Last night I went to a screening of "The Birth of A Nation". I read this script quite a while ago and was on fire as I read the last page. When the film hit Sundance and it's writer/director/lead actor Nate Parker left the festival with all the coins, I was ecstatic and could not wait to see for myself. I thought what a fantastic and timely clap back to the 1915 movie that depicted "the anarchy sure to come if the niggas took over". However, as news began to circulate about Parker's collegiate rape charges, I was a bit less enthused.Read More
I'm really great at a lot of things. Relaxing is not one of them. Especially when it comes to my work. I think I've gone to the extremities of "strong work ethic" and have entered the land of perfectionist. Perfectionism used to sound perfectly fine with me - who didn't want PERFECT work?! But I realize that in my life, it has become a burden I no longer chose to bare.Read More
I can be a bit of an alarmist...I do my best to keep it under wraps as not to affect others but it's a bit of a thing. I generally exist in a state of high alert and near panic. I don't necessarily know what's coming, but feel deeply that danger is just around the bend. My mind and spirit naturally flow to the worst case scenario. I dread days like Friday the 13th because my alarm sensor goes into severe. Here is a valid case in point-welcome to the intensified drama this day brings. (And for my male readers, warning: this one may not be your cup of tea.)Read More
This week all that I was going through combined to form the perfect storm of how much more can one girl take resulting in a Saturday morning breakdown. But I didn't trip and let the tears fall. I knew I'd be ok if I could just make it to 6pm PST when Beyonce's visual album would premiere on HBO.Read More
As I grow older, I realize that folk near and dear to me will die. I expect this and as hard as it is to prepare for, I know one day I'll have to deal with the death of my elders. Weird as it may sound, it can be harder for me to deal with the death of those in the media. These artists and pop culture icons remind me of certain time periods in my life and their death makes me look a bit more at my own mortality. A Tribe Called Quest represents the dawning of hip hop (for me) and my coming into my own. When I learned of Phife Dawg's passing, it hit hard. He's only 5 years older than I...I realize he had to deal with the harsh realities of diabetes and kidney disease and now there's no more suffering. That's a blessing. And he left a gift...RIP Phife Dawg.
I have been known to call the next great thing way before anyone else a time or two and I pretty much have been calling it about Nate Parker for quite some time now. I mean, how could I not be captivated? My first time seeing him was opposite Denzel (who happened to be his director at the time) and I was so caught up I only saw Nate Parker (I generally say his whole name so don't mind me). He was really remarkable. Like super solid and handsome and leading man and yeah all of that lol. I'm sure my friends were sick of me with Nate Parker. Then there was a period where I still loved him just didn't dig his character or his role much. And that's no dig - it happens if you watch enough movies (same with books - you don't love every single character!). Then he came back so hood/gangsta in "Red Hook Summer", I was convinced he could do it all. And then came "Beyond The Lights" and that would get me all off topic (OMG super fine, saved the damsel in distress and preferred the natural girl oh yes Nate!). I digress...Read More
While cleaning last night, I found my old phone. I was shocked to find it had all of the music I assumed had been lost. I was very happy because I knew that today on the way to work, I'd have some good music which always makes my day flow better. As I pulled into the driveway at the office, a familiar K West beat hit and my eyes filled with tears. "A Dream" is one of my favorite Jay-Z songs because as he poetically share Biggie's notes from the other side, I can't help but realize their relevance to my life. So as I head into the second week of this year, it's the reminder there is NO ONE built like me (or you just FYI) as I build myself...my one of a kind self.
Confession: I'm lightweight obsessed with Ava DuVernay...and by lightweight I mean a whole lot. There are a plethora of reasons why - I'll skip the fact she used her savings to fund her first film or that she was the first woman (and person of color) to win the director's award at Sundance. I'll skip that she is a beautiful black woman who tweeted about her gown selection for the Oscars with so much excitement that I could tell she's more a jeans type of girl. Oh and then there's the fact she directed the story of one of our most prolific leaders, Dr. Martin Luther the King! I think the biggest reason I'm so obsessed with her is that I see myself in her. Years before she was a sought after director, Ava DuVernay was a great publicist working with all the top filmmakers. While she was working, she was also watching. Her craft was being developed and she's a great symbol to me of what can happen if I utilize my opportunities while doing my job. Then there's her work with AFFRM-how she not only used her publicity experience for more profit for herself but that she became an active advocate for all filmmakers of color. Oh and you know I'm petty, so there's the fact her name DuVernay has some similarity to DaVida with that capital V following a vowel that follows a capital D and all. And thus my obsession...Read More
This week I've been walking around in a daze. I had no idea a movie about a famed rap group would continue to enforce the power of gratitude, law of attraction and MAGIC at work in my life. When I moved back to Louisiana in 2008, things looked dismal. I'd returned home without work, very few friends and low funds. After trying to secure a "real" job and getting no results, I opted to go back to waiting tables. In the past, that type of work always led to new opportunities AND going home with cash everyday is always nice.Read More
On Saturday, I accomplished something. It meant a lot to me and that's what makes it sort of a big deal. When I accepted the job offer to come back and work in Los Angeles., I promised myself that I'd pursue my truest desire this time around. During the time I spent living/working in New Orleans, an undeniable artistic and creative side of me emerged. My promise was to continue studying my craft and to take advantage of the great learning opportunities Hollywood provided. I want to write, produce and act. I personally think I'm pretty funny so I wanted to take some form of comedy class. I opted for improv at The Groundlings simply because so many of my favorite comedians came from their program - Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Kathy Griffin, Maya Rudolph for a handful of an extensive and accomplished list! I figured if I were gonna study, I should at least start with trying to get into The Groundlings.
I went to a free "audition" last December and was pleased when I found out I had enough to get into class. Unlike other programs, The Groundlings starts everyone off in basic level classes. Once I crossed that hurdle of being eligible to take classes, fear started to kick in. I began to talk myself out of it:
- Money is not falling off trees so why would I spend that kind of loot on a class to learn to act when clearly I'm too old to be starting classes!
- Rent is too high to be wasting money on comedy lessons!
- What if the actors that are clients where I work were to see me?
- What do you plan to get out of this anyway you're supposed to be writing?
- You don't have enough time for classes.
- All the students will be young and you'll stick out as an old lady!
- I don't have time or money to waste on some class for 12 weeks!
Don't get it twisted. My inner voice can be quite a beyotch! I decided to compromise with myself and go to a special workshop. It was a one night committment and only costs like $10 or $20. The topic was overcoming the good girl stigma and would be a night with just ladies interested in comedy. I figured I would at least have a fun ladies night but was elated the session turned out to be a night focused on pursuing your dreams while in L.A. - a topic much more on my mind at the time! Long story short, that course made me ready for the basic class and I signed up the next day. I at least had to TRY to assert myself in L.A. the way I do back home. This class was my first foray into that world in this new place.
This past Saturday was my final basic improv class at The Groundlings. After 12 weeks of solid instruction, our teacher Liz put our skills to the test. I gave it my all. I used every technique we were taught and I openly performed with all the partners I was assigned. Most of all, I had fun. After class, we students all had private one on one sessions. I was elated to find out I was advancing to intermediate class. I was proud of myself. I felt very accomplished and it was a big deal for me.
Now in the grand scheme of life, it's REALLY not that big of a deal. (My subconscious is saying some slick ish right now that I'm ignoring so I can finish this post and eat some chicken.) But I'm tired of letting the moments of my life pass by with no celebration. My personality is so hard wired to seek out the next big thing, I can tend to overlook all the gazillions of steps that come before that moment. I've dreamed of doing improv and being a funny girl since the days of watching "Soap" and finding out that most of the actors were SNL alums. In addition to all the great feelings this accomplishment brought, it gave me a bit more confidence to go after the next items on my "when I move back to L.A." list.
I'm optimistic and excited for what will come next!
You're driving along in your car to a destination you've never gone. The iPhone GPS told you to make a left several miles back and you think you did, but you can't quite recall as that was at least 30 minutes ago. You haven't seen another car for some time and the sun is starting to set. Your iPhone service is going in and out so the GPS is sketchy during this stretch. According to your research and how long you've been driving, you know you should arrive soon but you can't tell for sure since your devices are tripping. You're getting nervous - you have only used a 1/4 a tank of gas and you have some water and snacks so you know you're safe it's just a bit weird and that icky feeling is taking over. You notice that in a few miles you'll have the opportunity to turn off the highway and go another route. You wonder if it'll get you there faster or if you'll end up even more lost and confused. Of course the phone is tripping at this point and now you must rely on your gut. Do you stay the course (even though you may not be on the right path due to that confusing left a while back), turn right and start a new direction (hoping your GPS might kick in once you hit the new spot) or do you just pull over praying that somehow your phone and the 4G you were so excited to get finally come to your aid? What do you do? Which way do you go? How do you get back on track or are you in fact on the track still having never left? How can you possibly tell where you're going if you don't know where you are? If you could, you'd ask someone for directions but there isn't another soul in sight. If your phone would work you'd call but again, how can they help you if you don't know where you are. On this journey, no matter what you decide, it shall be a decision totally based on you. So...which way shall you go? Only you can decide...only you can get you where you need to go...
On Friday night I got to go see Joel Osteen at the Staple Center. One of our amazing clients was kind enough to invite me out to the Night of Hope event - Joel pastors Lakewood in Houston but travels across the country and the visits are called "Night of Hope". I'm a fan of Joel's and listen to his podcasts often to find inspiration and motivation. It was an amazing opportunity to see him live and in person. I was intrigued when I found out the night's topic would be "The Valley of Blessings". A valley is defined as a low point or a condition-not usually the first place that comes to mind for blessings. In short, Joel's message revolved around the fact that in life we will all find ourselves in a valley at some point. While God will sometimes remove these valleys, other times we have to go THROUGH the valley to experience growth and to prepare us for what comes after this point in our lives. Without quoting him line for line, Joel said there are blessings in every valley. Further, if we can focus and rename our valleys, we'll be able to go through these low points with more ease. He gave many examples of valleys, including jobs, relationships and of course, Biblical stories illuminating those characters valley moments. It was quite revealing.
I moved to L.A. to push myself to the next level of creativity and career advancement. I started writing, acting and producing in New Orleans and while I think I did pretty well, it was clear to me I need to become better at my craft. Since arriving here in August of last year, I've been all around unsure that I made a good decision. (Sidenote: Joel did say, we are where we are supposed to be and "if you were supposed to stay you would not been able to move".) My job has been a humbling experience. I've worked freelance since 2009, so returning to a "regular" job has been challenging. I'm very used to doing work in a systematic way that works for me. Now I'm in a situation where our work is based on a model that doesn't value my experience or input. I know I'm currently in a valley and I have been calling it "The Valley of WTF have I done to my life!".
In an attempt to apply what I heard at the Night of Hope, I felt renaming my valley was essential. In true DaVida fashion, I needed to research this valley and see what it is really about. My research led me to look toward people who have achieved the type of success I seek. I wanted to cross reference my valleys with theirs. I found quite a few similarities:
The Valley of Rejection: I still find it so amazing that folk really rejected OPRAH! The now mogul has often shared stories of being let go from news anchor positions for a variety of reasons. She was also talked down to by the casting director of "The Color Purple" during the process of being cast in Oscar nominated portrayal of Sophia. If Oprah bounced back I know I can!
The Valley of Are You Crazy: I've heard I was crazy a time or two in my life but I can't imagine literally being committed in pursuit of my dreams. Paulo Coehlo says that when he told his family that he wanted to be a writer, they thought he was surely mad so they committed him! Crazy? Coehlo has gone on to write 30 books and sold over 175 million copies. His most famous work is "The Alchemist", which is regarded as one of the most read book in the world.
The Valley of Isolation: While I have many friends and associates in L.A., it's not the same as my circle in New Orleans. There I was in a creative groove and the majority of my circle was in the same space. We'd create a lot and while we were learning as we went, we kept each other motivated. This feeling of isolation reminds me particularly of Beyonce/Jay Z. While there's so much speculation about the validity of their relationship, this I know for sure - both of them had to part ways with essential members of their team to advance to the next level in their career (which in my opinion has got to give them a serious bond that few others understand). They both caught flack for it and those losses could have halted their progress. Obvi no one really knows what goes on with them behind closed doors, but it appears they found a way to continue moving forward and pushing to toward their goals on their own. Seems to have paid off pretty well.
The Valley of It Takes Time: Taraji P. Henson has been working for years in Hollywood. She's been doing movies, TV and stage work for years. This year, she's suddenly become a household name for her portrayal of "Cookie" in FOX's phenom hit, EMPIRE. While she is a beast in this role, I'm moreso inspired by her tenacity and hard work over the years to get to this point. Taraji's trajectory is a great reminder there are no overnight successes EVEN if it appears to be the case.
The Valley of Dayum I'm Broke: I often get so upset over money. I often feel myself just getting by and am not able to earn enough to have a strong savings account. This bothers me so much and I find it hard to focus on acquiring wealth when I have no idea how I'm going to take care of my basic necessitates. Then I recall J.K. Rowling's story. Now boasting a net worth of $1 billion dollars due to the success of her Harry Potter empire, Rowling was a poor single mother on welfare (shout out to 2Pac). Talk about momma we made it!
While these are just a few of the examples that came to mind, I'm convinced these valleys all combine into one HUGE valley in which I now reside. I name it "The Valley of Artistry". I came to see everything I'm going through now is to make me a stronger artist. Great artists evolve into their craft and now I'm gathering more tools to perfect my craft. I'm also dealing with me, the deep down stuff that stands between me and my best work. It's all a process but now that I know what to call it, I already feel better about my situation. I'm confident that all the lessons I'm learning right now are going to be necessary once I move from this valley and into my next season.
The journey continues...