On Monday December 10th I was honored to attend the 40th New York Women In Film and Television Muse Awards as an invited guest. Now in full transparency, I've wanted to attend the event for each of the five years that I have been a member of the organization. In my time as a member, they have honored some of my absolute favorites - Judith Light, Gabourey Sidibe, Ava Duvernay and others. But I have never been able to prioritize the money needed for a ticket, so I have always just read about them.
Well that day I got to attend, sip wine and meet some lovely women in this business. Along with hearing these incredible women speak about their journey and their truth so beautifully and raw - from Gloria Estefan (singer/songwriter, Broadway Producer) to award-winning actress Ann Dowd (Handmaid's Tale) to director Kasi Lemons (Harriet, Eve's Bayou) - I also ran into two women that changed my trajectory. Neither of these two women know one another, but they both used our quick reunion to speak into my life following the awards show and it was the boost I needed!
The first woman is an accomplished and major Unit Production Manager that I met on a crazy film I was a Production Assistant on back in 2015. While I had, by that point, produced and assistant directed several indie films and series by then, it was my first studio film set and I was clueless to how things operated. I found my groove eventually, but this woman saw my struggle at first and she would check on me often. She would give me a hug when I looked as if I needed it. She would tell me I was doing great when things were going smoothly and help me fix it when they were not. Mostly, she was kind! Many on that set were not. When I saw her face-to-face on this day, I was so excited and I hugged her so hard...probably a few seconds too long if I'm honest. Once I let her go, the first thing she said was how proud she was of me. In the near five years since I'd seen her, she had kept up with my career and said how happy she was for me and how proud she was that I had worked so hard and been so consistent. Now this woman works with some of the top talent out! Yet she keeps up with what I am doing?! How Sway???!!!
Then I ran into my former director and mentor from my first network television job. I'd met her at a NYWIFT talk and I was so impressed with how transparent about her journey she was, and how openly she spoke on the pitfalls and pariahs out there. I was impressed by her veracity and openness and was like 'I have to meet this woman.' She talked with me for several minutes after the event and I told her I was an aspiring TV producer and would love to work with or for her. Two months later she would offer me an office PA job on what would be the final season of Oprah's Master Class. After only a month, I was promoted from PA to Production Coordinator and I also would AD on set when needed. I casted most of the season with all of my actor friends and helped anyway that I could. As we talked she told me that she never forgot that. She has been a reference for me many times since then as I've applied for gigs and told me that she always tells the story of how I jumped in and helped her without ever being asked. She too said she was proud of me and I had to hold back the tears. See, while the food at the luncheon was cool, I could not have asked for a more timely meal than this love and reassurance I got from these two power house ladies, after having been inspired by the incredible honorees of the day.
It has been a TRYING few months, with November being the most difficult. Emotionally I realize I am susceptible to being down in November as it's the month I lost both my grandfather and my Aunt Pat. But I also know this year, while I couldn't pin point the source of my depression, I had to admit it was depression. And not having another gig lined up after Beat Bobby Flay, I am not just emotionally drained from the false starts trying to land work, I am also fiscally strained and stressed.
However, in the last week I have worked hard to pivot. I have had very honest conversations about my mental space, my finances and my fears. I have expressed these things to God, my parents, my best friends and myself; allowing me to process and push forward. I had an actor friend share with me a 21 Day Abundance Challenge filled with amazing meditations and exercises, which really blessed me a lot. I also just chose to own my next steps. I started focusing acting again and really hustling to audition and go for it! So much so that just this week I learned that I'd booked a musical tour, a lead role in a new web series and a short film. And I'm STILL auditioning, submitting and practicing.
The darkness is hard and hurts, but soon that throbbing, dull, thud-like sound begins to fool you into thinking it's nothing but your heart beating in your ears so that you become accustomed to this awful noise. You get comfy in the familiarity of it. And with that, the self imposed space of 'victim' becomes homey. But all of the work to not be down and depressed and in the void showed me that I was hearing the sound of emptiness and I was the one that had to pick myself up and play the true rhythm of my heartbeat. I absolutely advocate for professional help in dense emotional darkness, but guess what, I couldn't afford that lantern, so I had to use my resources of faith, friends and information to feel my own damn way out of the dark. So to be in the midst of that fight, their praise and love helped to brighten the path a bit more. And also helped me remember that when I left the stability of Corporate America, I knew it would be hard as hell, but worth it. And these bookings prove that it is!
Right now I am living in a space that is more cornucopia of hope than cacophony of hurt. Be clear, that can change on a dime in my life (as I AM an emotional Capricorn). But for now I'm going to bask in the warmth of it all and choose to go with my audacity of hope (we miss you Obama).
There is NO PRIZE FOR BEST VICTIM, so why get cozy in victimhood?! My fight for and decision to be content and stretch for happy is mandatory. Standing in that is why I believe that the Universe has gifted me with more fuel to stay the course and another reminder of who the hell I am.
My #ShiningStarrs, I implore you to push. It's hard and heavy and can be so tiring. But if you want that thing you want, you have to push. You can do it, I promise! But you have to own what your obstacles are, which ones are self imposed and then find the most effective and least self destructive way to bust through them! You just have to!
I also promise that I'm here for you. If you need an ear, a boost, some fuel...I'm here. Let's walk into this new decade with the attitude that we deserve our desires and are ready to receive all the stuff that has alluded us prior to now. Let's be ready to fight, to push and to obtain our stuff!!! Collectively, respectively...PERIODT!
Have a wonderful holiday season and a blessed and amazing New Year's. Please be safe out there, it's getting even crazier. I want all my starts to shine into 2020. Also, let's continue to hold each other up. No one needs to dim for another to shine, and no one needs to feel the shine of another means they are not as bright. And if you forget, just look up on a clear night. How wack would the sky be if there were only one or two stars up there?! It's brilliant because of the multitude that is therein and the fact that they are ALL bright!