Summer of Empowerment: Creating The Ripple Effect

“A single compliment can be a pebble dropped into still water. Let’s watch the ripples spread. Let’s turn the ripples into waves. Let’s all believe it.”

That quote from Steve Madden of The Leaf has been on my mind lately. I came across it following the release of the new viral campaign #NowBelieveIt from Nutrisystem. A campaign I was fortunate to be a part of. And part of what I am calling my summer of empowerment.

The weather wasn’t the only thing changing once summer set in. So was my mindset on how we look at ourselves. How society can sometimes pull us down. Honestly, how we can pull ourselves down. So, to that I say, let’s get over it.

It wasn’t intentional, but it turned out – this ended up as my “Summer of Empowerment.” The projects I chose – also seemed to choose me! And I hope these ripples never fade.

My first challenge: overcoming that “perfect body” image. We’ve all been there. And let’s be honest, guys and gals, we’ve all stood in front of that mirror and sighed – some of us more than others. Some of us beating ourselves up about it. OK… STOP. Two words: You’re beautiful. How do I know? Let me paint a picture for you. Women, you especially listen up.

(From bottom left clockwise: Quiet on the set: Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Kitt Allan shoot, On set,  DailyBurn365 LIVE, Just me)

(From bottom left clockwise: Quiet on the set: Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Kitt Allan shoot, On set, DailyBurn365 LIVE, Just me)

In May, I get a call from my agent that I’ve been chosen as one of the models in a new bathing suit campaign for what she referred to as a line for more “curvy women”. Now, I’m no size 2…. and, I’ve struggled with my weight from time to time. Who hasn’t? Proportioned, yes. But no Vogue cover girl. My first thought was, “Oh boy, what will I be wearing?” Knowing little about the shoot except the designer’s name, I show up on location and find out my shoot is for Kitt Allan. Kitt is a breast cancer survivor who left her her publishing career to create bathing suits and lingerie for women with breast cancer and those who support them. Her suits and intimate wear all provide space for prostethics from mastectomies, if needed. Her mission: genuine. Her energy: confident and kind. Her line: beautiful. She was on set all day, and if that’s not inspiring enough, three other models on the shoot are breast cancer survivors. I’m in awe! To be among these beautiful women who are willing to share and embrace their beauty was beyond words. Seeing these women of all shapes, sizes and ages, I realized just how lucky I am. And how beautiful we all truly are. I was proud of them for not only embracing their body types, but embodying the pure essence of women. By the end of the day, I found myself walking around with more confidence – because of them. And, when I was asked to do my testimonial about what Kitt’s line means to me, I immediately thought of my beautiful grandmother, Paula. She had a double mastectomy, battled breast cancer for years yet always looked like she was ready for a night on the town. I remember, when I lived near her during my college years in Texas, she had no reservations putting on one of her beautiful bathing suits and taking a dip in the pool. Sometimes I’d catch a bit of white tissue paper coming out of the top of her suit where a piece of her womanhood once filled the area. It was not something I talked about with her, but I knew. And I admired her for continuing to show her beauty and femininity, even if she was a little…lighter. For me, this project was for her. Kitt Allan inspired me. My Summer of Empowerment was on it’s way.

On location of the Kitt Allan  shoot.

On location of the Kitt Allan shoot.

Shortly after, I was cast in the Nutrisystem #NowBelieveIt campaign. Remember…the pebble? That’s the one. I show up on set the day of the shoot, spent a little time reviewing my lines, and tried to find the context and the truth behind the project. But, let’s be honest, you never really know the power of a piece until you see the finished project. When I received word from Magnet Media (the company that produced the project) that the video had been released, I was excited to see the results. When I did see the video, it hit me even more than I thought it would. #NowBelieveIt focuses on why women can’t accept compliments. I remember feeling attached to this project during my audition – I got it. I wanted to tell the story. So, why? Why is it so difficult to hea positive messages? And quite honestly, where was this type of help when I was younger? The digital age has given us a sense of a global community. Or what we call in the media world, “a global village”. It says, “Hey, you out there. I’m here for you, whereever you are.” The #NowBelieveIt campaign hits the nail on the head. Telling us to be a part of the empowerment and create that “ripple”. I encourage you to watch the video and share it. Toss that darn pebble and toss it often. Be infectious with the message and tell someone how awesome they truly are.

As the summer continued, a little comedy came across my plate., a lingerie line cast me in their #IfBoobsCouldTalk campaign. I voiced the project that focuses on, well…a day in the life of “the girls”, if you get my drift. It’s not a project with as deep of an impact as the others, but sometimes, you need to sit back and laugh at yourself. It’s OK. Go ahead. But remember, my eyes are up here! I only did the voice-over for this one. But it was fun. And isn’t part of being empowered and inspired also about overcoming fear? I think so.

Toward the end of the summer, I faced a lot of demons about body image, confidence, inspiration, overcoming obstacles, and turning them into possibilities. For quite some time, I have been sitting on the fence about finding a new workout and lifestyle program to get healthier, stronger and more fit. I mean, I have a wedding to plan and what bride doesn’t want to look killer in their dress? But more importantly, I want to be healthier for me. And that’s when The Daily Burn came into my life. I was chosen to be part of a live online daily workout called DailyBurn 365. All I can say is WHAT A RUSH! For only 30 minutes a day, DailyBurn365 gives subscribers a chance work out with different trainers and a hand full of classmates — including yours truly — LIVE each day at 9am EST/6am CST. It is like you’re in the classroom wherever you are (remember, the global village? Consider this a part of it). This project not only makes me accountable to myself but my classmates, my trainers and also those of you who log in each day to join us live. That’s the kind of pressure I like. Knowing I’m not only making a difference in my own life but to others as well. What’s so amazing about DailyBurn 365 is that you not only get the live workouts, you can log in and ask questions during the live chat from trainers and health coaches and really be a part of the family. It’s been an incredible ride so far and I hope you’ll consider giving it a try. Or, if you know someone who may want to come onboard… be the pebble. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s a 30 day trial to give it a whirl. (Ripple Ripple Ripple).

Behind the scenes of DailyBurn365 LIVE!

Behind the scenes of DailyBurn365 LIVE!

So, while it’s been an empowering summer how do I keep it going into the Fall? Truth be told, I’m not sure yet. But isn’t that what life is all about? Taking it day by day, throwing a few pebbles out there, creating some ripples and seeing just how far they go. I look forward to the possibilities and you joining me on the journey.

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With Love and Light,

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Don’t Get Ugly! It’s Not Pretty.

In life, and especially in the TV and entertainment business, there is a lot of pressure to look good. Hair coiffed. CHECK. Makeup on. CHECK. Wardrobe. CHECK. Believe it or not, it doesn’t end there. There is also this thing called talent: As in skills. As in being acknowledged for your hard work and not just being another pretty face. Sure, this industry sometimes looks more like a model agency comp card, but it is also a business made up of hard working professionals who care about the work they do, the people they interact with and the stories they tell. Nothing good comes from abusing that privilege or throwing around credentials and insulting others in order to intimidate. You see where I’m going with this one?

Britt McHenry

Britt McHenry

You may know who she is. You may not. The sad thing is, ESPN reporter Britt McHenry thought she was a pretty big deal at the time her car was being towed. But after a video went viral of her practically bullying a parking lot attendant over the ordeal, suddenly Britt was a bigger deal. Just in a totally unattractive way. Britt got pretty ugly and that’s not a good look on anyone. And for a woman who is used to being “camera ready”, she certainly didn’t seem to care (at the time) that her insults were caught on video. She KNEW she was on video. The woman told her. Fast forward to McHenry bashing the employee’s appearance, job, home and education. Cue: giggles heard from the sidelines. Not good. Not good at all. By the way, did she fact check this person’s background? News Flash: It’s never a good thing for a journalist (or anyone, for that matter) to assume. But alas, the bigger upset here is this: words hurt, Britt.
“I’m on television, and you live in a f—king trailer, honey.” Ugh. Why did you have to go there?

So, as we awaited the anticipated public apology on Twitter that usually follows stories like this, ESPN slapped her with a suspension. That’ll teach her. Or will it?

The thing McHenry may have forgotten at the time of this altercation is that she has been given a rather kick ass opportunity. There are likely a number of people who would love to have that gig. The key word here is OPPORTUNITY. And of course, GRATITUDE. As in “thank you for this job and letting me do what I love every day.” And to top it all off, she pulled the me vs. you comparison with the attendant. In McHenry’s apology, she said she let her emotions get the best of her. Fine. We all go a little wackadoodle every once in a while, Britt. No autopsy. No foul. But, it’s not the rest of the world you owe an apology. However, there is one parking attendant somewhere in Washington that may appreciate a few kind words. Just sayin’.

McHenry’s choices were obviously not the best choices that day. Just one example of how this attitude just won’t cut it. I’ve been fortunate to work in the television and media industry since I was in college. And I’ve seen all kinds of attitudes and egos (both on and off the air). I also have the privilege to teach what I do as a college professor. And when something like this transpires, it propels me want to work harder to share with my students the importance of integrity.

There’s a lot of competition in this industry. But as it continues to grow and the digital age is rapidly moving us in a new direction, there’s one thing that sometimes is forgotten… there’s room for all of us. Yes, all of us. But there are a few things that will keep you ahead in the game… and working. Aside from your talents, your skills and constantly working on your brand and craft, it does boil down to a matter of attitude, gratitude and integrity.

This event, like many, is a reminder of respect. Respecting others, the space (job/opportunity) you are given to be creative and … most importantly YOURSELF. It is about building trusting relationships and treating everyone as if you can/will work with them again. You don’t have to love everyone but for goodness sake, be kind. I tell my students all the time, you never know if one day you’ll be on the hiring end of the table or vice versa, so respect each other and respect the space.

So as this story becomes yesterday’s news, let it be a reminder that no matter what you do, WHAT you DO is important and WHO you ARE is unique. Don’t let your job define you. Define your job by being the best you that you can be.

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’” ~Maya Angelou

Share your thoughts…

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The Dark Side: Horror Film Casting 101

Let’s face it. The art of auditioning can sometimes be daunting. Especially when you’re challenged with a role that is really character driven. Like a snowflake, no two roles are alike. But you’ve done your homework. You know your type. You’ve even worked to broaden your emotional range. Some of you can even cry on cue. Brava!

Now let’s take it a step further. Time to think outside the box. A new challenge, a genre that could bump up your resume: HORROR. Oh boy. What now? A million things are running through your head. Suddenly you’re practicing your screams and faces of terror in front of the mirror. How the heck does anyone prepare for this stuff?

You’re not alone. With the increased number of horror and suspense films being produced these days, and TV shows like “American Horror Story” gaining popularity, there are workshops and classes to specifically prep actors for the ultimate in Horror 101. (Cue: Vincent Price laughing).

Filmmaker David Spaltro knows first hand what it takes to cast a horror movie. His recent film “…In the Dark” started production just this month. For a guy who has a number of films under his belt, he’s seen a lot of actors walk through his casting room door. But when it comes to horror, Spaltro shares what challenged him as a director, what he looks for during auditions and how you can…prepare to scare.

David Spaltro is Casting Horror Films

David Spaltro

HILARY: You just started shooting a new horror film “In the Dark” this October in NYC. How does casting a horror movie differ from other types of films you have cast?

DAVID: My previous two features “…Around” and “Things I Don’t Understand” were dramatic comedies where I looked for actors who could bring a consistent reality to every scene, and who had the versatility to go from humor to pathos effortlessly throughout the film or even in a scene. I think the same rules apply in a genre film, even more so, as you need honest performances to center and ground the more supernatural or horrific aspects, and keep the audience interested and invested in your story and characters. You need actors who don’t just give good reads of performances, but who have a technical ability to stay consistent in heightened emotions through several different set-ups, and over long periods of times as special make-up and other effects are introduced or shot.

HILARY: Do you look for the ultimate scream queen?

DAVID: Having a strong set of lungs is a definite plus for any kind of traditional horror film. What I was looking for most in both casting, and now in my work with the actors on set, were actors who could allow themselves to really play, and drop themselves into the strangest and darkest of places and happenings, and go through the arc of the character as they were besieged by all kind of supernatural events. Lynn Justinger is an actress I had worked with on “Things I Don’t Understand” in a smaller supporting role, and who I’d been dying to collaborate with since we wrapped that film. I had written one of the leads with her in mind, and when she came in to read she just brought so much depth and gravitas to the character. The camera loves her, and her positive energy, consistency, work ethic, and technique is just so helpful on a quickly moving independently produced genre film. She’s a director’s dream in her ability to bring so much, and then take any adjustments or changes, big and small, in subsequent takes. There’s also a genuine quality, that was needed for the character of “Veronica” that she plays in the film, and inner strength, that Lynn posses in spades.


Actress Lynn Justinger and director of photography Gus Sacks “…In the Dark” PHOTO BY: Brian Hotaling

HILARY:Some horror flicks can be pretty campy or go over the top with blood and gore. As a director, how are you bringing more of an authenticity to your filmmaking?

DAVID: I actually forgot how much I really loved horror, having been raised on a steady diet of EC comic books, horror films, and Stephen King books. A lo of the horror films in the indie film world, or scripts I had been offered were extraordinarily exploitive in violence and sexuality, but had no story, and quite frankly were NOT SCARY. When I was given the opportunity to write and direct my own horror film, I decided to go back to what made me love and be haunted by certain stories or films, and make it more about the characters, about mood. King is a great example of creating characters you care about, very detailed, that you become painfully attached to , and just when you forget you’re reading a horror novel, he promptly takes them and sends them to Hell. In some more modern and exploitive slasher horror films the audience watches and roots for the kills and the killers, but I wanted to actually build dread, and make the audience squirm in the seats. I wanted them to shake their heads, cover their eyes, and hope the horrific thing they know is about to happen, the thing they fear the most, may still not—then do it anyway!

HILARY: You mentioned that your usual method of working is bringing back actors you’ve collaborated with previously and giving them larger or more difficult roles. How do you find new talent to add to your troupe?

DAVID: I’ve been continually blessed with finding great talent in New York City. I write a lot of solid female roles because I think there’s a definite dearth in work that is out there now for women, but also because there is just an almost endless supply of talented actresses in all age and ethnic ranges in the city, and all of them have stories to tell. I try to bring back actors I’ve worked with in smaller capacities, give them something bigger and different to do, but am always scouting out talent through classes and workshops I teach, other filmmaker’s work that I come across, and plays that I see. I think a healthy dose of the familiar and the new keeps things interesting, and a lto of the praise I’ve gotten for my work is a direct result of that kind of casting, but also the ability of he performers to constantly elevate my material.

HILARY: Can you share one audition that really blew you away?

DAVID: Grace Folsom constantly inspires and amazes me. I cast Grace in my last film “Things I Don’t Understand”, which was her first feature film after graduating NYU, and she played a young, terminally ill woman with such passion, humanity, and experience it was haunting and painful. Her audition in the room was great, but it was how strong her video taped submission was, done on a simple laptop webcam, that blew me away and got her in the room. I must have gone through a dozen or so taped submissions, multi-tasking and eating, but stopped everything and re-watched a dozen times after hers came on. Grace is the lead in “…In the Dark”, and again, since she had relocated to LA, sent in an audition tape for myself and the producers, and just…. I had chills and déjà vu. She’s just such a strong actress who grounds all the other performers she works with in a scene, and lights up the room. You’re instantly connected to her and the reality of the scene, even in a tiny, grainy HD taped audition. That’s a gift that I don’t even know if it’s possible to teach or learn.

Spaltro and Folsom

Spaltro with actress Grace Folsom.

HILARY: What do you look for when an actor walks in the room?

DAVID: Auditioning can be nerve wracking for those behind and in front of the camera, and I’ve always tried to tell actors in workshops I’ve taught, to try and relax, and not over think every line, or every movement into the room. If you’re already in the audition room that means we’re interested in you, or have faith in your work. We WANT YOU to be good (it makes our job easier!). Auditioning for actors can sometimes be like standardized testing, as some of the best actors are terrible in the casting room, and sometimes a person can give a great auditioning or read, and not be able to do much more, or be consistent on set. What I most look for in an actor is their ability to prepare the scene, to have a basic independent understanding of the character, but then also to be able to take adjustments. I’ll even go so far as to give a completely different and off adjustment to an actor who’s did a great job, just to see how, or if they can, take my adjustment.. Versatility goes a long way with me.

HILARY: What about demo reels? Is there something that really catches your eye on an actors reel?

DAVID: Again, I go with versatility. I like to see what an actor’s strengths are, or “type”—but I’m a huge fan of seeing what kind of complexity or depth beyond that they can do. A lot of my work is taking an actors who’s known for one thing, and then flipping it, as I guide them through rehearsals and set adjustments, letting the unpredictability and unfamiliarity of the type of character or scene add some energy to the performance. 

HILARY: What’s the biggest mistake you think an actor can make when they audition?

DAVID: Fear is something that can’t always be controlled, so I wouldn’t call that a mistake. I think the biggest mistake is just being unprepared, and not really having thought about the characters or having any ideas to bring to the table. I often will give my actors full script drafts to read before having them come in, rather than cold sides, to see if they can bring some elements or understanding to the character in the audition room, and how they break things down. I’m also not a fan of actors playing it to safe, or not taking a risk, or being ready to change things up. Especially so early in the process, ore even after being cast and going through rehearsals, I think it’s healthy to stretch a scene out and explore possibilities, even if they’re researched and specific, to see what gels and what can be added. Then when you’re on set we’re all on the same page, and it’s about getting the scene technically.

HILARY: Are there any horror movies that have inspired to direct a film in this genre? How about actors? Any favs?

DAVID: After being hired to write and direct an original horror script I dove into some old favorites, and also binge watched some newer indie horror films to see what had been done, and what was possible. I gravitated more towards the understanding that the best horror films were mood pieces, with great characters and primal scares, but that also had something more to say underneath the macabre. George Romero’s “Living Dead” trilogy were all social commentaries of the decades they were made in, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and other films were about questioning the status quo and authority, and Wes Craven’s work had a lot to with human nature, reality, and the nature of evil. I think tonally I tried to go to films like Friedkin’s “Exorcist” (which is always going to be tops) in creating a kind of realistic horror that drags and audience through the ringer, putting substance and style together, and of course great performances by an ensemble cast that the audience can relate to and fear for.

HILARY: What have you learned during the process of casting a horror flick vs other genres?

DAVID: I learn something new every time I take on a new project, and I’m having a lot of fun playing with practical special effects, heightened lighting and more kinds of coverage then if it was a straight indie rom com where people are simply walking and talking in different rooms. I love storytelling first and foremost, so whatever the genre I get ot play in, I want my characters and story to come shining through and keep the audience involved and interested.

HILARY: Final thoughts. If you could share one bit of advice with actors, what would it be?

DAVID: I’d say my best advice for actors is to constantly work on their craft even during slow audition or work periods, to keep pushing and sharpening their range. They can work on scene with other actors, volunteer to read at writing workshop ensembles, practice and master new voice dialects… keep the instrument sharp and show as much versatility as possible. It’s a tough business with a lot of uncertainty and downtimes, but there’s still a great community of artists in NYC to band together and keep that energy and momentum. Build a creative family, because it really takes the best kind to create a great piece of art.

David Spaltro is a bi-coastal filmmaker based in in NYC. His first feature “…Around” (2009), found critical acclaim on the festival circuit, and eventually, distribution through Cinetic Media via VOD/Online and even PBS in 2010. His second feature, “Things I Don’t Understand” (2012), has garnered even more positive reviews, playing at over 40 film festivals and winning 13 Best Features, 5 Audience awards, and a host of acting honors, as is currently available ONLINE/VOD. Spaltro also directed the short film “The Cat’s Cradle”, currently on the fest circuit, and just started shooting and directing “…In the Dark”, a horror feature he wrote, for Seven Oaks Films. Additionally, Spaltro is in pre-production on his fourth feature “Wake Up In New York” and is collaborating with the Emmy-winning team at Judy Henderson Casting. He’s also optioned and is working on an adaptation of the existential horror novel “A Short Stay In Hell” by Phd. and author Steven L. Peck , an “Untitled Horror Project” financed and in pre-production and is working on a TV pilot “Welcome to Hockey Town”.

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Operation Headshot: 10 Tips to Make Your Shoot Rock (Part 2)

You’ve found a photographer and cannot wait until your headshot session. But something is missing. I’ll be honest. My last headshot session was by far my most successful. Much of that comes from giving myself a chance to just…be…ME. Having confidence in my photographer was a big part of it, but leaving hair and makeup to another pro was invaluable. Consider the extra expense. It’s worth it.

Being 100% focused on your shoot is vital. We worry enough about the process. You wouldn’t use a selfie as a headshot, would you? So why take on the responsibility of doing your own hair and makeup? Yes, guys – this goes for you, too. Dealing with hair and makeup will only be a distraction. And this day is about you – being relaxed, being yourself, and being ready to bring the real talent out for all to see.

In Part One of my “Operation Headshot” post, photographer Emily Lambert shared her insight on preparing for your shoot. Now, Makeup Artist Kelli J. Bartlett gets to the heart of the matter, to make sure you shine like the true star you are (just not shining on your forehead).

A successful headshot shoot with my two favorite red heads, Kelli & Emily

A successful headshot shoot with my two favorite red heads, Kelli & Emily

1. What is your best piece of advice you can give an actor/talent for their shoot?
Know who you are and relax into it!

2. Are there tips for the night before? The week before?
Honestly, everyone says to get a ton of sleep, juice, etc. I think you should do your best to keep your routine the same. You won’t drive yourself crazy the night before, staring at the ceiling at 9pm

3. You and Emily tend to reach out to your clients before the shoot. Can you expand on what it is you discuss?
I like to address concerns that are specific to the client. Calm any anxieties, make sure they have an accurate idea of the day, talk about a “plan” for the looks.

4. A lot of people stress about the shoot and fear the photos won’t be good. From the weather will be bad to the makeup isn’t right, etc. Do you offer any advice to break that barrier?
Be specific! Ask lots of questions! Do your research. If you know you need a lot of assistance, ask for it! If you are naturally nervous, speak up!

5. How do you think your dynamic working together with Emily makes you two different? What do you offer that others may not? What makes you unique?
I have a total and utter respect for what Emily creates. She has an eye that is unique and creative– our process is collaborative. Emily understands my job and respects it- so she pushes me towards excellence! I just love the results when we work together. She is both technical and an actor’s director. LOVE HER.

6. When it comes to changing looks both location and even physical/wardrobe/hair/makeup, are there suggestions you give when you know a client wants to change it up a bit?
A small change can do a LOT of good. A slight lip, a little more liner, they all help tell a story and can be done quickly!

"A small change can do a LOT of good. A slight lip, a little more liner, they all help tell a story and can be done quickly!" - Kelli

“A small change can do a LOT of good. A slight lip, a little more liner, they all help tell a story and can be done quickly!” – Kelli

7. What do you look for when you shoot a subject? You whittle down the best of the best pics. How do you decide to help your client? I like to look for the person who walked in my front door– the same energy, their natural radiance.

8. When it comes to retouching? What’s your best advice? Is it necessary?
I do my best to make Emily’s job as easy as possible. Hopefully, my makeups inform the actor on the inside (removing insecurities, covering imperfections) and it translates to the camera.

9. Do you find that more men are using MUA and hairstylists on set now? If so, why? Isn’t it about being more natural? How do you help maintain that natural look?
It is… but NATURAL doesn’t mean NO MAKEUP. When casting directors and agents say no makeup– they don’t mean BARE faced. We live in a selfie filtered world… and the makeup artists are being challenged to do looks that look NATURAL and LIKE THE CLIENT—It is so important to work within the clients skills and to take direction from the agent.

10. What’s the biggest mistake actors and talent make or you have seen? Things to avoid.
Not bringing their actor to the shoot. They forget their training. They leave their craft behind and try to take pretty pictures.

Makeup Artist Kelli J. Bartlett

Makeup Artist Kelli J. Bartlett

Kelli J. Bartlett joined GLAMSQUAD as the Director of Makeup Artistry, bringing a decade of experience on red carpets, runways and editorial fashion pages. Bartlett cultivated an elite clientele while artist and manager at an industry-leading cosmetics company, where she fine-tuned her work, which has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, US Weekly and Vanity Fair, among others. At GLAMSQUAD, Bartlett is responsible for the rigorous vetting and training of all GLAMSQUAD makeup artists as well as keeping the GLAMSQUAD Makeup Menu outfitted with wearable, on-trend beauty looks. Making women look and feel beautiful, combined with superior customer service, are hallmarks of Bartlett’s work @kellijbartlett
Missed out on Part 1 of this story? Read it here!

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Operation Headshot: 10 Tips to Make Your Shoot Rock (Part 1)

In the age of selfies, no one is shy about smiling for the camera. We point our phones at ourselves at close range and never think twice. If we don’t like it… delete. Simple. But ironically, when most of today’s talent gear up for a professional headshot shoot, suddenly the nerves take over. You know what I’m talking about. Preparation panic. The questions we ask ourselves start rolling in. “Which photographer should I choose?” “What should I wear?” “What if my hair doesn’t cooperate?” “What if it rains?” “What should I do the night before to prepare?” We can drive ourselves crazy with a game of 20 questions (or more).

If that sounds familiar, you’re in luck! In this two-part series, you’ll get the scoop behind your shoot and be more than ready for your close-up! From photographer Emily Lambert and makeup artist Kelli J. Bartlett, you’ll get the tips of the trade from two gals I call the Fiery Red Headed Duo. This week, Emily shares her view from behind the lens.

1. What is your best piece of advice for an actor/talent for their shoot?
Relax, and trust your photographer. Actors often approach the camera with the idea that their face should look a certain way- what happens then is they contort their face to fit their ideas, in turn making every picture looked posed. They forget that when they enter a room, everyone in that space is seeing you move, and speak. We are not always placing our face in the same shapes that we see in the mirror. It’s more than ok to embrace the face that you have outside of ‘mirror face’ as that is what other people see the most anyway. Your photographer should be your mirror, trust them. They do this for a living- if they place you in front a certain background, there is most likely a tremendous amount of thought that went into it. If they light you a certain way, it’s most likely that your heart shaped face looks best with that light. Be open to all their suggestions. Remember, they see hundreds of faces a year!

2. Are there tips for the night before? The week before?
Drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest. Hydrating can reduce under eye circles and soften the skin and cracked lips. Resting helps the under eye bags as well and will make you calmer and more alert on the day.

3. You both tend to reach out to your clients before the shoot. Can you explain what it is you discuss? Wardrobe, color, locations? Share.
I always send my clients an email confirming their shoot a few days (at least) before their session. The email includes a few tidbits about what to wear, suggestions to bring, where to meet, payment and cancellation information, and basically, anything they might need to know to help relax before their session with me.

4. A lot of people stress about the shoot. Fear the photos won’t be good. The weather will be bad. The Makeup isn’t right, etc. Do you offer any advice to break that barrier?
It goes back to what I mentioned before, relax! The weather is very much out of your control, so don’t stress about it! If things don’t work out to shoot outside, be honest with your photographer that you’d rather reschedule than move to a studio or shoot in poor conditions. If the weather is ‘iffy’ I will typically touch base with my clients the day before and ask them to make the call. If they choose to go through with their session and it rains on us- then we either find a covered area, or reschedule and go grab a drink instead. Makeup and hair obviously affects a photo tremendously, however, don’t forget that it’s really about what is happening behind the eyes. Again, be honest and open with your hair and makeup team. They won’t get offended if you tell them you aren’t sure about something they’ve done- they just want to make sure you are happy! Don’t hold back if you think your hair is too wavy, or you have too much eyeliner on, have them change it! They, or your photographer might be able to tell you if something the artist has done is worth keeping- in which case, listen to their advice. But remember, you are paying, most likely, a pretty penny to have these look like you, and your photographer and artists don’t know you as well as you know you- so be honest with them if you don’t feel you look like you!

"It’s less about looking natural...and more about looking polished, clean, and camera ready." -Emily

“It’s less about looking natural…and more about looking polished, clean, and camera ready.” -Emily

5. How do you think your dynamic working together makes you different? What do you offer that others may not? What makes you unique?
I am very hands on when it comes to how MUAs and Hairstylists style my clients. I also get to know my MUAs and hairstylists and their particular style and what they can, and cannot achieve, making it easier for me to recommend the right MUA and Hairstylist for each client.

6. When it comes to changing looks both location and even physical/wardrobe/ hair/makeup, are there suggestions you give when you know a client wants to change it up a bit?
Work in terms of type and be creative. Express yourself in each look, and let your wardrobe help make that subconscious connection of character to anyone viewing your photos. We’ve moved past the time that once required you to dress ‘professionally’. If your photographer allots you three outfit changes in your session, why on earth choose three v-neck t-shirts in three different colors? Make each outfit completely different and catered towards your types. If you could play the punk guy who drives a motorcycle, and the Swiss banker, and the dashing, hardworking country boy, then wear a dark leather jacket and a ripped up shirt, a pressed and polished suit, and a plaid work shirt, unbuttoned, over a fitted tee.

Know your brand! For my shoot with Emily, I had some ideas of what I wanted and talked to her beforehand. I knew I wanted a mix of looks of both lifestyle and a commercial to use for my various fields of work (from hosting to commercial) as well as for my marketing (website, postcards, neweletters, etc) and headshots. Consider what you're trying to achieve with your shots and talk to your photographer.

Know your brand! For my shoot with Emily, I had some ideas of what I wanted and talked to her beforehand. I knew I wanted a mix of looks of both lifestyle and a commercial to use for my various fields of work (from hosting to commercial) as well as for my marketing (website, postcards, neweletters, etc) and headshots. Consider what you’re trying to achieve with your shots and talk to your photographer.

7. What do you look for when you shoot a subject? You whittle down the best of the best pics. How do you decide to help your client?
After a client leaves me I go through their images and delete any unusable images, then I send you the remaining photos. I have an easy to use web based proofing gallery that allows you to go though your images, rate your favorites using one to five stars, and comment on your favorites. You can also share your proofing gallery with anyone else you would like to have view your images and they can rate their favorites, comment on them, and provide you with feedback. But be careful not to choose three or more images that all look the same! You would be doing a disservice to your career.

8. When it comes to retouching? What’s your best advice? Is it necessary?
Retouching is absolutely necessary! Never skip this step! If your photographer doesn’t offer retouching directly, then bring your images to a someone who can retouch them. But never, ever, use un-retouched images. This not only will make you look unprofessional in front of industry, but it also makes your photographers work look unprofessional and you’ll most likely be told by industry that you need new headshots. When in reality, you don’t, you just need them retouched!

9. Do you find that more men are using MUA and hairstylists on set now? If so why? Isn’t it about being more natural? How do you help maintain that natural look?
Makeup for men is included in my headshot sessions, and applied before shooting. It’s less about looking natural, as, of course, your going to have natural makeup applied, and more about looking polished, clean, and camera ready. Good makeup and hair aids in this, and can drastically reduce your wait time on retouched image returns. When makeup is applied, it’s usually done so to decrease skin discoloration, redness, and acne.

10. What’s the biggest mistake actors and talent make or you have seen? Things to avoid.
The biggest mistake actors make is trying to be someone they’re not. Embrace who you are, what you look like, and what you can play! Trust yourself. Leave the duck lips at home. Headshots aren’t the same as a selfie. Beyond that, I cannot stress enough how important it is to trust your photographer. You’ve seen their work, it’s what their portfolio looks like that has made you choose to work with them. They’ve put a lot of thought into what body position they are placing you in, or what light they have placed you in, or what background. It’s their job to do that work, so why try to do it for them? It’s more stress than you need! You’re paying them to make those decisions for you, and clearly, the particular way that they work has produced the images that have triggered you to work with them. All you need to do is relax, breath, blink, and think like your character. If they’re a good photographer, they will do the rest for you!

Photographer Emily Lambert, Creative Design & Photography

Photographer Emily Lambert, Creative Design & Photography

Emily Lambert has worked as a headshot photographer in New York City for 5 years, shooting in England for one year before moving to NYC. She began her career as an actor and makeup artist. Her clients have appeared in many Broadway, Off-Broadway and Regional shows, TV shows such as The Leftovers, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, 30 Rock, and such films as Inside Llewyn Davis, Men in Black III, The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2, and many more. Her work has been seen on “The Today Show”, and in magazines. Check out her blog to read more great advice on how to take the best headshots possible! and visit her web

Next week, Makeup Artist Kelli J. Bartlett will add the finishing touches to the story.

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How Did A Nice Jewish Girl Like You End Up Here?

I wonder how many times Joan was asked that question early in her career. Something tells me that type of comment only fueled her fire to stick around even longer. She was a trailblazer and full of moxie. A “nice jewish girl” from Brooklyn that crashed through doors that many women wouldn’t even dare to open. She pushed the envelope and dared to dream. And really, she just “talked”. I loved that about her.

With Joan at QVC

With Joan at QVC

I met Joan during my first year working with QVC. I remember my heart skipping a beat when I heard she was in the studio. I was pretty new to “The Q”, but understood my mission. My mother Beverly adored her and we always joked we had a similar mother/daughter relationship that she and Melissa had. When she came off set, I approached her and said, “My mom is a jewish girl from the Bronx and if I leave here without meeting you, I’ll never hear the end of it.” Her reply. “It’s obvious your mother is a very smart woman and I would assume gorgeous.” Can’t argue with a woman that is funny and has good taste.

I love this tender moment (VIDEO) between mother and daughter. A reminder to live life to the fullest. Joan sure did. An “amazing life” indeed. Something tells me she and Robin Williams are keeping things active up there.

Update: Since I first posted this blog, QVC recently put together a really beautiful tribute to Joan. A true inspiration to any of us that dream big and desire for something almost greater than ourselves. Follow your star.

Click Image for Video Tribute

Click Image for Video Tribute

“I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking.” – Joan Rivers

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Inspiration in Community

Oh boy… do I love a good challenge. Anything to get me thinking and moving mentally and physically is best described in three words: Bring it on! So when Monday kick started my second “21 Day Meditation Challenge” w/ Oprah and Deepak I was psyched. This one, I could not wait to explore: Expanding Your Happiness. Oh, goodie!


But in the wake of Day 1, news came that a man who brought so much joy to others was gone. Day 1 was about Finding Joy. News of Robin Williams passing made that so difficult to do. Why today? Why now? Just… why?

Robin Williams as Patch Adams

Robin Williams as Patch Adams

It had many of us asking that question. Why would someone who brought so much joy to others have trouble finding it? We may never know. That’s Robin’s enlightenment. I respect that. He left us with much to smile about. It was so easy to take his humor and spirit deep to the core. I know, that’s how I choose to remember him.

In a way, we all knew Robin. That’s what made us gravitate to him. But I don’t want ignore the fact that most of us (at one time or another) have battled upset, pain and sadness… some more than others and some deeper to a point we can’t even understand. After we ask ourselves “why” perhaps the bigger question we should address is “how”. How do we help each other in times like these?

Social media has been flooded with statuses, tweets and comments from people opening up about their own battles. A protective wall seemed to come down since his passing that has left many of us exposed and sharing an unselfish vulnerability. If the battles are not our own, we have offered our ears, our eyes, our hand and our heart… to be the there for others. Others we may not even know. Talk to someone. Talk to me. Just talk it out. Be heard. We can help one another. It’s amazing what a community can truly achieve when something so out of the ordinary strikes from out of nowhere. We start questioning. But questions are good. The challenge is not waiting for something like this to happen before we offer our hand or share. We must remember this sense of community and kindness.

As I continue to explore this journey with so many of you on the “21 Day Meditation” of Expanding Your Happiness, my thoughts go to empowerment. I have a desire to be empowering and inspiring. It boils down to one thing: share. In sharing we create community. Something we are doing through this experience with Deepak and Oprah… together.

Day 2 is about Feeling Inspired. The Centering Thought: I am filled with spirit. I woke up Tuesday morning and meditated before my feet even touched the floor. Gratitude moment followed by meditation. Seemed easy enough. But part of me wasn’t present. I kept asking that question. Why? I went about my day and decided to listen to the meditation again and realized I had forgotten something deeper yet so simple. I wasn’t present: “Meditation 101″ FAIL. I was focused too much on the fear of “why” rather than trusting that I don’t have to know tomorrow’s possible adversities. As Deepak shared, “To feel inspired is to step into the present experience unfettered by past disappointments and future fears.” Openness is here and now and there is wisdom in uncertainty. We just need to remind ourselves that tomorrow will come with or without us. When we have the intention to let spirit flow through us, we have taken the biggest step to expanding our happiness.

Robin Williams was a spark that touched, moved and inspired so many. His struggles don’t take away the light and spirit he left the world. But it should make us ask questions and listen. Just listen.

“No matter what people tell you, words & ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

With Love & Light

If you are interested in joining the FREE 21 Day Meditation Challenge visit

You are never alone. If you need help or need to talk to someone visit this site or call 1-800-273-TALK

I always encourage others to share. If there are other sites or numbers available for people to contact, don’t hesitate. Also, positive words are always welcome.

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Home Shopping TV: Life as an On-Air Guest/Spokesperson

Admit it. You’ve probably watched a few minutes (if not hours) of home shopping TV channels. It’s a 365/24/7 business that’s come a long way since the days of Precious Moments statuettes and lava lamps back in the 80s. Mike Rowe would know… that was his job – before Dirty Jobs came along. These days, channels like QVC feature high energy daytime cooking, garden, and beauty programs that rival The View, The Chew, and Live with Kelly & Michael.

In all those shows, hosts welcome the audience to an hour (or two) that’s a jam packed party with guests sharing cool products and guess what… viewers get a sneak peek. Makeup, beauty, home, garden, indoor, outdoor… You need it – they got it. Welcome to the world of home shopping!

How I Start Early Mornings at QVC

How I Start Early Mornings at QVC

When I got the call in 2011 from QVC that they were interested in me as on-air guest, I had no idea what I was in for. I’d watched a little home shopping here and there, but most of the time, it was while spending time at my best friend Jenny’s house. Her TV only goes to three things: Barney (she has a 5 year old), HSN or her favorite: QVC. She knows all the hosts and most of the guests. She told me, “you need to do this, Hil… this is SO up your alley.” I spent 15 years as a TV host, news anchor and correspondent, got paid to play (and talk) as a product specialist for Hasbro, and “got the phones ringing” as a travel correspondent during PBS pledge drives, so Jenny’s excitement got me wondering… how different could home shopping really be?

Oh – and the chance to talk about cool new stuff just as soon as it goes on the market? I kind of get giddy! I mean, what’s not to love?

On the QVC Garden Set

On the QVC Garden Set

Honestly, there’s something special about the home shopping industry. And at QVC, it wasn’t just a “come on board, you’re on the air” kind of deal. Before I could even hit the airwaves, I trained. Every product I share on “The Q” demands a lot. I research, I get to know my vendors, I use the items and understand them. No prompters. No gimmicks. This is the real deal. Fortunately, I’ve had a great support system at “The Q”. Not to mention… a lot of fun. Just take a look behind the scenes. From the entire home and garden division, to everyone behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, I’ve learned a lot over the last few years. I asked questions – they shared answers.

Taking a Photo Break Before "Garden Party with Carolyn" Begins on The Q.

Taking a Photo Break Before “Garden Party with Carolyn” Begins on The Q.

Now, I’m the one being asked questions. People in the talent community are always asking, “what’s it like?” and “how do I get to be an expert or on-air guest?”

Good news! I’ve got the answers – and then some!

Meet Mark Lubragge (or as I call him – my biggest cheerleader in home shopping). He’s been there for me since day one. From connecting with the right vendors, to putting a critical eye on my on-air appearances, Mark is truly someone whose insight and opinion I trust. He’s part of QVC’s Talent Management department and has seen a lot of QVC hopefuls during his time at the network. And from a guy who once presented himself (over 100 products for 45 different companies), he’s got it down. Mark answers some of the most common questions and corrects misconceptions about the home shopping TV world. He also shares the best tip for QVC talent (or anyone else): Be Yourself.

HILARY: There’s a difference between Program Hosts and on-air guests that many people may not know. Can you explain?
MARK: Our program Hosts are QVC employees who host shows and welcome in on-air guests. They are experts across categories. On-air Guests are inventors, creators, product experts and spokespeople who explain and demonstrate product in a particular category.

HILARY: You were an on-air guest yourself. How do you think that helps you in your current position?
MARK: In my current role, I train and develop on-air guests to improve their presentations and increase their productivity. Having walked in that world myself, I certainly have an appreciation for how difficult the role can be. Think about it. As a Guest (or Host), you have to introduce your product to the viewer, help them understand it, build a connection with them, keep them engaged, and move them to the point where they place an order … and you may only get 6 minutes to do it! That’s a great challenge. It takes a lot of focus and preparation, and having successfully done it myself really helps me shorten a Guest’s learning curve.

HILARY: What led you to make that change?
MARK: QVC has a fantastic energy and a culture that just draws you in. During my years on-air, I was always excited to walk through the door – even at 3:00 AM! I changed careers so I could be here more often, to be a bigger part of our cause.

HILARY: If someone has hosting experience, why would they need to be “certified” when they start working with a vendor?
MARK: The trust our customers place in us is paramount, and we work hard to safeguard against a vendor or on-air Guest violating that trust in the interest of making a sale. Our certification process educates our them on the best ways to speak to and connect with our viewers and preserve that trust. We want to ensure that anyone coming on-air here serves our customers first. That is really what certification is all about.

HILARY: What if someone has NO hosting or on-camera experience but wants to give it a try? What would you tell them?
MARK: By all means, try! I had zero experience and auditioned on a whim. I was on-air two days later and remained on-air for 9 years (results not typical). If you have product or category expertise, are able to explain and demonstrate product in a meaningful way and can excite others about the item you are presenting, please audition! We would love to give you the opportunity to engage and educate our viewers. Check out the QVC careers page to learn how to submit.

HILARY: In the home shopping TV industry, do you find it’s helpful to have a sales background? Can that make up for a lack of TV experience? Are some people you see just naturals?
MARK: I can’t speak for the other networks, but for us, having a sales background is not a prerequisite for success. The people who come on-air here are just that … people. They are people who engage, educate and share what they know and love about a product. Thinking you must “sell” on TV to sell on TV is more often the mindset of failure here.

HILARY: What’s the most creative audition submission you’ve ever seen? Worst?
MARK: We don’t get much in the way of creative or zany. The bigger issue comes from people assuming that Home Shopping talent is supposed to act a certain way, and their auditions end up looking like a parody. We don’t want talent straight out of central casting, acting like a home shopping Host or Guest. We want real people, people whom you would happily welcome into your home when the TV is off.

HILARY: There are many product categories at QVC. Can an on-air guest be in more than one? If so/if not, why?
MARK: The credibility of Our Guests is very important to our customers and our customers come to know and trust our Guests because of their knowledge and expertise in a specific category. To maintain that, our licensed Interior Designers, for example, can present home décor items, should not also presenting cookware. Likewise, our Chefs can present toasters, teapots and truffles, but not toys, tablets, tulips or tools.

HILARY: If you were to offer one piece of advice to someone who is interested in becoming a host or television guest expert, what would it be?
MARK: Forget the stereotypes, be the real you, connect with the viewer, know your product and do your homework.

As I tell my students every week in class, the best you can be for anyone is to be yourself. It’s amazing what shines through when you allow your own light to be seen.

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Kindness is Contagious: Pay it Forward

Come on, admit it! It is fun to be kind. Happiness just blossoms organically when we are. Think about it. When was the last time you gave up your seat on the bus or stuck a buck in a street musician’s hat just… because? Maybe you donated to a charity or just told someone important to you how much you appreciate them? Perhaps you took it a step further and gave them a small token of your appreciation. Think about how they felt – and also how you felt later.

Sometimes, and without thought, we just… do. And once we do, we feel something special. A little bit of awesomeness.

Love and Support Box

In the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”

Pretty awesome, right?

This week has brought so many smiles to my face, I just had to share, acknowledge and spread the goodness. Kind words from friends & family, roses for no reason from my wonderful boyfriend Andrew, and most recently, a care package from a friend.

This kindness stuff is contagious.

Today’s random act inspired me to write this blog when I received a surprise from my friend Kris Rupp. Inside, was a sweet note along with Care Cards. It was so thoughtful and so unexpected. Isn’t that the best kind of kindness? Even better, Care Cards are more than just positive affirmations on note cards. For each pack that’s purchased, a personal note will be written and sent to a child in foster care. It was paying forward before I even knew it existed. Now that’s a whole lot of kindness right there.

To be honest, I love sending out notes. I still hand write “thank yous”, happily buy stamps. and lick envelopes. I have to thank my mom for that one. Even my bills don’t get that kind of attention! After all… this is about giving back. When’s the last time Con Ed sent me hugs and kisses? Besides, if you’ve ever seen my work wall above my desk, it’s covered with positive sayings and quotes that are there any time I need a shock of good energy. Gotta give kudos to Kris. She pegged me well on this one.

So, here I sit with a packet of care cards, 2 dozen roses and so many people running through my kindness rolodex. I have work to do. In fact, the gift from Kris is a challenge. I promised to “Pay it Forward” and send something special to five people as soon as I can. Not sure what it will be. Not even sure when. I guess, like Kris, I’ll know when I see it. And when I do, I know it will be a gift for both sender and receiver.

Aesop said it best, “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”

Spread the love and light. Watch what happens. You’ll be glad you’re did.


GIVEAWAY! I will send one person the Love & Support box (pictured above) if you share your own “Random Act of Kindness” story on my blog, my Twitter or my Facebook. Whether you are the giver or receiver, what acts made a difference in your life?

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Overcoming Obstacles in the Audition Room (Finding Focus)

Anyone who hits the audition circuit regularly knows the importance of putting your best foot forward. Be present. Bring your best. Appearance matters!

I worked through a major challenge recently, when I was called in for an audition in Philadelphia. The 2 hour ride from NYC was a pleasant one…. one I’m used to since I appear regularly as a guest on QVC just outside Philly.

VIDEO: H on The Q


But this time, it was one of those “in and out” scenarios. I knew the game. Listen for direction. Show them personality. No matter what I’m going in for, be it a host gig or commercial, I always “bring it.”

On this day, however, I think I brought it … and then some. As in, I had a major allergic reaction…IN BOTH EYES… right before I walked in the door. For reals. Talk about losing your focus!

It went down like this: I parked my car with time to spare, to stretch and do any last minute touch ups. All was well until I got to the casting office door. Suddenly, my eyes (yes both) were on fire. I had no idea what was happening or what got into them, but no amount of blinking helped. No rinsing refreshed them. No removal of makeup was providing relief. I looked like I just watched about 10 hours worth of Sarah McLaughlin videos telling me how to save shelter animals. I was waterworks. A mess.

At some point while I was “on deck”, I ran in the bathroom, took off my lashes (I had a shoot earlier that day so I left the lashes on) and said to myself, “I didn’t drive two hours in the rain to look like a freak show. Suck it up, pull up your big girl panties and bring it for five minutes.”

My vision may have been was shot but NOT my focus. I took a deep breath and walked out to sit back in the hot seat. (Blink blink blink). An actor sitting next to me says, “Are you OK, your eye looks really red.” Within seconds I hear, “Hilary, you’re up.” I walk in and the casting director looks at me. Likely because I kept batting my eyelashes. Not exactly warranted for this gig. I had to speak up. “I think I got something in my eye, but I’m OK. Any chance this product requires me to cry on cue? If so, I’m your gal.” She laughed. I cried. Well, not intentionally. But you get the drift.

We shot the scene. I forgot about my eyes until I walked out the door. Unfortunately, some of my best dramatic tears were brought forth during that moment and were used to push around a vacuum like nobody’s business.

Following the audition I reached out to Diane Heery, CSA of Heery Casting who was casting this project. With over 25 years in the business, I wanted her take on this situation so I could share it with my fellow actors/on-camera talent. Who better to ask then the casting director that saw my tears first hand and truly knows her stuff? Here are a few tips she had to share.*

1. Save the Drama for the Stage/Set
Unless it’s real drama, don’t turn it into one. Like in this instance. OK, an allergy reaction. It didn’t show on camera, you worked through it, and all was well.

2. Be Honest
The best way to handle any “crisis” is to be up front about it.

3. Take Care of You
If it’s real drama, don’t even try to work through that. Let’s say you just heard of a death in the family. Okay, now we’re talking DRAMA. We are all human, and life happens. Sometimes it’s OK to skip an audition. We’re not curing cancer here, and there will always be another audition. We’re not curing cancer here, and there will always be another audition.


It all boils down to this: sometimes life throws you curveballs. As my dad used to say, “make the most of the ball game.” Or in this case, clean the living room with conviction. Tears and all. For one brief moment, I loved that vacuum so much, it brought me to tears. Make it work FOR you. And even when things may seem blurry or not particular clear at first, in time you’ll find your focus.

I know…deep right?

Love & Light

*This article has been revised to include tips from Casting Director Diane Heery. The updated article was published on on July 15,2014.

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