Tag Archives: advice

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What’s My “What’s My Line?”?

How’s that for an awkward-looking title?

Over the years, I’ve become very familiar with a group of folks who, although certainly famous in their day, probably aren’t well-known to anyone in my age group. Their banter was charming and laden with humour from the 1950s and 1960s – and while there are, naturally, many cringeworthy moments (which you could easily anticipate, as a socially conscious twenty-first-century viewer digging in the mid-twentieth-century crates), I love that they were quick to laugh at their own on-air mistakes, and some of my favourite moments to watch them in were thoroughly unscripted. Their names are Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennet Cerf, and John Daly – they were the primary panellists and the host, respectively, of the show “What’s My Line?” which Wikipedia tells me is the longest-running US primetime network television game show.

Here’s the thing: even though I’ve probably watched (or at least heard) hundreds of episodes, if it weren’t for the obligatory introductions at the beginning of each one I wouldn’t know much about the occupations of these four people, outside the show. Most of them, probably, first arrived on set seeing this show as either a new thing they hoped would go well, or a fun side gig, or maybe both; but I only know them as participants in this specific project.

I doubt any of them could have told you at the beginning that this would be the thing they were best known for forever after.

And that’s naturally got me thinking … what’s my personal version of this show? Is there something I’m involved in (or will be later) which will eventually overshadow everything else I’ve done, or will do? I’m very well aware that this is a case where knowing the answer would negate or ruin the question, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder just the same.

Although I see myself as a writer first and foremost; I doubt the rest of the world agrees with me so far, since so much of my career has been spent performing. Maybe, in a hundred years when I’m not physically here, I’ll be better known for something else entirely aside from arts and entertainment. Maybe the beginning of the 2118-version-of-Wikipedia entry about me will talk about my humanitarian work, or the awesome people I’ve helped to raise, or my abduction by and eventual return from a group of alien nomads who needed a human guinea pig. I don’t know at this point, and I shouldn’t know. And neither should any of us.

What I am sure of is that being aware of this question takes a huge amount of pressure off of me, and maybe you’ll feel the same way. All we can do right now is work on what we’re already working on, begin work on what we want to begin, and stay open to opportunities.

So I’ll continue to get more comfortable with having no idea what my “What’s My Line?” is, or is going to be. And with that … if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more writing to get back to. Because even if my writing does happen to be forgotten one day, that’s no excuse to slack off now ;-)

On set for a Divine Brown video shoot ... the first time I was ever paid to dance ;-)

Five-Year Flashback …

… Dancer Chattrisse is still a baby compared to the other Chattrisse listed in this old post, which you should absolutely go back and read so you know what on earth I’m talking about. (That pic represents the first time I was considered a professional [read: paid] dancer … ah, memories.)

That post was the first thing I ever blogged here, and this Wednesday it will be five years old — that’s crazy! Thanks, internet, for hanging in there with me while I learned to blog, and did it regularly, and stopped doing it, and got back on the wagon again.

Huh. Kind of like dance, interestingly … as some of you know, I injured my shoulder in spring 2016 and due to a condition that developed during the healing process, it’s still not back to 100%, and due to this, I’ve been doing significantly less dancing since 2016 than I would like. (One of the many reasons I love this video is that it was filmed mere days before the original shoulder injury; I still don’t have my full range of motion back, but at least I can admire what I looked like when I’d never considered losing it!)

So I’m taking a moment to look back and congratulate myself. For being transparent and for finding a new way of sharing my thoughts five years ago, for learning to be patient with my body during the last two years, and for how much better I will be two and five years from now.

Just for fun, what were you doing five years ago? And how does it relate to what you’re doing today?

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On Lists and Gratitude

Sooner than later I’ll be sharing a recap of the trip to Haïti I took earlier this month.

In the meantime, while that recap post brews and stews in my mind and my WordPress account, I felt like sharing a nightly habit of mine. It’s something I’ve been doing for at least five years, and only very recently spoken about with two people – my cousin and my boyfriend – outside the group of people who encouraged me to do it in the first place. It’s a very simple thing, and yet it can be a real game-changer as far as your mindset is concerned.

Every night, before I say my prayers and after I’ve otherwise finished getting ready for bed, I look at myself in a mirror, and begin to speak aloud, enumerating my “Sweet Sixteen.” Sixteen things I’m grateful for, and all sixteen must have occurred between my waking up that morning and the moment I get around to this ritual.

One of the (many) things I love about visiting Haïti is how easy it is to rattle off my Sweet Sixteen list every night (“I’m grateful for today’s sunshine, those adorable children in school uniforms,  my ride in a tap-tap, an evening visit from a tiny lizard, the electric fan by my bed, the delicious dinner we ate…”), and that this easiness lasts for quite awhile after I come home (“I’m grateful for the streetcar coming right when I needed it to, for reliable wi-fi, the bewildering variety of items on these store shelves, the chat I had in the laundry room with my neighbour, my tanned skin, this morning’s hot shower…”). On one trip I found myself being particularly grateful to feel a breeze blowing on a sunny day, and that level of appreciation is a place I want to learn to live in … while continuing to “build for better” (as my pastor would say), because if I spent all my time just being grateful for what I have I would find it hard to motivate myself to work, or work out, or write, or right any of the wrongs I see in our society, or ask for things I still want or need. In short, if I got too wrapped up in gratitude for what I’m able to enjoy, I wouldn’t ever go back to Haïti. Maybe I wouldn’t ever go anywhere.

And that doesn’t sound like me.

Taking one minute each night to deliver a big long “thank you,” that sounds exactly like me, and I hope I can inspire others to do the same. In fact, if you had to stop right now and list your own Sweet Sixteen for today’s date, what would it include?

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Introducing . . . Isla Caine (Chattrisse does burlesque!)

Last fall, I saw a dear friend of mine (Cassidy) perform in a fabulous burlesque show created by another friend of mine (Knox). Many people think of burlesque as just a bunch of hot women taking their clothes off in front of a sleazy crowd and not much else, right? Not on Knox’s watch — this was a full-scale production with a plot, period costumes and props, music, interesting characters, incredible dancing and choreography and singing, and both women and men of diverse appearances — including body types — performing burlesque for a warm and responsive audience. I stood around afterward, talking to one or two dancers who’d performed for Knox before, and said that I was going to try out for one of her shows in 2018.

Necessary background info:

(1) I am a lifelong singer; I’ve been singing at home since forever and in public since I was six years old, although

(2) I still battle with shyness, and feel that none of my public performances have ever been as good as what I manage to pull off vocally when I’m alone at home

(3) For almost as long as I’ve been singing in public, I’ve been very self-conscious about my body, and this has been exacerbated by the fact that

(4) For nearly two full years, I’ve been recovering from a shoulder injury (really, two of them) and this has led to a deepening of my disappointment in, and disdain toward, my own body

(5) In addition to a slump in my dancing, it’s been quite awhile since I was onstage singing. Except for a guest spot in a Chris Birkett show last October, it honestly may be over a year now — I literally don’t remember.

And finally, (6) I am a born-again Christian who still many questions about reconciling God’s love, my gratitude for innumerable miracles including our own bodies, and the shame that many Western people, particularly women, are programmed to experience when we discuss or display our sexuality.

Where am I going with all this? Well, even though I had plenty of reasons to simply disregard my stated goal of auditioning for a burlesque show, I decided that they all boiled down to one: fear. I pulled that fear out of my head and held it in my hand, where I could get a good look at it and remind myself how much bigger than it I am and always will be. I weighed all six of the points listed above, and decided to go through with the audition. With Knox’s help, I created a new act starring a new character: Isla Caine.

“Isla” can be either “EESS-lah” (Spanish pronunciation) or “EYE-lah” (English pronunciation), depending on where she is and who she’s talking to . . . because if you know me personally, you know that my most-used skills throughout life have probably been reading, writing, speaking, and code-switching. “Caine” is mostly a nod to sugar cane, since I’m Caribbean and I can be very sweet. Isla Caine emphasizes some of the realest parts of Chattrisse. She has a soothing voice. You see her commanding personality when it comes to getting things done. She’s willing to appreciate her curves even if they aren’t all in the places where she’d like them to be yet. And in terms of fashion, the vibe she gives you is made up of Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada), Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal ensemble, and a deep appreciation for jewel tones.

So I did it! On April 12th, I took the stage at Revival in a white suit over a black blouse, with smouldering eye makeup and a bright red lip. My hair was coiled into a bun and I wore my real-life oversized glasses. Before an audience of friends and cousins (but mostly strangers), I sang Diana Krall’s version of “Peel Me a Grape” while removing my blazer, blouse, pants, and elbow gloves. By the time I sashayed off the stage in my stilettos with my hair swinging back and forth across my shoulder blades, I was wearing only my matching aubergine bra and panties. And for once, no doubt because I was singing into a beautifully restored antique microphone, my voice sounded far better floating through the venue than it did it any of my at-home rehearsals.

Even before I was hugged by my people in the audience, or checked my phone to see a congratulatory message from a friend in Vancouver which contained a video clip of me onstage mere minutes earlier, or saw any of the pics or footage, I felt so good. I was so proud of myself for facing off against my nerves and fear and insecurities, and the feeling kept growing as I proudly watched Gin Kelly, another first-timer who I know from the world of acting, wow the crowd. Cassidy, who’s a pro at this, absolutely killed her set too. From what I was able to see, every woman and man who took the stage did themselves proud, and it felt incredible to be in the ring with them instead of watching from the sidelines.

On a very real level, if you aren’t learning you aren’t growing. One of my guiding principles (especially for this transition period I seem to still be in) is to keep learning, no matter what; otherwise I’ll have gone through an entire new season and have no growth to show for it. Creating and debuting Isla Caine has certainly taught and tested me, and while I haven’t decided yet how soon (or whether) I’ll bring her back out again, I’m truly glad to meet her and get to know myself a little better at the same time.

Thanks to Knox, Cassidy and all of the other Viva Italia performers, my family and friends who came, the sound guy whose name I forget right now but he’s super-cool, and to Hollywood Jade whose years of Urbanesque dance classes have helped me more than he knows.

Thanks also to photographer Ruth Gillson for the wonderful images! Speakeasy at Revival is a monthly event at 783 College St here in Toronto and if you’re looking for a fear to conquer, you may want to get in touch and ask to audition. Either way, check out one of their shows; I think you’ll be glad you did!

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xo

How to Scare Yourself, and Why

As annoyed as I get by the overabundance of inspirational quotes flooding so many social media platforms (I wrote a monologue all about it, maybe I’ll share that one day), every once in awhile there will be a kernel of truth in one of them that I really appreciate.

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” (which came to me from the world of network marketing) and “do something that scares you” (which I think I first saw on a Lululemon bag) both capture the sentiment I want to talk about today, and so does a quote which I wish I could type word for word right now. Unfortunately, all I’ve got is this: at some point probably more than five years ago, a celebrity contestant got eliminated from whatever season of Dancing with the Stars and I heard a snippet of her farewell speech on the radio as I struggled to wake myself up that morning. Her words, heavily paraphrased by me here, and delivered with a lot of emotion (I think she might have been crying) were: “Whatever you’re most afraid of, run toward that thing as fast as you can; I promise there is something amazing on the other side!”

(Sidebar: can any of you find the actual quote for me? You can imagine how fruitless my search has been, years later and with such sketchy info to go by.)

Fear does have its function, and a very useful one – so I’m not going to start telling you to go fly in the face of safety and reason. What I am going to do  (in my next post, so stay tuned), is tell a little story about how I feel more empowered today than I did a month ago, because I recognized and called out a fear that was inside my mind. I faced off with it, and I hope I can learn to value “scaring myself” enough that one day it’ll just come naturally to me.

It’s important to recognize at least some of the many times that fear, while you might assume it is helping you, is actually hindering your growth and/or learning. Listening to your fear may keep you safe . . . and yet, isn’t safety itself kind of dangerous? When you feel safe, you’re less observant. More complacent. Easier prey for, say, a pickpocket than someone who acknowledges the risk of being pickpocketed and keeps their guard up. Feeling fear is a sign that you’ve left your comfort zone, or are about to; and at the risk of leaning too heavily on more annoying quotes, leaving your comfort zone is almost always a prerequisite for earning any new stripes in this life.

Anyway, I wanted to get these thoughts down before sharing the actual story in detail. Come back soon to read the whole thing ;-)

xoxo

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What’s this season called?

I’m in a transition phase in my life … which is starting to sound kind of funny to me since I’ve been saying that for more than six months now. First it was time to leave my full-time day job, then I switched into a part-time evening one, then I had an audition drought (which was pretty annoying, since the job change had been prompted in part by my desire to have my daytimes free for auditions), then I used those daytime hours to write my first feature-length screenplay and apply for funding to help get it made, then I reinvigorated my training as an actor and got new headshots, then I had a few auditions followed by two more audition-barren weeks, and now I’m in training at a new new day/evening job and the auditions have started to pick up again.

In the meantime, I’ve taken a vacation (a concept which is nearly as foreign to me as the idea of celebrating a romantic anniversary, which I’ve also recently done), said goodbye to my cat (a beloved faithful companion of 14 years), dealt with a health issue or two (nothing awful, don’t worry), and had numerous extended family members pass away. So in many ways it feels like a turbulent time in my life.

When I expressed this recently to a friend, she said “Try and have patience. You’re likely coming through the other end now,” and “Longer transitions mean a greater impact when you land … I’d like to think.”

So would I.

I received another helpful insight from a social worker, who has suggested that I try being more compassionate with myself. I live my life by a set of unwavering standards, and I’ve always been able to fall back on my adherence to them even when those around me fall short. This has mostly served me well – except that I’m starting to wonder whether one of the lessons I’m meant to learn now is to let up on myself every now and then. To have a non-productive day without feeling bad about it. To treat myself with gifts once in awhile, the way I love to treat others. To congratulate myself for tries as well as actual wins. Because when I stop and think of all the reasons (excuses) I could’ve come up with to not write, not seek medical advice, not pay for classes and new headshots, not travel, and not go back into the Job Hunt Vortex … twice … all of those tries begin to look more and more like wins to me.

This is where I’m supposed to deliver an elegant finish; I don’t really have one. I guess I’ll just thank you for reading, and for sharing any of your own recent tries and wins that you’d like to let the world know about; and give thanks, of course, to my friends and fam who love me undoubtedly.

And thank you, Self. I’m proud of you.

xo

 

 

PS: For real, what are you reaching for right now? I’d love to know!

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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.

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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 … ;-)

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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).

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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.

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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!