I met Theresa when I was 7 years old at a sleep over. She is one of my oldest friends, and although we don’t keep in touch very often, she’s one of those people that I feel automatically close with.
I met Fig at some point during junior high or high school, and always felt like I would see her on American Idol one day (I still won’t be surprised if that happens). She is one of those big personalities that you can’t ignore and everyone seems to gravitate toward it.
I heard through our close friend that they had decided to both move to NYC together to pursue their acting careers. I thought – omigod, how insanely brave and terrifying. Since then I have tried to live vicariously through them via their Instagram and Facebook feeds, trying to imagine what it must be like to be living one of the most popular American dreams.
When we first started this blog, I had the idea of doing interviews with amazing people I know – and they were some of the first to come to mind. So finally, let me introduce you to Theresa and Fig!
1. What are the big differences have you noticed between the east and west coast?
-The food. There are so many different types of food to try in NYC. Back in California I only ate Mexican food, fast food (I’m ashamed to say), or the hippie food from New Leaf that my mom would buy. Moving here I have learned to love so many different flavors. I think part of that is because there are so many different types of people/cultures here. In one day you can eat amazing Ramen in Chinatown, head up to Harlem for some serious soul food, and land in Brooklyn for some craft beers and authentic German cuisine. New York is filled with exciting new flavors and it is something I really cherish about the city.
-The constant cat calling. In California when I was recieving male attention on the street it would usually consist of some staring, and perhaps a ‘hi, whats your name?’. In NYC it is VERY different. I have had men walk beside me and ask me questions, ‘do you have a boyfriend? Can I get your number? You think you’re too good?’ I have had men yell to me in the street. Make kissing sounds at me. Whistle…liike they are calling a dog. And sadly I had my hair pulled TWICE when I lived in Harlem. The attention is a lot and it can be exhausting. One of the things I hate the most about this city.
-The living situations. I grew up in one home for my first 17 years, but after that I rented a few apartments in Chico. The living situations in the big apple are very different. Here we have all kinds of different people of all colors and backgrounds and social classes crammed together into tiny neighborhoods living on top of each other. Literally. It’s a lot of exposure to different ways of life. It took a long time for me to get used to so much shared space!
They couldn’t be more different, really. I used to watch Sex and the City and fantasize about the beautiful brownstone I would soon live in and how romantic my life in the Big Apple would be. Three years later, and it IS romantic but it’s also a bitch to live here, to put it bluntly. The one word I would use to best describe the difference between the coasts is: convenience. There really isn’t much here. A day in the life of a New Yorker: get up, get on the crowded morning subway commute (it takes an hour almost to get anywhere), you’ll probably be wedged in between a tall man’s armpit and a lady preaching the gospel unapologetically at 8am, you go through your day that more chances than not has extreme weather conditions (there ain’t no 65 degree with sunshine weather here!), grab groceries that you’ll have to carry like a pack mule back to your apartment that has a four floor walk up. Phew! As you can sense, it can get exhausting fairly fast but the good news is that over time, you do get used to it. You don’t have the convenience or the privacy of a car. Unfortunately, you don’t have the option to escape in your Camry, blast Taylor Swift and stuff your face with Taco Bell… I miss that. You are sharing your space with every other New Yorker it seems almost all the time.
2. What was the hardest thing about moving across the country to pursue your dream?
Well leaving the people I love of course. I am truly blessed to have Theresa here. I live with my best friend of 11 years, so how far away could home really feel? Still sometimes I wonder what I am doing wasting precious years with my family so I can walk down 2nd ave with numb fingers and smell day old puke on the train. This city has a way of lifting you up and throwing you down. Some days I can’t believe I have the honor of being a young actress living in New York city and other days I feel like I’ve been cursed. I guess what keeps me here is the fact that I wouldn’t know what else to do. Like it or not I’m a city girl now and even if I could go home and be with my loved ones I would be of no use. For now I follow my heart and I comfort myself with the knowledge that if I ever really need to come home for any reason it will be a no brainer, I will drop everything and go.
The hardest part was coming to terms that chasing my dream was worth temporarily leaving my family. My parents are fairly old, my brother had a baby and I became an Aunt and I was in a long term relationship that was now going to be a long distance relationship. I had so many people I deeply cared about in California that it was hard for me to invest in my new life in NYC and resist the constant urge to look back with sadness about all the people I missed so badly. You have to be selfish and excited about all the possibilities that city has to offer YOU. The dream of becoming an actress was so strong in me and without that passion, I’d be back in California after a year. If I didn’t have that passion and relentless drive, I’d no doubt be back in California within 6 months. The city will devour you if you don’t have that hunger to get whatever it is that made you move to this crazy city in the first place.
3. Is your life now close to what you imagined before you moved to NYC?
I never imagined what my life in NYC would be like. I barely graduated high school, and right as I was about to barely graduate undergrad I decided I wanted to continue my education. My parents thought I was joking. I don’t think they realized I was really going to up and move across the country until I bought the one way plane ticket. I was afraid I would chicken out and stay in Chico with my 1,000 friends and my too good to be true (literally…it wasn’t true) boyfriend and my family a few hours away, so I worked my ass off to get into grad school, I took 21 credits in one semester, I dropped a couple of bags off at Goodwill, and I got on a plane before anyone (including myself) could ask me any questions. I’ve had to rip the carpet out from under my legs a few times in my life. It’s the only way I get things done.
No. I thought I would be a lot further ahead by now. I knew it was going to be a lot of work but I hadn’t anticipated how long it would take to make important connections that could help me get to where I need to be. They say it takes seven times to audition for casting directors for them to even KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
Someone told me success takes two out of the three elements: 1. Talent 2. Resources 3. Connections. You can’t make it with just one of these but you can make it with two out of the three. Working on getting my two out of the three…
4. What advice do you have for others who are scared to pull the trigger on a decision like that?
There will never be a good time in your life to make a major move like this. You will never have enough money saved. You will never have the perfect job lined up. You will never decide you can live without the people you love. You just have to leap. Don’t even bother to look first. Leap! I have somewhat of a morbid motto but for me it is uplifting and inspiring: I’m going to die some day. It’s hard to think about, yes – but essential to following my dream! I’m going to die some day and so are you. We have to make decisions we can stand behind. We have to take risks and live and fail and regret as little as possible. I have a few regrets, sure. Maybe a relationship lasted a little too long, maybe I shouldn’t have said those hurtful things, maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the whole box of (insert here) but the one thing I will never regret is following my dream. And that’s what helps me live with this incredibly costly decision. And when I say costly I mean COSTLY. I decided to be in over $200,000 dollars worth of debt to go to one of the top 7 acting schools in the world and I don’t regret a single penny. Not a penny.
What is bigger, your fear of the unknown or your drive to pursue what you love? When you want it bad enough, you will be surprised how doors will open. Suddenly you’re crying like a baby while saying goodbye to mom and dad at the airport with all your life packed into two suitcases and wondering what the fuck you’ve gotten yourself into. Change is hard, no way around it. I would be lying if I said my first year here was easy. But once you start to see pieces of your dream finally start to come together, you remember real fast how you would rather be no where else than New York City. This quote made everything real clear for me concerning this question: “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write [act, design, create, play music, teach].” I love California and I want to be back there eventually but I HAVE to act and I feel the most opportunities for me to do that are here.
5. What is your favorite and least favorite part about being an actress?
My favorite: telling the truth. I get to tell people and show people the truth. Truths that we can’t express in our every day life. We show people the beauty of the human experience. The things that are often too painful to discuss. We won’t make time for it. It’s not appropriate. We get to hold a mirror to the audience and say ‘LOOK! You see yourself don’t you?’ Thats is why art is so important to us. We see bits and pieces of ourselves. We learn about ourselves. And it is priceless.
My least favorite: the judgement. As an actress I have to open myself up to a lot of criticism. Every time I go in for an audition, or work on a scene, or take a class, or meet an industry person, I am being judged. On a good day they are judging me by my character, on a regular day they are judging me by my waistline, my teeth, my one eyebrow thats higher than the other, if my breasts are too big, etc. It is very difficult for me to feel so judged, so looked at, so exposed, sometimes I want to throw on a Burka and call it a day. It is an evil truth that all actors have to face, the trick is to decide who you are, who you want to be, who you can LIVE with being, and let it go. In the end, what you think of me is none of my business.
Having the chance to change people’s lenses in which they see the world. The night that you walk into the theatre one person and leave a different person is goal for me in every production that I do. Acting teaches you empathy for other humans, you get to experience a life completely different than that of your own and when you’re done with a role, you hopefully understand people that are different than you, better. I was in a production of “A Doll’s House” and during the final scene when Nora and her husband are realizing their marriage was a lie, my older brother stormed out of the theatre. He was on the brink of a painful divorce at the time and the play made him confront something that he was obviously terrified of. Good acting acts as a mirror. If we do our job right, you can often see parts of yourself that you maybe hadn’t realized before. Powerful stuff!
My least favorite thing about being an actress is the lack of control. Every time I leave an audition thinking I booked it, it’s always a mini heartbreak when you find out you in fact didn’t land it. There is a ridiculous amount of rejection that we have to go through and it’s very hard to not take it personally. Keeping a healthy self esteem in this business is part of your job, whether we realize it or not. The people that make it in this business aren’t necessarily the most talented, but rather the ones who refuse to quit, despite the repeated rejection.
6. Any tips on how to live a fabulous and frugal life in the city?
PBR? I don’t know. I’m bad with money. I work 6 days a week. I’m a nanny on Wall Street and I work in a country western gay bar in Prospect Heights (Brooklyn). Every time I stash something away I somehow end up in American Apparel. Well for me, I save a lot of money because of two things, two things that I think I can attribute to being a valley kid [Note: Fig, Emily Theresa, Emily and I all grew up in a community we call “The Valley”, in the Santa Cruz mountains. Think hippies meet mountain folk]: 1) I hate clubs! -That means I avoid cover charges, expensive outfits, and pricey cocktails. 2) I loooooove Goodwill. Theresa and I actually live next to an AMAZING Goodwill just a few blocks down the street in Brooklyn. I have found many a treasure, including a full length forrest green coat from the 1980’s. Theresa says it makes me look like the mom from Home Alone.
Also, a side note, Theresa and I save a lot of money on rent by splitting a one bedroom. It is very common in NYC (maybe Brooklyn especially) for two people to share a one bedroom by making the livingroom into a bedroom. It may not be terribly glamorous, but it makes at least a $300 difference for me a month.
Well, you asked the right person! I’m the cheapest person I know, sadly. Unless you work some huge corporate job on Wall Street or mommy and daddy are helping you, you find out real fast how to watch your money. Finding free events and things that make you happy without paying is the way to go. I like to ride my bike through Prospect Park (same people who designed Central Park but I like this park better… no tourists and more solitude!). I bought my bike second hand of course on Craigslist, because I love buying used stuff. In fact, it’s almost religious for me. Reduce, REUSE, recycle, baby. I’m a green freak. Going to Saturday morning market and flea markets are some of my faves. I also love cooking dinner with friends or going to the movies on their cheap nights. The more people you know and the longer you live here, the more hidden gems you find.
7. How would you describe your personal style, and how has it changed since you made the move (if at all)?
Fashionably, I make more sense here. I tend to be a bit…adventurous with my clothing. I think I stuck out like a sore thumb in California but here I’m one of many. In New York you can wear whatever you want. And I mean that…WHATEVER YOU WANT. And people do. The trick: look confident in it and you can pull off anything. I’m not ashamed to say it, I think most people would call me pretty hipster. Between my Ray Bans, skinny jeans, and white high tops, I think I would be classified as hipster. However, in my defense, I wear whatever I want. Some days I look like a cowgirl, some days I look like Cher in Witches of Eastwick, and some days I look like a man…with large breasts. Like I said, confidence. I have a lot of confidence when it comes to my wardrobe. I guess I have worn one too many costumes in my day. :)
I am a nanny, just like Fig. So unless I’m going out for an audition or acting class, you’ll find me in some fairly frumpy yoga pants, a comfortable tee and Nikes. You walk SO much here so incorporating uncomfortable shoes for fashion sake is a nonsensical in my book. I only wear makeup for auditions or a special occasion. I was the younger sister to two older brothers who convinced me it didn’t matter what you wore and if you have confidence, people will think you look just fine. These were also the brothers who told me it was socially acceptable to wear the same outfit two days in a row… so…
My style has definitely changed for the better here. New Yorkers look fashionable when they’re going to do their laundry. They are far less casual here. I’m still holding true to my casual, comfortable California ways. But on days where I try to look nice I’m probably wearing something from a thrift shop that is fun to wear. I’m influenced by my mother, the once protesting, free love hippie. I also love that the 90’s have made a huge resurgence in fashion. I also love disco! So most of my cute outfits have some sort of throwback element to them. Other than that, like I said, yoga pants and nikes are my jam.
Thank you so much ladies for letting us peek into your fabulous life!