“They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Dear Younger Me,
I can only speak from my personal work experience in the film industry. No matter what your profession, circumstance, or age, your character is a reflection of the choices you make. Thank goodness there is grace.
I often tell my own kids and my acting students to make the decision of who they are now, as well as what their standing values are, before they get pressured by the world and peers. I discuss with them to make smart, informed choices regarding tough decisions now that they’re not pressured by others who do not have your best interest at heart, because there will always be consequences. You only get one you, and you will be recognized for your personal character and actions for all time and “internet eternity.”
Let me tell you a little story about my “BIG DECISION.”
Years ago, in the year B.K., (B.K. = Before Kids), I was new to the film industry, and eager for a “big break.” My agent, at the time, submitted my name for a nude stripper role for this big budget movie. I had my doubts, but thought how flattering it was that she chose me as one of the actresses to audition. I was so impressed because I didn’t think I was pretty or sexy. I struggled with the little voice inside me that kept telling me that this probably wasn’t a good idea. But then, I thought, “Hey, this is a chance for me to prove myself to my agent.” Ummm…no.
Thankfully, someone was looking out for me.
I got a call from the casting director, himself. He knew me well, and had cast me on many projects. What he said to me on the phone shocked me. “Irene,” he said, “I see your name as being submitted on this list for the stripper role. I don’t want you to do this. You’re too good of an actress and too good of a friend. You don’t need this. I have too much respect for you. This is not you. I won’t let you audition.”
I was so surprised to get this call. I didn’t know people actually cared about other people in the film industry. When I hung up, I felt like the weight of the world had lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t do the audition, and I never felt like I missed out. God uses people to help us when we need Him, especially when we are blinded by flattery and misguided naivete.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe, and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” —James 1: 5-6
Would I be embarrassed today if my kids saw that show with me cast in the role as a nude stripper?! HECK, YEAH! The internet NEVER forgets and digs up dirt. I NEVER looked back or regretted not going to that audition. I am continuously grateful, that someone I knew , equally respected, and who had so much more experience in the business, recognized that that wasn’t me, who also believed I had some acting skills. Thank goodness he talked some sense to me.
Make the decision on what you will and won’t do now, because a time will come when you’ll be pressured by others who don’t have your best interest at heart.
…Because frankly, my dear, that will likely cloud your thinking when you need a clear mind looking out for your best interest. The devil is a liar and, our human nature is weak. Now, that doesn’t mean that my agent, then, was evil. She was just looking out for her best interests and also doing her job. It was up to me to know what I wanted and decide what lines not to cross.
“For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naive people.” —Romans 16:18
Another story, (last one I promise!)…
A few years ago, I had an interesting experience. I was feeling stuck in my career. I wanted an opportunity to be cast in a strong, female role in a good film. I had been praying deeply to God to provide one for me, as well as having peace about it. A director contacted me and told me he’d seen my demo reel and was truly impressed by me…yada, yada, yada…of course I was interested!
I got the deal memo and the script. Something seemed strange, too good to be true, and pretty ambiguous. My agent and I saw red flags, but I wanted it to be the answer that I’d been praying for. He even said he would change the wording of the terms in the contract to whatever my agent was comfortable with, but my agent remained wary. I prayed to know what to do. The director seemed like such a nice person.
Then the following night, I read the script. By page 20, I’d run into a very poorly written script, along with dialogue and scenes that I wasn’t comfortable with. I decided to pass. I responded by telling the director that I wasn’t comfortable with the intense sexual situations and the extremely violent nature of the story. It basically wasn’t for me. Besides, the script and the terms seemed so fishy anyway. Well, as it turned out, that same year I was cast in Badge of Faith in a huge supporting role to the lead character’s partner on the police force.
The morale of this story? God tested me. Satan tempted me. I asked IN HIS NAME…NOT MINE, nor in Hollywood’s, nor IMDB’s. HIS NAME!
He used my friend, the casting director, all those years ago, the fishy director believe it or not, and my agents, too, because I had to learn the right path, face tough decisions, and make strong choices. He did answer my prayer. God is wise and makes us take a hard look at what we are asking for. If it’s too good to be true, take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this what God would want me to do?”
Surround yourself and work with those you KLT (Know, Like and Trust). Those who are looking out for your best interest; people who truly love you, and respect who you were truly created to be.
Your older self who loves you unconditionally,
About this Contributor
Irene Santiago’s moto is A.B.C = I Act Because of Christ. She is an award winning, working actress, voice talent, speaker, acting coach, model and producer. Among some of her work in television, film, theater, and several commercials you can see her in One Tree Hill, Providence, and Adrenaline. She is mainly recognized for her role in High School Musical-1 as the ‘Chem Teacher’,(which her kids roll their eyes when someone mentions it). You can contact her on her website, facebook, twitter, instagram and IMDb. She is married and has two children.
The Article, Respecting The Creation That You Were Meant To Be: A Letter To My Younger Self, was first published on To Be A Person (TBAP).