Tag Archives: art

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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 ;-)

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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

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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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Recap: The Big Birthday

Now that it’s May, I can look back at my most recent birthday, which was in early March.

Allow me to explain.

My birthday is on the 3rd, which means my champagne birthday happened when I was 3 and barely knew what “birthday” meant. Womp. Other significant birthdays ranged from very good (Sweet 16) to verrrry stressful (Quarter-Century), and overall the birthday to beat was March 3rd, 2014 (spent living it up in Dubai, shopping and fly boarding and going up the tallest building in the world). For my reverse champagne birthday (someone else can think of a cool name for it) I decided to go all out, celebrating 3 decades of life in 3 different countries over a span of 3 months.

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I already had my ticket for Trinidad Carnival, so I kicked off the celebrations there and you can read all about it in my last post.  I came back home and danced the night away at a fete with a few of my girlfriends, then released the trailer for my new webseries-to-be and released a radio single. I celebrated my actual birthday by leaving work early to go to 2 auditions before taking myself shopping.

Almost showtime!

Almost showtime!

The birthday fell on a Thursday; that weekend I got to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre perform with the added bonus of watching it with my little cousin. This was our first show together! And she’s the same age I was when our Grandma took me to my first concert, which I think is awesome. There was a family dinner after that, and then I went to my curlfriend Nicole Stamp’s place to learn how to work natural hair magic like she does. I’ve been in love with my hair ever since. I got to show off my curls the next day at a delicious and hilarious brunch with a bunch of friends and cousins.

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Harlem Underground

Harlem Underground

The next weekend I was reshooting sections of my Digital Dossier, and then I had new headshots taken by Denise Grant. It did rain that day, which ruined my plans for my hair, but MUA Christine Cho waved her magic wand and the pictures look pretty damn good in my opinion ;-)

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I almost ran out of time to squeeze in my third country, but in April I went to New York City (where I hadn’t been since 2012, and where I definitely need to be more often). Just looking at Manhattan, or walking up and down the streets there, feels like celebrating to me. Even better that I got to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. And I got some good buys in on the way home, tee-hee!

Haven't "seen" her since she was in her mom's belly!

Haven’t “seen” her since she was in her mom’s belly!

So I did it: celebrated in 3 countries, between the beginning of February and the end of April, and the good times keep rolling. Other things have added to my birthday celebrations over the 3-month time period: I left my day job, auditions have picked up, I’ve booked a play in Peterborough and one in Toronto for this summer, and I’m leaving for Haiti in a week!

Happy Birthday to me, and Dirty Thirty is looking exquisite so far . . .

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10 Goals, 12 Months – My Year-End Blog

So I’m back to the blog – and before I write anything else, let me alert you that this here post will make more sense if you’ve seen that there one first.

July seems like a crazy long time ago! But if you know me, you know I had to check back in on the aforementioned goals before closing out the year.

Remember, 2 out of my 10 goals for 2015 had already been completed by July 2nd: returning to Haïti with Third World Awareness for their 2015 trip, and being a model in the Carnival Nationz band launch.

1 out of the remaining 8 goals was already a Nope, since I did not make it to Las Vegas in May.

Now, what about the remaining 7?

I said I would book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’d done a handful by July 2nd, but 1 of them was unpaid; by now I’ve done 6 paid engagements.

Me with Jerome, one of my (singing) partners in crime who I met this year!

Me with Jerome, one of my (singing) partners in crime who I met this year!

Out of the 4 acting gigs I decided to book and complete this year, 1 was completed by the midway point . . . and although I’ve had auditions and callbacks since then, I haven’t actually booked any others. (Yet.)

How about those lofty financial goals? Will I celebrate my birthday by having zero remaining debt and playing mas in Trinidad Carnival? HELL YEAH!!! I’m officially debt-free, having eliminated more than $21,000 worth of debt in just under 3 years; I’ve already bought my plane ticket and I’m playing mas too! Stay tuned to my Instagram account for nufffff pictures…

Salamander, one of my early faves

Salamander, one of my early faves

My trip to New York? My friends bailed on me and I didn’t go.

My road trip? I didn’t organize anything in time; but there’s always next year.

My reintroduction into the world of dating? Well yeah, actually, that did happen. Next question =)

#datenight

#datenight

Re-qualifying for the first promotion of my network marketing business? Nope, I didn’t hit that goal. Keep nudging me for 2016, okay?

 

The final tally? 5 out of 10 of my 2015 goals were completed in 2015.

50%.

Half.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad . . . if I got a 50% grade on any course I took I’d be furious about it . . . but then again, the point of personal goal-setting is to go big or go home. Right?

 

Anyway, time to take a look at the year ahead and figure out what I’ll be getting up to next. ;-)

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… unless I manage to complete another one in the next 5 days … hey, anything’s possible!

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Midway Blog – 2015

July 2nd marks the midway point of a 365-day year.

I always have multiple achievements in progress, both long-term and short-term, in multiple areas of my life. This year I selected 10 specific ones to reach by year’s end and 10 more to achieve within the next 10 years, and since we’re halfway done 2015 I figured it was time for a quick check-in…

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2 of my Goals for 2015 have been successfully completed.

I returned to Haïti with Third World Awareness; and I modelled in the Carnival Nationz band launch for 2015.

Ayiti cherie!

Ayiti cherie!

Finally!

#finally

 

 7 of my Goals for 2015 are Works In Process. Specifically . . .

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3 Goals are In Process – Stage 3 (the work has started, but isn’t complete yet):

I said I was going to book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’ve done 5.

Many of my performances so far this year have been with the wonderful, beautiful Sunset Service Choir.

Many of those performances have been with the wonderful, beautiful Sunset Service Choir.

I said I was going to book and complete at least 4 acting gigs; I’ve done 1.

The stage. Sonnets for an Old Century was my first acting gig of the year.

The stage. Sonnets for an Old Century was my first acting gig of the year.

I said I’m going to celebrate my next birthday by being debt-free and playing mas in T&T Carnival 2016; in terms of saving up money and securing accommodations, I’m on track and on schedule.

hopefully with my cousin Kari!

hopefully with my cousin Kari!

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3 Goals are In Process – Stage 2 (the planning is underway):

I said I was going to take at least 1 trip to New York . . . it looks like it’ll happen in August.

I said I was going to take at least 1 road trip (probably to New York, if I’m being honest) . . . so if New York in August happens and I don’t fly there, that’ll be two goals crossed off with one stroke of the pen.

I said I was going to start dating again *gasp!* I decided it was time to reboot my non-platonic social life, and since I don’t want to jinx anything, let’s just say it’s looking like it’ll be a fun summer =)

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1 Goal is In Process – Stage 1 (I need to get on it):
I said I was going to promote to the first level of management with my network marketing business . . .I’ll be re-qualifying this month!

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Finally, there is one goal I set for this year that I know I’ve missed: an event in Las Vegas in April which I wanted to attend and ultimately chose not to, in keeping with the achievement of my next-birthday-related goal listed above.

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And as for my next-ten-years list? More than half are already works in progress.  :)

Cheers!

Cheers!

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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 … ;-)

Chattrisse-online-E

10 REASONS 2014 ROCKED

Sometimes, quotes that go viral are bang on. Like this one:

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So, full disclosure, spoiler alert, be warned! For this, my final Top Ten Tuesday (maybe ever . . . maybe just for the year 2014), I am choosing to focus only on my highlight reel. I encourage you to do the same as you reflect on that year that’s ending and the new one coming up. Here are 10 of my favourite memories from 2014 . . . they started out in chronological order but you’ll see why that didn’t last long. Enjoy!

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1.   DUBAI, AKA THE FIRST 5 MONTHS OF THE YEAR

This is not a copout, you guys. If I tried to count and categorize my favourite individual moments from my stay in Jebel Ali, I would never ever ever finish writing this. I mean, really, which was more memorable: fly boarding, or ascending the Burj Khalifa? Swimming in salt water, or strutting in heels? Organizing photoshoots, or creating videos? Shopping for new clothes or chopping new men?

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10am in Toronto, and 6pm in Dubai

flyboard10 IMG_0110Suffice it to say that my entire trip there, especially from January 1st until early June when I came back home, will ever be forgotten.

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2.   FAM JAMS

And when I did come back? Family reunions galore! A roti picnic on my mom’s birthday, my cousin Derek’s wedding in Ottawa, a Thanksgiving feast in London, ON (with STUFFING!!!  WHY was that so hard to find in Dubai???), reunions with cousins I rarely see even when I am home.

IMG_2319 IMG_2322I gave and received many bone-crushing hugs, and I loved every squeeze.

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3.   MEETING 5 NEW BABY COUSINS

Reunions are one thing; meeting and holding a new baby for the first time is, like, next-level awesome. And I was blessed with 5 (yep, 5) new baby cousins this year. In birth order: Carter, Amaya, Quinton, Iyla, Adalia.

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Baby bliss!!!

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4.   GETTING BACK INTO AUDITIONING

And not just because I booked one or two roles! But the whole process, which used to feel really stressful to me, is getting more and more fun.

Pre-audition selfie ... last chance to check my eyeshadow ;-)

Pre-audition selfie … last chance to check my eyeshadow ;-)

Shoutouts to the people booking the roles I didn’t =)

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5.   FRIEND-LY REUNIONS

Every coffee date or breakfast date or jerk chicken date with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and months was a heartbeat for me. I’m especially grateful for the CAMO Cruise, my reintroduction to Toronto’s fête society, where I cruised across Lake Ontario with good people and good music and good drinks (and okay food, lol) and thought to myself, “Man, do I love this city.” (Thanks, Nish!!!)

Nish, Dija and me!

Nish, Dija and me!

Likewise, the day after the Caribana parade, some friends and I went to a day party that gave me so much life I’ve run out of words for it. Amazing music (shoutouts to hometown hero DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville, from Dubai, who I finally met here in Toronto!), pretty venue, awesome people, new and old friends, randomly running into my cousin Kari . . . vibes. Loved it. (Thanks, Lincoln!)

Clockwise from the gorgeous blond-tipped curly fro, lol: Tiff, Shana, me, Nish. DJ Dany Neville is at work in the corner

Clockwise from the gorgeous blond-tipped curly fro, lol: Tiff, Shana, me, Menisha. DJ Dany Neville is at work in the corner

And let me not forget the wedding of my homegirl Allison, who I’ve known since tenth grade, to the ultra-cool Derwyn . . . I’ll just leave this picture here because with words, I literally can’t.

IMG_2203Love y’al!

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6.   CREATING MY OWN ROUTINE

Overseas, my routine was determined by my work hours and the times that the buffet was open. Here at home, it took me awhile to settle back in, and there are still some days that get crazy, but at least I have control over the first hour or so after I wake up and the last few minutes before I go to bed. Carving out time every day to read and write and express gratitude, and even to YouTube sermons, has made a huge difference. photoIt might be the least exciting thing on this list, but it’s for sure going to be one of the most beneficial, long-term.

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7. RELAUNCHING MY SIDE HUSTLE ;-)

Spending the first chunk of the year overseas, in some ways it was like an extended vacation. But to be honest, there were times when it felt a bit like exile. This was especially true when it came to my beauty/health/wellness business, and it was a relief to jump back in with my colleagues and my appointment lists, and some sweet new products, when I got back.

IMG_1325IMG_2444Onward, to ENVP!

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8.   REALIZING THE POWER OF VISION BOARDS

me and Missy.002You can read all about it here, but from here on out I will be even more mindful of how powerful these things are, as material declarations. I mean, really. Wow.

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9.   SHOOTING THE AALIYAH BIOPIC

What an experience!  Everything about this for me, from the audition process to the backlash, was important and I’m grateful for every second. But what makes it onto this list, for me, is actually being on set for this project.

#90s

#90s. The first scene

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Set life. L to R: James Shipp, Izaak Smith, Alexandra Shipp, AJ Saudin, me

The environment and the goal and the people, especially the people, had me really really wishing that somehow I could have stayed on set longer. As in, I would have gone on set every day just to watch and be a part of it from behind the scenes (I did, actually, on one day). Thanks to everyone involved; much love!

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10.  UNSCENE

Ah, my baby. For those of you who don’t know, I’m developing a new TV show called unSCENE and this year it grew from just a pilot episode to a pilot, the finale, plus several other episodes written, numerous meetings and pitch sessions, and now (shhh, this is insider info) possibly a casting change that will turn everything I’ve already written on its head.

L to R: Sagine Semajuste, Kelsey Willmott, Jazz Testolini, Kerron Schullere, Chattrisse Dolabaille, JaNae Armogan

Queens Quay.  L to R: Sagine Semajuste, Kelsey Willmott, Jazz Testolini, Kerron Schullere, me, JaNae Armogan

Frustrating as it’s been sometimes to take care of this finicky, fussy, slow-growing project, I love it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with more of you.

And that . . . is a wrap. I have this policy where every year should be better than the year that just passed, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do in advance of 2015! ;-)

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ABOUT A YEAR AGO

It’s the evening of November 27th, 2014. I am reading a library book, editing a blog entry, messing around with lyrics for a new song, playing soca in my head, wondering why my back hurts on one side, and contemplating going to the kitchen to get a snack . . . all pretty much at the same time.

I was doing a lot of things at this time on last November 27th, too. I was at the Lester B Pearson International Airport and I was wondering what I had forgotten to pack, helping carry bags and musical instruments, joking around to keep myself from feeling nervous, celebrating the fact that the wind and snow outside had lost their power over me, taking pictures, saying goodbye to my parents, and forbidding myself to cry. I was about to leave home for my first overseas gig, to spend six months singing in Dubai.

It’s times like this that I realize, all over again, what a difference a year makes.

Here are some current-me updates, in case me-from-a-year-ago is interested. Since last November 27th, I have:

 

– completed the Dubai gig (153 shows done, and 52 songs written during downtime, but who’s counting?)

– met some great new and hopefully lifelong friends

– gained and lost weight

– gained and lost and gained hair length

– gained and lost a glorious Arabian tan

– developed and recovered (?) from crushes on numerous men from the UK

– tried fly boarding

– landed my first role in a feature film, gaining insight about myself and other people as I learned what it feels like to be the subject of criticism in the big wide world of social media

– been blessed by the arrivals of 5 (!) new baby cousins and joined several of my friends in welcoming their new babies too

– married off one of my dearest friends; this time a year ago she and her husband weren’t even engaged yet

– made lots of progress in the creation and development of a new TV series

– paid off a significant amount of my personal debt

– successfully relaunched my online beauty/health/wellness business, and found some new outlets for my skills as a writer/blogger and editor while continuing to create and go to auditions

 

That list looks pretty good to me! Heading into this American Thanksgiving weekend, I’m reminded again of how much I have to give thanks for in just the last year alone. Now, let’s see what other tricks 2014 has up its sleeve . . . =)

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