Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Star is Born

Charlie was raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and began taking ballet lessons at the age of six.  She loved it, and she was a natural. At the age of twelve, this passion led her to begin studying flamenco and contemporary dance at a school that specialized in the arts.

Unfortunately, things were bad at home.  Charlie’s father was an alcoholic, and he was becoming violent.  One weekend, he arrived home after a night of drinking and began shooting at the kitchen door.  Threatening to shoot his wife and daughter, he fired again into Charlie’s room.  Feeling she had no other option, Charlie’s mother shot back with her own handgun, killing her husband.  She was devastated, but intent not to let her actions destroy her daughter’s future.  Determined to face the consequences herself, she insisted that Charlie continue her life away from home.

Charlie’s mother never faced prosecution.  The incident was ruled self-defense, and Charlie moved forward as best as she could.  At sixteen, she entered a modeling contest and won a trip to represent South Africa at a competition in Italy.  She won again in Italy, and was soon securing modeling jobs all over Europe.  She liked the work, but didn’t find it artistically satisfying, mainly because she liked to say what was on her mind.  In that industry, no one was interested in her opinions or ideas, just that she stand, move, and smile on command.  After a year, she decided to return to ballet.

Moving to New York, Charlie began attending the Joffrey Ballet School, financing it with modeling work in her spare time.  However, her ballerina dreams were soon crushed when she blew out her knee in class.  Realizing she couldn’t dance anymore, Charlie fell into depression.  She needed a new plan.

At nineteen years old, Charlie arrived in Hollywood with one tattered suitcase, $400, and a dream of finding her way in the movie business.  Part of what she had loved about dancing was the feeling of being able to work hard at something and get results.  She reasoned that acting was similar to dancing, because in each, there was an opportunity to be creative, tell a story, and work hard to improve.

She didn't know a single person in Los Angeles, so she walked out of the airport and asked a cab driver to take her to the cheapest hotel in Hollywood.  It was a dive that rented by the hour, but she took a bottle of bleach and cleaned the place up.  Her attitude was simple:  if things didn't work out, at least she was seeing the world.  And from her window, she could see the Hollywood sign.

Charlie waited tables to pay the rent, and began taking acting classes.  Before long, though, she was nearly broke and living on leftover restaurant bread.  Finally, she went to the bank to cash her last modeling check.  But because it was an out-of-state check, the bank wouldn't accept it.  Trying to convince the bank teller to help her, Charlie went from pleading to begging to near-hysterics.  It was an act, in part, but it was also survival, because if she didn’t cash the check, she would have nowhere to sleep that night.

Finally, a man in line came over to help.  Through his intervention, Charlie was able to open an account and cash her check.  What she didn’t know was that she’d been unwittingly auditioning for him.  Outside the bank, he gave her his card.  He was a Hollywood talent manager with a number of high-profile clients, and said, “If you’re interested, I’ll represent you.”  She agreed, and within a few months, Charlie made her film acting debut.

Ten years after arriving in Hollywood, Charlie, better known as Charlize Theron, accepted the Academy Award for Best Actress in the movie Monster.  She had gained thirty pounds and had her legendary beauty completely obscured to play the award-winning role. In interviews, Charlize talks about luck playing a role in her success, but was it luck that pushed her to work hard, take chances, and refuse a career path that didn’t allow her to be her authentic self?

There’s an old saying: “Fake it till you make it.”  In other words, act like you’re successful even before you actually become successful.  Just remember that you can’t fake authenticity.  Once you discover who you’re truly meant to be… act the part!  That’s how stars are born, and there’s no one out there who can play the role better than you.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

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