Hello beautiful people!
I saw a wonderful play this weekend and here’s what made it wonderful: Donzell Lewis.
Yes, I’m biased because, yes, I’ve adored Donzell since the inimitable Quincy Cho brought him into my life, saying, “He needs the Bonnie magic,” about how he was hiding his light and needed the kick-in-the-pants that only I seem to be able to give sometimes. 😉
But about ten minutes into act one, I realized, “Holy shit. Donzell’s a STAR.”
Now, I’ve always believed in him. I mean, he’ll tell you himself I saw this charisma even when he tried to hide it from the world. But the combination of his timing, wit, physicality, and unapologetic enoughness is unstoppable. Every person in the packed house sat up straighter and leaned in closer every time Donzell opened his mouth. His energy commanded the stage AND the house. It’s what star power really is. Pure magnetic talent, shared with vulnerability and confidence.
I asked Donzell if he might like to speak to that a bit, because oftentimes creatives are so busy trying to DO EVERYTHING RIGHT that they miss the mark on exactly what it is that makes them so powerfully castable: Being fully authentic.
For Donzell’s whole story, head over here to my blog. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt.
When I was sophomore in college the chair of the theatre department called me into his office and began to explain to me that I was “too gay” to be an actor.
Yes, you read that correctly. He continued to explain that my voice was too gay. My movement, too gay. My acting and character choices… too gay. He suggested that I leave the department and “go find something else to do with [my] life.” Because, as he explained, I would never make it as an actor being gay.
Eventually, I moved out here to LA. The only problem is that I still heard the “chairman’s voice” in my head every step I took. I always felt that I had to cover who I was.
My first two years in LA went as followed: I wouldn’t do LGBTQ+ content. My headshots were as “straight” as I could make them. I would even change my voice when speaking to people. Because I truly believed that I was not enough. This double life continued until my closest friend had me take a course with Bonnie Gillespie. My world changed after one day of meeting her.
At one of her “Self-Management for Actors” seminars, Bonnie looked at my headshot then she looked at me. And she said something to the effect of this: “Who is this? The guy in this headshot is not the guy who is standing in front of me. And the guy in this headshot is boring… he’s vanilla. But the one who stands in front of me, he’s the captivating one, he even has a special twinkle in his eye when he smiles. That’s that guy I want in a casting office.”
I was shocked. She saw right through me and she began to tell me how she looked at my social media. And she could tell I was “covering.” But instead of doing as the chairman had done, she then encouraged me to step into my brilliance by embracing ALL of who I am. She reminded me that “I am enough.” She didn’t want me to run from my gayness — in fact she didn’t want me to run at all. She just encouraged me to stand in the fullness of all of me.
After a few years of working closely with Bonnie, here I am today, Standing proudly in all of my queerness and never second-guessing it. Within the last two years, all of the things the chairman denounced me for have been the the very things I’ve been cast for. The tier jumps that I’ve had have been magical and they all came by simply doing two things: standing in my enoughness and diligently doing the work of “Self-Management for Actors.” But you can’t do the work of SMFA if you aren’t doing the work on the inner you.
One thing is for sure, I will never let anyone quiet or shut down the magic of me, ever again. Because when I lived by the rules of someone else, nothing worked. I couldn’t get cast. I couldn’t do well in class. I just couldn’t “do.” But the moment I stopped “doing” and I started to “be,” that’s when all the magic BEGAN.
I want to underscore a couple of very important things here, in case you missed ’em.
1. Donzell’s enoughness was turned WAY DOWN by someone else not being okay with it. Almost *always* we lose a bit of who we are due to someone else’s “stuff,” not our own. Over time, we turn it INTO our own “stuff” and that’s what makes it so challenging to get back to our authentic selves.
2. There is no amount of Self-Management for Actors work that can take you to the highest tiers possible for you without you *also* doing the inner work of excavating your enoughness. Sure, you can get your perfect headshots and the most flawless cover letter ever written, your demo reel may be spectacular and your resumé looks like a three-column slice of heaven… but without your head in the right place, Hollywood will shred your dreams right in front of your very eyes.
3. Doing the inner work is not glamorous, fast, or even always fun. Nope. It’s work. There’s a reason we’ve probably spent years “covering”: It’s easier. So, for those who have decided it’s time to suit up and DO the work of reclaiming your authentic selves so that this whole creative journey becomes way more fun and fulfilling? I applaud you! It’s as unsexy as flossing, honestly. But man, does it make a difference in the long run.
Thank you, Donzell, for sharing your story (remember, the full piece he wrote for us is over here — do check it out and show your support, share your story in the comments too) and thank you, Quincy, for bringing so much magic into our lives, moving around on a pair of the hottest legs I’ve ever seen. I am so enriched by having so many phenomenal creatives in my world. Honestly, I pinch myself every damn day that this is my amazing life!
Alumni! Apply now for the September Expansive Capacity mastermind, Your Relationship with Success. And if you’re not yet alumni, fix that by enrolling in our life-changing 100-day challenge right here! We cannot wait to welcome you to the next tier!
Much love and authenticity,