Raise your hand if you ever wanted to be an entertainer at some point in your life? Whether you dreamed of acting in a scene in a movie, dancing in a play or singing melodic lyrics that soothe your soul, something or someone made you feel that you wanted to entertain. Many of us want the lifestyle of an entertainer, but do we really have the heart to endure what it takes to be a superstar?
Although the big city and bright lights look glamorous, the entertainers we all know and love had their share of rejection, hard times and sacrifices in order to live out their dreams. The path of becoming an entertainer is a road less traveled and filled with adversity that would make the average person rethink this career path.
These three budding entertainers from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles share their story of what it takes to make it in the entertainment industry and what lessons they’ve learned to keep pursuing their dreams:
IT TAKES PASSION
Tiffany Johnson is an actress based out of Chicago and has performed in musical theater productions around the Windy City. She recently scored a national Sears commercial and she gained a supporting role on NBC’s Chicago P.D.
Sometimes home can be the key to opportunities.
Ever since she was young, Tiffany Johnson knew she wanted to be a performer. After college she made the decision to return to her hometown of Chicago to pursue her professional acting career. “Chicago is a great place to be an actor. It’s a big theater city, and I came back at the time where TV started to really pick up. There has always been a lot of commercials filmed here, too. I knew it was possible that I could move to a different market, but I wanted to start my professional career here and just kind of see where it would go,” Tiffany shares.
Stay open and ready!
In order to pursue her career in acting, Tiffany decided to leave her schedule open by not committing to a full-time job. “For me the sacrifices include working a 9-to-5, which is a lot more stable to pursue acting. I was determined to find a way to make it work, because I wanted to leave the time open to pursue a career in acting. It comes with difficult times, but that’s the sacrifice I made. I can honestly say I think it was worth it, ” Tiffany says.
You won’t always know where your next check will come.
Not having that financially stability and job security really impacted Tiffany’s lifestyle, but things started to turn around in 2015. “The day I shot my first national commercial with Sears, my lights were turned off. I hit a very rough spot financially. I got behind a bit, but I have a very strong spirituality, and I feel like God is always on time. It’s not easy breezy, but it’s a lot more stable now,” Tiffany says.
You have to give it your all.
“If you don’t have passion, then I don’t think there’s a point,” she says. “You have to love it. You give a lot of yourself. It takes a lot out of you to breathe life into characters. You have to have tough skin, and you will hear no. You’ll hear it time and time again and you have to let disappointment pass. It’s okay to feel it, but you need to know how to release it. You have to be a fighter and preserve. You have to have these qualities. I don’t think acting is any harder than any other career. It’s beautiful, it’s challenging, it’s lovely and it’s hard, but you have to be passionate. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love it. There’s nothing in this world like being a storyteller.”
YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR DUES
Dawn Evans is an actress based out of Los Angeles. The former WNBA hopeful took a career setback due to a rare kidney disease. Her life post-kidney transplant led her to Hollywood to pursue her dreams of being an entertainer.
Grind till you own it!
Dawn Evans got her start in the business by auditioning for commercials and modeling in the Greater Nashville area. When she was twelve she and her dad moved to Los Angeles to see what Hollywood had to offer. She eventually returned to Tennessee to finish her education, but the thought of returning to California to finish what she started was always in the back of her mind. “In this industry you’ll find that it’s always a grind, because there are so many people fighting for it. So for me the commitment came when I packed up and moved to L.A. for good instead of the back and forth, or just coming here to LA during pilot seasons. It’s a year round commitment you have to make, because you never know when your opportunity will come knocking,” Dawn shares.
There’s never a right time, there’s only right now.
She made her full-time commitment to pursue her acting dreams and returned to Los Angeles after under-going a kidney transplant in 2014. “Don’t wait around on the right opportunity, because no time is better than now. The sooner you start your journey, the sooner you get to your result,” Dawn explains.
Timing is everything.
The former college basketball star is grinding towards her big break, but it comes with a cost. “You have to pay your dues. People expect to move to LA and hit big soon after they arrive, but you have to build yourself and your reputation in this big city and show people that you are a force. Making people believers takes time. Sometimes more than you ever even realize,” Dawn says.
Always hone in on your craft.
Although she has picked up some roles on web series like Lipstick the Series and In The Moment, opportunities are not as consistent. “The inconsistency of booking gigs is hard on you, especially in L.A., until you truly break into the business. You are constantly on the move trying to make the money necessary to hone your craft, because classes, workshops, driving to auditions and headshots all can become costly. Sometimes you don’t book the jobs to pay off those expenses, so it’s all about finding balance in this city and making it work.”
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YOU HAVE TO BE FEARLESS
Amina Imani is a comedian based out of New York City. She’s rocked the stages of some of the Big Apple’s most popular stages including Carolines and Gotham Comedy Club.
Learn to be brave.
In 2009, Aminah Imani faced her fears and auditioned for the comedy show at Howard University’s homecoming. She went from only performing for her small group of friends in her apartment to opening up for Cocoa Brown, Gary Owen and Lil Duval in front of a crowd of around 1,500 people. “It was extremely scary, because Howard is notoriously a hard crowd to please. You really have to be brave. I knew from that moment on that this was something that I wanted to do forever,” Aminah says.
Being brave is the very thing that Aminah thinks aspiring entertainers need to be successful. “You need tough skin, you really have to be brave. It was required of me to be a strong black woman, but it takes vulnerability to be strong. It’s takes that fear – even though that’s a sign of weakness – but as an artist that’s a part of being brave, it’s a part of being courageous, it’s a part of opening yourself up, and letting people experience the real you and not what people expect you to be,” Aminah says.
There’s no such thing as instant fame.
When she moved to New York City to pursue comedy full-time, she had a misconception of what it would take to really break into the business. Aminah learned quickly that the road would not be easy. “First starting out I didn’t think I would get immediate gratification, but I didn’t think it would be such a process to grow into who you are as a performer. For me, I always saw comedy as you write jokes, you get on stage and you make people laugh and you get opportunities. Living in NYC, there are a lot of comedians, so opportunities can be far and few. It’s an ongoing process, some people blow up after their first year of doing comedy and some don’t see growth until their 3rd or 4th year. It’s a job that’s unpredictable. One night you’ll have a show and nobody laughs. Another night you’ll get paid $200 and the next night you’re only compensated with a drink at the bar. That’s something that I definitely didn’t know when I started. Even the people you see on TV; they may be cut one check, but they are always looking for the next opportunity to sustain. People might not know how unpredictable it is. Every night is it’s own night,” Aminah explains.
Be strategic in how you approach your dream.
Aminah has to approach her dream a little differently now that she is a mother. “When I first moved up here in 2010, I had a good momentum, things were picking up, and I was running a successful show. Then I got pregnant and I took time off. I have a child so I can’t hop on to every opportunity that comes my way like I did before. I have to be a bit more strategic and plan everything out. I do have a full-time job because I’m a full-time mother with full-time responsibilities. For me, comedy has always been my passion, but because of its inconsistencies with pay, it’s something that I can’t fully commit to. It’s kind of like being an actor, where you want that steady income from a television show, but some people work for the gigs. So I’m still paying my dues. I’m still working on getting more credits and opportunities, so that I don’t have to work a full-time job,” Aminah shares.
Trust your process.
Aminah has booked gigs at some of New York’s biggest comedy clubs like Gotham and Caroline’s; she even had a set at the inaugural 202 Comedy Festival in Washington, D.C. “Things are really picking up and I’ve even done a lot of work with BRIC TV, which is Brooklyn’s local station. These are all moments that are saying to me to keep going and to keep doing my thing. When I’m out people are starting to recognize me. I have my own podcast, Wine Before Nine, and it’s building. One thing I’ve learned over time is to trust your process, appreciate it and don’t rush anything,” Aminah adds.
Although they each faced their own battles of adversity, each of these ladies are more determined than ever to breakthrough in the entertainment industry.