Tag Archives: advice

take 2.001

29 THINGS TO TELL MY 10-YEARS-AGO SELF

I’m in the last year of my twenties, which means I think I’m a lot wiser than I really am. Recently … thanks mostly to Throwback Thursdays, the Crash Course educational series on YouTube, and the work of playwright Jose Rivera … I started wondering what my current, past and future selves might say to one another if they all met somehow, and I compiled this list of things I would love to go back in time and say to myself at the end of my teens. I wouldn’t answer any of her obvious questions (No, you really shouldn’t get back together with him; Yes, you’ll be able to pay your way through school, so relax) because, hey, there are some lessons she needs to learn the hard way. Also, to keep things interesting, I would purposely not divulge which parent will move overseas, when and where and why I get tattooed, or how much (or is it how little?) I weigh in spring 2015.

Here are 29 pieces of advice for the 2005 edition of myself, delivered with lots of love and a steupse or two.

 

1. Look for “flaws” in your character, not your appearance.

2. What you do when no one is watching matters even more than you already know.

3. The sooner you acknowledge the power of your words, the better things will be.

4. It is possible to create great art from a happy place.

5. You have the best dad ever too.

6. Practice being quicker to get over disappointments and slower to roll your eyes.

7. I love that you take so many pictures, but you don’t need to have double copies of all of them. (Also, since we’re on the subject: in one of the pictures up top, if not both, you are actually 18. You took so many that year there weren’t many to pick from the year after. But it’s all good, because your looks haven’t changed much since you were 2.)

8. Figure out how to control your emotions, and your imagination, or else they will control you.

9. When it comes to money, pay more attention to the direction than the amount.

10. Also, go out of your way to learn more about finances than what you’re being told.

11. Asking for help does get easier.

12. Saying goodbye gets easier too.

13. Letting go after saying goodbye will probably get easier. One day. I hope.

14. Soon you’ll come across this thing called Facebook, and I applaud your decision to hold out for awhile. But get on the Instagram bandwagon quickly.

15. Never stop dancing.

16. Singing will take you further than you think. Feel free to interpret that literally.

17. Don’t worry that you’re too old to get back into acting.

18. Don’t worry that you’re too old for anything.

19. Don’t worry. At all.

20. Take your own eighth-grade advice: Travel, travel, travel! (You remember why you said that, right? Good.)

21. Being single can be sexy. And “sexy” has a greater and better meaning than you realize right now.

22. Go clubbing a lot over the next little while; you’ll get tired of it pretty soon.

23. Experiences > possessions.

24. Classics > hits.

25. American men will always be a thing.

26. Take your time figuring out where you stand on religion and spirituality.It is nobody’s business but your own.

27. The only difference between a valley and a hill is your perspective.

28. I am extremely proud of you.

29. You are going to love what comes next.

Photo 52

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…

So I was on my way home from an audition, and as per usual I was struggling to put it out of my mind. This is a wise thing to do after any tryout, audition, callback, interview, or go-see. Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back in time to change what you did or how you did it. Right?

Oh, except in your mind. And I am a master of torturing myself by dwelling on what’s already behind me, singing the shoulda-coulda-song even though I’m tired of hearing it. Maybe it’s because of my experience as an editor, which teaches that finding flaws is the vital first step to fixing them. Maybe it’s because I’m an emotional Pisces, so comfortable in my dreamworld (a place where I’ve already won enough Grammys and Oscars to put even my own vision boards to shame) that my worst fear is opening my eyes to a reality that doesn’t measure up. Maybe it’s because an actor or singer can always find another actor or singer to laugh and commiserate with over how badly and thoroughly “I just bombed that audition;” or maybe it’s easier to remember the things I did “wrong” than the things I did right.

It’s probably all of the above, but for now I’m focusing on that last point. And here’s a plot twist: I’m about to congratulate myself for things I’ve done imperfectly, because I got some unexpected rewards out of those so-called mistakes.

I remember auditioning for a short film called Home Away, and totally forgetting my lines at one point while the camera was rolling. Oops. I said the wrong words but still got the character’s intent across, booked the role and finally earned the third ACTRA credit I needed to become full union.

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I competed in the Miss Teen Canada Scholarship pageant, with grand visions of bringing home the crown. Did I make the top ten? Nope. Did I cry? Yes (later, in the car). Funny how, even though there was no talent competition for this pageant, the director later asked me to sing something over the phone and invited me to perform at the Miss Teen/Mrs Michigan pageant that year. I happily accepted, and that was my first time performing outside of Canada.

Miss Teen Vaughan, in my "fashion outfit" =)

Miss Teen Vaughan, in my “fashion outfit” =)

It isn’t just about show biz, either. Last summer I picked up my phone, butterflies in my stomach on 100, called a guy I had met recently but really liked, and asked him out. I realize this isn’t a big deal for everybody, but for me it was huge! And he said no. And the Earth, I am glad to report, did not stop turning.

I'd love to post a pic of the gentleman in question, but that would be mean - here's a shot of me instead, celebrating a few weeks later =)

I’d love to post a pic of the gentleman in question, but that would be mean – here’s a shot of me instead, taken a few weeks later =)

Listen, social media can make it look like other people are strolling down Easy Street while you’re struggling to just get out of bed. Be aware of the gap between perception and reality. Please be aware of the many discouraging moments we all have, and which most of us decline to document or share. I personally cringe every time I hear the word “lucky” applied to me (and it’s usually being said by someone whose knowledge of my life is limited to my Facebook wall), knowing that my “luck” is largely the result of effort and discipline. And pain. And time. And learning.

And dozens upon dozens of “unsuccessful” auditions.

Seriously, if you’re curious, here are a few: The Lion King; Degrassi; Les Misérables; Hemlock Grove; The Little Mermaid; Caroline, or Change; Dark Matter; Once on this Island; Copper; The Gift; Ruined; A Day Late and a Dollar Short; Little Shop of Horrors; The Next Step After-Show; 12 Monkeys; Beauty and the Beast; Universal Studios Japan; Honey Jam; Kinky Boots, Rogers TV; Carnival Cruise Lines; Disney Cruise Lines; Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; the Raptors Dance Pak; plus a bunch of commercial auditions, song submissions, general auditions for theatres, etc.

Sigh.

When all is said and done, maybe I’ll always feel bad for awhile after an unsuccessful shot at something. But deep down inside I know that the regret of not taking a shot feels even worse and lasts even longer. So … here’s to … I guess, a lot more NOs, with hopefully a whole lot of YESes too.

Here we go again ... ;-)

Here we go again … ;-)

me and Missy.002

DREAMING BY DESIGN

So last weekend I ate lots of food, saw tons of relatives, and reflected on things that have happened for me between Thanksgiving 2013 and Thanksgiving 2014.

Like 2 super-exciting gigs, for example. I got to escape winter by singing in Dubai for 6 months, then I came home for the summer and filmed my first movie role playing the young Missy Elliott in Lifetime’s Aaliyah: Princess of R&B.

Of course there’s a silver lining in every cloud and a cloud for every silver lining. The Dubai experience was awesome, but being away from family and friends for that long can be tough. Playing the part of a pop culture icon in this major project is my biggest booking so far, but it didn’t come without a certain amount of . . . let’s call it . . . character-building.  =)

Now this post isn’t going to count, characterize or rehash any negative comments from the world of social media. (Although I offer a sincere “Thank You” to all those who took the time to send me encouraging messages; more than I expected! Bless up.) Nope, I’m writing this to share something that helped me keep my head up when it would have been easier to get angry or defensive or sad.

Let’s take it back to high school for a minute. As a tenth-grader at Thornhill Secondary, I had my first taste of graphic design in a course which I think was called Computer Sciences, and one project really stuck with me. Our teacher instructed each of us to Photoshop our face onto the cover of a popular magazine.

I loved the idea, and I scanned a hard copy of VIBE that I’d bought on a recent trip to the States (it was hard to find in Canada at the time).

double take

I’d never heard of a vision board or a dream board back then, but I kept a copy of this assignment. And I almost forgot about it until years later when the “controversy” arose about me portraying Missy Elliott. You cannot imagine how encouraging it was to find that 12-year-old piece of paper and hold it in my hand. It taught me 3 really important lessons.

me and Missy.001

 

1. THOUGHTS BECOME THINGS

Me designing this made-up cover, and keeping it, was my way of saying to God and the universe (long before I learned about the law of intention or self-fulfilling prophecies or anything like that) that I wanted fame and fortune and photographers. I still want to be a cover girl; I would love to do so in the world of music, but if it comes about through acting or some other form of expression, I’m fine with that as well. This taught me that making and using vision/dream boards is incredibly powerful as long as you’re putting the work in too. Mind what you wish for, because if you think it enough times, you’ll end up with it somehow.

 

2. NEVER GIVE UP

Notice, the time lapse between my magazine assignment and the headlines for this casting was 12 years. I originally thought I’d have a record deal around the time I finished high school — HA! It would have been so easy for me to trash this printout when I realized I was headed to university instead of being the next teen pop music queen, or any of the times I auditioned/applied/submitted for a role/gig/deal and didn’t get it. Now I understand that years or even decades can go by, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get what you’re going for. It might just mean you haven’t grown enough, or learned enough, or sacrificed enough yet.

Let’s say you set your ultimate goal 20 years ago and you’re not there yet. I don’t know when you’ll make it, but if you give up, I know you won’t ever make it. And it might be right around the corner. So keep going.

 

3. GOD HAS A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOUR

To be honest, my choosing that cover was a matter of convenience; it had nothing to do with Missy herself. Of course I’m a longtime fan; the woman is a legend! But it ended up as my backdrop simply because we were told to choose our favourite magazine (mine was definitely VIBE) and that was the hard copy I had to scan. Of course, the funny plot twist is that I went from replacing Missy’s face with my own to being the face of Missy in the movie. So the timeline looks like this:

June 2002 – I declare “I’m going to be on the cover of VIBE one day” by inserting my face onto VIBE’s cover and changing up the headlines to reflect my own interests and wishes.

Summer 2009 – VIBE goes out of print. I mope about my lost opportunity. Even the magazine’s later resurrection and reincarnations don’t make me feel much better. I sulk, but I keep working (duh).

June 2014 – I audition for and land the role of Missy Elliott in Lifetime’s biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, and I keep an eye on social media as people speculate about the movie and about who will be playing the lead role. The majority of what I read confirms my suspicion that the public will be vocal about any casting choices they don’t like.

August 2014 – BlackFilm.com publishes a piece about the movie’s cast, announcing that I’m playing Missy. Figuring the cat’s out of the bag, I confirm via Facebook (where a bunch of people who know me are full of congratulations) and Twitter (where a bunch of people who don’t know me are full of something else). Remembering my 2002 DIY mag cover, I remind myself that I earned this role and that my job is to get up, dress up, show up, and play the part. I have an incredible time, working with amazing people — love and respect to Izaak, Alex, AJ, James, Brad, Etheline, Rose, Chris, Gisele, Joe, Michelle, Fast Eddie, and every single member of the cast and crew for making this experience as awesome as it was!

November 2014 – the movie comes out, and a new chapter begins.

 

I can’t wait to see what new things I’ll have to be grateful for by next Thanksgiving.

xoxo

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10 THINGS DUBAI HAS TAUGHT ME SO FAR

It’s Tuesday! And the first Tuesday of every month this year I will publish a Top Ten list of some sort. Let’s see how this goes …

Being away from home, especially when traveling solo and especially for long periods of time, provides an awesome opportunity to learn new things. Mind you, most are things you could have learned at home too, but sometimes it takes a new environment or a new experience for a lesson to really hit home. Here are a few that have found their way into my consciousness since I came to the UAE.

 

1. Language doesn’t have to be a barrier.

The UAE is officially an Arabic-speaking country, with English commonly used as the language of business. With roughly 80% of the population being expats from some other country, you can hear dozens of languages being spoken, including every accent and dialect of English imaginable. Knowing how long it took me to become even somewhat functional in the French language, I have so much admiration for people who have perfected or are learning English (which is a VERY difficult language to learn), and true respect for everyone who has ever packed up and moved to a place where their mother tongue is not commonly spoken.
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This lesson has also taught me more about the power of music; the amount of people worldwide who know the lyrics to an iconic song by The Eagles or Bob Marley, even if they speak very little English, is mind-boggling.

 

2. You can miss someone even as you’re talking to or seeing them.

This one surprised me a bit — the last time I spent any significant amount of time away from home was in 2008, and I didn’t have Skype but I was physically close enough for about 10 of my family members to come visit me midway through the trip. I figured homesickness would be an obstacle during this Dubai gig, especially during the holidays, but sometimes it goes deeper than “I wish I could hear this person’s voice” and “I wish I could show them what I did today” … Sometimes, even as you’re looking at their face and hearing their voice and commenting on one another’s Facebook pictures, all you’re thinking is “I wish I could give this person a hug. Right now.”

Nothing beats in-person contact. Case in point: my godson.

Nothing beats in-person contact. Case in point: my godson.

Don’t get me wrong, Skype is awesome! But there really is something magical about being able to share the same physical space as a friend or family member. Makes me think I should plan some kind of big party when I get back to the T.Dot =)

3. Remain grateful.

Now is a good time for this reminder — there will always be something to complain about, and there will always be something to be grateful for. Focus on the latter (unless you want more things to complain about; then focus on those instead and watch them multiply.) Much more here than at home, I wake up and am immediately reminded that it’s a better use of my energy to focus on the many amazing things about my life, right now and in general, than the things that aren’t exactly to my liking. Especially when you don’t have to look too far to find someone who would gladly trade their troubles for yours (I blogged a bit about this here, at Christmastime).

In fact, it’s interesting to list some things that really stressed you out at one time in your life, now that you’ve reached a vantage point where you can see how unimportant those things really were. I had to stay in a hotel overnight in Montreal once on my way home from Haïti because the plane left Port-au-Prince too late to catch my connecting flight, and when I got there they wouldn’t let me use my dinner voucher … oh, boo hoo! It’s almost embarrassing now to remember how much I groaned and complained about that.

 

4. Go ahead, try a new dish.

Most of us love food, but lots of us are scared to eat something we’ve never eaten before, or something we find difficult to pronounce, or something we don’t know the name of at all. There are things on offer here that I don’t want and may never eat (like mussels … ew), but I’m proud to say I did start sampling new things right away. Like ful medames (pictured), and malva pudding, and millefeuille, and these little pastries with ground-up pistachio and sugar and cinnamon that are heavenly once I pick out the raisins with my fork.
fulYou never know when you’ll get a chance again, so take a lot of chances.

 

5. Go ahead, try a new drink.

Whoa! Some people get really, really attached to their favourite cocktail or brand of beer. While I am not the worst example of this, I have always been a hardcore piña colada girl (just ask the bar staff in the lounge where I sing, they tease me about it weekly). And yet, the other day I was cajoled into trying something called a mint splash, a milky minty green cocktail that reminds me of the Shrek McFlurry at McDonald’s awhile back. Love it!

Not sure why all the images I'm seeing online are white or brown; mine was green =)

Not sure why all the images I’m seeing online are white or brown; mine was green =)

I also tried the newest drink offered by KFC in mall food courts out there: a mojito that has no liquor and tastes like a hybrid of Sprite a 7-Up with real mint leaves in the cup. Weird? Yes. And I didn’t really like it. But at least I tried it =)

6. It is acceptable, even admirable, to take a nap every day.

Back at home, my attitude toward naps was back and forth between “Naps are awesome and I totally deserve one today” and “Napping?! Who has time for that?!” But when I got here, jet lag kicked my butt and a nap a day became my new normal (sometimes 2; 9 hours ahead is no joke!).

Napping in the sun? Don't mind if I do ...

Napping in the sun? Don’t mind if I do …

Besides, my main job here is to sing; just my luck, when I’m tired, you can hear it in my voice. Plus 6 nights of the week my shows wrap up around 12:30, with me often being too keyed up to go to sleep until 2am, and sleeping in would mean missing breakfast — so naps are imperative, no matter how much the more seasoned musicians tease me! Your schedule may not be as funny as this, but for real, if you aren’t making time to rest once in a while, you are doing a disservice to you and everyone involved with you or your work.

7. Establish a routine.

While we’re talking about daily naps, we might as well discuss other good dailies. I say aim for at least 3 things that you do every single day, without exception, which are helpful to you. 3 of mine are praying, doing my simple floor exercises, and writing something.

DSC07672There have been times when my list of dailies exceeded 12 activities, and feeling like you’re your own drill sergeant can be kind of miserable sometimes, so I eased up a bit. But when you start with 3, it takes less time than you think to get into the routine of doing those 3 things every single day. Then you can start to add in more. Whatever your goal is, I am willing to bet that the people who have achieved it already did so by focusing on their daily activities, no matter how mundane it seemed at the time. Routine is important.

8. Dash it away once in awhile.

Because breaking from the routine is important too! That’s why there are vacations and PA days; veering away from the routine, for some needed rest or for something spontaneous and fun, is also necessary.

Being in a situation where I get one day off per week, I’ve been making the most of each day off. I laze around at the beach. Or I catch up on chores. Or I shop and sightsee and attempt to get into Tyrese Gibson’s birthday party and get home after 5am. (Yeah, that was a really good day off, lol!)

dec29.009You know what they say about all work and no play … So change it up every now and then. =)

9. Whatever you wish, believe or have been told your area of work is, your primary business is connecting with people.

Honestly. Can you give massages better than anyone else in the world? No one will call you their favourite masseuse if you do so with a scowl or with dirty hands. Likewise, if your architect designed a gorgeous house but it was different from what you’d commissioned them to do, you might not be too happy about it.

Two of our awesome bar staff, Sumesh and Dony! I'm too much of an alcohol novice to comment on their bartending skills but I know they make the experience enjoyable! (This is them jumping up to Hot Hot Hot - made me so happy!)

Two of our awesome bar staff, Sumesh and Dony! I’m too much of an alcohol novice to comment on their bartending skills but I know they make the experience enjoyable! (This is them jumping up to Hot Hot Hot – made me so happy!)

All skills are important in pretty much every field of work, and that includes communication and other social skills; and I’m starting to realize how little of that was taught in school. When you throw language differences into the mix, it becomes even more important to connect and communicate with people.

 10. Learn about yourself.

Have you noticed how many people seem to pride themselves on knowing a lot about someone else? Sometimes the someone else is a person who they will never even meet. For example, it worries me when a parent knows who all the celebrities are dating and marrying and divorcing this year, but is unaware of what’s going on in their own home. I really recommend taking the time to learn or rediscover things about yourself, whether you ever feel the need to share those discoveries with someone else or not. Here’s one thing I found about me: I am happy when people come together and sad when people separate. (Deep down I always knew that, but again, being here helps crystallize a few things.)

Jacuzzi journalling. I need to do this more often.

Jacuzzi journalling. I need to do this more often.

So there you have it!  My first Top Ten Things blog of 2014. I’d love your feedback, either here or at www.facebook.com/chattrisse or www.twitter.com/chattrisse or even www.youtube.com/seechattrisse … And to be added to my mailing list, please send an email to chattrisse@gmail.com with MAILING LIST in the subject line. Bye for now!

This top cost me $1. Yes, $1. And these headshots will be viewed a bazillion times!

Your Wallet can Thank Me Later

I’m about to do something rare: I’m going to give you some financial advice.

I know. What? Does she have any background in that? Not really, although I’ve been reading some awesome books on it. But as far back as 2009, I’ve been sharing this one rule with people who promptly laugh at me, then stop to think about it, and usually end up telling me it really works. It is one of the tools I am using to become free of consumer debt by March 3, 2016. (Now you all have to hold me accountable to that goal, okay? Thanks!)

When you want something but you’re not sure if you should buy it, there are many tried-and-true methods to determine whether to get it or forget it.

David Chilton, author of The Wealthy Barber, suggests stopping to figure out how many hours it took you to earn the price of the thing you want, and ask yourself if it’s worth that much of your time. Rapper Xzibit said in an interview for VIBE Magazine that if you can’t buy three of whatever it is you’re considering, you shouldn’t buy it, and I think that’s brilliant (yes, even for huge purchases like houses).

Where the hours-to-buy-this rule fails me is that my cash flow is often sporadic, things like royalties and residuals make it hard to say what my hourly wage is, and many of my purchases are things that contribute to my money-earning capacity. Xzibit’s rule is awesome for medium and large price tags, but when the small buys add up — “Oh, these earrings are only $9.95 a pair, of course I can afford three” — you can be fooled into thinking you’re a smart spender when you’re really bleeding to death by pennies.

So what do I do? I look at the price and forecast how many times I’m going to use the thing. The amount of times I will (not might) use it needs to be equal to or greater than the amount of dollars I pay. (NOTE: I realized after writing and editing this piece that Gail Vaz-Oxlade, whose work I admire, has touched on this rule and published it before I did. But my version of the rule, while similar, is better *sticking my tongue out* so keep reading! And if you’re familiar with Gail’s “‘how much per use’ calculation” keep reading anyway, because I’d love to hear how you think this stacks up against it.)

A dollar per use. It’s so simple, but it works. Say there’s an all-white party coming up and I see a gorgeous white clutch. It’s on sale for $19.99 and there’s no tax. Should I get it?

“Well, I’ll wear it to tomorrow night’s party for sure. And maybe to one more all-white thing this summer, and I have a couple of other outfits it could go with” … If I cannot see myself using it 20 times before it gets dirty, lost, ruined, whatever, it goes back on the shelf.

This blouse is a great example. It cost me less than $25 and I’ve worn it to numerous meetings, at least 2 auditions, at least 2 dates, at least 2 performances, a news taping, a party (probably more than one), a family reunion, plus literally countless other times. And I still love it!

Not only does this curb impulse shopping, it helps you focus on quality over quantity of stuff. Shopping for fall boots on a budget? Don’t get the adorable expensive suede ones, because you can’t wear them on wet or muddy days and they’ll be back in the closet before you know it. Shopping for winter boots instead? Here in Toronto, you can easily wear those 100 times in a year, so you don’t have to be as frugal — especially if they’re good enough (waterproof, warm, comfortable, the heel doesn’t wear down easily, etc) to last you several winters. If you’re buying a new piece of equipment, seriously considering how many times you’ll use it before you upgrade again. It might be worth getting the better model now, especially if you make money with it and you’ll soon receive from it more money than you paid to get it.

Honestly, how many of you have closets full of clothes you’ve only worn once, drawers full of gadgets you never use, things you bought to go with other things that ended up just draining your bank account? Stop it. Your money is worth more than that.

If you’re shopping for children, I advise using this rule even more. Sure it’s back-to-school season and everybody wants new stuff, but will she grow out of that jacket before she wears it enough times to make it worth the purchase? He asked for this game for his birthday, but does he tend to get bored with new games after a week and never play them again? We’re all going to spend and we’re all going to shop, but if we do it more carefully we can feel better about it after.

I’m a big fan of dollar stores, especially since adopting my rule. Most things there work just as well as their other-store counterparts. When my designer classes case got really beat-up from living in my purse, I found a new one at Dollarama. Cost: $1.13, taxes in. Uses: 760 and counting.

As with all rules, there is an exception. When pictures are going to be taken, or video, you have no way of measuring how many people will see you wearing or using that purchase, so go nuts. I plan on getting married once; I don’t expect to find a wedding dress for $1. But I think you’ll find if you use my rule regularly, you’ll also get better at not going over-the-top when it comes to your other spending.

Let’s look at this pic again. The top cost me $1. Yes, one dollar. And these headshots will be viewed a bazillion times!

Now, my dollar-per-use rule does have a serious flaw when it comes to buying food and buying experiences — clearly most meals are only eaten once (although I adore leftovers) and I don’t have the knowledge or the desire to figure out how many different muscles and organs will “use” a plate of food; and how am I supposed to know whether the trip to Puerto Rico will be worth that special sale price? These are times when David Chilton and Xzibit’s rules will probably serve you best.

But I do advocate this from years of personal experience. The amount of times you will use it should be equal to or greater than the amount of dollars you pay. (Convert from other currencies if necessary, lol.) Try it out for yourself and let me know how it goes!