I looked at the awkward expressions on my friends' faces through the lens of my mom's 1989 camcorder. At the point, the camera was a decade old, and I was trying to record our high school debauchery. Maybe the uncomfortable looks were because we were drinking MD 20/20 on film. Or maybe it was because I was walking through a house party with a camcorder on my shoulder, as if it were a boombox. There and then, I should have known that I liked camera work. Perhaps I would have actually tried to excel in high school if I had something to strive towards. But alas, it's not how it worked.
While I have always had desire for the spotlight, it wasn't until after high school that I began to pursue the field of acting. I enrolled in a couple acting courses at the local community college, and in 2002, learned how to go about submitting myself to agencies in Chicago. Oh yes, I envisioned it: agents begging to take me on, fans galore with admiration of my incredible talent, and awards left and right. Piece of cake!
Well, after numerous rejection letters, I began to realize that my pursuits may require a little more work. With nothing on my resume, I suppose it wasn't surprising that I wasn't getting any "bites" to sign on as an actor. Modeling, however, was a different story, and when I received job offers, I said, "Yeah, why not?" and found that I was able to get a lot of commercial print work. I freelanced for a couple years, but then signed with an agency in 2004. I was quickly immersed with casting calls, go-sees, and test shoots. And so began a new venture into the still-frame world.
Not bad. Prettay... prettay ... prettay fun! I spent the next 2 years networking, shooting, and taking advantage of any opportunity that I could. While on this journey, I still pursued my acting goals, but I learned a very valuable lesson: I couldn't act! I was awful! Really. Like, cringe-bad. But hey: I have no problem laughing at the fact.
BUT, when I read about an audition for a local fashion tv show in late 2004, I was intrigued. This wouldn't be "acting." I mean, there would be a script, but it would be ME, not a character. I nailed the audition.
About the same time, I began to work for a fashion publication, as an events writer and assistant to the publisher. Through the publication, I worked to create cross-promotional relationships and networked at media events. I also worked to write event articles, coordinate photo shoots and hire the corresponding talent, schedule meetings with staff, and communicate with staff to ensure everyone was informed of ongoings.
With the tv show, I gained an extreme amount of comfort in front of the camera, as well as knowledge of the entire filming process. And much like the magazine, I worked to make things happen. Like, securing press passes to events, booking guests for the show, and networking with industry movers and shakers.
In the midst of all of this, I realized that I finally tapped into a passion: I FELL IN LOVE. I loved being in the media! I relished in partaking the "behind-the-scenes" aspects, and informing the audience of all the related information. I felt great because I satisfied my appetite to be on-camera, but I also was able to be myself, as opposed to playing a character role. All while informing and entertaining at the same time. I found my calling.
I continued to model, but after finding my true passion within broadcasting and media, the photoshoots lost their appeal. It wasn't as fun… I needed the "moving" camera, the topic, the full involvement. (Modeling was never something I desired: I had a problem calling myself a "model" then, and you'll never hear me define myself as one now. I can't even believe I made any money.)
Between, hosting, writing, some modeling, and tending bar, I eventually overworked myself (hey, it's how I roll) and became so fed up with the industry, that I took a leave in 2007. It was a personal test: I told myself that if I was fine after a full year of industry absence, that I would not go back.
After 6 months, I was ITCHING to be in front of the camera again. I worked a little here and there, but didn't get involved with consistent work until July 2008, when I furthered my hosting experience by co-hosting a dance competition that took place at various bars and clubs throughout the Chicago suburbs. In addition to more camera time, this project also allowed me to gain experience by speaking in front of large audiences, as well as managing impromptu interviews with the patrons. I continued to build my reel and hosting experience, but I really didn't start to go full throttle and market my ass off until August 2009.
I covered a variety of genres/topics, in both scripted and ad-libbed environments, and developed my on-camera personality to expand my range to a variety of sub-genres within entertainment. As my resume grew, and it was only natural that I crossed over into other areas of hosting. I began to get into hosting live events, as an emcee (MC) in June 2010, and delved into radio and voiceover in September 2010. Since marketing is a natural part of broadcasting, I also began to do trade shows and event promotions on the side, as a product specialist and brand ambassador.
It was an incredible feeling to be in an industry, where I felt I fit so well. I had so many opportunities, and the growth and happiness that I obtained was worth the relationships I lost, the money and time I invested, and the strange situations I experienced. I couldn't get enough: an addiction, even an obsession. I don't consider myself to be good at a lot of things. But hosting and I go together like peas and carrots (in Forrest Gump voice). I can write, I have a personality, my chromosome lineup is not displeasing (I'm not gorgeous, but I'm not ugly), and my business correspondences reflect a functioning IQ level. Even through my Forrest impressions.
I progressed into local television, and a steady stream of web videos. Even big producers in Chicago were learning my name. But in the back of my head, I had a personal threshold that if I wasn't holding a consistent, BIG job by the time I turned 30 years old, that I needed to step back and weigh out the pros and cons. Connecting with the camera/audience is a fire inside of me, and I had already sacrificed a lot as fuel. (I am a dreamer, but I can also be logical and rational.)
My mother had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which was leading to cirrhosis of her liver. By 2012, when I was 29, she began showing the effects of the virus. As I began researching dietary information to help her, I became aware and educated of what food can do FOR you, or what artificial "food" can to TO you. I made a major change in my lifestyle, and started eating more fresh food, and also using natural products within my beauty regimen. I had more energy and my skin and hair were cooperating like magic; I felt HEALTHY. It was as if I was being ripped off my entire life by blindly consuming processed food, and using synthetic topical ingredients. I began to feel disgusted every time I would see an advertisement for fast food or anything that is made for shelf-life at the grocery store. These advertisements are everywhere, especially from the mouths of media hosts.
As I came to realize that the entire media industry is more about money and product, I started to feel dirty. This is not what I wanted to be a part of. I love to tell a story; share the experience. From my perspective, if it is positive, there is no need to edit the content, mislead through a headline, or only tell part of the story. If I were to continue my path to hosting success, it would be inevitable that I would be put in that exact position. Although there are great products and services that I stand behind, I wouldn't get to pick and choose who receives air time. The big money-makers, who are prevalent, are the ones that I would be forced to endorse.
One morning, I was driving to work, and a morning show radio host was telling the entire city that a breakfast sandwich from a fast food chain was a legitimate way to begin the day. That was it for me. There was no way that I was ever going to tell anyone to eat fake food, use unnecessary beauty products, or overall: spend their hard-earned money on JUNK.
I have two blog entries from this time period:
That is the way that the media industry is presently evolved. No way. This is not what I thought I was getting into. I wanted to be a voice for anything-entertainment in Chicago. It was September 2013, I was 30, and I was done.
I love working with the camera and I love telling a story; that passion is not going anywhere. Fortunately, we have wonderful technology that puts the internet in our hands, and I don't need to work for corporate, in order to connect. When I made the final decision to halt working for a corporation, I immediately began planning what I wanted to do on my own.
Instantly, I conjured a great project, and it has been on paper and in development all these years. A lot of time has passed, with nothing executed yet. This is because the time has been spent working, being with my family, and even studying. With my mom becoming extremely ill, and eventually passing in January of 2016, it goes without saying that more important things were the priority. This project has been on the back-burner, but definitely not forgotten: I am happy to announce that I will be executing said project very soon!
I look forward to continuing my journey in my own style, without anyone breathing down my back to act cheesy, secure ratings with baited headlines, and talk about products that I don't truthfully endorse. I am thankful to be able to do this on my own, and I think it's weird how the timing worked out. Who knows-- if the Wi-Fi internet, smart phones, and personal HD cameras had all been around in 2004, perhaps all of this could have happened sooner...
... But that wouldn't have been quite as eye-opening.