"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Jaegermeister

Don't let Matthew Jaeger's opening paragraph fool you; he is one of the hardest working people I know. We're in class together and he's so good. One of those guys you watch and think, wow, it just looks so freakin effortless.

I asked him to write about how knowing sign language helped him book work, and what he has to say is invaluable to every actor out there. Read on!

by Matthew Jaeger
When Lira asked me to do a guest blog about an actorʼs toolbox my first thought was, “Oh crap, now I have to do work.” As an actor, I am inherently lazy when it comes to doing anything I donʼt consider fun. Probably WHY Iʼm an actor.

First a little about me and why you should give a flying you know what about what I say: I am what people call a working actor. Iʼm not rich. In fact, Iʼm REALLY poor. But I keep my costs low, and about 75% of my total income is from acting. The rest is a combination of odd jobs I pick up and Unemployment income between jobs. Each year that ratio improves a little more and each year my total income goes up just a bit. When I was an aspiring actor, meaning I bartended or waited tables to pay the bills, I believed that if I could just be a working actor, I would be happy. Even if I was poor, I would be content, as long as I paid my bills acting. I was wrong for a couple reasons. (Believe it or not, this will all bring me around to the toolbox. I swear).

As a working actor, you rarely know when your next residual check or booking will come. As a result, I had to accustom myself to huge swells of income followed by long dry spells, sort of like rain in Los Angeles. And I had to make sure that I saved enough during the swells to last through the dry spells. More importantly, during those dry spells I had to keep myself sane. And that is where the toolbox comes in (see, I told you).

There are some skills every actor needs in the toolbox. Accents, some musical ability, some movement ability, a familiarity with firearms... You really think you can be an actor and never have to use a gun? Take a basic class so you can look like you know what youʼre doing. But I digress.
And of course, scene study, improv, and audition technique. These are tools. They are the big tools, your hammer, nails, drill, etc - the tools you use regularly. But what about the rest of the tools? The ones that make you unique and push you to the top of the pile?

I recently got my first major TV role. A Top of Show Guest Star on CSI: Las Vegas. I had no theatrical representation at the time, I had never met the CD, and I even missed the first round of auditions. So how the hell did I book it? They needed an actor who was fluent in American Sign Language. And guess what? When I was six, my parents had put me in a sign language course. They just thought it would be a cool thing for me to learn. And I loved it. I ended up taking sign language in summer school for the next seven years. I didnʼt stop until I was too old for the class. I had a deaf friend in college, and he helped me practice some, but I lost most of it. Flash forward fifteen years later. I see an audition notice for Children of a Lesser God at Deaf West Theatre. Now, I barely remember anything, but I found a website and translated the sides for the audition and the callback. I booked it and began one of the most intense periods of learning Iʼve ever experienced. I worked with an ASL coach (who is deaf and does not speak) for two hours a day, three days a week. His patience and creativity got me almost fluent. Then I spent the next two months meeting and spending time with a number of deaf actors, most of whom I now consider very dear friends. The show was a blast, well reviewed, blah, blah, blah. Then it ended. I maintained many of my
friendships, but life moved on. Until a year later, two friends who happened to know that I was ASL fluent sent me the breakdown for an episode of CSI. The rest is history.

I tell you this story for a couple reasons. One, you never know when or how a tool in your toolbox will come in handy. So have a lot. One of the reasons we get into acting is that we love to become new people, try new things. So try a lot of them. Yes, weʼre all broke. But with a little creativity, itʼs easy to find classes, groups, and other places to learn new skills. Second, the tools should say something about you. Never learn or do something because it might come in handy (the only exceptions are your main tools listed earlier). Do something you like. Hell, something you love. The reason I picked ASL so quickly wasnʼt only because of my history, it was because itʼs something I love. I love the expression available and the beauty of the language. I love having a conversation in silence.

The tools you learn can help you in other ways. During my dry spells, I would go insane, worrying about money, and when I was going to book the next job, and how to pursue this audition or that audition, and, and, and... I made my girlfriend crazy just listening to me. So this past year, Iʼve focused on spending my dry spells honing my toolbox. Example: I love the outdoors. So, I rock climb, hike, learn primitive skills, survivalist techniques, and am now starting hunting (no judging, weʼre talking tools, not the moral issues of hunting. You wanna debate those, by me a beer and weʼll talk). I also keep up on my sign language, work on cooking and construction, garden, do yoga, anything that tickles my fancy.    I also have a valid motorcycle license and want to start learning German. Most people would call these hobbies. To an actor, theyʼre tools. And my tools are what keep me sane when Iʼm between jobs. They keep me from being desperate when I walk into the audition room. Nothing annoys me more than an “actor” who is an “actor” and nothing else. Be a well-rounded human being.

If all you have is acting, youʼre screwed, because itʼs a hard and thankless profession. Get a life.
As actors we have an excuse to explore and learn as many things as possible. I love my tools. Iʼve known actors who got jobs, or at least callbacks, because they played basketball, played chess, knew an instrument, hell, knew how to whistle! And the skills you do, the hobbies you have, say who you are. They become part of your product. Remember, as an actor, you are selling... well, you. So each hobby you enjoy, each random skill you have, is another marketing, acting, and artistic, tool. Gather as many tools as you can. Whatever intrigues you, excites you, try it. The more tools you have, the more interesting you are and the more versatile an actor you become. And who knows? It might just book you a job.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Change Your Hair, Change Your Brand

Zuri Before
Zuri Bella and I could play sisters because we both have curly hair. In fact, Zuri looks more like she could be my sister, than my actual sister looks like she could be my sister.
Having curly hair is...quite the upkeep. So when Zuri went from short to even shorter, I was soooo jealous. Look at her after photo and see how fierce she looks down below, which is definitely on brand for all the awesome martial arts stuff she knows. (She's only 5'3 but packed with kickassery!)

Changing your look dramatically in this business requires a lot of financial dedication. You have to pay for a whole new set of headshots and upload them to all the casting sites. But when you change your look to something that's more you, it's worth it.

A Super Exciting Post About My Hair
by Zuri Bella
Hi Lira’s readership!
Of course this is definitely not a life or death story, but how you look is a huge part of acting and it was a dramatic change for me.
I’ve wanted to cut my hair super short since I was 13 but was worried that it wouldn’t look good. Stylists get confused by curly hair and do strange things with it. Plus, I had an established quirky-funny-girl look that got auditions. Still, the idea of short hair intrigued me (oooh.)
The Sam Christensen workshop helped make me bold enough to try it out. The workshop gives you a summary of who you are in words and phrases in an organized binder. It made me feel like my bubbly curls didn’t quite catch who I am as a person. I wanted a hairstyle that encompassed a complete version of me. The willful, strong me as well as the enchanting, adorable Zuri (hey, these are just words they chose to put in my binder.)
If I was going to take a risk, it was important to stack as many odds in my favor as I could. I emailed my manager and agents and asked them for the okay, set up an appointment for great headshots with Dana Patrick, and made sure to go to Molly at Goo Salon, which specializes in short hair and curls.
Still, a week before of the appointment I kept vacillating. Was this stupid? Was this making a mistake just to make a mistake? Looking in the mirror and feeling bored with the person looking back helped me go through with it.
Zuri After! See the Kickassery!?
When I got my hair cut it was a huge relief, Molly kept checking to see if the haircut was too short and I kept asking her to cut off more.
It was incredibly freeing.
There are a ton of plusses. When there’s an audition, instead of taking a shower three hours before, my hair looks great right out the door. People have been super sweet and complimentary. I go out for different characters. But more than anything, it feels right and it’s a cute haircut, with cute headshots, so my decision was well thought out.
"To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself."
-Soren Kierkegaard
Is there anything that you’d love to do but it seems like too big a risk? Or something you‘d like to do that‘s been in the back of your head your whole life but for whatever reason you haven‘t done?
(PS If it’s hair it’ll grow back if you don‘t like it…but don’t cut off your fingers just to try it out…unless you know something really cool about bionic fingers that are being developed.)

Liked what you read? You can follow Zuri's blog here. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Say Uncle

You might think you know Gil Christner. People meet him all the time and they swear "I know I know you!" and they'll keep trying to think if he was their old tax preparer, a medical specialist they've been to, or if their spouse and him were old golf buddies. 

You might think you know Gil because you've seen him on television. A lot. He's that guy who's been making a pretty good living as an actor. 

One of the things that I've always admired about him, is that he is an actor/writer/creator. He started doing stand-up in San Francisco, moved to LA, and became very successful doing several things he loved, all of which were creative. An incredibly funny and observant man, he also worked as a comedy writer. He would send us his comedy cds and to this day if a certain song comes on, I sing along to the spoof lyrics of a Pink Floyd Lemonade commercial that he had written ("Hey! Teacher! Put that cola down!") cause I actually don't know the real lyrics. Now, he also has a very popular and award winning blog.

I was four when Gil married my Aunt Sira (I still remember him reaching out to dance with me on the dance floor) so I've always remembered him being a part of my family, and being the other half of my Aunt, and always constantly coming up with jokes that made us all laugh (including lovingly always feigning excitement over "Brisket!" and a joke about my brother's birthday: "Nine bucks!" that is 23 years old and STILL funny to me.).

About two years ago, Gil and Aunt Sira invited me over for dinner and he told me that he was incredibly proud of me. That he admired how I was still pursuing what I love and didn't let the industry get me down. "If I were you, with the business the way it is now, I think I would have given up years ago."

But I have something Gil didn't have: I have an uncle who has been in the business for two decades, and both my uncle and aunt have weathered the highs and lows of the industry together as a couple. I have two people I can go to for advice. I have two people who know how hard it is. I have two people who also really, really want me to succeed at this, as opposed to two people who constantly remind me that I should be doing something "more stable" with my life. 

Both my uncle and aunt are two major supports in a big city that doesn't always make sense and isn't always fair. It's hard to give up with you have two very important people always rooting for you.

So when Gil has something to say about the industry, I listen. 

I think you should too:

When Lira asked me to write a post for her blog, she suggested a starting off point of “How has the industry changed in the last 20 years?”
Well, that’s kind of too easy.  The industry has changed a lot in 20 years.  Now, your agent never needs to physically talk to you ever again, they can just email you your audition time.  Now, nobody has to wait years and years to be a gigantic embarrassing flop, because everybody can put together their own bad TV show on YouTube.  Plus, no more Ships.
I think a more layered, and therefore pertinent question for people in Show Biz, would be “How hasn’t the industry changed in the last 20 years?”
And the answer is brutally simple:  it’s frakking hard.  Still. 
Trust me, kids, if there’s anything…ANYTHING…that you can do with your lives and still be happy, do it!  If you can garden, if you like to teach, if research is your thing, if you can paint, if you like to fix cars, if you have a knack for tending animals, or kids, or the kids of animals… ANYTHING!!!... run, don’t walk, out of this business and into any other that will provide you with a sense of self-satisfaction and a living.
Because the bottom line is this:  Unless you absolutely need to do it to exist, there is no reason to be in Show Business.
Because Show Business is a harsh Mistress, harsher even than the Sea (at least with the Sea, you get a place to be buried).  There will be weeks, months, years even, where you won’t get work.  You will never have the peace of mind of a steady paycheck, because even if you achieve that coveted Series Regular spot, there’s no telling how long the Series you are a Regular on will last (ask James Wolk of Lonestar).
You will constantly see other actors working in roles that you yourself were up for (and let’s be honest, we all would have been much better in that role than whatever actor actually got it, the bitch/bastard!), or worse still, you will see roles in shows that you are perfect for, and for which you never even heard of the audition!
My best/worst story along those lines happened to involve my Evil Twin.  Now, everybody in Show Biz has an Evil Twin…another actor that gets those parts that we know we are far more perfect for.  Mine happens to be Paul Eisenhauer, a perfectly nice guy who looks a lot like me.  Sometimes I get the role; sometimes Paul gets the role.  It seems to even out, though both of us would probably tell you that the other guy gets more work (full disclosure:  my IMDB page is longer.  Neener neener neener).
So, to continue, I got an audition for a Pepsi commercial, which was to have been directed by Joe Pytka, the infamous bad-boy commercial director who had used me in an IBM commercial a few years earlier.  The Pepsi spot would have been sweet to get:  the premise was that I would have been riding a motorcycle super-imposed into from the iconic scene from Easy Rider along side of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.  I would have loved to been seen by millions in that spot, and I was sure I did a great audition.  I was (and kids, don’t let this happen to you) already counting my money on the way out the casting door.
But a few days went by, and alas, no call back.  I was confused.  I did a great audition,  I was funny, I was quick, I would look perfect, as the goofy schlub stuck in a famous movie scene.  Plus Joe Pytka loves my work (which, for Joe Pytka, means he uses the “F” word at me only a dozen times or so per hour).
Well, I rationalized, they must have just gone another way.  That’s the only way to explain it.  The creatives decided to go a completely different way than I would have done it.  Sure, that’s it!  What else could it be?
Of course by now, you have all guessed the punchline.  A couple of months later I was watching tv, and lo and behold, there’s Paul Eisenhauer, my Evil Twin, riding a motorcycle right next to Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in a Pepsi spot! [editor's note: my dad actually called Gil up, excited to congratulate him on this very Pepsi commercial. How's that for rubbing salt into your wounds?]
So, to recap:  Not only did I not get any work, not only did I not get any money or benefits, not only did I not hear word one from anyone about if I got it or how I did or what was good or bad about my performance, I got insulted by not even being asked to a call back for something my exact look-alike was perfect for.  Nice move, Show Biz!
And I could tell you about the audition where I literally got a standing ovation from everyone in the room, and then never heard from them again.  Or the audition where, after acting my ass off, the first and only thing I heard from the producer was a comment about the catering of the session:  “I like this casting place because they have grapes.”
If you choose a career in Show Biz, you will be disappointed, burned, rejected, ignored, dismissed, disrespected, bummed out, and not even called in a million times more than you will be accepted.  And being accepted does not even mean getting the job.  You have to keep getting the call backs, and ingratiating yourself into the good graces of first the casting directors, then the producers, then the networks and the studios.  And then maybe…MAYBE!!... after you become well-known around town, you just might get a job.  If you’re lucky.
And then the really hard part comes:  making a job into a career.  Because, my friends, Route 66 is littered with the corpses of One-Hit Wonders, who thought they had it made when they got that first job, only to wander away from Los Angeles a few years after they realize nobody’s going to hire them ever again.
(Hint:  Talent gets you the first job, Professionalism gets you the second one!)
A career takes complete focus of everything that is you:  your time, your energy, your waking hours, your productivity.  Any time you are not actually at an audition or (God willing) on set at a job, whatever you are doing should only be to further your skills and your networking.
Never stop taking classes.  Ever.  Never stop meeting people.  Go to parties, don’t get drunk (seriously!  A sloppy embarrassing scene gets around town quicker than a guy on a moped taking Fountain). 
If you are lucky you might make some money.  If you are real lucky and hard working, you might get a good reputation.  If you are real lucky and hard working and real persistent, you might make some benefits, like insurance and a pension (although with the way the current Union leadership is acting, that might soon be a thing of the past).  And if you are real lucky and hard working and real persistent and St. Genesius smiles upon you, you might have a career.
So I reiterate, if you can do anything else, do it.  A career in Show Biz is one of the loneliest, self-denigrating, abusive, consistently unrewarding undertakings that a person can take.
It’s pushing milk uphill.  It’s herding cats.  It’s threading the needle without using your hands, or your eyes for that matter.  It’s frakking impossible, is what it is.
But I will tell what else it is:  a couple of weeks ago, I was on the Sony (previously MGM) lot.  After a relatively good audition (which I didn’t get a call back for), I was walking down one of the streets between the sound stages, and the sun was on my face.  I was chatting with another actor who had been at the audition, and it hit me:  This is it.  This is what I live for.
These are the streets that Gable, Hitchcock, Loy & Powell, Brando, Capra, Garland and Heston walked when they were working.  I’m in the same business as they were.  The business that, for centuries, has comforted the downtrodden, enriched the spirits of millions, sparked the imagination of untold numbers of kids waiting to spread their own wings and take on the world.  That’s the business I am in.
It takes a special kind of person to put themselves on the line on a daily basis, risking total and complete humiliation just to get a chance to pretend professionally for a day, maybe two.  It takes someone with dreams bigger than the sky, and a fire burning deep within that’s hotter than the sun.  It takes a great love of humanity, and a strong desire to connect. 
And when it works… and, truth be told, it often works, just not enough to be encouraging about it… when it works, there is no greater feeling.
As I walked those streets between the sound stages, I knew: I was where I belonged, doing what I was supposed to do.  I need to do it, to exist.  I need to be in Show Business.
So, in conclusion:  forget everything I just said.  Go act your hearts out kids, and don’t let anyone ever discourage you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Away From It All

I am taking a vacation, ya'll!

I am so excited: I am going to Burning Man again this year. And as a part of the Superfriends Theme Camp (7:30 and Fun - Come say hi!!) the Boy and I are going early to help set it up, and staying after the end of the event to help tear down.

Burning Man is so incredibly great because of all the interactive art and the music and the....you want to see ten reasons why everyone should go to this thing at least once in their lifetime? Okay!

The Ten Principles Of Burning Man

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.
Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.
Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience

And that is why it is such an amazing thing to participate in; the huge loving community that embraces you- the REAL YOU - and let's you be who you are meant to be. Living the life of a Struggling Actress, constantly being barraged by rejection and unemployment, Burning Man represents a type of class-less utopia. Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, where everyone giggles and rolls on the rugs, and you come home feeling refreshed, re-energized, and reinspired.

So I will see you after the Man burns, where it will seem like a new year.

And the Boy and I will celebrate the one year anniversary of me saying yes to his proposal. One of the best engagement stories ever, if I do say so my-biased-self.

See you in September!

Friday, August 19, 2011


I am still blown away. I am still in awe. I am still so incredibly proud of my fellow class mate, friend and hero, Sascha Alexander.

c. Ellston Photography
Last night I went to see "Naked and Crazy," a night of two solo shows, each written and performed individually by Meghan Gambling and Sascha Alexander. Here's their blurb (and where you can buy tickets):

"Naked and Crazy:" True Stories from Meghan Gambling and Sascha Alexander

The Elephant Studio @ Elephant Stages
Los Angeles, CA

Life is atrocious. Sometimes grandma shoplifts.  Sometimes dad calls you fat. And sometimes you find yourself vandalizing property in a drunken rage.  From delusions, to overexposure, to bff breakups, stripper poles, accidental crime-busting and very vocal body parts, come take a long ride on this short bus of life's mysterious lessons.

If you are a woman, you need to see this show. If you're a guy who has dated a woman, you need to see this show so that you can understand better what it is we go through, because as a guy, I know you sometimes feel helpless in our body shame psychosis.

Sascha took us on a journey of how she went from a normal little girl who was happy with how she looked, into an adolescent who grew a tummy, and that no matter what she did as a young woman, could still not get her stomach to "look right." She doesn't show us how she got this way, she takes us with her, and we experience it with her.  From one small, innocent comment from her father, to a costume fitting for her first national commercial, we understand. And to hear what her acting coach says when she asks him if she needs to lose weight to be what casting is looking for - his answer will probably shock you. And make you cheer. Because Sascha begins to get it. She begins to be okay. She begins to love herself.

We have all been there. But the way she overcame her body shame (with a stripper pole, yes, a stripper pole) and how she oozes happiness and love and power and confidence with the last three minutes of the show, my god, we were all cheering and up on our feet with a Standing Ovation.

A STANDING OVATION! In LOS ANGELES THEATER!! That just about NEVER happens here!

She is vulnerable. She is raw. She is putting it all out there, and this, THIS is what theater is supposed to be. I sat in the audience, traveled with her, empathized, understood, and I left the theater feeling as if I too were better, uplifted, sexy and confident, all because she had a story to tell and was called upon to take all the hurt, all the pain, and turn it in to something beautiful that heals people who didn't even know they were hurting.

And yet, for all the pain and emotions we went through together last night, my face hurt from all the laughing and smiling. The show was so funny.

This is what Theater is supposed to be!!

Cheers, Sascha. Cheers and Thank You. You deserve all the success and fame and love this show is going to provide you.

So, my lovely, LA readers, See it. It's this weekend only.

And if it is sold out, if you are too late, DEMAND an extension.

This absolutely can not be missed.

Ticket info here.

Again, thank you Sascha.

Brava, brava, brava.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Owning the Actress in the Struggling Actress

Six months ago or so, my fiance introduced me to a few people at a party he had just met. "She's an actress," he beamed.

On the way home, I asked him not to introduce me as such ever again, because in social circles in LA, saying someone is an actress sounds like you're also saying, "but you wouldn't know, cause she's really a waitress."

Um. What? What is wrong with me? Why does saying I'm an actress sometimes feel like I'm saying a bad word?

Freud would say it's because deep down, I really hate myself. And want to sleep with my father.

And maybe Freud is onto something.

I mean, my dad really is a good looking guy... but no.

So maybe I hate myself.

Maybe not myself, per se, but I hate that we're in the 8th month of this year and I've only booked 6 things. Six. I'm not even booking work once a month.

Now, yes, in past years, I have booked even less than that, so this is something I should be proud of. And I've gotten to the point where if people ask, "have you been in anything I've seen?" I can actually say, "Yup!" and list a few things.

But it makes me wonder: is this feeling of constant struggle ever going to end? I mean, I could book a recurring on a soap and be SUPER HAPPY, but then, I wonder if I'll look at it and think, "It was just a soap."

Is this how someone feels throughout their career?

Anyways, cut to my lovely guy, listening to me patiently, if not bewilderingly. "But you ARE an actress! And you're really good!"

I would say, maybe it's because I haven't booked anything for a while, but um, I just shot a commercial for a video game last Friday, so that's not it.

Maybe it's because when I work, it's usually for only a day and I'm inbetween jobs for weeks. It's like, YAY! I am WORKING! and then I go home and stress WHEN IS MY NEXT GIG?!

Maybe I just need a vacation away from the city and this lifestyle so I can re-evaluate. Re-evaluate how hard I've been working, how much I love this, and be re-inspired by the whole system.

That sounds kind of lovely, right?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Best Experience I Ever Had Whilst Naked

Struggling Actresses, have I got a deal for you.

My friend Glo once told me, "You should come with us to this Spa! $25 gets you unlimited use of their spas, their saunas, and all the amenities!" "Awesome!" I had responded. "But you have to be naked on the ladies only floor." "Uh...Okay! It's time to get rid of my body shame and get naked in Korea Town!"

And then the most relaxing, awesome, best night of my life happened.

Cause I saw a bunch of naked ladies. I even saw a bunch of their naked daughters. And I looked down at my own nakedness and thought, "My body is MY body, and it's nothing to be ashamed of!" I didn't walk from one spa to the next, oh no, I strutted.

I mean, yes, it was relaxing as all get out, and fun, and great, but seriously, seeing the naked female body in all its naked glory, you realize that whatever expectation you might have on yourself and berating yourself for not going to the gym every possible hour, for eating a cookie in class last night, all that doesn't matter. My body is my body and the "Hollywood Ideal" is unhealthy and unrealistic and I have never had problems finding someone to appreciate my body, thankyouverymuch.

So go for the hot, warm and cold tubs, go for the steamroom, go for the heated jade floor, go for the free internet and computer use, go for the rooftop terrace, go for all that, sure, but go for the other naked ladies (they have a men's only floor and co-ed floor too. If you are a couple and have a couple friends you regularly hang out with, do this!)  go for finally being able to see your body as something that is healthy and great as opposed to something you continually stress out about.

Groupon is doing a little more than half off, so the $25 spa pass is only TWELVE BUCKS! Here's the link: The Link of AWESOME!

Go with a friend. Seriously. Best time ever.


Monday, August 8, 2011


If you don't submit yourself on roles that say "Caucasian," please submit for this! It was out on today's AA breakdown:

Non-Union Theatre

Dir. Rick Najera
Casting Director: Fern Orenstein
Interview Dates: August
Callback Dates: September
Rehearse: Oct-January
Pay Rate: no pay
Location: Studio City, CA



The showcase is focused on African American, Latino, Asian-American, Native American and Pacific Islander actors with extensive sketch comedy experience. Additionally, actors with disabilities or LGBT actors of any ethnicity can submit. Each audition will require a one-minute original comedy monologue. STRONG SKETCH COMEDY BACKGROUND A PLUS.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Losing or Winning: The Name Change Game

It took me a while to like my first name. I didn't know it was different and unusual until I was about 5 or 6. My curly hair started growing down instead of just out into an afro, and on my way to school, there was an older lady who would walk her miniature poodle the same time I left. She would stop me and compliment my hair and pet me because I had the human version haircut as her dog. "What's your name, sweetheart?" She'd coo. "Lira." I'd reply. "What was that?" "Lira." And as it always happened, she would scrunch up her face and say, "Lisa?" "Lira!" "Oh." She would say, looking like she smelled something awful, "That's a nice name." I'm young, but I'm not stupid. I can tell she's lying. She doesn't think it's a nice name. She thinks it's awful.

Then I'd finally get to school. There was me, three Jennifers, two Jessicas, an Amanda, a Kristy, Christine and Christina.

I wanted to be one of them. When they were asked their name, they never had to repeat it, never had to correct the pronunciation when called on the call sheet, and never had to explain how their kooky dad came up with it.

I've always loved my last name, however. It's easy to pronounce, easy to spell, and I've got a nice assonance with the L's and R's. And although it's all that, it's also unusual. We were the only Kellermans in our phone book.

And better yet, my last name has given me a permanent connection to my father whom I am extremely close to. I get to carry him around and as silly as it sounds, uphold a legacy of a really honorable man who is a good person who loves his family.

Cut to when I move to Hollywood and several friends have to change their names because theirs is already registered with Sag, or there's thirteen Christina Smiths on the Imdb. Many have a problem getting a website domain.

I don't!!

All of a sudden, my unusual name is a boon to my career.

Cut to a few months ago.

I was at DSW and bought a pair of shoes. I was asked if I wanted to join their rewards program and get coupons. Of course I do!

When they handed me the info sheet to fill out, I looked at the name part. I am getting married in October and thought I should go ahead and put my new married name up there. Then I forgot about it.

For my birthday month, they sent me a $5 off coupon, addressed to the name I'm going to legally take on October 2. I have it in front of me. It's different. It's shorter. I'm losing consonants and gaining vowels! Gaining syllables! Gaining a name I will constantly have to correct people on.

On Bridal blogs and forums, there is a lot of discussion about why women are choosing to change or not change their name. A lot of them have careers where their maiden name is established and they don't want to lose the place they worked so hard to get to. A lot of them have no connection to the last name they were given by a man who got up and left them as babies. A few had hard to pronounce and spell names and were only too happy to be a Smith, a Jones, a Jackson.

Being an actress, I can keep my maiden name as my stage name, no problem. So that's nice.

But changing my name permanently was something I wrestled with for a while. I really, really like my first and last name. It took me years to like it, and now that I'm given the opportunity to change it, I was hesitant; I like it now! A lot!

But you know what I have never liked? My middle name.

Faith is a strange word. Especially when a child is raised by parents of different ones. My mother's side is Jewish, my father's Presbyterian. I grew up understanding that people can have hugely different views on religion but still fall in love and raise a family together. So as a child, I believed that the one side who didn't believe Jesus was the messiah, was just as "correct" in their faith and views as the side that did believe Jesus was. They're both right. All religions are correct. They're different, but if you believe in something, great!

Growing up that way, also leads to a lack of faith. If they're both right, they could both be wrong. I'm fascinated by all the different beliefs in the world and how people celebrate a deity, what their customs and rituals are, what the history behind all of it is. I took a Philosophy of Religion class in school (and made a lifelong friend who is also going to be officiating our wedding) and got to read up on how the five major religions came out of nothing and gave people looking for meaning something to believe in. Which is great! But something I wasn't sure I wanted.

So, awesome. My middle name is now ironic. And on bills and paychecks, there it is in all it's capital F glory, looking like a giant F word in the middle of two other great names.

When I was wrestling with the idea of changing my last name, I kept asking my fiance what he wanted. "Whatever you want to do is what I want for you." Lovely and diplomatic but of absolutely NO HELP. I figured if I asked him every so often, his answer might change. It never did. It was always the same. Whatever I wanted to do was what he wanted.


So finally, I said, "Tell me what you REALLY want, how you REALLY feel, because I'm asking you because I WANT TO KNOW."

He looked at me. "If we had children, I think it would be nice if we all had the same last name."


That would be nice, wouldn't it? My mother took my Dad's name. I only knew her as her married name. She always had that name, as long as I've known her!

And that was pretty much it for me. We are becoming a family unit.

I get to have best of both worlds: I'm keeping my first and maiden last name for all my business purposes, and get this: nixing my ironic middle name, and replacing it with my maiden last name.
I will be

Lira MaidenLastName HusbandsLastName

I am retaining my sense of self that I've worked hard at all my life, the names that I feel truly define me, and adding a new family name to define who I love and will have fun defining what that means as a family for the rest of our lives.

I respect every woman who decides to keep her birth name or not, because this isn't an easy thing to mull over. It takes time and careful consideration to decide what we want and think will be best for ourselves.

Some might say it's just a name, who cares, it's not your personality, as that will never change, but to me, my name is everything I am, and everything I will become.

And looking at my little DSW coupon with my new married name, getting used to the way it looks together, I like it. It represents my new life; the next 60 years I will be my new name.

I'm not losing myself. I'm winning a second family.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Selling It

If I'm going to advertise something on this blog, it's because I think it might benefit one of my lovely readers. You can go to a Free Acting class with my favoritest acting coach ever --->
and you can also get $50 off on my friend's headshots package ---->

I've had a few people contact me about ad space but they're trying to sell something none of my readers would be interested in, like homeowners insurance. I don't know why someone would think this is an appropriate space for that. Every once in a while, though, I'll get someone asking me to promote something that kinda sorta pertains to this blog's niche.
Yesterday, I received this email:
Hello Lira!
I wanted to get in touch and see if you and your readers would be interested in the opportunity to model in a [Famous Director!] photoshoot. [Redacted link to the contest]
[Famous Director!], one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, producers and photographers, is inviting aspiring female models to submit three of their best photographs for the chance to model in a photo shoot with [Never Heard of It!] magazine in Los Angeles.

The selected model will be photographed by [Famous Director!]
in a photo shoot for the 3rd issue of [Never Heard of It!]
magazine. The winner will also be featured and credited in the same issue.
The 5 highest voted submissions will each receive a signed copy of a [Redacted]
Entertainment DVD and a yearlong subscription to [Never Heard of It!]
(4 issues).
It's easy to get involved, just submit three photos. Is this something we can get your site and your readers involved in?
Thanks for your help,
[Redacted] Inc.

And of course, my response:

Hi [Redacted]!

I am flattered that you found my little blog and are offering me this opportunity.

So all my readers would have to do is submit three shots of themselves, and then tell all their family and friends to vote for them for the chance to win a dvd and subscription to a magazine?

You say "the selected model" who would win a chance to be shot for [Never Heard of It!] magazine, would not actually receive any monetary compensation for their work, is that correct? But they'd get credit?

It sounds like a really awful deal for my readers, quite frankly, but a lot of publicity for your magazine, which I've never heard of, and which you neglected to provide any information about.

Please help me understand why my readers would be interested in this. Perhaps I need another cup of coffee to help me focus but I don't understand how they would benefit in any way.

My best,

I have yet to receive a response...

Perhaps you can tell me how you might benefit from this contest.