Always be yourself. Unless you're acting. Then be your character, 100%
The title of this blog sounds a little jokey. But, if you'll hang in there with me what I really want to explain is how important it is to know who you are and what you want out of this business, because it's a tricky one and there's a lot on the line.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a model and an actress. Other girls wanted to be ballerinas, teachers, veterinarians, some little girls want to grow up to be the president of the United States (weirdos). I wanted to be in movies, magazines, billboards. I wanted the red carpet.
As a child I begged my mom to take my photo. I would select an acceptable backdrop- preferably something very plain and one dimensional. Please don't try to take my picture standing in the middle of the kitchen with the refrigerator decorated in all kinds of schoolwork and postcards. Sometimes, I'd sit on the back of the couch in my best Cindy Crawford pose, with one knee up and my hand under my chin, because the wood paneled wall would definitely not distract from my face. Which was the goal.
Other times, we would be at my best friend's house and I would convince the adults to hold up a sheet so that Nicki and I could have our pictures taken with a nice forest scene behind us. I grew up in a very small town, and this was how I lived out my dreams of being in front of the camera. I just wanted to shine.
In high school I took drama classes and auditioned for school plays. My drama teacher was such a strong force in my teenage years. Of all the people I admired and respected - she held a very high place (after my mom). KBH, we called her by her initials, was a firm woman who knew it all in my eyes. There wasn't anything she said that I didn't accept as the law of acting. It was KBH who molded my acting style. While other girls were extremely animated and got big laughs, I was softer and more natural. When I auditioned for the role of Rose in "Meet Me in St. Louis" I wanted to kick myself as I walked off the stage because I felt my audition was dull and boring. I saw others auditioning so differently from me and I asked KBH if I could have another shot at it and I remember her looking at me and smiling with this expression so genuine and saying something like, "Connie, there's no need. You got the part. You played it perfectly" She told me that it was the way I didn't "overact" that made me right for the part and that I shouldn't try to change that. She said I didn't need to be like the other girls because I had something special. From that day on, "not over acting" became my badge. I would play every role naturally and my goal was to be believable as that character. I was still very entertained by the others who made animated and silly facial expressions, shouting their lines while using big enthusiastic gestures. I still believe there's a place for their style, as well as mine.
I enjoyed success as a high school actress. I mean, I really enjoyed it. I loved the shows, the awards, the state competitions where I carried home so many awards that I was teased about the excessiveness of the medals around my neck. However, I didn't follow that path and later when I was working in oil and gas I decided to take a stab at modeling.
I was invited to a cattle call in Denver when I was around 19 or possibly 20. I didn't have the money to make the trip, it was going to be expensive to register for the event, plus with hotel and gas, food, etc. I wrote letters to friends and family to collect enough funds to pay for the trip (the old fashion Go Fund Me) which was my mom's idea and it worked really well. I had a friend take my photo in black and white film on my 35mm and then printed up some 8x10s to take with me. It was unlike any experience I'd ever had. There were so many pretty people in one place and I felt completely out of my mind for thinking I belonged there to begin with. They had a few speakers, presentations about what the modeling world is like. Success stories about girls who'd been discovered this way and how far they'd come.
In short, I watched the presentations, performed a monologue on the stage (in a single file line, we each got 2 minutes to show our stuff) and then we lined up with our 8x10 glossies- one in each hand- and we paraded ourselves passed each table with representatives from 19 different agencies across the country. In one hand I held a headshot, in the other a full body and I greeted them and said my name. This is what I was told 19 times.
"Nope, too short"
"Sorry, no- not pretty enough"
"Thank you, but not what we're looking for"
"Sorry, not tall enough."
"No, Sorry- too plain looking"
I learned my lesson not to put my hand back on that hot stove. It hurt.
Fast forward 10 years and I'm modeling and acting now in my mid thirties. I'm thankful to be where I am now, but also when I am now. I'm ready for the animal that is this industry. I'm ready to be bitten and chewed a little because I'm tougher and I know who I am. I can bite back. I'm a grown woman. Sometimes I say no and move on, and sometimes I pour my heart into an opportunity and secretly, silently, plead for the role. I have a vision of the brand I'm working towards and I'm committed to keeping it rock solid. I am judged every day by my looks, my abilities, my qualifications- by people I don't even know. To be fit enough to model activewear, thin enough to model fashion, pretty enough to model for print, energetic and talented enough to act, take after take. And motivated enough to take the initiative to stay up to speed with what work is out there and available. I know I'm not perfect and I know whatever role I'm going for, there's probably someone more qualified for it than I am, but when I do get it I love the feeling of that win. Am I in danger of getting too big of a head? I don't think so. I have a pretty good idea of where I rank in the game. I know I'm no superstar, and I have a clear idea about what I am and what I am not.
Now, I'm taking acting classes which is so empowering. Why it took me so long I can only shake my head and exclaim, I have no idea!! Because I absolutely love it. For the amount of pleasure it brings me and the amount it fuels my passion -I feel ignited. I get to flex my acting muscles and get professional feedback. I get to see myself onscreen and drill down on my technical skills so I can stomp out my bad habits and become much better on the next paid job. Most importantly, I get to act. I get to act! I get to just choose a scene and then go perform it. Any scene I want! I'm in control of the role, the character, the scenario. And the stakes are low- because it's just a class so I can do whatever I want- take a risk and try something different. It doesn't matter because during the playback I can see what didn't work and why. I have a confession. I didn't think I needed acting classes. Ouch that really hurts to say. I might delete that line. It's so awful. But I say that because it's just the honest truth and it's not the whole truth. I also felt I didn't have time. So, what I mean is, I was getting work- modeling and acting and it was cutting into my daily, weekly, monthly agenda. I'm a mother, a wife, and I work part time and when I'm not sleeping, I'm working out because I'm also a triathlete. Where can I squeeze in acting classes?? -is what I thought. I just needed the time for the schedule to feel more routine to fit all my different roles into my life and know where I could put this one more thing. So, I'm doing it and I'm loving it.
I didn't get here alone. People who believe in me, support me and push me along deserve so much of the credit. I have people I confide in and bounce ideas off. I have people who help guide me and redirect me when I can't see the freakin forest through the trees. Thank you.