How to become a star?
That’s a big one. How do I become famous? Fame is an enormous amount of people knowing you for something that you’ve done. As a child actor you can easily misinterpret that as being an actor.
When I was 10 years old, I had a manager in New York City and whenever I went into her office, I couldn’t help but notice a sign hanging in the waiting room of her office. It said: “An agent may book a star but only a manager can MAKE a star!”
Once inside, she would say, “Hi darling! You’re going to be a HUGE star!” I would shine and beam and hope that that would one day come true! In fact, being a star was all I wanted at that time. I had a top child/teen manager in New York City. I was auditioning for huge tv series and feature films. I was being called back a lot and screen-tested. I was flown around the country, first class, and was paid for by big film executives. I was always acting, performing, and striving for stardom. But the problem was we were living in Detroit and flying everywhere for auditions. Gradually it played on my Mom’s nerves and we decided to quit for 2 years. My manager said “Don’t worry darling! When you are 18, I will sign you and you will become a BIG STAR!! This seemed like forever. I was 16.
Luckily for me, I did keep acting in Detroit and went to a college prep course in Northwestern University. Later, I got accepted into NYU, Tisch School of the Arts. After settling into New York, I called up my manager and said, “It’s me. Jeff….Jeff Alan-Lee”
“WHO?” the voice bellowed.
“Jeff Alan-Lee, you represented me for 3 years when I was a child actor. I’m living in New York now!”
“OH, JEFF!! YES, darling I do remember now!” How can I help you?
“You said to call you when I turn 18 and you’d make me a big star, so here I am.”
“Oh, darling, I’m not taking on any new clients right now. In fact, I had to drop a lot of them. You know I represent Irene Cara and many other top stars and I need to focus on them. Thank you for calling though. I wish you all the best!!”
Then…”Click.” The nerve of her! She told me to call her, she said she was waiting for this day, and now nothing.
I felt devalued, un-important and sad. This was someone who I thought believed in me. And in actuality she believed in my look and my type for making money.
Luckily, I was enrolled at NYU, staying creative with full time conservatory classes at The Actors and Directors Lab at New York’s theater row and was establishing a career on my own. This shift was so important to me. I fell in love with acting and the process of acting because it allowed me to simply be myself. That is something to be valued and cherished.
To my reader and future student: Don’t look for stardom! It’s millions of light years away and we will never reach it trying to be something we aren’t. Who you are is unique and when all the unique people come together to tell stories, magic starts to happen in the form of a movie being made, or when a play opens. You feel good because you are with a group of people that are sharing the same story. And that was what I was searching for at age 8, but I just didn’t know it.
Stardom Acting exercises:
Read a play and imagine yourself living the life of the character. Leave time to pause and imagine the set and the other character reacting to you in this world.
Write in a journal about a happy time in your life. Visualize the room and describe the imaginary objects. Then say one line or speech where the character is happy. You can also choose to sing a song.
Write in a journal about a sad time in your life. Visualize the room and describe the imaginary objects. Then, say one line or speech where the character is sad. You can also choose to sing a song. Don’t plan the line simply say it while you are in character.
Put on weird outfit and go on a walk. See if people treat you different. See if you feel different.
Practice an accent and make notes of the changes and see if anyone at the local store believes you are from that region.
Buy a rose and give it to your Mother. See what it feels like to be loved.
Look at your room and the objects in the room. Observe this and then write down in your journal what happened to you based on the formation of the actual objects in your room. See the story of your life in the objects.
When you feel sad, happy, joyful, angry or lonely, write a poem about it. Read it and post it online. If you like it. Share it. Other people feel the way you do, and we need actors to reach out to each other!
This is only a start. Stardom is never “out there,” but in your own heart.