I don’t always know why but it’s my Ikigai

Something I get asked more often than not is, “What made you want to be an actress?” Usually it’s framed around the question of my longevity in this mission or what event led me to become a performer or even what film really did it for me. I struggle with answering this question because as with many things, I often feel I am just now finding a freshness to really play in this world. 

Humor me as I go back a bit. I was born in Beaumont, Texas and after a brief period moved to Europe. I grew up finding homebases in both the Netherlands and Northern Spain. My father worked for Dupont as a special chemical engineer consultant and that led us to travel. From a young age I learned to be adaptive and at times made it my job to entertain all the different people we met on our journeys. As recently as last summer, my father sent me hours of footage of home videos and without fail I am performing in every other clip. I was singing made up songs, blabbing stories to my father’s work peers, making up dance rituals, and being generally intense I suppose.

When we moved back to America and I began to make friends here it became apparent that I should join activities. My parents put me in it all. I explored Kindermusic, ballet, gymnastics, Brownies (girl scouts for the young ones), piano lessons, Taekwondo, and in junior high I played the violin AND then the flute. Though there had been this inclination to perform when I was young these formal versions all saw me wilt little by little as clearly my heart wasn’t in it. I even straight up skipped two of my grade school play performances because it meant nothing to me. In junior high I began to explore the good ol’ drama club. A friend of mine wanted to stay after school to audition and as I wanted to stay with her–I thought “heck, I’ll just get a monologue book and do it too”. Welp, I was cast in the play. As time marched on I saw drama and the people therein as a haven from the rest of the world. These people were boldly expressive, fun, and that spoke to me. I dove in. I did drama competitions. I competed in categories such as Solo Drama performance, Lipsync, Duet Drama Performance, Debate, Improv and more. I once performed an absolutely incredible one person lip sync to “Bohemian Rhapsody” that I’m sure was both cringeworthy and amusing. Racked up trophies and soldiered on to High School where I went for more play performances.

​During all this I’d run into 3 types of actresses. The first was the “I’ve been doing this forever”. She would excel and landing the marks, blocking, proper diction. She’s seen it all. Loves to talk about all the times she’s done this or that. The second was the “I’m going to be a movie star”. This girl spent her free time practicing her autograph. She was always ready for the paparazzi and though not always polished in her performance–she was working harder on her magnetism. The third type was my favorite if I’m being real. She was the “I’m just here to have fun and sure I’ll play the grandma”. This girl waved that freak flag and waved it high. These were the ones I usually befriended if not just to be around such a boundless sense of play. They were less concerned with vanity and saw absurdity in just about everything. I don’t know I would have survived high school without the third type. All these types seemed so assured at their path one way or the other.

With all this going on, I had only two career possibilities ever cross my mind. In fourth grade I had a three month obsession with becoming a Marine Biologist. But hey, didn’t we all? Then and for a long time it was Surgeon. In high school my biology teacher even pointed out how adept and unfazed I was at dissection. There was a lot of weight behind that. Both my parents are immigrants as well as U.S. citizens. I am the first born American. I grew up encouraged to be a citizen of the world. From a young age, I was shown classical art and encouraged to read things that maybe my fourth grade teachers didn’t approve of. After some testing,I was placed in a program called “GT”. “GT” stands for Gifted & Talented. I was usually in smaller class sizes and surrounded by quite the characters. All this made me aware from a very young age that I had to have a revered and honorable purpose. Doctor fit that bill and Surgeon was even better. 

I wanted to see the world. I wanted to leave this lil Stepford style Texas suburbia bubble. Though my grades weren’t PERFECT, my acting was getting its own attention. I used performance as my way into the wide world. I attended University and was honored to be part of a prestigious program. It had its ups and downs. At the end of my first year, I decided to double major. I would jump into Pre-Med. I essentially would subsist off of SUGAR FREE ROCKSTAR and forego sleep. What I didn’t realize at the time was I would directly have these two life purposes compete against one another. My third year saw me go study abroad in London. There it was a teacher from the Globe Theater, Glynn Macdonald, who told me during evaluations that I was too brilliant and expressive to waste that talent by splitting my focus. It was at that point that “Surgeon Asta” floated away. Suddenly I was bare. I was left to make performing my purpose. Then the purpose made acting something altogether different. It became a weird hybrid of parlor trick and obligation. I had turned my side gig, my hobby into EVERYTHING and it made me wilt. Yikes.

And yet here we are now, there are so many experiences since this decision was made that have brought me back to my euro-toddler act. Too many to delve into right now, but we’ll get there. But hey, here’s a new age globalized pinterest term for ya: IKIGAI. “Ikigai” is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being”. It’s popularity should be obvious in that it explores the value in our lives and that “thing you live for”. I have found that through the natural performative side of myself married to the need for honor and that honor being helping others–I’ve found that film is my “ikigai”. Telling stories, appealing to people’s humanity and creating for creation’s sake. Thinking of it like this was has brought a contentment that no amount of training, experience, or forced performance could. So maybe  answering the “why” hasn’t been easy. The answer is always different.

It just is at this point. And you know what? It’s something I have to renew all the time and I’m okay with that.

Photos by Michael Andre Photography 2019

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