Remembering Your First

As I write this, it is two hours before a speaking engagement I have in Hollywood and I’m seated by the window in the 101 Coffee Shop.

The first time I sat here (possibly in this exact booth, although it may have been the next one over), I was sitting across from my father, with whom I’d just driven across the country in a U-Haul towing my baby TicTac (the 1990 Miata I still drive), all my belongings ready to go in across the street at the Hollywood Tower.

My first ever living-by-myself home.

It was August 12, 1993, and I was about to wake up every day with a view of the Hollywood sign. All my dreams were about to come true.

Cut to: February 9, 2003. The 101 Coffee Shop. Only now, I’ve moved BACK to Atlanta, BACK to Athens, BACK to UGA for a master’s degree in journalism and most of a PhD in instructional technology (like you do when you’ve been an actor since the age of six and have felt as though Hollywood has kicked you out, laughing at your silly dreams). I’ve had The Age 28 Epiphany, dropped out of my PhD, sold everything I own (except the TicTac) on eBay, and returned to Los Angeles to give acting ONE MORE SHOT so I don’t wake up 40 wondering “what if” about my life and my silly dreams.

I’m sitting in this booth (definitely this booth) across from the Hollywood Tower where I lived 10 years earlier. This time, I live up the hill in Beachwood Canyon, just under the Hollywood sign I used to see from my window (now I can look up at it from the spot where I park my car) and I’ve arrived early to the 101 Coffee Shop to meet an actress who is worried that Hollywood is kicking her out and laughing at her silly dreams.

She has been a fan of my column and has asked if she can take me to lunch to pick my brain about her career.

“Of course!” I say.

And just over 15 years ago — in the same restaurant at which I had a “last lunch” with my dad before he hopped a plane back to Atlanta after moving me in 10 years before that — a coaching career was born.

For the price of a 101 chopped salad and chai latte shake.

Today, having driven that same mighty TicTac 90 minutes to get here from the beach where I now live, as I wax nostalgic about those early days — before Self-Management for Actors was even published — I also look ahead toward firsts that haven’t happened yet: My first TED talk, my first shout-out during the Golden Globes, my first collaboration with Oprah.

And I think about you — you reading and you actors I’ll stand up in front of for tonight’s speaking engagement, given the task to inform and inspire you all — wondering what FIRSTS you look forward to. Your first co-star, your first guest star, your first recurring role, your first series regular, your first studio film, your first nomination, your first Academy Award appearance… all of it.

I wonder whether you take time to enjoy the sweetness of the firsts you’ve already had. Your first acting class, your first audition, your first callback, your first time on set, your first time seeing yourself on the big screen… all of that too.

As I enjoy my 101 chopped salad and ice water (*waves* Hai, #Whole30!) and contemplate all the firsts that happened here just for *me* — including the first time I ever accepted MONEY for coaching rather than a salad — and all the firsts outside of this physical space that my career has been made up of, I so look forward to all the firsts still to come.

Please, take a moment and consider how far you’ve come. Appreciate the firsts your road has already included. And now enjoy how far you still get to travel. We’ve got decades stretched out ahead of us. You, too, are building an empire and you may have no idea the seeds you’re planting at every moment.

Here’s some super easy homework for you this weekend, if you’d like to build some muscle toward your next-tier readiness: Watch the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday and the Oscars Sunday with an eye toward Brandprov — download your free SMFA Hot Sheets and quiz yourself. Watch the red carpet banter and play along as if you’ve been asked the question.

When you need a break from putting yourself through the prompts, just watch to learn who’s built the muscle and who still needs work. This will help you better appreciate that this *is* a muscle. It *does* get stronger. That’s why I teach media training for the next tier! It works!

Bonus points: Especially start watching red carpets *early* in the day!! That’s when the newest-to-the-tier folks arrive. Study them. You have more in common with them than with Meryl and Denzel.

For now. 😉

Okay, babes, I’ve gotta go inspire and educate some rockstars down the road here in Hollywood. Please plan to join me Tuesday for a superfun Facebook Live on cover letters! Be sure to share YOUR cover letter in the comments right here to receive tweaks from me during the live cover letter teardown portion of our broadcast. Woo HOO!

And as you may have seen from me at Instagram, I’m giving away FREE COACHING CALLS to everyone who enrolls in Get in Gear for the Next Tier this weekend! This is in celebration of March 4th (which is the coolest day because, duh, it’s a sentence — March forth! — hee hee) and if you’d like to change your life starting with a fabulous 100-day journey *and* score my personal support, your next stop is here. (Comment below if you’d like to do this via payment plan. Yes, you still get the coaching that way… as long as you enroll before March 4th is over!)

How very cool.

Love you beautiful people!

’til next time,


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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