Mirrors on the ceiling

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Gong Hei Fat Choi  – Happy Chinese New Year.

Sorry it has been a while since I last decided to put some of my nonsensical thoughts to paper/ screen. But you know how it is at the start of the New Year; new plans, new regimes and new life = busy, busy, busy.

Anyway I was inspired to write a brief post today having read an article on the recently deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman. The article reads “surprise that Hoffman, who seemed so calm and erudite in public was a drug addict, yet this shows an ignorance of how socially acceptable drug taking is in the film industry.”

What the hell? What the hell? ……I have to break this down.

So the fact that Hoffman was “calm and erudite in public” means that it is highly unlikely that he could be a drug addict?! I may be looking into things a bit too much but it seems to me that this is what the statement suggests and what the full article kind of implies. This as a result shows the ignorance of the toff nose journalist who associates drug addicts with unintelligent, wild individuals. Maybe a character like ‘Gator’ in Jungle Fever*  is what this journalist assumes to be the acceptable representation of a drug addict. The truth of the matter is, everyone in some way is addicted to something. Right?

In some shape or form we all seek something that makes us feel a lot better at times, be it chocolate, retail therapy, sex etc.  We have all been in a position where we want to instantly change our emotions at the flip of a switch.

Now a drug addict is no different and comes in all different shapes, sizes, races and ages, but what may push an individual into taking drugs is the sense that one feels lonely, distant and unsupported. To carry this feeling, this burden on your shoulder day in and day out, would make anyone want to hide within themselves and not face reality. People self-medicate because they want to escape. You do not have to be an unintelligent individual to want to escape!

In the case of Hoffman, some may say “but he had a family, he had kids, he was making movies….he won an Oscar, he was so intelligent, people loved him.” As outsiders – normal civilians we assume his life was great. However you can be surrounded by so many people; friends and family, have the perfect relationship but still feel very alone. 

Most people are not living the lives they want to live, most people are living a life that other people want them to live. Some us choose to ignore this fact but a part of us dies and eventually we have a mid-life crisis. Others choose to find a way to escape this labyrinth in the form of drugs, being as high as a kite is a savior,  because they believe  it is the only way to kill the numbness of the life they are living.

Hoffman had a long battle with drugs, which he never concealed. He openly talked about his journey. He was not young, he was not beautiful and not a regular feature in the magazines or on the Hollywood party circuit, but he was a victim to drugs just like Lindsay Lohan. So, am I surprised that Hoffman died by a drugs overdose? No I am not. Neither do I judge his actions, neither do I condone it. But I do understand why.

Next point – The journalists also states that the death of Hoffman “shows an ignorance of how socially acceptable drug taking is in the film industry.” Really?!

There is the old view of an actor’s life being hedonistic wild party. An actor is out partying all night, comes on set/ stage says a few lines and then back to partying. Okay there is some truth in that scenario. The same way that there is some truth that Bankers are misogynists that regularly visit strip clubs, whilst their trophy girlfriends/wife’s  are  at home cooking dinner. But we do not dispute the fact that a majority of Bankers work from 7am – 10pm five days a week.  The film industry also operates in a similar way; long hours, constant changes, hardly spending time with family.

Time is Money and Money is Time.

Producers/ directors/ actors like to work with people who are reliable, who show up on time, know their lines and are talented! No one wants to take a risk on an individual who is unable to produce the results that are needed.

Time is Money and Money is time.

There are some actors that are masters at concealing their addiction, they turn up on set and do a flawless performance whilst on drugs and no one is none the wiser.  However I am sure that if directors /producers are made aware of the fact that an actor is addicted to drugs they would either do everything they can to keep the actor clean or just walk away from them. I mean, look at the whole Lindsay Lohan’s situation, when was the last time she had a hit movie?

The film industry knows that there are many creatives that seek solace in drugs, but the industry does not accept drug taking. It is a financial matter. If you have been fundraising for xxxx amount of years to make the film of the century and your lead actor has a drug problem, you would not accept their drug taking and carry on with the film would you? Especially when they are a high risk factor and may f*@k up years of fundraising and hard work.

Time is money and money is time!

So in conclusion, taking drugs it is not “socially acceptable” in the entertainment industry or in any industry for that matter.

We all have our demons, some people have mastered the art of smiling in the face of despair, others hold up their hands admit that they are no saint. The latter is easier said than done. But there are always going to be mirrors on the ceiling and the reflection is not always clear.  Philip Seymour Hoffman admitted to the world that he was an addict.

 It’s just unfortunate that he did not win his battle.

“Well, I think everyone struggles with self-love.” Philip Seymour Hoffman

* Gator- drug addict, character from Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever played by Samuel L Jackson  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSidQZzJfcc 

I am not a writer, just a blabber, a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

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Swirl, Swirl, Swirl

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I’ve never been a TV person, in the sense that I find greater pleasure watching films than I do from TV programmes. However in last year and a half, I have become an addict, an addict to TV in particular to the holy grail of American TV.

I feel like a traitor for saying such a thing; “holy grail of American TV.” Is American series actually the holy grail of TV?  As a British actress, admittedly I have ranted and raved about UK dramas such as Utopia, Misfits  and Peaky Binders to anyone who would listen to me.

But in this moment of time I cannot help but enjoy the American dramas….just a little bit more. New Girl, Nashville, Scandal, Orange Is the New Black and the one and only Breaking Bad – YEAH BIATCH! That’s right! They are just too good!

Since the end of Breaking Bad on September 29th 2013, I have been suffering severe withdrawal symptoms from the end of my relationship with Walter White. I have been trying to seek some kind of euphoria in British dramas and I was almost there. But unfortunately I have been unable to evoke the same feeling that Walter gave me by the likes of Downtown Abbey.

The first moment I clapped eyes on Walter, I thought he was a boring old chemistry teacher but our secret late night rendezvous and marathons of intense action back to back, distracted me from my 12-14 hour work days. Now I’m left with nothing but a Netflix account!

Wanting to utilise the only thing that Walter gave me, I decided to explore the possibilities of other dramas…..and came across my very own chocolate and vanilla swirl of goodness; ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. With a 95% female cast, intense storylines,  comedy, a healthy dose of African -Americans, Latinas, Caucasians and an Asian. how could I resist this fire-cracker of a drama! For all of you who haven’t watched this drama yet – you are seriously missing out on some of the best one -liners and pure rahchidness! The words: CRAZY EYES, POUSSEY, PENNSATUCKY and RED will have great significance to you once you watch this hard-core comedy-drama!

Ashamedly I confessed my addiction to American TV to various friends from the UK and the states. Recently I broke down to my friend and brilliant actress Jennifer Aries about my problem – “I know British dramas are great, but I just can’t help myself.”  We began to dissect my addiction and understand what makes American dramas just so damn juicy! Our findings are below:

 

1. Diverse Casting

Eg. Scandal features Kerry Washington and renowned spin doctor engaging in a relationship with the president of the United States, a white male president in this drama. Now throughout the drama the controversy is the fact that the president is engaging with a relationship with a spin doctor, even though he is married to the first lady and has kids. The focus is on the indecency of the relationship and not on the fact that this is an interracial relationship. I don’t know if this would be the same focus if there was a drama in the UK about the Prime minister and his relation to his female spin doctor, who happens to be a black female.  Also it’s good to see a role that goes beyond the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype. There are many moments when you see the vulnerability of Olivia Pope ( Kerry Washington) throughout the drama.

 

2. Comedy

Americans writers are not afraid to get their hands dirty by using comedy as a tool to battle racial tension. For example in Orange Is the New Black there is a hilarious scene, when African-American prisoners; Poussey and Taystee mimic the conversation and behaviour of white Americans. On the flipside there is also a point in the same episode where two Latina’s ignorantly describe African –Americans and the White Americans just take a pop at everyone who is non-white. Now again on paper this is awful, but the way in which each racial group describes the other is ridiculous, it’s hilarious that these women are in a situation where they have to in some way put their racist, stereotypical views aside and get along with each other. The drama and comedy derives from how each woman overcomes this within the prison walls!

 

3. Writing

You never know which way the drama will turn with American series. In the dramas I mentioned above there are so many avenues to introduce new diverse characters which keeps the drama healthy and alive, each episode seems random, a mini-film within its own right, only to discover that it is part of a bigger jigsaw puzzle. The writing takes you to the underworld and back. Roller-coaster of emotions; one minute you are watching a scene so graphic that it makes you feel uncomfortable the next minute you are laughing your head off. The twist and turns is what makes you want to watch more episodes, because curiosity gets the better of you and you want to know what happens to the characters that you have grown to love and hate.

4. Budgets

Anything is possible, but a great script meets huge budgets – it’s all over. Netflix bought each episode of:

Orange Is the New Black at  $4 million per episode

Breaking Bad  at $3.2 million per episode

Imagine if you had about a million to produce one episode, you can afford to really push the boat out, get the best cinematographers, camera guys etc. As a result each episode looks impeccable. Imagine if you were also acting in a $4 million production ……the benefits…..mmmmm. Let’s just say I would be grinning like a Cheshire cat!

I continued to talk through my addiction with Jen and came to a congenial conclusion:

HONESTY is the one thing which makes me believe British dramas are just as good as American drama. Ok, we don’t have million pounds pumped into series, and we still have a long way to go regarding diversity BUT  we are not afraid to point a finger at the UK and admit the mistakes that we have made politically and socially in the past and present without plugging patriotic happy endings. We have an understanding of how the world views the UK from all perspectives. A vital and admirable attribute!

 

I am not a writer, just a blabber, a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

 

BREAK OUT….SHOCK OUT

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Suffocated. Smothered. Frustrated. Tired. Exhausted.  It is not easy being in an environment which caps your creativity.  Being around individuals whose main concerns include; ordering the right kind of cello tape or what colour of post-it notes to purchase. These are a few of the weird, boring comments I find myself overhearing, when working in ‘MJs.’ (‘Money Jobs’, jobs that you do when you have finished one freelance contract and looking for the next one…..jobs that DO NOT fulfil your soul ……..essentially jobs that simply help you pay your rent/ mortgage, when you’re in desperate need and times are hard.)

The nature of the beast as a freelancer is that, there will be periods of your working life when things are quiet and business is not booming as much as it was a couple of months ago. Some people ride that wave and do nothing, chill out and just wait for the next job. As a workaholic, I like to keep my mind and body busy, by attending acting classes,  dance classes, gym, yoga, cinema, theatre, socialising and researching new films and plays that will  soon be casting. Unfortunately many of the listed activities cost money and unlike the Sienna’s and the Keira’s out there, I do not have a Mummy and Daddy who can pay for my living costs, casting subscriptions, headshots etc whilst I look for my next acting job and then become a star! I am a working class woman, and enjoy working but I also do not have a choice in the matter.

So, like a majority of creative freelancers, I find myself working in ‘MJs’ from time to time. It’s hard, but I am constantly reminded as to why the creative lifestyle is for me. ‘MJs’ are like a noose round your neck, the longer you stay in the job, the tighter the noose and eventually you suffocate and die.

However, it is important to remain positive and keep your eye on the prize. DO NOT get involved in the nonsensical office politics that ‘MJs’ tend to obtain. The minute you get sucked into office dramas, well before you know it, you have forgotten about the freedom of being a freelancer, the ability to work with a diverse range of people and on different projects that keep you excited about life. You end up stuck working in a mundane job for the next 7 years and you wonder why you are depressed and angry……….er because the real you died years ago. The only way out is to focus on the fact that you are talented and you have a burning urge to create, to play and you want to ensure that eventually you will never have to work a ‘MJ’ ever again!

Each ‘MJ’ is different, but the main purpose is to provide easy and quick money to help your survival and finance the transition of your dreams becoming a reality. So during a long, mundane ‘MJ’ day, I took the liberty to utilise my time to create: mundane ‘MJs’ survival tips. 

  1. Laugh…….about anything……just start laughing for no reason…….and then eventually everyone will begin to laugh. Yes it may seem like your mad, but at least the mood of the office has lifted.
  2. Take a risk. Do something completely different in your working day, like…… hug the delivery man, when he comes in to give you presents (packages)
  3.  Start a blog……seriously; it’s more than a hype but a personal development tool. In months/ years to come you can look back at that period of your life and laugh about all the things you wrote!
  4. Play a game…..like the bus game with a colleague ( for details on the bus game….see below)
  5. My personal favourite –  DANCE!!!!! WHINE UP YOUR BODY! ……have a lunch time disco in the office……I recommend:

Bus Game, can be played with as many people as you like. Shout a number starting from 1 and players have to dictate the route. For example:

Let’s say Jon shouts out 1, (depending of your country of residence), Alice will say: Totteneham Court Road –  Canada Water.

No googling is allowed.

Plus if you add an incentive, it gets interesting. 

I am not a writer, just a blabber, a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

The Wonderful Power of the three C’s

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‘Well, the fact is that one imagination is critically important, and if you have had your imagination stimulated by what is basically a variety of subjects, you are much more amenable to accepting, to understanding and interacting with the realities of the world.’

 

 

The creative industry inspires, engages and expresses a vision which goes beyond the ordinary. Creators of work; artists, actors, singers, designers, photographers etc immerse themselves in the unknown. Thoughts are invested as transactions between family, friends, lovers, acquaintances and strangers at the cost of presenting the world with unimaginable concepts. 

 New projects result from waves of innovation invoking immediate reactions.  But when you eventually have that golden idea, the idea that will establish who you are and your craft…  you try your best to  expand before the aftermath  gets you.  A persistent focus, obsession, forcing you into hibernation of the mind.  A plane of loneliness. 

 As a freelancer, you may be presented with opportunities to work within a team…..briefly, but most of the time you work alone, trusting that  golden idea that you have in your mind, believing that this will contribute to the  world eventually ‘bowing down’ to you.

 The biggest struggle for some, is not the lack of  ideas, work, time or money but having the courage to ask for help. To put yourself out there and expose the truth….that you are human, you can’t do everything by yourself and sometimes, you need help, advice or direction.

I personally find it very easy to dedicate my time to help other people but yet struggle to ask for help.  I don’t know why this is, but is an idiosyncrasy that I am willing to divest.

I recently come across We are CAN a Collaborative Arts Network, a growing creative enterprise operating by virtue of collaborative ethos  a community where creative collaborators can meet like- minded people, share projects and access work opportunities. With a presence in London, New York, Los Angeles, Roma and  Barcelona We are CAN offers  a range of international partnerships.

We are CAN:   http://can.is/

Interactions matter! We can be so self – indulgent, that we forget about the people that exist around us. 

Start your week in another direction:

Co-operate: Lend a hand, advice, idea or encouragement however big or small

Communicate: Speak honestly, respectfully, engage, enthuse and don’t forget the small talk – this could be nothing but mean something to others. 

Connect: Pay attention, listen, understand, be hopeful and interact with another face to face as much as possible

I figure it’s better to walk with someone in the dark than alone in the light.

I am not a writer, just a blabber, a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

Is a Healthy Body a Healthy Mind?

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*Grace Jones, a great body and a great mind

There is a notion that having the perfect body will give you happiness, joy, sexiness, strength, love and attention; a healthy body results in healthy mind. The act of going to the gym every day, swimming, dancing, yoga etc creates some kind of structure in your life, a dedication and discipline to ensure that you maintain a certain physique. Some may say that this is also emulated in your thoughts; you begin to look at food as a pleasure and not a vice to overcome nervousness, heart ache, boredom etc.  Part & parcel of a healthy body = a healthy mind.

If you are not lucky enough to have a high metabolism, athletic genes, you will slowly become immersed in the seriousness of the gym world. Sweaty bodies all around, the rush of adrenaline, when you hit that treadmill, weights, cycling, and that funny machine when you lie down on your stomach and pull weights with your legs. When the adrenaline wears off, and you look around the gym, you begin to realise that there is a narcissistic energy. Everyone pumping as much iron as possible to protrude their biceps, pounding on the treadmill so your waist is just that little bit smaller. We are all guilty of this act at least at one stage in our lives and it is not a bad thing at all! It is not a bad thing to enjoy going to the gym and working out but when it begins to isolate you from the rest of your social circles and your pursuit of a healthy body endangers your healthy mind……………stop…..and relax!

There is no such thing as the perfect body, we only say this to ourselves to justify our obsession of going to the gym and counting calories. How many of you have a friend who always bangs on about the amount of calories in food when you’re out for dinner? How many of you have a friend that fails to attend socials because they’re always at the gym?

I think it is important to be healthy but not at the cost of your happiness.

Going to the gym, can be very lonely, for some,  it’s just; you, your music and the treadmill; a blessing and a curse within itself.

Exercise is about feeling good to your personal satisfaction. Do not draw inspiration from the ‘perfect bodies’ of celebrities, it’s all an illusion, a trick of the mind.

 

I am not a writer, just a blabber, a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

Savage Beasts

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This year has been an interesting awakening, and as every year passes I begin to realise that the pond is getting smaller and the predators are getting wilder.  With the economy not at its best, we look desperately for a solution which will catapult us to the top of our careers.

In light of our search, our sanity and rationality becomes diluted and our innocence, loyalty and belief get lost to the dark. Like predators we search for the next meal and it becomes the survival of the fittest.  Drunk with insanity……….. some may slowly transform into savage beasts.

The challenge is arousing, the game sensational and the goal is within your reach……………… that’s if you can avoid the parasites.  

Unlike predators and savage beasts , parasites are smaller, weaker than their host. Mere cowards living off their host like talentless freeloaders. Although small in nature, parasites are clever and sly but weak and incapable of standing up to savage beasts. 

They come in all shapes and sizes with a distant smile and appealing speech, saying yes to the golden ones and no to independence, in the hope that they will eventually reach the Holy Grail by sucking the life out of their host.

Whilst parasites feed on savage beasts the astute predator prowls in the darkness, observing his/her environment, learning from past mistakes ready to catch his/her prey.  Silently they watch, suddenly a question occurs to them:

If there were no parasites in the world, would there be enough food for all the savage beasts?

One cannot exist without the other. For parasites  manipulate and feed off savage beasts taking their intelligence and integrity, as a result savage beasts lack wit and energy  providing a clear path for the perceptive predator ready for the kill.

There is no restriction on creativity and there is no magic formula to make you hit the jackpot.  There is just the survival of the fittest!

Keep your mind sharp, confidence high and your veracity intact.

We are all hungry animals, looking for a solution that will further our careers but I think there is a point when one is presented with a dilemma which questions their morality and judgement.  So I will present you with one now, which one are you….

Predator

Savage Beast

or Parasite?

I am not a writer, just a blabber,  a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

Oh Lord Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

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Hollywood will soon be presenting us with another biopic of an infamous musician. There have been many great biopics over the years; Ray – flawless performance from Jamie Foxx, What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner, portrayed by the phenomenal Angela Bassett (she should have won an Oscar!), Walk the Line, mesmerising…….Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash. All these films have been thought provoking, stimulating and alluring. Exploring the lives of artists that we know for their work but unknowing of the demons, insecurity and fear that plagued and hindered their brilliance.

Judging by the standard of biopics that Hollywood produces, I was excited to know that finally there will be a film based on one of my favourite musicians, the “High Priestess of Soul”, Nina Simone. A women who was strong willed, intelligent and passionate. A civil right activist, a women who fought to be heard, who disregarded the insults, the constant derogatory comments that depicted her dark skin, big features, her voice, her soul, her. She fought against restriction and spoke out loud of the racial inequality of 1960’s America.
I was excited and amazed that Hollywood had decided to produce a film with a black actress as the lead….not a supporting role, but a LEAD.
So who I began to wonder……who is going to play the legendary Ms. Simone?

Viola Davis

Award winning Actress, renowned performances in The Help (2011), Doubt (2008).

Lauryn Hill

First female solo artists awarded five Grammys in one year. Plus her personal life, and journey as a musician bears some similarities to Nina Simone.

Anika Noni Rose

A familiar face on screen, American singer and actress known for Dream Girls and my personal favourite No1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Tika Sumpter

Rising star and new girl on the block…..starred in Gossip Girl.

NO to Viola, NO to Lauryn, NO to Anika and No to Tika.

Instead Hollywood decides to presents us with Latina actress Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone. Yes that women that played that blue avatar thing, has been hailed as the BEST option for Nina Simone. An actress, whose beauty is prevailing but performance is like a Victoria sponge cake; nice, sweet, safe, WTF.


My question is; Why does Hollywood continue to disregard talented dark skinned actresses?

Ok, I know some of you may be thinking, what’s the problem, Zoe Saldana is a great actress, she’s not exactly blonde with blue eyes, so yeah she would have struggled to make it in Hollywood. If you are thinking this, then I can only suggest that you read between the lines and think!

 
Although Zoe Saldana, is talented within her own right, it takes more than just talent to portray an iconic black women such as Nina Simone. I believe that it is imperative for a dark skinned black actress to play Nina Simone, as the experiences of dark skinned black women in a western environment, is something that a Latina actress to a certain extent cannot comprehend. Nina’s music was fuelled by her experiences as a dark skinned black African American. As a black civil rights activist she constantly expressed her desire for black people to be heard, for their mistreatment to be recognised and rectified. Anyone who listens to songs such as To Be Young, Gifted and Black, Black is the Color of my True Loves Hair, Four Women, knows that her songs clearly highlighted her perception of the different treatment that an individual received based on their complexion.

So why, would Hollywood disrespect that and cast Dominican-Puerto Rican, mulata, chica Zoe Saldana.

Is it the case of Hollywood white washing roles?

 
A similar situation which hit the internet forums was the casting of the anticipated film Half of a Yellow Sun. A novel by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published in 2006 by Knopf/Anchor. It tells the story of two sisters, Olanna and Kainene, during the Biafra War. The character Olanna is described in the book as a curvaceous, a beautiful London educated Nigerian women. However the slim, non-west African looking Thandie Newton was cast as the leading role of Olanna. Taking precedence over many well know British- West African actresses that in my opinion may of been a better choice.

 
The reason that are sighted by producers for such castings are: that actress that look like Thandie Newton and Zoe Saldana can green light a film. Really? Funny, that……..because the last time I checked Viola Davis was actress of the moment and had received more nominations and recognition for her performance than Zoe Saldana. Yet Hollywood disregards this fact and continues to underhand roles for black actresses.

Pues Senorita Saldana buena suerte!

 
You not only have the pressure of Hollywood on your back, but a number of black women hoping that you play Nina right, for your sake! If all else fails, you can continue to ride the wave of Hollywood on your beauty and charm with the gorgeous Bradley Cooper on your arm.

 
One thing is for sure, I am curious as to whether Zoe can really pull this out of the bag?

Will they spray her skin to make her darker?

Will they give her a prosthetic nose and lips resembling Nina’s?

Who knows, I guess I will just have to wait and see.

I am not a writer, just a blabber,  a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

Truth or Dare?

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Why do I feel so guilty?

Have you ever had a great night out, got back home at 4 in the morning, turned on the computer and started to do some work related activities?  

When you’re out with your friends laughing and joking….do you ever pause and think ‘Shit….I need to go home and do some work…. I feel really bad, I should be working…..writing……producing…..exercising.’

 

Have you ever had these thoughts?

This is hard for me to admit….slightly embarrassing but all of the above apply to me. Yes…I am….a…….. WORK’AHOLIC. There. I have said it.  Yes, I am addicted to working……so much so, I feel guilty for having……. fun!

When did this happen to me? Wdid I transform into this creature who uses work as a drug?  Without this drug, I fail to function. Without it I go through a pain staking conversation with my conscience. Confronted by the thought that I am wasting time socialising and what I should be doing is working. Now before you start thinking…… ‘Anniwaa….  girl about town…..out all the time ….living an actress life of meeting loads of beautiful vibrant people and nonstop partying. I will need to stop you there!

The truth is, yes I meet a lot of people in my line of work and I adore people, I have no problem making time for someone. I am motivated by diverse conversations that I have with internationals (lot of my friends are from all over the world – Internationals is my nick name for that collective) getting to know life from the various perspectives that I encounter is always invigorating. However there is a balance that needs to be maintained. If I play hard I work harder to compensate. If I go out and dance the night away, the next day I will be working all day from 7am -1am to compensate.

Crazy, stupid, pathetic, weird? Yeah maybe. But for a long time I naively assumed that this is what one does. Friends of mine have convinced me that it is not normally for someone to work so much. It is not normal to feel like you should be punished for having fun!  So I ask the question again, when did this happen to me? When did I transform into this creature who uses work as a drug? Without this drug I fail to function.

Well I was a busy child. I was always painting, singing, acting and dancing. When I started ballet at 6 years old this helped me to channel my energy and focus. Ballet enabled me to discipline my time effectively. However as a perfectionist I was obsessed with having the ultimate jump, pirouette etc. So even though I was going to class 3 days a week, the other 4 days of the week I would be practicing all hours of the day working hard to get perfection. I would get up and the first thing I would want to do is dance. Also I saw how hard my parents worked to afford my Dance classes and I began to understand the work and play balance. I was the dancer mastering, allegro, arabesque and jeté . Whilst  my parents were the workers, working all day and night to provide opportunities for the development of their kids creativity. I observed and learned from this and I think that this was the beginning of my creative journey and determination to be successful aka my addiction to work!

But what is the cost of all play and no work  or all work and no play?

Mmmm, I shall start to dissect using the basis of Truth or Dare….
TRUTH: As an actor you are aware of the fact that you are not working a 9-5 job getting paid a monthly wage with benefits and simply living for the weekend to escape the monotonous boredom that SOME 9-5 jobs inflict on an individual. Knowing that you don’t have this kind of lifestyle makes you aware of the fact that you are not being spoon-fed your work. You are a freelancer going from one place to another experiencing new things and meeting a lot of different, fun, crazy people

TRUTH: As a freelancer you are always looking for work.

TRUTH: As an actor you are continually looking for new opportunities to further your career and perfect your craft.

TRUTH: Yes, you have an agent that does this for you, but your agent is also doing this for other actors on their books. So to ensure that you are in the best position career wise, what do you do? You begin the continuing process of researching and looking for work. If you’re serious about your career you would want to ensure that you’re being considered for most opportunities, one that can’t afford to miss.

TRUTH: This doesn’t mean put all your energy in getting the work and forgetting about the creativity and quality of your craft, your business. This means that you need to find the balance between the grafting of the work and the refining of your tools. There is no point applying for  a £30,000 paid  Bikkini advert if you know that your body looks like it has seen the gym in years, because all that work with be for nothing if you can’t deliver the goods.

TRUTH: Unlike the 9-5 office workers, who have been assigned a  particular job role, by only being judge by their work. You are being judge on your accent, personality, body, looks, height, skin color, race etc. Bearing this in mind, you will be constantly working at your skills and physical ability a continuous action which is maintained by working hard.
TRUTH: There is this fear in SOME actors that this means that you never take time off. You work all year round and never leave the country in case you get the casting of the life time, but you missed out because you were on a yacht in Sardina. For those types of actors staying in one place all year with a weekend away here and there is feasible.

As a workaholic, I believe that you can reward yourself with an adventure, holiday or a new pair of shoes, what ever you want but only when you know that the work has been done and you did it to the best of your ability.

I believe that it is essential for an actor to utilise their knowledge and experiences to give a truthful representation of a character and do justice to a writer’s work, if you are willing to venture out of the city you inhabit and explore! I love working, I love acting but that love means nothing if I am stuck in a rut simply because I don’t want to run the risk of taking some time off.  As an actor you are constantly analysing yourself and those around you, as you are required to bring a range of different skills and knowledge to the table to bring a character to life. How can you do this if the only reference that you have of the world, is from one perspective. 

It is imperative to be curious….to yearn for knowledge and an understanding of life beyond four walls. 

An actor has  a career path and a schedule to attain. Unlike the business world we do not have 28 days paid holiday, (unless you are contracted to a long term drama.) If you feel the need to step away from the game to reflect, analyse and plan…you can do at a drop of hat. If going away, clearing your mind puts you in a better place, mentally, physically and emotionally, then go for it, in the long run you will return refreshed and in better position to focus and be at the top of your game. 

Dare: 

There are so many rules that we are required to follow legally and there are also many made up rules that we are ‘suggested’ to follow. Concerning yourself with the ‘suggested’  rules only prohibits you living your life. By ‘suggested’ rules I mean ;

‘By the time your 30 you should know what you are doing in life’ 

Whatever!

Or 

‘Travelling is for gap year students…you get it out of your system earlier and then settle in one place after that for the rest of your life.’ 

Or

‘You have been in a relationship for 5 years, marriage must be next.’

Yawn! 

Following such suggested rules creates a long cycle of ‘what if’s? ‘The thought of having a ‘what if’ lodge in my brain kills me. You have a feeling or thought that won’t go away…deal with it. If you don’t it will just eat you up inside. 

For all the weird, crazy, embarrassing, stupid things I have done in my life so far, I always try to ensure that their worth it because I have got rid of my ‘what ifs.’ 

For example:

* When I was 8 years old I nearly drowned. After that ordeal, I was scared of open water and decided that I never wanted to swim. Years went by and I would always avoid the prospect of swimming.  But ‘what if’ I was on a plane that unfortunately crashed into the Atlantic and swimming was the only way of survival? Well I would be dead. A random thought but a ‘what if‘ there was always lodged in my head. So I took swimming lessons, realized that I knew how to swim but it was my fear that was blocking my body from functioning.

* Liked a guy, wasn’t honest with him at the time. Thought I could hide my feelings and get on with life but my ‘What if?’ grew in size and got the better of me. Months/ years down the line decided to send a message admitting my feeling…..but the moment had passed and there was no context to the message, embarrassing, stupid but f*** it, at least I got rid of that ‘what if?

I did the above  because I know I couldn’t live in fear and regret. 

DARE:  Turn your back on routine and do something that makes you lost for words.

DARE: Talk to a random stranger and see what happens.

DARE:  Be honest with your opinions regardless.

DARE: Ask for help.

Whatever it is you are afraid of, confront it and look beyond the fear. Life begins where fear ends. 

I am not a writer, just a blabber,  a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

Hungry Like the Wolf

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Hungry Like the Wolf

 


What do I want?

What do I need?

What do I desire?

What am I hungry for?

 I often ask myself these questions whenever I am at risk of losing focus of my goals and my ambition.

I mean we all have hunger, we all wish to consume our appetite with whatever our mind and our heart desires. Are you hungry for success, money, love, acknowledgment, freedom or contentment?????

However what I find interesting is the extent an individual is willing to go to, to receive what they want.

I recently read this article:

“Aspiring actress Racquel Bailey has big dreams of starring in films and tv shows, so she decided to take her last paycheck and spent it on a billboard in Atlanta, two miles from Tyler Perry’s studio, hoping that she can grab his attention and be his next ‘it’ girl. Racquel, who is a 23-year-old single mom, dropped $1,500 on a billboard that says, ‘Attention: Top Filmmaker in Atlanta
Let me be your next leading lady.’”

When I finished reading the article the questions above were rolling in about in mind.

Now obviously this is an actress who I can only assume has tried everything that she can to further her career. However due to the powers of be, she hasn’t achieved her goals and ambitions. Hence why she took the step of investing in her career by creating a big billboard advertisement.

Although by paying for your face to appear on a billboard, is that supporting your career or detrimental to your career? After all there is a fine line between desperation and confidence! I understand where Racquel is coming from, but by making a public display of her misfortune is she not emphasising her lack of faith in her work but also the fact that although she is thinking outside the box, she has put herself in another and closed the lid. For she will now be known as the actress who paid $1500 to be put her face on a billboard. What if her work is of a low standard…it would be a double blow. The crap actress who paid $1500 for billboard entertainment.
I always believe that an individual should always take pride in their work. By this actress paying for billboard advertisement, is she saying that that her face is worth recognition and her work is of a high standard and that Hollywood needs to make a space for her immediately? 

With $1500 she could have invested in commissioning a writer to write a script which highlights all her USP (Unique Selling Point!)  The next stage would be to get a great camera man on board, producer and marketing of the production and bobs your uncle fanny’s your aunt and hey presto, she would have a great short which could work the film festival circuit, and the major buzz would be about how brilliant and resourceful this actress is and how on earth could Hollywood of missed her!  All the above is a brilliant idea in theory but it does take time and you have to rely on so many other people to make it happen. Or you can opt out and rely on yourself and the advertising sales agent to aid you in getting your big break, as well as relying on the director to have the urge to check out your work. I mean to a certain extent we have to rely on others to aid us with our ambitions. But when you look around you, the most successful people are the ones who decided to work against the flow and begin a new wave of thought and inspiration, and grab the bull by the horn.

Whether it is confidence, enthusiasm, perseverance, laziness, arrogance, stupidity or pride or whatever you want to call it. Racquel took a leap and hopes and prays that her years of work will finally pay off big time! But when real life comes into play our decisions of what we need, want and desire are blurred. By real life………… I mean relationships and how this can often influence your ambition.

 The fact that this actress is a single mother and spent her last pay check on supporting her career rather than her son and his upbringing, one can say she’s a selfish mother! However on the other hand you can see her investing in her career as a blue print for her son’s future.  After all money talks! 

We have all been in a situation where there has been a devil and angel on our shoulder…one option is to do what you want and destroy all your relationships, beg, borrow and steal from your friends, family and partner just as long as your happy; AKA the devil. 

On the other shoulder, you have the option of supporting those around you, maintaining  your goals and ambitions by putting their needs first, which can act as a driving force for you to achieve great things, so those around you are not only inspired by your journey but they finally see that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

After reading the article about Racquel I had an interesting conversation with other actors who I am currently working with. All of them disapproved of Racquel’s action, however whether I agree with what Racquel has done or not, a thought has been provoked. I have questioned whether I am doing enough to maintain my life as an actress and how much I really want success.  Also, Racquel has prompted me to write a short blog post about her……….so whether or not a producer or director in the states notices her, I noticed her! I took the time to look at her showreel, write a blog about her predicament and share it with you!

You know what they say; Press is Press regardless whether it’s bad or good. So congratulations Racquel your billboard investment has created some publicity which has even touched the UK!

As a fellow black actress, I will respect your intention and share your showreel with a UK audience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=T-QTCfDODe8

For me, I believe that my passion, dedication and work’a’holic attitude will get me to where I want to get to…………. hungry like the wolf.

Good luck!

I hope to see her in Hollywood!

I am not a writer, just a blabber,  a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.

The Great Escape

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Over the past few years, there have been major developments in the TV, Film and Theatre industries. The Artist is a perfect example of how audiences are willing to except and embrace change.   Michel Hazanavicius created a film which explored the concept of Silent Movies. He originally approached a number of film producers to back him, most of them thought the idea was ridiculous. Having received a number of awards including BAFTAs and Golden Globes for his innovative film…..guess who’s laughing now!

The changes in the Film and TV industries seem to be happening on a global spectrum, with America at the forefront of the wave of change. However the UK is still lacking, still failing to take a risk and create productions which express the cultural, social and political changes of a country which is seen to be multi-cultural.

One area which America is constantly out doing the UK is their take on multi-ethnic casting. America must truly be the land of opportunities for Actors, as many UK actors are jumping ship and swimming, fast, to the shores of America…..in particular black actors.

Last week David Harewood spoke of how the UK is neglecting black actors;

Unfortunately there really aren’t that many roles for authoritative, strong, black characters in this country. We just don’t write those characters, that’s a fact,” he said. “I don’t want to trash this place, but I do think there is a certain lack of ambition in terms of telling a global story.”


The question is………..Is David Harewood right?

Well, as a young black actor I have continued to remain enthusiastic, ambitious and determined to make a change in some way to British TV, Film and Theatre. Whilst in Drama school, I was disappointed with the lack of loyalty that black female actors such as, Marianne Jean Baptiste had to the UK.  However after a number of years of working as an actor I have realized that there are only a handful of roles which in the eyes of the UK industry are acceptable to be played by black women. (I won’t go in detail now, but the next time you watch British TV, observe how many black women you see in dramas, that aren’t African/Caribbean or estate/urban related dramas.) I am now beginning to understand why great black British female actors such as Marie Jean-Baptise left the UK.  

Whilst casting directors continue to do their best when it comes to casting more non-white actors, the fact of the matter is, many black actors, particularly black female actors are frustrated and disappointed with the UK. It is brilliant that Britain……or shall I say London, is a multi-cultural hub and this is being reflected on our screens. I have noticed a rise of black males and mixed race/ bi-racial people on our screens, which is fantastic!  However by casting a mixed race woman in a black female role this does not rectify the situation, but draws attention to the fact that yet again black women are falling by the wayside.

The fact that many black male actors such as:

David Harewood

Lenny James,

David Oyelowo,

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Adrian Leicester

(to name a few)

Have left/leaving the UK to pursue more prosperous career rewarding opportunities in America, makes me a little worried. I mean the actors mentioned above are reputable British actors within their own right, and the fact they believe that there is not enough opportunities in the UK for black actors, makes me think, about actors such as:

Nikki Amuku – Bird,

Sharon Ducan Brewster

 Josette Simon

Caroline Chikezie.

How do you think these females feel?

The fact that the male actors above have had many opportunities in relation to their female counterparts, and they still want to get out of the UK….is there any hope for young female black British actors?

YES!

Yes there is. Okay things are not brilliant for black actors in the UK and there is still a long way to go, but just think back to the early 70’s productions such as Love thy Neighbour and Till Death us do part, just think of how far British drama has developed since then with thanks to the black actors who carved their career through the rough times of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. If they did not voice their injustice, many productions which feature black performers may not exist today! So, there needs to be a focus and a belief that things can change for black actors, particularly black female actors. This will not happen if all black actors leave the UK never to return.

But maybe a black actor needs to leave the UK for America and return once America has validated their talent? Only then will the UK take notice and perhaps utilize the talent that was always there, look at Idris Elba!

But is the grass really green on the other side?  Is America the best place for black actors? (I am just playing devil’s advocate here.)

America has such a large TV and film industry with hundreds of channels that provide a range of dramas for all types of people. But when watch dramas such as Friends, How I met your mother, Sex and the City, Gossip Girl  which are set in the buzzing diverse centre of the States – New York, regardless of this fact  all the main characters in these productions are white, middle/upper class individuals.  On the other hand you had the award winning drama 24 which had Dennis Haysbert as President David Palmer (pre Obama times) and the focus was on the drama and not on the fact that he was black. Of course this is not the first time this has happened on American screen; 2012 – Danny Glover as President Thomas Wilson, Fifth Element – Tommy Lister as President Lindberg etc. Will there ever be the day when there is a black Prime Minister in a UK drama?

 The problem in regards to UK casting may stem from the fact that the UK reeks of tradition, the stiff upper lip. So when anything jeopardises the tradition set by the old school boy network, all hell will break loose! Whereas America is a land of immigrants and has developed its own tradition on this basis, so I suppos there is more freedom for taking risks,  of casting a black man as an American President (pre Obama times.)

It seems that black men have managed to conquer the film and TV industries but what is the fate of black female actors in the UK and is it worth it going to the states? Is the grass greener on the other side?

 Well I leave you with a few words from award winning actor Viola Davis;

“You can be in the business for 23 years, which I have been, and suddenly something happens that wakes people up. For me, that was being in a movie with Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It makes people realize you’re there. Otherwise you’re that black girl who had a guest or co star role in a TV show here or there.”


“That really is our plight especially as women, of color. You can have all the training in the world, come from a respectable background and yet never get that big opportunity that breaks you out—never.”

“I am doing this out of necessity. If I am not the instrument of change, I can meander through this business and be the black woman who always has two or three scenes but with fabulous actors around me.”

 “Even back when I was 11, I knew that Isabel Sanford from The Jeffersons came from the stage. I never watched the Oscars, but I watched the Tonys every year. I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to be like Colleen Dewhurst or Jane Alexander—one of those great ladies of the theater, doing Ibsen and Shakespeare.”


“There are great characters in history whose stories need to be told, but also, look at this year’s line-up: Melancholia,Young Adult…Someone just had imagination, put pen to paper and created a [whole] human being. That is what I hope for myself…for a number of black actresses.”

“I’m hoping there are enough people out there who will have my back.”

Viola Davis – LA Times

http://www.latimesmagazine.com/2012/02/viola.html

 

You know what they say; ‘You’ll never know if the grass is greener on the other side, unless you  go and look at the lawn.’ I suppose I best go look at that lawn!

I am not a writer, just a blabber,  a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.