpretation.
It's a funny business this show business. It is not for the weak or impatient. And many are poised and ready to root against you. But that's the game. And the winners know how to transform those voices into activation. I literally can't stop until I have proven each of these folks wrong. (A few I already have!)
PHYSICS - a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.
The other day I woke up with artist woes. It was one of those days you wake up trying to rationalize why you've chosen a life of uncertainty. A life defined by rejection. And you are wholly unsuccessful.
You've forgotten all of the triumphs.
You are not remembering the strokes of luck.
You can't feel momentum. Only inertia.
You grasp for the sensation of being on top of the world.
You question your talent.
You wonder if Coelho was on shrooms when he wrote the Alchemist.
You are only hyper aware of what is not happening.
You congratulate your friend of a friend who just bought her first house.
You nod with polite agreement as the young woman you just met at a mutual friend's birthday dinner (who makes a comfortable six figures in the oil and gas sector) complains about the cost of living on the west coast. Yeah, no shit.
And you wonder... Is it too late to be a flight attendant? Probably not. You think, I would probably be a shark at real estate. You fantasize about what life would look like if you cut your losses now...
But I'm stuck. Stuck by this pull in my gut. Stuck by an unwillingness to quit. Stuck by the certainty that nothing other than this curse to be a living, breathing, thinking, stinking creative will ever fulfill me.
That was a few days ago. And if there was a happy ending, I would have already written it.
I hate the learning curve. I always want to just skip to the point of mastery and ride that thing out into the sunset.
I can't exactly pinpoint when this happened. But at some time after a long history of being the teacher's pet, the honor student, the perfect attendance, dean's list, magna cum laude awarded (and modest little twat) that I am... I stopped loving being a "learner" There's a concept in developmental psychology that explains that once we've hit a certain age and life benchmark we gather and store new information as "crystalized learning." Basically we're not little sponges anymore. We're just learning the necessary bits for the tasks at hand. Clever, relevant and everything that all of the people who used to cheat off of my work were trying to explain to the rest of us over-achievers: "None of this extra crap is going to matter when we get into the real world."
If you are an Industrial Architect you probably don't need to know the kingdom, order, family, or species of salt water vertebrae in the Mediterranean Sea for job security. You've got to be a whiz at mathematics and have a passion for design and city planning. Makes sense. You need to learn your skill, master your skill, and love the process.
Oh, the process.
So as an actor the P R O C E S S is a vast micro to macro web of "hurry-up and wait" and "be ready at all times" and "right place at the right time" intersecting at various shades of green from "greenroom" to "too green" to "greenlit" to "green screen." Basically a bazillion variables that are all just a means to do the thing that you love, tell stories.
And the only way to tell those stories is to put in the work. Learn your lines. Rehearse your beats. Discover the character. Find the truth. Practice it. Make mistakes. Fail forward. Loose your inhibitions. Learn, rehearse, discover, find, practice and repeat until you reach that euphoric moment of truth which allows you to throw it all away and just be. (*Pauses for the moment.)
Every new side, scene, job, level has its own curve and it's maddening being at the bottom of that dip when you thought you had it but realize you don't and mastery seems like a hopeless dream. Ugh. I HATE IT!!! Where is my sunset?!
Anyway... just a little "discouragingly realist" pep-talk from me and the learning curve.
Here's the thing about singing: I LOVE to sing. "I'm using the word 'LOVE' here." (name that Jack Nicholson reference). Not hyperbole.
The Voice Memos on my phone is 15% audition dialogue and 85% my musical catalogue. My shower is my booth, my living room is my stage, my car... forget about it. It's a concert. My mother sings, my grandmother sings, one of my brothers sings. Fun fact: my father was once on the Apollo. (He never had a chance... You can't follow an ATROCIOUS gospel singer who's used up all of the audience's available patience and expect to get through a whole bar of a Fair Weather Friend by Johnny Gill if you're not Johnny Gill *rolls eyes*). Anyway.
You get my point. But I'm not really a singer. I sing. But I learned the hard way (from a brutal experience with a director) not to call myself a singer. I can't belt. I have short breath control and my range is about as short as Angela Rye's patience for that bullshit. But ask me to sing a jazzy something or other, a classic, or a bluesy standard and I will be all over it... That is, if it is me actually asking myself to sing for moi and no one else is listening. And I'll be damned if I'm not constantly asked to sing. It's my personal version of hell to be asked to sing for something important. Or heaven forbid a performance!
So, I have worked very hard to control what can only be explained by the worst version of stage fright I have known (outside of that one time when I couldn't remember the rest of my routine for a gymnastics recital at 7 years old.) My new response to the cringe-worthy, "Can you sing?" is now: "Yeah, I sing a little and dance a little."
And last night I sang a little. In fact, I created a melody for what will be something between a song and a chant for our Hollywood Fringe Festival show The Goddesses Guide: Adura for the Women of African Diaspora. I steadied my nerves, dropped the key, and used all of the power my little diaphragm could muster. And you know what? It sounded pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.
Pray for me though...
enisha b jane
In my own words.