I was five months pregnant and getting anxious. Everyone told me that once I had a baby everything would slow down. As an actor, that was the last thing I needed to hear. I did everything I could to defy the odds. I had several talks with my mentor, talked to a working actor (who just had a baby three months prior), stayed active in an on-camera class and self-submitted for every project I could get my hands on. Oh, and I figured out how to dress, so that no one would could tell I was pregnant in my auditions. I told myself that my goal was to book at least one good gig that I could work until giving birth. Then, I got the opportunity.
I was invited to audition for one of the biggest theatre companies in Atlanta. It was just a general audition, so it was just supposed to be an introduction. “This is my work. Nice to meet you. Hope you hire me one day.” That was the expectation. I was well-prepared but loose. Eager but not thirsty. My audition was solid. I could tell the casting director liked me because we talked for a while afterwards, and the vibe in the room was completely positive.
Within days, she (the casting director) invited me to audition for a project she was casting. It was an understudy role for a play, but it was perfect. It was paying. It was a great script. And most importantly, I was right for the part. THIS. WAS. IT.
I went in and read for the role, and I was offered the job on the spot. I was ELATED. I left the room on a high that day. I’d proved to myself that I could do this. I could be a working actor and a mother. People told me that I couldn’t be pregnant and work, but they were wrong. I just got a paying gig that would be my job until it was time for me to give birth. I called my mentor to celebrate.
Her response: “Does the casting director know that you’re pregnant?” Dang. I didn’t even think I needed to disclose that information. I was a good actor and becoming a mother had nothing to do with that. My mentor patiently explained to me that in theatre, costumes are important. If you can’t predict what size you’re going to be in a couple months, that might be a problem if you need to go on. She told me that I could keep my pregnancy private, sign the paperwork and potentially piss off the casting director. OR I could tell the casting director, hope for the best and at least keep my relationship with casting intact. I chose to tell the truth.
I pulled the casting director out of her audition session and told her that I was pregnant. She thanked me for telling the truth but told me that I couldn’t do the job. Even though I wasn’t visibly showing at the moment, we couldn’t predict what I would look like in a couple months, and the character I was going to play was not pregnant. She was sorry, but she said she would have to go in another direction.
I was crushed. I’m pretty sure that’s the first and only time I cried over a job. I felt betrayed. I was given a job, and it was taken away in the same breath. I was being punished for being pregnant, and I was also being punished for having integrity. It sucked. I cried and cried and cried. Eventually I got over it. I told my coaches about what happened, and they both agreed that I did the right thing. Either way, this rejection made me want to stop trying.
A few weeks before giving birth I stopped taking classes because, well, Braxton Hicks. I focused on just having a baby. I gave myself over to the process, attitude and all.
I had the baby.
My life changed.
And 8 weeks later that same casting director called me back in to audition for the lead in a play. This time it wasn’t an understudy role. It was a featured role. I did well, got a callback, but the director went in another direction. But the casting director hired me as an understudy for that same role.
Truth be told, this play was more appealing to me than the first. The script was a challenge. The role was juicy. It was everything I could have wanted right after having a baby. But that wasn’t all. I booked a couple commercials. I worked on this play. I got an agent that was a better fit for me and started auditioning like crazy. The casting director that hired me for the play kept calling me in for other stuff, and she still calls me in for great projects to this day.
The point is that I put myself out there and was disappointed by the initial rejection. I could not understand why it wasn’t working out for me when I was clearly talented enough to handle the work. It just wasn’t the right timing. At that time in my life I needed to focus on adjusting to motherhood. I needed to embrace the idea of having a baby. All the work I put in wasn’t in vain. It set me up for when I was ready to do more. It launched me into a better place in my career.
So, to the person dealing with the pain of rejection: feel the feels. How you feel right now is completely normal and valid, but it isn’t a good reason to close your heart. Keep doing the work and putting yourself out there. It will pay off eventually. And when it does, it will be sweet. I promise.
I got up at 6am on a Saturday morning to do my morning routine (prayer, meditation, reading scripture, etc.) After I finished, I jumped into morning chores because we were expecting guests. My husband and I host a brunch potluck for a small group of young married couples in our home a couple times a month. That meant the house needed to be cleaned, a dish needed to be made, and our discussion questions needed to be solidified by 10am.
After my morning routine, I stared cleaning in a quiet house. No kid asking me a million questions. He was still asleep. No husband making beats while he worked. It was just me and my thoughts. I did that for a little while until I realized my kid was probably awake. I opened his door and told him to start his wake-up routine. He and I cleaned around the house until 8am. Then I started feeling stressed.
My husband was still asleep, and there was still a ton of work to do. Our son got up in the middle of the night to “go to the bathroom” and didn’t. So, he woke us up for no reason. My husband didn’t go back to bed immediately, so he was trying to make up for the lost sleep.
I had a decision to make. Let him rest and prepare for the group myself, or disturb his sleep and ask for help. I chose the latter. “Babe, hate to disturb your sleep, but it’s 8:00am, and we have guests arriving at 10:00am. I really need your help.” His response, “I know babe.” He was a little frustrated. I walked out of the room and got back to work. He came out and said, “You know I didn’t immediately go back to sleep after the boy got up?” My response, “I know.” I walked away and kept working. He was frustrated, but I was relieved. I asked for what I needed and didn’t have to prepare alone. No anxiety. No guilt.
We’ve been married for six years now. Early in our marriage I used to spend most Saturday mornings angry. I would get up early and clean around the house without help. My husband would sleep in and wake up with a smile on his face and wonder why I was frustrated with him. This was before we hosted a small group and before we had a baby. I used to do so much work, never ask for help and get mad when he had the audacity to let me do all that work alone.
First of all, there’s no rule that says you HAVE to get up early on Saturday mornings. I do that because I enjoy it. He doesn’t have to. Second off, we never pro-actively discussed who was responsible for each chore. We just assumed that if someone saw something that needed to be done, they’d just get it done. I’m a little more of a neat freak, so guess who normally ended up cleaning first? Me. Lastly, the hardest grown up lesson I had to learn is that a closed mouth don’t get fed. I have to ASK for what I want. If I don’t like something, I have to ask for less of it and ask for more of what I DO like.
So, instead of playing the “good wife” role and letting my husband sleep in (while PISSED OFF on the inside) I asked him to wake up and help me. And he did. He was a little ticked at first, but I let him have that. I didn’t need for him to have a good attitude. In that moment, I needed help, and I got what I needed. Eventually, he got over it, and he was really happy that I was happy. No hostility. No emotional distance. I was good, and normally that’s enough for him to be good as well.
We don’t have this moment every Saturday. Most weekends we both kind of move at our own pace, and that works for us. But we have shared responsibilities, and I’m grateful that I’ve grown up enough to ask for what I need in confidence and truth. AND I’m grateful to have a partner that gets it
So, remember when I started that six-month noise fast a couple weeks ago? Well, I decided to end it. I don’t have a deep reason really. I was working from home and got bored with the silence, so I listened to some positive music. It inspired me, and I worked better.
A couple days after that I decided to watch tv with my husband. I hadn’t done it in a while, and he loves it, so I gave it a shot. It wasn’t super uplifting, and it felt like a waste of time. BUT it was just one hour out of all of the other productive hours I have in the day.
I haven’t gone full-on back to noise. I have some boundaries. I try not to watch more than 30 minutes of tv a day, and I listen to music in the background when I’m working. Whenever I feel like I can’t hear myself think, I turn it all off until I feel centered again. My morning routine of prayer, reading and meditation are still non-negotiable. Whenever I need a refresh of any kind, I just get up and go for a walk around the neighborhood. It keeps me physically healthy, mentally clear and spiritually centered.
There are days that I may opt to just work and play without noise. It’s easier to be present that way. But I’m learning that I don’t have to go to an extreme to make that happen.
I did pick up a few things from my noise fast that I think are worth sharing though.
I’m proud of myself for trying it out and deciding to stop when it started to feel like a chore. I will keep silence as a part of my daily practice but sprinkle in some noise when I feel like it: keeping everything balanced. If I’m feeling overstimulated again, I’ll just hop back on the noise fast. It was helpful overall.
My stylist blow dried my hair as we chatted. She was getting ready to twist it when she said, “You know, one day you should just wear it like this. You have BEAUTIFUL hair.” She was right. With my hair blown out like that, I looked like a young Diana Ross. I was inspired and was immediately feeling myself. I told her that the game plan was to take my headshots with my two strand twists, then we’d experiment with the big hair later. Then it happened . . . I changed my mind. I said, “You know what? Let’s take a risk. I want to do something different anyway.” She asked, “Do you want to send a picture to your manager to double check?” Me: “Nope. It’s cute. She’ll love it.”
I took a weekend to get used to taking care of the big hair. I was proud of it. I felt like a queen. I got compliments in the grocery store. I took selfies. And if you know me, that’s a huge deal. I only do that when I’m REALLY feeling myself.
We scheduled an appointment for the morning of my photo shoot just to make sure my hair was still cute. I stepped into the salon already feeling fine. My stylist agreed and even took a picture of me walking into a salon with my super high confidence. She did a restyle and sent me on my way.
I arrived to set, and it happened. I stepped into the WORST humidity. I figured it would be fine because we were prepared. My hair was to be pulled back until we were ready to shoot. When I got into the studio, I brushed my hair out and told my photographer I was ready, but after a few photos I could tell that my hair was out of control. I tried to tame it by brushing and combing it between takes, but it was difficult. By the end of the shoot, I saw a few photos I liked in spite of the fight with my hair. I went home feeling accomplished. It was a fight, but I won.
I paid the photographer, got the images back and immediately sent my top pics to my team. My agent got back with me and only liked one look out of the two. My manager didn’t like ANY of them. It wasn’t the makeup, the photographer or the wardrobe. It was my hair.
If you know anything about my journey this year, you know that’s a sensitive topic for me. I’ve been wearing my natural hair for about eight months, and I’m just now really OWNING it. I was so frustrated when I realized she didn’t like it. I felt silly for liking something she hated. I felt silly and small and went to bed mad.
When I got up to pray, I felt like God was telling me to not be offended. It’s my manager’s JOB to tell me if my look is working or not. It’s her job to look out for me. It’s my job to be the wild creative that just makes art. She’s my buffer. I was essentially mad at my buffer for doing her job!
Truthfully, I’m working on a major career level up, and I could use all the help I can get. This time my help came in the form of some feedback I didn’t want to hear. This week I was reminded that feedback can offend me or grow me, so I chose growth. I emailed my manager, thanked her for her feedback and asked her for direction. I never want her honesty to stop, even if we disagree. If what she has to say will help me grow, I’m here for it. And next time, I’ll be sure to send a picture first!
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.