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A Hot Dog with Grandma Hair

(Rocking my short haircut for Tatyana Boutique a few years ago. Photo by Urszula Stern)

Since starting my Facebook entertainer page, more and more people are reaching out to ask me how I got into hosting. By looking at my reel—a two-minute cut of hosting jobs over the last couple of years—it looks as if it happened practically overnight.

But the reel is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the only thing readily visible in a vast ocean of experiences and challenges.

Now imagine all of the gigs that didn’t make the reel. Think about all the times I actually kind of sucked. Think about how many times a job went to someone else entirely.

And let’s be honest—the first few times I was hired, I was probably just the “best” of the Bargain Bin. There was a slew of gigs where I was green and nervous.

It’s a process, and that process never stops. Unless you become legitimately famous, there’s never a day when you can just sit around waiting for the phone to ring. There is a constant schedule of administrative assistant duties that you have to do yourself (unless you have the luxury of paying someone!) Promotional materials and social media must be fresh at all times.

It’s expensive and it’s time consuming, which is why it’s not for everybody.

There is an episode of Family Guy where a car dealership runs a promotion. Something like, ‘the last person who stays here touching this car will win the car’, kind of contest. And a TON of people enter because everybody wants to win this car.

Well, after some time, they get very, VERY bored of touching the car and staying in that same spot. And one by one they begin to leave, and the only people left over are people who are willing to do what it takes, including having to wait to eat and pee.

Entertainment is like that! If we are content—nay, GRATEFUL—for the chance to stand still and be told “NO” for a long time while we just go to auditions, classes, and work doing jobs we don’t necessarily love—then congratulations, we might hang around long enough to book something. (Hopefully we are a joy to be around once we get to set! Heeeeyyyooooo!)

Performing is as much about stamina as it is about talent. The last man standing gets noticed! And that is VERY good news!

Because every day we can do something, on social media or otherwise, to further ourselves and strengthen our brand.

People will come out of nowhere to tell us that we aren’t ready, we don’t have the right background, or the right genes to do the things we want to do.

Let's do the things anyway, and not even look over our shoulders to see if they’re watching.

I had a wonderful acting coach who used to say, “Don’t worry so much about specific auditions. Just go and forget about it. They might be looking for a Hamburger that day. And you might be a Hot Dog. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be the BEST Hot Dog you can be. And you won’t get the job THAT day, but then, when they need a Hot Dog, THEY WILL REMEMBER YOU. Just go get seen, and do the work”.

That stuck with me my entire career. And all the things I wasn’t or didn’t have can't keep me from being the best “me” I can be. So I had no excuse to quit trying even if I didn’t speak French, or have ethnically ambiguous skin, or stand at the right height to look good next to Carson Daly.

A few years ago, when I had short hair, I was at a photo shoot with a model I greatly admired. She was on television and had a large following. I looked up to her. As we were getting our makeup done, the stylist was trying to decide what to do with me because I had such a short haircut. This model I liked noticed our conversation, and burst out, “It’s Grandma hair!” She wore an apologetic tone as she tossed around her own long, trendy locks. “It’s just like Grandma hair! Sorry”.

Was she sorry? If she didn’t like it, why even mention it? Deflated, I shrugged it off with all the grace I could muster. It still fits the look of the shoot we’re doing, and with styling and makeup it will look ok, I thought to myself.

But now…I wasn’t so sure anymore. And for a split second, I let it shake me.

And then, I felt something change in me—as though now I really had nothing to lose. So we started shooting.

The kind of motivation you can only feel after having the air knocked out of you took over my body and mind. I was fueled! My imagination snapped on like a light. My grandma hair is perfect for this.

There are times when all you can do is say fuck it and dive right in, because any other response would be suicide.

So I was Rosalind Russell that day. And Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor.

A few weeks went by and the catalog came out. Guess whose photo made the cover?

I was stunned. My photo—Grandma hair and all—staring back at me from the cover!

Just DO THINGS. Are you hurting? Great. Do things. Perfectionist? Super! Just do things, and edit them later. I’m saying this to remind myself as much as I’m offering it to anyone else who needs to hear it: let’s not get hung up on “hows”.

Just do things. Use all of your motion to plow forward.

Rumi says, ‘The wound is where the light comes in”. Don’t give up. Don’t worry about the time investment. Don’t listen to haters. You can’t hear them when you’re busy glowing, anyway.

Just do. Do every day. Do, do, do.

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