Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Secret is Out!

At long last, I can reveal what the heck I've been doing for the past month...

You all know I started volunteering for WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring organization, more than a year ago. You've seen me blog about them on several occasions.

I love this nonprofit so much. It changes the lives of over 350 teen girls in Los Angeles each year and it inspires me to no end. WriteGirl is where creativity expands and transforms exponentially with every written word.

And now they're quite appropriately being honored with the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award - the highest honor in the nation for programs of this kind.

How high? Three words - the White House. Four more words - First Lady Michelle Obama.

This is happening today, people. Watch the ceremony via live stream at 11am PST / 2pm EST at

I've been working part-time doing PR for this whole shebang - sending press releases, organizing interviews, and sending hundreds of emails. It's been overwhelming at times, but now that I'm here in DC, just hours away from the big event, it all feels worth it.

No, I don't get to meet Michelle Obama myself - just our Executive Director and one teen girl we serve are attending the official ceremony - but I'll be one degree of separation from the First Lady after tomorrow. It's like we're sisters...

How can you join in on the fun?
  1. Watch the live stream of the ceremony!
  2. Tell any journalist friends about this - WriteGirl is the only awardee in California - like I said, it's a big deal!
  3. Make a donation and support their amazing programs for teen girls
  4. Mark your calendars - we're having a celebration / fundraiser on December 12 (12/12!) at 7pm at Aventine in Hollywood. Tix are only $30, plus you get to see me in a party dress!
  5. Buy me a drink when I get back to LA - I'm going to need it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fictionless Friday: Falling In Love Again

I want to remember this feeling. Every nuance of the sensation coursing through my mind and body right now. I want to fold it into my chest and hold it near to my heart for the rest of my life. This feeling, this joy, this love.

When I walked into the waiting room, I didn't know it would happen. I found a seat among a sea of hot Asian-American women wearing tight, sexy clothing and fake eyelashes. One woman had chopsticks in her hair. They stared at me in my baggy pants and loose purple sweater. I refused to let them intimidate me, despite the stunning length of their legs and the shininess of their equally long hair.

I barely had time to review my lines when an actress friend walked in and sat beside me. We realized that all those other women were auditioning for a different role than we were. We chatted and laughed - I adore her energy - and then my name was called.

And so it began.

I felt it as soon as I walked inside the audition room. The thrill of the unknown combined with a comforting sense of familiarity. I knew what was coming next. A smile from the handsome director, a chair for sitting, a slate for the camera. "Whenever you're ready."

That's when it happened --

I fell in love with acting.

Again, of course - I've been doing this work for years - and yet it felt like the first time. Not like my auditions for one or two line roles as doctors and nurses, furthering the plot with my short but vital exposition. Nor like my other auditions that call for an Asian accent, also one or two lines of berating the white lead actors in a laundromat or convenience store for laughs.

This was an audition to play a character. A living and breathing representation of a human being who interacts with and affects another character's emotional journey.

I had stayed up late to prepare the night before, running lines while in bed, the pages illuminated by my phone flashlight while I listened to YouTube videos of Hong Kongers speaking English on BBC News.

But in the room, I internalized my preparation and just played. I got lost in the moment, as eye-rollingly cheesy as it sounds. I felt the energy from my panel of judges and I let it feed me, helping me settle into another person's skin and become captivating.

I've never felt more beautiful or powerful.

It's been so long since I've felt this way. Perhaps not since my days on the MIT stage, transforming black box theaters into living rooms, gardens, and roof tops. My early roles were molded from thin air with the help of skilled student and faculty directors, rehearsed and pulsed through my body, and crafted for the audience.

The handsome director directed me. Heads nodded, seemingly pleased. I did the scene three times and was finished. I said goodbye as Mr. Handsome rose from his seat to clasp his hands around mine. "Thank you for bringing this to life."

I haven't stopped smiling. I've missed this feeling and I revel in its return. This is the love that inspired me to leave logic and labs behind. This is the love that keeps me eating frozen pizza instead of Pizzeria Mozza. This is the love that has carried me through the last decade and will carry me into the next.

Getting the part or not is irrelevant now. I've already won the prize. Falling in love with acting again and feeling it love me back is a sensation I won't soon forget.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fictionless Friday: Just Say Thank You

It began where all unexpectedly thought-provoking conversations occur – the office kitchen.

As we prepared our lunches, D noted that we were all wearing black and white that day. I complimented D on her coordinated shift dress and blazer combo. She waved it off, saying it was just something she threw together without thinking about it. C told me I looked cute in my preppy dress shirt and tweed skirt. I joked that it was part of my new objective to not look like such a schlub all the time. D admired C’s dressy black sweater and black skirt look, and C replied it wasn’t a choice as much as what was left clean in her closet before laundry day.

That’s when I stopped, turned to my co-workers, and asked, “Did you hear what we all just did?” They realized it immediately too.

None of us accepted each others' compliments! We all instinctively excused our beauty, shrugging it off as meaningless or unintended. We did it unconsciously and instantly.

Why do women do this? This wasn’t the first time I’ve caught myself doing it or seen others do it. I suppose we’re taught by our mothers and/or society that vanity is an unattractive trait while humility and modesty are more lady-like.

But what has happened to the line between demureness and denial? When did we learn to reject positive feedback as if accepting a compliment automatically labels us as conceited?

Ladies, no matter how the seed was planted, I think it’s time to stop doing this to ourselves. We’ve pushed the line so far back in the opposite direction that we’re not letting anything in. In the realm of female empowerment, standing in your truth is essential. And the truth is we are all beautiful in so many ways. We should start owning it!

I remember a friend telling me about reading this book – Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl. One of her biggest takeaways was that when French women are given a compliment, they simply say, “Thank you.”

What a concept! No excuses or disclaimers? How French! And it made me think how ridiculously American it is that we can’t just say thank you when someone says we have great skin or lovely eyes. We instinctively go into explanations and reasoning. Or divert the conversation as quickly as possible. We should just take it as a gift.

So to anyone who's ever told me I have beautiful hair or admired anything about my appearance --

Thank you!