Handling Rejection in the Theater
I saw a Broadway show last night. And it was wonderful and thrilling and fierce and those ladies up there were killing it. It’s the only show that I keep ending up with free tickets for. It was my third time seeing it! And it’s so fun and I’ve enjoyed it every single time.
But last night I had the most complicated reaction that I couldn’t explain, so I’m going to try and explain it now.
I’ve been called in to audition for this show a couple of times. It’s one of those shows that I know I can do. It fits right in my range, I connect with the character, and it’s something that I want. But very similar to Disneyland, I GOT CUT AGAIN. Rejection is a funny thing. In the Broadway industry, there’s SO much rejection that I really don’t care MOST of the time. There are more Nos than Yeses. I get it. It’s part of the gig. But when it’s a project that I truly believe in, it does hurt. It stings. I’m so hard on myself and try to keep it real with myself when I know a role is a stretch. So, when I actually think I’m right for something, there’s a good chance that I am. Being rejected from something I know in my bones I can do—it sucks.
When I lived in Orange County, California, I was a character Host at Disneyland. And while I was hosting all the characters, especially the princesses, it was hard sometimes on my soul. I would see the other Tianas (who I LOVED by the way) and think, ‘I can DO that! I know I can!!’ Then would go to the audition and be cut ON THE FIRST ROUND. By the 6th time that happened, I started to think I was delusional. Like, WHY on earth do I keep doing this to myself. Why do I keep auditioning over and over again when I KNOW they don’t want me! The negative self talk was at a peek around those times. I’m too short, I’m too chubby, I have too much acne, my gums show when I smile, I sweat too easily in the sunlight, etc etc. If you heard the list of reasons why I told myself I was cut again, you would be SHOCKED at the reasons I came up with and how MANY I came up with.
Cut back to now: I now am about to marry the love of my life who does not come from this world. He is so curious and is just rooting me on the best he can. But now, if I didn’t hear back from an audition, instead of forgetting about it and moving on, I’ve got a little birdie in my ear asking about it and when I’ll hear back; REMINDING me that I hadn’t heard back and then eventually making me wonder: what DID indeed happen? We will be seeing a show, (that I auditioned for) and his sweet heart will genuinely ask (sometimes at full volume) ‘That’s the part you went out for?’ not realizing how embarrassed I feel for still being in the audience and not on the stage.
And so last night, there we are: watching these gorgeous humans kill it on stage, sounding INCREDIBLE, full of confidence and sex appeal. Half of them are my friends. I’m rooting them on and cheering as loudly as I can. GENUINELY loving all over them because they deserve it! And at the same time, there are silent tears streaming down my face. I wonder:
Will I ever be on a Broadway stage again?
Am I cut out for this?
Will Andrew ever get to see ME on the stage? He’s watched my cabaret but he’s never seen me in a highly produced show. Since he’s known me, I’ve always been on the sidelines. Or unemployed.
This pandemic has made it so that this is the longest in my whole life I've gone without performing. I have worked consistently for the last decade enough so that I could actually buy my own home in Manhattan. Without a co-signer. I’ve never not worked. But the shutdown made it impossible to work because Broadway did not exist. Thankfully, Broadway is finally back BUT not full throttle just yet. About half of the theaters are still vacant and there seems to be more performers vying for fewer roles.
I interviewed a woman named Felicia Curry who is currently killing it off-Broadway in a one-woman show called Queens Girl in the World at Theatre Row. And I asked her: What would you say to someone who has lost their confidence and is ready to give up?
She had a powerful response (which you should go listen to on Black Hair in the Big Leagues podcast.) But one of the things she said was: Remember why you got in this business in the first place. Remember your why.
And I thought to myself, I wanted to reach a lot of people and make a positive impact. And also, I wanted to feel like I was a part of the Broadway community and feel like I belong.
Well GUESS WHAT. I AM a part of this community. I feel that. And in addition to the stage, I realize there are other ways to ‘reach a lot of people and make a positive impact.’ In fact that’s exactly how I feel producing my two podcasts.
Here’s why we should be encouraged. Because if I learned ANYTHING during the pandemic, it’s that it’s a dangerous game to tie your identity to any one thing. That we are more than our careers, social media presence, vanity, love lives. That being on this planet is about WAY more than appearing successful. BECAUSE WHAT IS SUCCESS? What’s the point of having the sickest, coolest career if you aren’t happy? Success to me is living a joyful life that you LOVE.
It hit me like a ton of bricks a few weeks into the shutdown when rehearsals for the new Britney Spears Musical had ceased and I was home……..alone…….and inside my beautiful studio apartment………alone…..22 hours a day…..for an endless forseeable future. I remember sitting on my couch and looking around at all my accomplishments and saying out loud to no one:
Ain’t nobody here to share it with me? No no no no. This isn’t it. This is not what I’ve wanted when this is what I THOUGHT I wanted all along. What’s the point of having everything I want if at the end of the day, I’m all alone with my family on the other side of the country, all my friends literally have COVID, and there’s no one here for me to love? WHAT’S THE POINT. *cue me stating boldly to God: God I am ready for a real Love. I’m done playing games. I AM READY.* **ENTER ANDREW J WEISS FROM STAGE LEFT at a time when I actually had emotional space to receive him** (If I would have met him a second earlier, I would not have been ready. GOD’S TIMING.)
I understand that timelines are a funny thing. That everyone’s on their own timeline and that we need to honor the flow of our lives. At the start of the pandemic, I never would have guessed I’d be getting married. And I’m so so grateful. But I also didn’t think it would take this long to get back on a Broadway stage.
Ya know, after all those times auditioning and being rejected and feeling SO down on myself trying my best to get in at Disney, I almost didn’t go to that 7th audition. I wanted to protect my pride from the hurt that I was to inevitably feel AGAIN.
But I went. AND I GOT IT.
And on top of the part I was going out for, it also happened to be a vocalist which exceeded every single one of my expectations. Before then, my best friend Carlin and I would watch the parade and say, “We would be the rope carrier at the end! We just want to be a part of the magic!!” But God had so much more up his sleeve.
My only job was to not give up. To set my pride aside. And to keep showing up.
And when the time is right, it will be worth the wait.
It was true for my journey with Disney. It’s true to my journey for finding the love of my life. So now, here’s what I say to the negative self talk when that rejection zings a little extra:
There is nothing wrong with you. You are exactly where you're supposed to be. None of this is catching God by surprise--AT ALL. What is yours is yours. And it’s already done. That you ARE beautiful enough. Talented enough. GOOD ENOUGH.
You are enough.
You are enough.
You are enough.
To keep having joy. Keep shining. Keep being a light. Keep having hope. Keep not giving up. Keep living your best life even when you don't know yet how it will all turn out. You have no idea how many lives you are touching by just being YOU. Be the YOU that your kid self was so fearless at being.
What is meant to be, no one can take away from you UNLESS YOU TALK YOURSELF OUT OF THE BLESSING. Keep showing up. Keep working hard. Keep grinding. Keep being hungry. Winners are winners because they DIDN’T GIVE UP. Everyone fails but if you give up after you've failed, then you HAVE lost! KEEP GOING. Enjoy the journey and keep putting in the work. Continue to be kind. Continue to spread love. IT WILL COME RIGHT BACK TO YOU.
You came to this earth to slay.
And when the stars align—and they will align—you will be so happy that you did not give up.
You got this sis.
In the meantime, enjoy your hot-ass fiancé. It’s gone be alright.