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
Philomena
American Hustle
Gravity

Nebraska

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?  ;-)  

GTFOH


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.
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