Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bye Bye, '13!

Woooo - it's been a ___ year.  (I'm leaving that spot blank because basically anything I insert there will be true - this year's been all over the place)

Highlights:                                                                     Low Lights:
South Africa                                                                  Going broke
HB Studios                                                                    Losing love
Orange is the New Black                                                Weight struggle
Chris Rock film
The Bridge (SAG short film)

In the end, what I learned is to be a lot kinder to myself; to forgive (others and myself).  I love the words of this old French pop song, On Ira Tous Au Paradis.  It basically translates to "everyone's going to heaven". I listened to it a lot when I lived in Paris so there're good memories attached to it, but most important is its message that there's redemption no matter what mistakes we've made or what our beliefs are - because we all get to go to paradise. I like that idea. And that's how I want to wrap up 2013.

this is a remake tribute version featuring a lot of 90's French music icons

I also want to thank all of you for reading my very random posts on this blog and for always being so kind and supportive.  May 2014 bring us all peace, joy, health and prosperity!  Hugs!!!!

p.s. OK, so I'm just now realizing that Dieudonne is in that video.  Yikes. Back in the '90s when this tribute concert was filmed he was all about anti-racism, that's why he was invited to join the other artists on the tribute.  Unfortunately, things changed later; now, he's associated with some ugly views and is a member of thFront National (the extreme right political party of France).  Just this week he's been in the news about his performances possibly being banned and the offensive "quenelle" salute he invented...  I didn't realize he was in this video until after I posted it.  I'm leaving it as is because my thoughts about the song still stand, but to be clear, I do not support Dieudonne's current views at all.   

Just Do It.

This morning I woke up to an interview on NPR with Pharrell Williams.  We all know the man is a musical genius and a sweet gentleman, but what I loved most about the interview is what he said at the very end:

"It's an illusion that they keep selling you that you need to be in the music industry to make your music and take over the world.  It's an illusion to think that you need to run around Hollywood to put a film out."

9 Things Your Actor Friends Want You To Know, But Will Never Tell You

1.  We don’t care about meeting your other actor friends.  
I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me I should call/Facebook/email/meet some other person they know or met who happens to do the same thing as I do.  I live in NYC – literally, thousands of other people do what I do, connecting with them is not a problem. Also, actors are a bit clannish and very competitive.  We’re kind of territorial about gigs and not so inclined to share “secrets” that might bite us in the ass.  For example, an actress who’s the same type as me, is probably not going to introduce me to her agent and risk losing parts to me.  But more specifically, meeting other actors isn't really helpful for business because we’re both at the same end of the transaction.  I mean, if you sell phones at Verizon, what’s more helpful for you – meeting another person who sells phones or meeting a person who needs to buy a phone?  See my point?  It’s the old supply & demand principle.  I’m an actor, I provide a service – my talent.  Meeting other people who provide that same service?  Boring and not helpful.  Meeting someone who needs that talent?  VERY INTERESTING AND VERY HELPFUL.  Does that make sense?  So, yes, I’ll call up your other actor friend because you've asked me to and I know that you mean well (we’ll have a laugh and/or gripe about the business for a while), but I’d really prefer that you connected me to your producer/agent/casting director/filmmaker friends.

2.  We hate when you call us “aspiring” actors.  
The word aspire implies wishing, not working.  So I’m not Julia Roberts, yet.  That doesn't mean I haven’t earned the title “Actor”.  If you knew how much work, time and money we put into this career…  Think of it this way: A student in dental school might be aspiring, but once he/she goes into practice even if they might still owe more in student loans than they earn, they are a dentist.  Period.  Plain and simple.  I am an actor. 

3.  Opening night is a dress rehearsal; the best performances are towards the end of the run.  
We need you to come to opening night of a play because we need that initial buzz around the show, we need butts in those seats, we need the audience’s energy to shift us from rehearsal to performance mode, but that first show….  Ooof.  Yeah, the kinks aren't worked out quite yet; sometimes things that worked during rehearsal, don’t actually work in front of an audience, we learn that on opening night and make the fixes.  So here’s the deal:  We need you to come back!   Yes, as demanding as that sounds, ideally, we’d like you to come to opening night then come back to one of the last performances, but if you can only come once, please come to one of the last shows.  It takes a couple of performances for the actors to settle in to their characters and play more freely, that’s the sweet spot.  That’s when you’ll catch us “being” rather than “doing” and that’s infinitely better. 

4.  Please, don’t recommend us for non-paid gigs.  
Your cousin’s writing a play and needs actors?  Great!  I love that you’d like to refer me, but hang on.  I like to get PAID for my work.  Is your cousin looking to pay for talent?  Because if not, you’re putting me in an awkward position.  If I were a contractor and your cousin wanted his kitchen remodeled but didn't have money to pay for it, would you do the same thing?  No.  You’d tell your cousin that you know a professional, but that you can’t guarantee that they’d do the job for free.  Actors want the same respect.  Again, the amount of time, money and energy we put into being constantly prepared for every random gig and audition means that we can’t just give away our work for free all the time.  Sometimes, I think of myself (and all actors who toil away on student films and no/lo-pay indie projects) as dreammakers.  We help make the projects - the dreams - of broke directors/writers/filmmakers come to life.  We literally give life to their vision.  I really don't mean that egotistically - we love our work and are grateful for it, and it's our dream, too!  But even dreammakers have to pay rent.

5. We’re crazy broke!  
Even those of us with day jobs – are just barely scraping by.  Our expenses almost always exceed our income.  Besides the general body maintenance (health, beauty, fitness), there’s constant training (voice, dance, technique, movement, specialties), then marketing necessities (headshots, postcards, website, subscriptions to trades services, mailings), all that on top of the regular cost of living (rent, food, utilities, transportation..) and raising a family….  We don’t have the resources for fat savings accounts and retirement plans.  Most times there’s too much month at the end of the money, so we get 2nd and 3rd part-time jobs to make the ends meet.  This has got to be one of the most expensive professions on the planet, when you compare our investment to our earnings.  So keep that in mind when you’re thinking we're flaky, cheap, or selfish.

6.  We dread the question “What have I seen you in?”.  
It’s always the next question after someone realizes you're an actor.  Please refer to #2 above.  What you see on film, television and Broadway isn't even a tenth of a percent of what’s being produced in the entertainment world.  We can have a full resume, yet never have appeared in any big mainstream hit that you’d know.  If you’re a dentist, I don’t ask if you've done the teeth of anyone I know.  I simply accept that fact that you’re a dentist.  Besides that, unless I am a household name, you might not have recognized me when I was in something you saw which then leads to the awkward situation of my having to explain to you which character I played and your trying to remember.  Not cute.

7. Even awful shows take a lot of work.  
It’s inevitable.  I’m sure even Meryl Streep performed in a clunker way back when.  Some shows or performances just fail.  There’s still a huge amount of hard work that goes into creating them, though.  Grueling schedules, tough rehearsals, strained resources, tireless research.  Cast and crew bust their asses for each gig.  So before you launch into your bitingly witty critique of someone's work, please know that what might take you just a few moments to dismiss was an intense episode (for months, sometimes years) in the lives of a whole team of very brave people (because it takes raw courage to create something and present it to strangers for scrutiny) .

8. You probably see more Broadway shows than we do.  
Have I mentioned that we’re broke?  Now, add to that the fact that in order to fund our full time acting career, we have to work other jobs, plus manage the rest of our lives. That takes a toll on our schedules.  Even when we can get cheap tickets, finding the time can be tough.

9. Your well-meaning advice to “just go on a reality show” is kind of an insult.  
Maybe some of us take this career too seriously, but we haven’t invested this much time, energy and money to risk humiliating ourselves on these reality shows - once you do those, it's hard to be taking seriously for real acting roles.  Furthermore, reality tv doesn’t pay much (that’s why it’s everywhere, it’s the cheapest thing to produce).  Also, there is still a sense among us that you should earn your wings in this business by doing creative work, not by eating live bugs or having temper tantrums about your wedding.  I know that sounds arrogant; I really mean no disrespect to reality show players.  It’s just a different discipline.  Sure, most of us actors want to be famous, but we want to achieve it in a different way.  If you really want to help us, keep giving your moral support and refer to #1 above.

I know the tone of this list is a bit rough.  That's just to get your attention.  :-)  You all know that I love and appreciate your support and interest and would never turn my nose up at your kindnesses.  I just wanted to share with you some of things that come up when I'm chatting with other actors about our little pet peeves. Again, these are things actors usually only vent about with each other, but I think they can be food for thought for anyone.  As a matter of fact, share this list with other performers you know and ask them if they agree.  ;-)

Brother, what did you to your hair? What Happens When Black Footballers Meet Relaxers...

I've rekindled my romance with European (mainly Bundesliga, Premiere League, Seria A and La Liga) football (that's soccer for the North American readers).  It's just a world class sport and I missed it. Maybe it's because my favorite team, FC Bayern is doing so well.  Maybe it's because the World Cup is coming up? Maybe it's my eternal crush on Zinedine Zidane....  I don't care, it's just a pleasure to be tuned back into a sports world that I understand and can enjoy watching (you can keep American football with its endless commercial breaks and basketball with its hyperactive pacing).  Ninety blissfully uninterrupted minutes of play, players who's faces you can actually see, crazy footwork, plus at the end of every season relegation is at stake - that and the stories/rivalries below the surface are what I love.

As I'm watching these matches, though, I'm seeing something that makes me tilt my head in puzzlement: Black players with straightened hair.  Here are a few (with before and after, natural vs their straightened looks).

(clockwise from top left: David Alaba, Kevin Prince Boateng, Emmanuel AdebayorNeymar)

Hmm. When I straightened mine did I look like that? Experimenting is cool, but we're not fooling anyone, are we?. We don't look less ethnic just because we've chemically straightened our naps.  (Is that the point subconsciously? or no?)  Besides, embracing the kinks and coils is a lot less work than keeping up a perm, relaxer, Japanese straightener, Brazilian blow out....whatever you want to call it (they're all the same thing: chemical straighteners). No, I never cared about hairdos like Snoop Dogg's or Katt Williams' or Al Sharpton's - I guess because those are old fashioned to me or because they're long styles?  I don't know.  It just seems more jarring when the hair is short because it so unnecessary - I mean, when it's short you're brushing not combing it, so it's not as if you're straightening it to make it easier to style. You're doing it for the sole purpose of imitating Euro men's hairstyles.  I'll be honest, I think Neymar's retro mullets actually work for him and maybe Alaba's spikes are more flattering for his face shape, but something about it all leaves me feeling sad. Why? Aren't I being judgmental?  Even hypocritical? Why do hairstyles on Blacks always have to be related to consciousness of their Blackness?  Why does it even bother me?  And is it just a huge male fashion trend that I missed? Are Black/African and Mixed/Bi-racial men all over Europe rocking these looks successfully? To each his own, of course. Their hair = Their business. I'm just surprised - at it and at my own reaction to it...

Whatever....  It all just reminds me of that hilarious scene from Malcolm X when he's got a lye relaxer on his head that's burning his scalp so much that they have to hold him down until he can't take it anymore.  :-)

Malcolm X The Movie, Barber scene by pun-pun

Monday, December 30, 2013

Actresses I'm Watching: Aissa Maiga

I saw a picture of her and I was mesmerized.  She has a great look.  (She actually reminds me of a woman I once knew - if you know me and remember Aly, then I know you're nodding right now)  Then I researched her film work and saw what a great talent she is.  Aissa Maiga is 38, Senegalese, raised in France, studied sociology and performing arts, and has won a Cesar (that's the equivalent of the Oscar in France, people!).  She was inspired to become an actress after watching Romy Schneider (a German film actress from the 60s who starred in many popular French films).  Aissa's got 30+ credits to her name, and appearances in countless French tv series.  If you saw Paris Je T'aime, then you might recognize her from the vignette titled "Place des Fetes" directed by Oliver Schmitz.

The film that landed her the award, though, was Bamako.  Go see it!

She's said in interviews that she'd love to work in the U.S. with filmmakers like Spike Lee and David Lynch so maybe soon she WILL finally become a household name in Hollywood.  She has definitely earned it.

Love and Marriage

A couple of days ago, I ran across a friend's engagement announcement on Facebook and my first reaction was to cry.  Unfortunately, these were not tears of joy. No, these were selfish, egotistical tears solely for me.  I was jealous.  She found love and marriage, while I'm single again.  Her success seemed to highlight my failure.  And I felt that "why-not-me?" thing big time.  I also felt the forever loss of friendship because I was sure that she, like every other married person I know, would morph into the two-headed creature that doesn't know how to be just your girl friend anymore.  I congratulated her, then went promptly into mourning. Yes, that's dramatic, but it's really how I felt and I'm not sure I was totally wrong...

Anyway, in the middle of that pity party, I had to travel to my cousin's wedding where I was going to see the same family members who I'd been too broke to entertain when they visited me this summer.  Yet another failure of mine to be re-confronted with. That worsened my mood.   So I was drowning in shame and resentment by the time I arrived in Maryland.  And then a funny thing happened:  I got around my family and everything I'd felt like a loser for melted away.  All I felt was the pure joy and acceptance that they showed me. That taught me a great lesson. I am far more fortunate than I'd recognized because a loving family is EVERYTHING.

The wedding was beautiful.  All was full of love.  Nothing else matters.

My cousin Mimi and her groom, Victor, jumping the broom.  Slo-mo vid by my cousin Kah-heri.

Congratulations to Mimi!!!  And huge thanks to my Mom, aunts and cousins for the love and acceptance.

Actresses I'm Watching: Wunmi Mosaku

A few weeks ago, my Mom told me to watch a British tv show called Vera to see a new Black actress.  I watched, I liked the show, and I liked the actress.  Then, yesterday while watching my SAG Awards screener for Philomena, I saw her again.  So now I'm paying attention.  I really like this girl!  Her name is Wunmi Mosaku.  She's a good, picks smart roles and defies the convention that you have to be skinny to work.

In just a few years, she's booked some pretty huge projects:  several tv series and films like I Am A Slave and Philomena...  This young actress is moving!

She's Nigerian, studied at RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), began her career in theatre but quickly got hired in television and film. She's already won awards for her performance in I Am A Slave. And she's just 27.

I'm inspired.  Hope to see a lot more work from her.

It’s SAG Awards Season!

One of the fun perks of being a union actress is that at the end of the year, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) sends out dvds of all the films nominated for the SAG Awards so that members can view and vote.  These dvd screeners arrive in the mail, online and on iTunes.  It’s like extra little Christmas gifts.  I love it.  I, actually, don’t go to the movies all that much so this is my time to catch up on the best films of the year.  Here are this season’s screeners:

12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Enough Said
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
American Hustle


Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club

I’m about halfway through the list now (sometimes, the hard part is making time to watch all these films).  So far what’s impressed me most are Lupita Nyong'o's absolutely devastating performance in 12 Years A Slave (what she could do with emotion just in her eyes ... wow...i'm still crying... she played every note of that role) and Matthew McConoughey & Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club who blew me away with the bodywork they committed to for their roles (they are literally emaciated yet still play with vigor and charm).

The SAG Awards are on January 18th so I have about 3 weeks to get my votes in.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Faith, Braids & Nostalgia

Follow Tzena Nicole's board braidspiration on Pinterest.

The other day an old friend berated me for “living in the past”.  He told me to give up nostalgia and focus on the present.  And that makes sense, but it made me furious, for some reason.  What's wrong with reminiscing, dammit?!

Maybe it’s because of the crazy ups and downs of this year or maybe I’m just one of those people who love tripping down memory lane, but for the past few months, I feel like I've been deep in a retrospective of my life.  Of course, that means looking at regrets but also reliving the glories, too.  Love’s been a big theme (no surprise there)……remembering old boyfriends and thinking about what I did wrong/right…  There's also been a lot of "what ifs" - pinpointing the fork-in-the-road moments when a different decision would have changed the course of my life.  And a lot of thought about friendships.  I've always considered myself a girl's girl and never understood guys up close, but reviewing the people I trust who've really been true to me and who I'm 100% myself with, I realized that my best friend is actually a guy. A guy I've known since 6th grade. That was a beautiful revelation.  What’s really surprised me, though, is that alongside all these flashbacks, I’m suddenly seeking a taste of religion. After a life dedicated to agnosticism, I’m now looking for faith? Makes me wonder if that is really just another search for love – to be loved, to feel like I belong, to not be alone and insignificant anymore.  And maybe hanging on to old memories is also, in part, my own way of trying to not feel alone and insignificant.

Anywho!  I've also become obsessed with finding new things to do with my hair! J  My micro-braids are practical and easy, but long and straight everyday is boring, so I've started collecting styling ideas for braided looks.  Check out my Pinterest board: Braidspiration.  See anything you like?  ;-)  


I always feel like I should explain my absences from this blog.  But I've got no dramatic reason for not writing – I've just been busy working, getting back into shape and saving up for the new move.  I’m terrified and unprepared and way behind schedule, but I’m confident, mentally ready and excited for the new adventure.  Plus my life depends on it.  Seriously, if I don’t get out of New York soon, I’ll lose it.  You know how you just KNOW sometimes when it’s time to go?  This is it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bryan Cranston's Audition Advice

Brilliant advice from Bryan Cranston.  What I love about this is that when you look at your purpose in an audition as showing your skills, not getting the job, it removes the pressure and limits the connection between rejection and failure.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Music Video: He Ain't Frontin'

So a couple of weeks ago I made a little cameo appearance in this funny spoof music video called "He Ain't Frontin'".  It's on Cracked.com now.  Please click and comment!  :-)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Film: "Rheinland" Afro-Germans in the Nazi Era (+ the tale of the worst houseguest ever)

Last week, the above promotion for a film trailer popped into my twitter feed and I was immediately intrigued because, while there are countless films/books/art/etc on the horror Jews faced in the Third Reich, not much is out there about what Blacks and "Mischlings" (mixed race people) went through.  So I really want to support this project.  (And yeah, of course, the actor in me was also thinking, "Hmm, maybe I'll send my headshot and resume to the director...." Don't smirk! Acting is a constant hustle.)  While reading the short description, I saw the cast list and stopped right there.  One of the actors starring in this film is the very same person who stayed with me last summer and caused the worst houseguest experience I've ever had.  Just seeing his name took me back in time...

Here's what happened:  On his deathbed (f'ing cancer!), a former schoolmate of mine made a film with two of his friends (one being that actor).  That film, Geschwisterliebe (an emotional short about immigrant life in Berlin culminating with a brother mistakenly raping his sister - based on a true story) made it to the NY International Film Festival (and it WON!).   Another mutual friend asked if I'd connect with the two guys and take care of them while they were in NYC for the festival.  I said, "Of course, and they're welcome to stay with me as long as they want!"  Famous last words...  They stayed with me for 9 days and it was like bunking with teenage boys or living in a frat house.  I'm pretty relaxed about sharing my home, but this turned out to be a disaster:
-  They took over the apartment spreading their stuff out in every room (clothes strewn in the kitchen, dining room...After they left, I even found their boxers hanging off my fire escape.)  Ironically, I'd given them my bedroom so they'd have their own space and I was, myself, sleeping on the couch in the living room.
-  They broke things & ignored them (the light in the fridge - how do you break that?! - a cfl bulb in the bedroom - lesson learned: those things reek once they're broken!)
-  They smoked in my kitchen which left my small flat smelling like an ashtray.  For a non-smoker this is a big deal.
-  They turned tv & radio on/off at their own leisure whether I was watching/listening or not.
-  They kept leaving windows open while the AC was running.
-  They tracked beach sand all over the apartment.
-  Blah Blah Blah...you get the picture.  They generally acted like it was their home and I was the guest.  Classic case of you give an inch, they take a foot.

It was just little things, but they added up. Three times, I mentioned stuff to them and they did try to change, but after a day, they'd revert. On the morning of their flight back to Berlin an argument started and this man exploded, shouting obscenities at me, calling me names, wildly packing up his stuff and then stormed out for good.  I've never been around that kind of volatile energy.  Never had anyone viciously screaming at me like that.  Confrontation terrifies me so this left me completely shaken up.

Seeing his name on the cast list for this new film, Rheinland, not only reminded me of that whole trauma, but it made me wonder something.  We're both actors.  I'm trying to get more work in Europe.  Rheinland is the kind of film I'd be auditioning for.  What would I do if we ever ended up cast together?  Could I work with someone I'd had such a negative personal experience with?  I'm super sensitive, so I'm not sure I could.  And if I did, I'd need extra therapy to get through the anxiety! Meantime, I'll send the few bucks I have to spare to help this film groundbreaking film get made.  It's an important piece of history.

p.s.  Recently, I heard a great "rule" about being a houseguest. "Treat it like camping in a rare & protected habitat:  Respect the environment, keep the smallest footprint possible and leave no trace behind."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Can Drive!!! Passed My Road Test!

Right after passing the road test, I ran into the bathroom because I needed a private place to freak out and do the happy dance.  
So this is me in the Lodi, NJ Motor Vehicles Commission restroom going nuts.

This is the face of a woman who's just passed her road test!  First time driver!  Yes, I'm one of those rare humans who never learned to drive as a kid.  Never really considered it because I always lived near great public transit and dated guys with cars (ha!).  A couple years ago, I started to think about maybe learning, but by then I'd convinced myself that I just wasn't the driving type and I was content with that.  Until Hurricane Sandy hit.

It's been nearly a year since that storm came and left me completely stranded and humiliatingly dependent.  Forty-seven days without power.  47!!!  Our street was under 8 feet of sea water.  Our home flooded badly (basement and first floor submerged).  I made it out lucky, comparatively, since my apartment was on the 2nd floor, but my neighbor on the 1st floor lost her home completely and had to move out.  A nightmare.  Literally, everything around us was shut down, no services whatsoever (transportation, plumbing, electricity, phones, .... nothing).  That neighbor lost everything, but she was at least able to drive away in her car, charge her phone in her car, get food in her car, haul things in her car... while I was having to wait for people to be able to reach me.  Having that car (which she had wisely parked in an above ground lot in advance of the storm so it wouldn't be damaged) was her lifeline.  That's when I finally saw driving as FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE.

Hurricane Sandy taught me that I never want to be that helpless again in my life.  That goal - and my amazing, encouraging therapist - got me through the written test (passed first time!) and finally the dreaded road test which I passed yesterday (also first time 'round)!!!  There were set backs along the way - I couldn't afford classes for a while, had an abusive teacher who literally slapped me every time I made a mistake (lawsuit???), lost my confidence (remember my meltdown?), changed schools... but sticking to it paid off.  I did it!  I can drive!!!  Maybe it's a silly thing to be proud of because it's so basic, but this is big deal for me.  I'll never be stranded like that again.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Pocket Dial

Today, I got pocket-dialed by a guy I used to date - a guy I'm not on speaking terms with. Awkward.  Anyway, it reminded me of a truly awful pocket dial (or “butt dial” if you like that term better) experience I had with my first boyfriend in New York.  His name was John.  (Real name. There are no innocents here to protect.)  He was a crab fisherman in Alaska (yes, just like the Deadliest Catch guys).  He was strong, gorgeous, bold, passionate, just rough enough (ladies, you know what I mean), he could fix things and he drove a cherry red 1957 Chevy that he'd lovingly restored himself.  He was like no other guy I’d ever dated.  He was amazing.  He also cheated on me for 2 years with his baby’s mama. 

How’d I find out?  A pocket dial.  He didn't invite me to his family's Easter dinner (I know, I know, should've been my first clue), which he knew had hurt my feelings so he called me after the dinner to make nice.  He said he was on his way to Brooklyn to drop his daughter back off with her mom.  We talked, made plans to meet the next day, he promised to make it up to me, etc.  Then he told me he loved me and hung up.  Except that his phone didn't actually hang up.  Immediately after that, I heard a woman’s voice – the baby mama (!) - giggling. She said, “You’re so bad” and he said, “I know. Come here”.  I called out his name into the phone, but he couldn't hear me, so I stopped and listened and then I heard the sounds of kissing and making out.  My blood froze.  I called his name again – no answer.  Then she started talking to him about the food at dinner (so there was why I hadn't been invited), the traffic (so she was in his car, not his kid), he told her how hot she looked “in that dress”,  more kissing sounds and then they started talking about what they were going to do to each other once they got back to her place and how glad they were that his mom was keeping the baby overnight...   Yeah.  That’s when I hung up.  Apparently, my guardian angels and his cheap, broken flip phone conspired to rescued me that day by exposing my "loving boyfriend" for who he really was.

So that’s my pocket-dial horror story.  What’s yours?  
Ever catch anyone up to no good thanks to a pocket/butt-dial
Or have you personally been caught red-handed that way?  
Have you had an awkward pocket dial to/from an ex?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

To Teepee or Not To Teepee? That is the question.

What would you do?
I have two best girl travel buddies.  (You can’t road trip with everybody, even some of your best mates are a nightmare to travel with so having these two in my life is lucky.)  We met traveling together in Ecuador 4 years ago and now, once a year we do some kind of road trip with a twist. This year, we’ve decided on a weekend in the country in December.  Our only requirements are that it be cheap (under $300 for the  weekend per person) and that we have a fireplace.  We found this place upstate that has a teepee with a firepit in the center.  It’s owned by some eco hippies who’ve got a swath of land near Woodstock and rent out the teepee and a few cabins.  It fits our budget and looks like it could be a fun weekend adventure.  But an issue has come up and I’d love to know your thoughts:

Is it culturally insensitive to vacation in a teepee?  
Is it offensively trying to recreate a phony “Indian/Native American” experience a la Disneyland?  Would you do it?  Why or why not?  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gig Alert: "He Ain't Frontin'" Music Video

photo c/o Bill Schaumburg, director of "He Ain't Frontin'" video

Here're a few production stills from the spoof music video I was in a few weeks ago. The full video is called "He Ain't Frontin'" and will be released on Cracked.com. It's HILARIOUS. It's about a guy who is trying to seduce women, but has never actually been with a women and doesn't really know about sex. I play one of the girls this fool (along with his friend - played by the actor's brother) is hollerin' at.  The style is.....think "Dick In A Box" from Saturday Night Live...
This one was a lot of fun. A quick shoot in Brooklyn with a very talented cast and crew (and everybody was gorgeous! damn! I seriously felt like a fat old bump on a log that day).  I'll post the video once it hits Cracked.com.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rick Owens Brings Step Dancing to Paris Fashion Week

Rick Owens' spring 2014 runway show at Paris Fashion Week yesterday
(recorded by Diane Pernet)

 I just like when fashion tries something different.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My New Obsession: Doc Brown

The other night I was watching "Derek", Ricky Gervais' new show which is about caretakers working in an old folks' home. It's so good. I expected it to be snarky, but it's so sweet and, of course, hilarious.  Great characters. You gotta watch it.  Anywho, during the fifth episode, this guy was on and rapped at the end and that's when my obsession began...

First off, he's a damn good rapper! (I gave up on rap years ago, when I got tired of incessantly being called a the n-word and the b-word, plus it got to a point where I just tired of hearing the same stories about sex, money and violence told in the same macho, flashy-trashy way. Nowadays, if I'm listening to hip hop, it's to artists like Blitz the Ambassador or Invincible or any other international musician who's talking intelligently about something different and showing vulnerability not just braggadocio.)  Second of all, his rhyme is delivered just perfectly and nearly brought me to tears. Thirdly, he vaguely reminds me of an ex ... (shhhhh....)  And, lastly, it made me wonder: Why don't I know more British MCs?!  So, I looked him up to see what else he's done. Turns out he's a GREAT comic and actually was a rapper back in the day (was even in a group with Amy Winehouse).  He's married the two art forms now and does these brilliant comedy raps as part of his stand up.  I, normally, find singing comics too corny for my taste, but this guy's style is different and just won me over. There's something about using the edginess of hip hop softened by the hyper self-awareness of stand-up comedy.... So Doc Brown is now my obsession.

You know you know someone like this who explains every negative thing this way!  I was stuck on a film set with a Rastafarian like this a couple of weeks ago.  He even thought the walk-away lunch arrangements were racist since we were shooting up in Harlem....  There's always one of these guys! 

p.s. Turns out, his sister is Zadie Smith who wrote one of my favorite novels, White Teeth.  Um, that's a talented family.

I'd need a translation of British hip hop street slang, too 

And before you tell me that Donald Glover and Reggie Watts also do this hip hop - comedy thing, let me say that Reggie Watts scares the shit out of me and Donald Glover lost me the minute he said his White girlfriend called him the n-word during sex and it turned him on.  No thanks.  Doc Brown, more please!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gig Alert: Orange Is The New Black (my day in tv prison)

me in prison costume and being handcuffed by a guard.  great day on the set of Orange Is The New Black!

It's been a busy couple of months!  Here's a quick rundown:
1. Besides the temp job (gotta get these bills squared away...), I'm training to get my TESOL certificate to teach English as a foreign language (Mom said, "enough with the secretarial stuff" for a day job and I finally listened!)
2. I booked a tiny part on Chris Rock's latest film project, tentatively titled "Hammy the Bear" (had a cute flirting scene with JB Smoove who is even funnier in person!), 
3. Spent my weekends on set shooting the independent short film called "The Bridge" (so nice to NOT play a stereotype Black female character - had a great time!)
4.  Getting this move together - again.  Ugh, moving is such a pain!
5.  Orange is the New Black.... and that's what I'm blogging about today.  :-)

This week, I got called in to do a nude shower scene on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. They asked me if I'd be ok with nudity and I said yes.  Blame it on having been raised in Italy, Germany and France, but I have no problem being nude around people - not in a sexual way, just in a hey-man-it's-all-nature kinda way.  I'm THAT girl at the gym locker room who's looking at you like you're the freak when you get in the sauna wearing your workout clothes or a bathing suit...  So the requirements for the scene didn't scare me away.  I was just blissfully excited to be working on this awesome show!  The call came in Thursday, the scene was Friday.  I had less than 24 hours to get "shower ready".  If you're a woman, you know the first thing that popped into my mind: BIKINI WAX!  Because I was not about to get caught on camera with bush...this was an emergency, ladies, you know what I mean.  Coincidentally, I'd gone in for one 3 days earlier (at Eve Day Spa, the only place I've trusted with my bikini line since I moved to New York!), but, just my luck, all the waxers were out doing an all-day continuing education seminar (huh?!), so I postponed a week and spent the cash on a something else not thinking I'd need an emergency wax in just 3 days...  So now I had 24hrs to fix my "situation" and not enough cash.  Lesson: Actors, ALWAYS keep a $200 stash for random acting emergencies (transportation, headshot reprints, last minute beauty appointments...).  :-)    

So yesterday, at 7am I reported to Kaufman Astoria studios and .... I had the best day ever!  We started with the shower scene, I was, literally, in the middle of breakfast (that studio has the best crafts services!!!) and suddenly they were calling us up!  We then spent hours naked, being sudsed up with shaving foam and bubbles over and over for each take. Then we spent another few hours in prison uniforms for a scene near the prison commissary.  So that was my day.  Everyone's been asking how it was and what it was like, so here are my observations:

1. Orange is the New Black (OITNB) employs more women on their crew/production team than I've ever seen on any show or film I've worked on.  That is FANTASTIC!  Powerful women in film!!!  A beautiful thing to see.

2. Law and Order SVU used to be the only show shot in NYC that regularly looked for Black actresses and for all these years I've felt like I was the only Black actress they never called (loser!?).  Now, it's OITNB and I'm proud that this time I haven't been left out.  ;-)

3. It's an incredibly rare event to be doing a scene with a dozen other naked Black actresses.  We bonded.  How could we not?  It was like a sorority initiation experience.  I have a group of very cool new friends.

4. I will never be ashamed of my body.  Short, tall, thin, fat, butch, femme, old, young... the sheer force of so many brown skinned women naked in this small space was incredible.  It felt....mighty!  I expected to feel a bit vulnerable being filmed showering in prison would, but instead it was empowering to be around all these proud, cool women.

5. The set is like being on a cruise ship - buffets of all kinds of food everywhere!  I couldn't stop eating (what is it about free food that makes us lose our damn minds?!) Again, best crafty ever.

6. At one point, we were all lined up against the wall, topless with towels wrapped around our waists (waiting to be soaped up with foam and bubbles by the costume ladies) and I looked down the row of us and thought for a second that we looked like a National Geographic photo of some central African republic's tribal ceremony.

7. Prison uniforms are ugly as sin and hideously unflattering, but it's the boots that are truly awful.  Ours must've weighed a good 10lbs each.  It was like walking in cement blocks.  So if you see my episode and I'm walking like a gangster, it's probably just from the sheer weight and discomfort of those damn boots.  ;-)

8. I'm conflicted about sharing when the episode will air.  Yes, I'm proud of the work and super excited to get a foot in the door on this show!  I even shared the news on Facebook, which is something I don't usually do.  But, I'm also conscious of the fact that gawkers will be tuning in to see my lady lumps all nekkid.  And, as fantastic as my tits are (and, darling..., they truly are fantastic) that's not really the point, it is?  So I'm not sure I'll announce the episode date.  I'd rather people tune in for a scene where the focus is on my acting, not my hoo-hah. ;-)

Anyway, it's a hectic time for me, that's why the blogging is spotty, and probably it will be until the end of the year when this move is complete and I'm set up in the new place (not announcing that info 'til I'm there, though - I've learned my lesson!).  But I'm so proud and grateful for all this work.  Things are looking up.  :-)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

March on Washington - Flashback

1983.  Summer.  Washington DC.  My mom and I were visiting her family there, as we did every summer. This, though, was the summer of the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington.  Mom was a volunteer and she took me with her.  I was just a little kid, but she took me everywhere and so with our yellow volunteer t-shirts we both ended up being part of the human fence that held back the crowds (300,000 people!).  This fence was an endless line of volunteers in yellow shirts linked together hand in hand around the inner perimeter of the Mall.  We were meant to be a protective barrier, but we faced the stage not the crowds, so we were able to watch the entire event.  It was almost like having the best seats in the house. But more than the speeches and the stars, I remember the kinetic energy of the crowds behind us, but it was a gentle, safe energy.  I mean, I was a little kid, anyone could have easily pushed me over, but no one did.  It was orderly and everyone was looking out for one another.  It was love.  En masse.  That’s that I felt.  And in front of me was the beautiful Reflecting Pool.  Clean, quiet and serene.  I watched that water and its gentle ripples just as much as I watched the podium... There was an impressive roster of speakers, but I only remember recognizing three:  Jesse Jackson, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder; and, honestly, the one who stood out most for me then was Stevie Wonder.  He performed “Happy Birthday” and EVERYONE sang along loudly, proudly, weeping and laughing at the same time.  It was hot, in the crazy humid way that DC gets in August, so after the speeches, all the volunteers unlinked their hands and crowds swarmed through into the Reflecting Pool to cool off.  We spent the rest of the day sitting on the lawn with new friends, talking and playing.  It was like a giant community picnic – or like a massive family reunion. That’s what I remember.

I'm so grateful to my Mom for taking me that day.  I feel so lucky to have witnessed that incredible event.  It makes today's 50th anniversary even more personal.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

African Food! Make. This. Nowwwwww!

If I've never talked about my ever expanding family on this blog, I don't know why.  Like they say in the Bronx, "it's a movie...".  I grew up as an only child. My parents divorced while I was a toddler and my Mom raised me on her own.  My father never really looked back, wasn't involved in my life at all - so I have no memories of him.  But when I dropped out of college, I felt a compelling urge to find him.  I never did, but in that search, I found several half siblings.  So, I like to say that The Temptations lyric "papa was rolling stone, wherever he laid his hat was his home" is the tagline of our family saga.  The next part of the lyric is also true: "and when he died all he left us was alone" because I learned later that he had passed away, so I lost the chance to ever get to actually know him, and he lost the chance to ever get to know me (the same is true for the rest of my half-siblings, unfortunately).  Sob, sob... But the journey to find him opened the door to many new relatives and Facebook has made getting to know them so much easier. (The internet and social media have sort of become the answer to everything, right!?  But I digress.)  We are now 8 half siblings (with 7 different mothers), on 3 different continents...and every few years, we learn about yet another. Ugh,  I kind of hate saying that, but it's not my shame, it's his. I'll tell that story another time...

The point of all this is that, last week, a new cousin found me, so we've been chatting and catching up. He lives in Lomé (capital of Togo) and is a chef.  For a couple of years now, I've been toying with the idea of creating a West African cookbook, so chatting with him about what he was cooking today got me thinking this could be an interesting family project...  And that leads me to today's post.  One of the most delicious dishes in Togo is Chicken Peanut Sauce with rice, rice paste or fufu.....  So here's a fun video recipe.  Two beautiful things about this video:

1.  The woman is speaking in Ewe (pronounced "eh-vay"), so you get to hear the actual language of the people (French is the official  state language because of colonialism, but this is what people are speaking in their homes).
2.  It's translated into SEVENTEEN other languages via subtitles!   I love to think that so many different cultures might take an interest in tiny Togo's cuisine.  Maybe my book would do alright...!

Anyway, this is a hearty vegan (substitute chicken w/ seitan) big-pot dish that makes excellent leftovers and can be served with just about anything: starches (rice, dumplings, potatoes, couscous, pasta...), meats, veggies...  And, most importantly, it's outstandingly delicious!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fat Actress: Workout Challenge #4

The good news is that I booked the role that I auditioned for on Sunday!  It's so nice to get cast as a romantic lead!  I'm usually what you call a character actor - always the bridesmaid, never the bride. There're great roles (often better) on the character side so I don't complain, but we all secretly dream of being the "Star".  So this feels really nice.

The bad news is that my face still looks like a puffer fish, my tummy is still a sack of blubber and filming starts in 4 days!  That means I've got to do everything I can to get toned and looking like a leading lady.  :-) Adding to the stress is the fact that a lot of my floor space is now covered with moving boxes...  So this week's ZWOW  workout is specialized for small spaces. No room? No excuse! Let's go.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Audition Look #7

Hey y'all! I just got back from an audition and since I realize that I've been posting "The Audition Look" updates soooooooo late, I figured I'd get right on it.  So today's audition was for a short film and the role was of a fiancee who's having trouble with her man - she's given up a lot to help him live his dream, but then an accident happens...  The script involves time travel, romance and cultural issues  (the lead characters are West African - so I got to use my Togolese heritage!).  It was a lot of fun! And here's what I looked like....  :-)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fat Actress: Workout Challenge #3

Ok, true confession:  The last workout I posted was so damn hard that I've barely been able to complete one all the way through over the last 2 weeks.  And it was only a 10min workout!  ....those damn ninja squats are simply ridiculous - absolutely, outrageously, crazy.  The workout was so hard that it was discouraging me, so this week I'm going back to an oldie but goody from Zuzana's BodyRockTV days. This one is deceptively easy looking....  Don't let it fool you, though, these pistol squats and side lunges will have you sorer than a mofo tomorrow.  Try it with me!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Audition Look #6

July 15th.  5 auditions during a heatwave in NYC.  And this is what I looked like. It was really all about just trying not to be a disgusting sweaty mess. The auditions were for 2 musicals, a commercial and print ad and a play. So I was singing, posing, reading sides and doing monologues (for one, the requirement was a 19th century monologue, so I had to dust one off then learn it quickly!). Anyway, it was a good day. I always have fun auditioning because it's like play-time.  It just happened that this was way too hot of a day for all that activity!

More later...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sleeping Alone

1 Night in 3mins.

me. sleeping alone. last night (1am to 9am). tv on in the background. tossing-turning. 
....and, well, there's the cat.

when you sleep alone, you either keep one side of the bed free or your claim it all

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Piers Morgan Live

Last night, for a little fun and to do some recon on live interview shows (since I'm taking tv hosting classes), a friend and I went to the Piers Morgan Live show at CNN.  And we had a grand ol' time!  The main topic was the latest Anthony Weiner scandal and guests included Star Jones, Scott Stringer, and plenty of others...

And from this screen shot of the taping, it looks like my friend and I are Weiner's next scandal victims..

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Real Talk on Hard Times

A friend of mine, who is also an actress, reflected recently that actors never talk about their financial growing pains until they've made it big – then, in cute anecdotes, they reveal the pain, stress and degradation they went through in the lean years.  Well, let me reveal one actress’ struggle right here.  MINE.

The last few months have been tough financially and emotionally.  In my personal life, I suffered a loss from which I’m still reeling. Many days it's hard to get out of bed and face another reminder of that failure.  Emotionally, I’m heartbroken and embarrassed; and financially, I’m hurting because I gave up my income and am living off savings that are dwindling faster than a knife fight in a phone booth.  In my professional life, I sometimes feel like a hamster in a wheel, running hard but staying in the same damned place. I had 9 auditions last week, 9! - in 2 days.  Normally, that’s an outstanding ratio and a sign of great things, but I didn't have enough money for subway fare to get to the auditions so I had to walk to each one - in the middle of a heat wave! - and wash up in public bathrooms (because no businesses let you use their restrooms without a purchase nowadays) so I that wasn't too sweaty-gross when I walked into each audition room.  And for all of that, I didn't even get a call-back. Not one. It happens.  But that was the worst week for it to happen because that was last of my meager savings which meant I had to get a “real” job and get some income - QUICK. 

Unfortunately, I've never really learned a trade/profession (waitressing, bartending, teaching, anything…), but I've got the qualities that corporate office managers like, so I can always get a job as an Executive Assistant (or as my Mom says “secretarial shit”), and, last week I had to suck up my pride and take a temp job  doing exactly that, at a hedge fund no less.  Irony of ironies.  Yeah, I sold out.  The anti-big-banking activist in me crumbled in shame.  But I didn't have rent money, I’d taken out super-high interest loans and those chickens had come home to roost, the power company was shutting off service, I was hand-washing my clothes and eating only beans and rice because I couldn't afford the Laundromat or groceries...I was desperate.  I was e-lancing for a couple bucks an hour, but that wasn't helping. Over the last months, I've applied for jobs in restaurants and hotels (places with non-corporate schedules so that I could still audition), but pretty much no one will hire an adult (for a living wage) with zero experience.

No one, that is, except the x-rated industry.  So, for a horrible few days, I even considered that.  You've seen the ads…..”web cam model…”  Well, I got as far as contacting them and asking for details, but when they asked me to email photos of myself, I chickened out.  Then, I talked about it to several girlfriends (actresses and not) and they ALL said that, at some point, they, too, had thought about doing some kind of fast-cash x-rated work.  And I found out that even Sylvester Stallone did porn early on to pay the rent!  In the end, I chose a boring temp job (and I still might have to take a 2nd temp job on the side to claw my way out of this debt), but for me this is no less “degrading” than porn.  I’m doing something I’m ashamed of and detest.  It might not be Brad Pitt’s chicken suit or Sylvester Stallone’s porn, but it’s no less mortifying for me. 

So there it is.  A slice of life.  On the real side in real time.  No one really chooses the “starving” part of the starving artist identity.  But most of us in this line of work have gone through this phase – and more than once.  This isn't the first time I've had to choose between food and subway fare, and while I pray it’s the last, it might very well not be.  It’s a tough life.  I’m revealing it here, because why should we only hear the successful parts of the story?  And why is the struggle hidden until the big success is won?  That kind of thing might be important to Sun Tsu acolytes, but the art of humanity and is about empathy, which means we should understand each other’s struggles, not hide and ignore them.  For all the glamour, fun and dress up, there is also desperation and destitution.  It's a high risk lifestyle.  You oscillate between splendor and devastation.

This morning I learned that there are food trucks giving out free meals every day this summer in NYC and that by texting “NYC meals” to the number 877-877 you can receive a list of the locations each day. Maybe you’re lucky and have never been in need.  But I promise you that someone near you right now, has or is.  
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