Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Public Service Announcement


Published 11/15/2014


I really don’t mean to sound like an angry black woman but… I feel like that’s an appropriate way to preface this because I’m often greeted with a very similar “Not to be racist…” or, “I’m not trying to offend you…,” before friends and acquaintances proceed to utter some of the most ignorant, egregious and racist statements I’ve ever heard.  I grew up in the suburbs and therefore have been accused by many of my own race of being uppity and “bougie” and the like, but that is another matter entirely. The point is that as I am well versed in the nuances of those with paler hues, and I can usually ascertain when I’m in the presence of actual, deep-seated racism or innocuous, if  ill advised jokes. I have learned over the years how and when to address both. 

When dealing with people I encounter every day I sometimes err on the side of laughing at things that I don’t actually think are funny rather than admonishing them for their insensitivity because 1)being an expository token is exhausting and 2) having one educated,  accomplished, well-spoken black friend is not going to change the mind of a person who has a fixed and media-reinforced opinion about an entire group of people, even if I happen to be a member of said group. Trust me, I know this from years of experience.  If I had a dollar for every time I’d been pegged as an anomaly because I don’t do a plethora of things that “most” black people do, I could literally buy a small country. Literally. I find that statement particularly ludicrous because the people who say these things don’t know most black people, and usually they don’t know any who aren’t me. Rappers and people you see on the news or follow on Instagram don’t count. They really don’t guys. If I said to my white friends that they aren’t like most white people because they aren’t serial killers, child molesters, douchebags, convicted insider traders, addicted to bath salts, meth, prescription drugs, or married to their cousins, I suspect that they may find that a tad bit offensive, but I digress.

Those of you who know me, or even if you just read my blog, know that I really don’t enjoy dwelling on racial issues, much like I can’t bring myself to watch movies about urban youth achieving their way out of the hood because I think both are limiting and unproductive. I want to just live my life without making a huge issue about my color, which for me means ballet and sushi and corny crafts and hiking and yoga, and reading the thesaurus for fun to bolster my extensive vocabulary, but I can’t do that without being accused of “acting white.”

This little diatribe is not unwarranted. My week was bookended by two questions which I honestly don’t even understand why they were uttered in this day and age, because the internet exists and common sense is free. I spent Monday explaining to someone that yes, blackface is offensive and not humorous. Because there is still some doubt about that apparently. Sigh. On Friday I had to explain science when I was asked if black people can blush. Well, yeah- since I am a person and blood can rush to the blood vessels in my cheeks the same way it does in any other person, the answer is yes. I’m going to suggest that people a) pay attention in history class, and b) use Google, before asking their black friend and de facto resident expert on all peculiarities of the negro these asinine questions. I suggest this because contrary to popular belief, we go to college and have degrees and think fully formulated thoughts, and like people of all colors who do these things, we think less of you when we are greeted with stupidity.

These two incidents may not have riled me quite so much if it hadn’t come a month after I had to explain to a coworker why it is unacceptable to use the n-word in a group text that includes your black co-worker and two of your superiors. These are certainly not the first incidents like these that I’ve encountered and they are definitely not even the worse. However, when people glibly say things about living in a post-racial America, or that African Americans need to “get over” slavery (which no one would dare say to any Jewish person), I can’t help but to be a little peeved.

I love all of my friends, regardless of their backgrounds, but I have my limits. I hate to bring things like this up though, because saying anything in my defense automatically paints me as angry, and loud and typical, so I am forced into silence, lest I unintentionally reinforce pervasive and maligning stereotypes. I’m sorry, but I’m tired of white people getting offended when they are called out on their racism and forced to deconstruct it when confronted with its ridiculousness.

I ask you, are they also offended when I am the only customer followed around stores? Are they offended when white casting directors tell me that I’m not “black enough” because I don’t have dreads or bullet wound scars or a really big ass? Are they offended when someone walks into Starbucks in Burbank and yells at the top of their lungs that they can’t find a seat “because of all the ugly n*****s in here?”  That actually happened, in the TWENTY FIRST CENTURY.  Also, there were only two African Americans there and there were empty seats, so I’m sorry if being around black people is a new, challenging experience for you and you’re just getting your sea-legs where dealing with diversity is concerned. I however, have been black my whole life and I don’t have time to be befriended because it’s trendy or dated to piss off someone’s parents. My skin isn’t a fun prop that I can just remove when I want to book a commercial or get a job that I know I’m overqualified for, or not be pulled over and harassed by the police because they’re bored.

My skin color is just one small aspect of my identity and it has absolutely no bearing on my character or worth.  You’ll probably never catch me running around wearing a  “Black Power” t-shirt, but you couldn’t pay me to be anything else.  Yes I can get sunburned, yes I can swim, yes this is my hair and yes, I can pronounce “ask” properly.  I don’t think it’s funny when I’m greeted with “Yo,” and I really, honestly do not like hot sauce. I’m classy as fuck which is pretty apparent, and it shouldn’t be weird that I’m refined and also black. Those two factors are not mutually exclusive. So I take that back, I’m not sorry that you’re offended and if white privilege isn’t enough to get you through your day, then you can kiss my black ass. #dearwhitepeople #seriously 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The One About Halloween


Published 11/1/14

Halloween is a really, really, REALLY big deal in Hollywood.  More than a week ago, someone approached me and asked me if I was ready for All Hallows Eve and I laughed, not because of the question, but the intensity with which it was asked. The guy was as concerned about my costume preparation as other people have been about the college aspirations or five-year-plans of a young person. Dude. It’s not that serious.  

My first inclination was to put his mind at ease by sharing the costumes I’d been mulling over: A “never nude” (Cut-offs and I’m done. How great would that have been?), Olivia Pope (I didn’t have a wine glass big enough), or Lana from Archer. Unfortunately, my baser nature won and I just shrugged as if I hadn’t given it any thought. The alarm on that man’s face was worth it.

So since I’ve lived here for a few years I’m used to the mania induced by Mischief Night, but every year there is an added layer of crazy that I couldn’t have prepared for. As I work in Weho, I’ve dealt with an onslaught of orange and black merriment for weeks but when Halloween arrived yesterday, I managed to be shocked anew.

I decided to venture down to Santa Monica Boulevard only because I was already parked close enough to walk, and because Halloween in West Hollywood was on my LA to-do list. Even though I know that people in Weho operate under “Girl World” rules and strive to show all the skin that they can, I was still a little surprised by all of the assless chaps and pasties I saw. There were at least 30 people dressed as Waldo, so that question is answered, and also there was this.


No words. I saw a lot of Maleficents and two very creative people dressed as the house in Up, balloons and all. Someone went as I-am-not-famous-anymore-Shia Lebeouf, paper bag included. Genius. There were others that should be mentioned, but they truly would have had to have been seen to be believed. As for me, I decided on Princess Jasmine 

because- I’m just going to say this and let the chips fall where they may- Frozen is overrated and I really felt that old school Disney princesses shouldn’t be neglected. I think I’ve decided that I’m going to work my way through a few of them over the next couple of years- not Tiana though because come on, it’s like, too obvious. Also, I saw a couple of really good Mia Wallaces from Pulp Fiction and I have all the stuff for that one so it’s definitely happening.

Despite the promising start in Boystown and the countless shindigs happening last night, my evening was pretty laid back. After The Blvd, my coworker and I escaped to the east side of Hollywood for Thai food, because that’s what you should do on Halloween, right? We witnessed a strange altercation in front of a liquor store and almost got kidnapped from my car (no big deal), but a large part of the night was spent trying to find parking a block away from the Roosevelt (mistake!) and then deciding not to go out after all because it was getting late. *It wasn’t really late, it was 11:15, but I am ever an old woman at heart. * Sigh. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Growing Pains


Published 8/14/14


So in case you’re interested, this previous weekend marked my four-year LA-versary. I must say that given my inauspicious start here, I’m a little surprised I’ve lasted this long. Within the first month of my impetuous relocation, I got in one and a half car accidents, had a panic attack, got lost in almost every corner of the City of Angels and was very nearly sucked into a Ponzi scheme.  I rode the bus from Noho to Culver City before I had a car and before I knew any better, lived with way too many people in a small apartment, and thought that invitations to “red carpet events” received in emails were legitimate and worth my time. Oh young, silly Lyds!

Now that I’m a bit wiser (never older because good actresses don’t age), and a tad jaded, I’ve learned that all plans casual and romantic, interviews and auditions must be verified and triple checked because people in LA are exceedingly flaky. I’ve learned how to decipher the conflicting, ubiquitous street signs, and I know when to avoid driving on Hollywood Boulevard- always! I now understand the lore of the Arclight, and I’ve become that person who wears a pea coat in 60-degree weather with no shame.

For the past four years I’ve been broke as hell, which is saying a lot because I’m really good with money- like really, really good. But like so many of the countless artists before me who moved here with savings, a plan, and the secret belief that I was special and would be “discovered” in less than a year, I swiftly and repeatedly have had my feelings crushed by Lala Land. LA is not nice! It’s not a place to move if you want an easy life.  In some of my most financially scant moments, I’ve come pretty close to making some questionable choices.  I considered becoming a phone sex operator, which I justified because of a remembered comparison to the titular character in Girl 6. There was also the time I almost sold my eggs, and a more recent episode in which I pondered dancing at Jumbos. Courtney Love did the latter in her early days and she’s usually known for subsequent good decisions, right?

LA will break you if you don’t love the film industry, and it will break you if you do… and then it will throw in an earthquake just for kicks. This is a land of endless summer, beautiful beaches, annoying tourists, moral depravity, kale infinitum, inspiring creativity, insipid remakes, drivers who are effing insane, and In-N-Out. It’s not for everybody, but I’ve been convinced of my love of movies since I was about four years old, so I guess I’m not going anywhere.

I’ve had the chance to completely reassess my priorities- something that you can do with more clarity when you have to decide between putting 17 dollars of gas in your car or uploading a new headshot to LA Casting. And as for my floundering acting career, I finally managed to get a manager… who has sent me out exactly zero times. Thus the small triumphs of my barely-viewed commercials and infrequent avails are still languishing in my little non-union prison but I know other actresses have had even lengthier roads to getting paid for their art, so I keep at it.

I’ve been here long enough to have favorite bars, and to remember when 33 Taps was Dillon’s, and to somehow have acquired Dodger gear. I’ve still never been to a game. I’ve met and/or become disillusioned with most of my favorite actors and I’ve developed new favorites, but with caution this time. For all my complaining about the heat in the Valley, the traffic in Weho, the terror of the 405 and the general, all-encompassing horribleness of the film industry, I love this place.

I’ve realized that I have become someone who will passionately defend the merits of the Thirty Mile Zone, the idiosyncrasies of Silverlake, and the performance of the Lakers over the past few years. I’ve become an asshole driver with a favorite froyo place, more American Apparel clothing than anyone should admit to, and a very strong opinion of farmers markets by city. The last four years have introduced me to movies at Hollywood Forever, free yoga at Runyon, and Portos. I’ve met people for whom I would not take a bullet, but could possibly be persuaded to drive to LAX. In LA, that is true love. That and reading scripts that you really don’t want to read for your friends, or going to their improv shows across town. To me, LA has shown nothing but tough love, but that has forced me to write, and write and write and to grow, and to rediscover old passions that have nothing to do with the industry. Ironically, I think my newfound, extracurricular interests are making me a better actress. And while that’s happening, LA is making me a better person. I cannot begin to guess what will happen in the next four years, but hopefully I’ll still be able to say “I heart Los Angeles” and mean it.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Turn Down for What?


Published 6/5/2014


For those of you who may have been living under a rock, this is a question posed many times in the song of the same name by DJ Snake and Lil Jon. If you haven’t heard the song or you’re over 30 or you just don’t care, “turn down for what” can loosely be translated to “why should I end this revelry? What could be more timely, fulfilling and productive than gyrating and and pouring champagne on models?” Well I don’t know about you all, but I’ve found quite a few things to turn down, and even off for.

A Good Parking Space
People, parking in LA is tough, yes?  Meters, tandem spots, permit zones, street cleaning, crowded neighborhoods- all of these factors make a safe, close parking space tantamount to a golden ticket. Sometimes I consider accepting invitations, but then I remember that I’m literally right in front of my building and I don’t have to go anywhere until Monday so…

Early Call Times
When I was in college it was totally cool to get out of class, maybe study a little and then turn up till about four in the morning.  I would then nap for a couple hours and make it to class by nine. Now I have friends who suggest wild nights on the town and follow with throwaways like “You’re young,” and “Sleep when you’re dead.” Nope, I’ll sleep at eleven, thanks! When I have to be on set or at work or LAX at the crack of dawn, I want to arrive well-rested, not fighting a hangover and sans random pieces of glitter from the night before in my hair. Definitely turning down.

Netflix
This is pretty self-explanatory.

Wine
One could choose to turn up with purple drank,  sizzurp and molly and whatever the hell else kids are calling alcohol and recreational drugs these days, but guys, hello! Wine! Let’s thinks about this: turn down with a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon or turn up with seven or eight shots- I’m going with the former.

Museums
Because art and stuff is like, important. Also, museums are the about the only time I can handle being in a crowd. I mean seriously, wouldn’t everyone rather turn to medium and go to LACMA than, I don’t know, turn up at Supper Club? The answer should be yes.

Target
Target (Tar-zhay if you’re fancy) is my jam ya’ll. Sometimes I’m tempted to turn up in a retail sense and go crazy in the mall or with my Amazon wish list. Then I remember that I don’t have any money because, you know, the whole broke actress thing, and I go to Target instead. It’s like “Oh what’s this ‘dollar’ section,” and “they have swimsuits out already?” And then you go around the corner and Target is like “Groceries too, bitch!” And that’s that.

#turn down

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Famous Friends


Published 5/20/14

I knew it would only be a matter of time before I acquired un ami celebre  or two whilst living in Tinseltown.  Admittedly, “friend” may be too strong a word for the relationships I have with these particular people, but we’re definitely in the solid acquaintance realm. If this had happened when I first moved here it probably would have been fairly exciting, but to be clear, adding people who own watches that cost more than your car to your coterie requires no particular skill. Given the laws of proximity and eventuality, one only has to exhibit a little patience, and occasionally a willingness to laugh at unfunny jokes. There are times when the beautiful and the damned simply welcome you into the fold, but quite often there are tests, there is peer pressure and sometimes an NDA.

While some people actively seek out liaisons with the rich and famous, I’ve found that carrying on business as usual will get you just as far. Celebrities unabashedly use their sparkly, bronzed exteriors to lure unsuspecting plebians, but your job is to remain as aloof as possible. This throws them off their game. Besides, gushing is really kind of weird if you think about it. If you’re an aspiring actor especially, why should you get all fangirl-y when you run into someone from your favorite childhood movie at Whole Foods? If paralegals did that around lawyers it would just be creepy. Pull it together people! Was there a listless smile tossed your way, or a (likely feigned) interest in your floundering career? They were either being nice, or using your blind groupie adoration to boost an ego crushed by a recent box office failure. Don’t allow yourself to think “Did we just become best friends?!”  Here’s a hint: probably not.

For some strange reason these people are never confident in their own merits, so there are always promises- of fabulous times, of opulent parties, and eventual career advancement that will be gained if you stick around. My experience has taught me however, that of all the flakes in LA, the ones getting residuals and hiding behind their aviators are by far the flakiest. In my case there have been promises of representation, invites to exclusive soirees and countless attempts to charm my pants off.  This is usually followed by implorations to “hang out” sometime, which are of course left up to me, the commoner to initiate and coordinate- because it makes sense for a scarcely employed actor to try to fit a BAFTA winner’s schedule around my part time jobs and casting director workshops. Nope!

Aside from the perks of namedropping and humblebragging afforded by having well-known cohorts, there are no outstanding benefits. Hanging out with them is too stressful- what do you wear, what do you say, do you take an Uber you can’t afford to avoid being embarrassed by your beat up car? Dilemma! Do you take a chance at being the maverick who doesn’t play the fawning sycophant, or do you pretend that you also have a yacht and a summer home, and have grown tired of weekends in Ibiza? Who has time for that? I’m pretty sure my normal friends are infinitely better. Their teeth are believable shades of white and they don’t balk at the thought of doing their own laundry. I’ll take that any day. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Car Troubles


Published 4/27/2014


Let me just say that having all the facts before acting is usually the best way to go. I pride myself on being pretty levelheaded and just this week I had to be the voice of reason and caller of emergency response vehicles in several situations. On Friday however, I sort of allowed a non-issue to become a full-scale production, quite unnecessarily. I shall elucidate:

So I was luxuriating in the curiously slow day at work- nothing will top the Coachella-inspired mass exodus of the two previous weekends but it was still nice- and I was thinking okay, I’m going to take my lunch break, go to this free improv show and then go home and watch far too many episodes of Gilmore Girls. These are the things I was thinking as I walked towards my car, until my thought abruptly became where the hell is my front license plate?!  It wasn’t on my car, friends. So obviously the logical conclusion was that it had been stolen and that someone was probably at that very moment committing a crime while driving with my plate and that I would be dramatically arrested, dragged out of work and just shy of finishing my toothbrush shank before the truth of my innocence and mistaken identity came to light.  Because that totally happens all the time, right?

So my next completely rational action was to attempt to file a police report, which apparently is much easier said than done. I tried the LAPD non-emergency number but after getting a recording I was told that they were too busy and I had to call back. Awesome. So I called them again because that makes sense, right? Nothing. So I thought, hey I’m really close to the Weho Sheriff Dept., I’ll just try them. Well I did and they told me that even though I was literally two blocks away, I was out of their jurisdiction and was directed instead to the Hollywood station. Of course there's a charge for filing a report on the phone and it takes two weeks to process, so I had to physically go into the station to get a copy of the report to take to the DMV.

My next logical decision then, was to leave work early because who knows what kind of name-sullying things criminals were doing with my license? This obviously had to be taken care of immediately. So at the station, OF COURSE the only officer there was brand new, extremely flustered by the phone, yet still managed to be unsubtly condescending at every turn, and OF COURSE there was someone being wheeled out on a stretcher, causing a ruckus, yelling obscenities and generally unnerving me like in everyyuppie in a precinct scene” in every movie. 

So back to Baby Cop: after trying to convince me that the theft didn’t take place in his jurisdiction,  he finally acquiesced and started to process my paperwork but he needed help, so Helpful Detective came to assist. So as they tag-team the forms, Helpful Detective tells me that I have to take off my rear plates too because once it’s filed, anyone seen driving with either plate will get pulled over at gunpoint. He seemed to really be relishing this so I very calmly and with no irony suggested that that may be slightly dangerous for me because try as I might to pass, I’m actually black, so any situation involving myself and police with guns would probably end up with me dead. And then, he looks me in the eye and says, wait for it… “Wellllll… you should just take the plates off.” Helpful Detective made absolutely no attempt to suggest that maybe that would not in fact be the case. Did that just happen?!

So fearing police brutality or worse- a fix-it ticket,  with no plates on my car, dreading the coming days of schlepping to the DMV, the dealership and possibly auto repair shops, I got home, and there on the patio sat my mother effing front plate! So as it turns out, that mischievous little piece of metal, which by the way, I knew was a little loose, had simply broken off, still attached to the mounting bracket. I’d just failed to notice it that morning. Go ahead and laugh because I have an overactive imagination… and also I am dumb. I have no qualms admitting that right now. So how was your weekend?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Name is Lydia, and I’m a Gym Rat


Published 4/17/2014


Hey guys, it’s me…nope, I’m still not a regularly working actor, thanks for asking. Seriously, everyone I know has been asking me how acting is going lately- but usually they ask me while I’m at work, as in the gym that I’m employed at for embarrassingly scant wages. Since I’m not on set when they ask me this and my face isn’t on any billboards, you’d think they would already have the answer to their own question but no, I guess it needs to be confirmed. Maybe they think I’m doing Method work for an upcoming role or something?

Anywho, I’ve been at this particular gym for almost six months and I’ve started to notice a few alarming trends in my behavior. I think I’m becoming that person about the gym… I think I might be a gym rat and I think it’s too late to turn back. There was a time when I had nothing but disdain for people who somehow managed to workout or at least do some approximation of working out for the entire duration of my shift. There just aren’t enough muscle groups in the world and I know this is LA but you cannot seriously tell me that you have nothing else better to do for six hours! That was how I used to think, but yesterday I realized that I’d been lingering at the desk for about 45 minutes after the class I’d taken ended and after I’d finished my shift.  How did this happen?!

To say I’ve always been enthusiastic about wellness in general would be an understatement. I considered being a personal trainer for years and I always work out, but I think I’ve recently descended to another, scarier level. Fitspo board on Pinterest? Yep, I’ve got one. Do I hang out with members outside of work? Guilty. Do the subjects of “carb cycling” and “counting macros” surface in my conversations more than once a week? Sigh. Am I following the Quest bar lawsuit, whilst eschewing all other inferior protein bars? You got me.  

There was a time when I was still friendly towards people who work out less than five times a week but I fear that those days may be coming to an end. Not only am I becoming a gym rat, but I’m even more of a health snob than I was before. Some would blame this on my full immersion in this LA lifestyle- I’m probably one step away from joining a startup cult- but the truth is that I’ve always been pretty keen on preserving myself. Not to be cheesy , but exercise is important and also have you seen the smog here? Angelenos can’t afford not to be  fit.  So basically what started as fun has become silent judgment towards people who don’t take advantage of farmers’ markets. Like, if you don’t like kale we probably can’t be friends. Just kidding, but really I’m kind of serious.

So that’s that. I just hope that I never become the girl who has a full face of makeup on at a seven AM spin class. If you ever see me doing anything like that, you are cordially invited to punch me in the face because it means I’ve lost my damn mind.