Earlier this week my friend told me she thought I’d like the new Netflix show Outer Banks, so I watched one episode. Not my kind of show, but I thought the concept was cute. I have this tendency to always watch a new Netflix show and Google the cast, which is what I did in my normal habit. I came across an interview with two of the cast members, and throughout the interview the guy (who is the lead) explained his story of how he landed the role. He was a broke and starving artist in LA who had kind of given up on the whole acting thing, until his agent sent him a role. Fast forward, he goes to the audition, totally screwed up and knew he didn’t get the part. A week later he gets a call from a different agent asking him to audition for this part and he explained he had already screwed up and was over the whole concept of the show. They convinced him to fly to Charleston, he memorized the entire script on the plane from LA to Charleston, and got the phone call 3 days later he had gotten the role.
His story reminded me of the way that I landed my first show, Fearless Everyday on Radio Disney, which I’ll get into in a moment,
This morning I woke up to an email from a young entrepreneur who has been struggling with constantly being told to grow her Instagram following. Here is what I said back to her:
Look, what you’re doing, you don’t need 1 million Instagram followers. If that’s why you’re doing your work then rethink it. Utilize LinkedIn, make a Facebook group of young advocates, you can create a pod on Instagram and that can help, but expecting yourself to have thousands of followers by age 15 is insane. Focus on what you love and work hard and the rest will come in time.
There is a long story behind how I landed my first show, and it’s a story I’ve never spoken about. I want to remind you that the journey and the experiences, the rejection and the acceptance, are what makes you who you are. If I had been turned down by them because I didn’t have millions of followers, I would’ve said screw it, I don’t need them anyway.
But they took a chance on me, and a good one, and it changed my life for forever.
I remember writing a batch of emails out when I first had the idea for Fearless Friday’s, and I got a few replies with one being from an assistant of a VP at Disney. I was sitting in a meeting with my (now) manager who at the time was interested in representing me but couldn’t exactly figure out what I was doing with my career. There was no Be Fearless Summit or podcast yet, just me and a blog with a few TV segments here and there. A meeting was set for right before the holidays with the rest of the team.
I’ll fast forward through the boring business and legal stuff, but in March of 2018 I sat in a meeting in Burbank and got the show! I was elated. It was the most exciting moment of my life. The contracts where ready to be signed and I was like this is my moment, I’ve worked for so many years and now it finally paid off. A few weeks later I was in Scottsdale, Arizona for a conference and I got a phone call from my manager who explained to me that they decided I couldn’t have the show. I remember looking up at the sky and just falling to the ground after that. I had a mini YouTube series that was geared towards older people and it was NOT PG. PG-13 but not PG, and for a PG company, I should’ve known better.
For 6 months, I wanted to die. A part of me had wished I had been 12-years-old, like most people are, when they sign with a company geared towards kids. If I had been a kid, I would’ve had no insight into life yet. At this point I was still a “kid” in a sense, but I was smart enough to know that you don’t get that many yes’ in an industry like entertainment.
Having been through so many years of rejection, so much trial and error, and then getting told that it wouldn’t work out again, was the worst feeling in the world. When you work your whole life for some glimmer of success, for that one “yes”, and then it’s gone in a moment, there is nothing to describe it.
I drove back from Scottsdale to Los Angeles, was once again sleeping on the floor of a sublet in West Hollywood, and slept for days. I had a flight booked to Istanbul to see my nephew a few weeks after that, so it’s now almost summer, early May, and we had never heard back from the team about what could be resolved. I got to Istanbul and slept for more days. I’d wake up, check my email and my texts, and go back to bed. Because of the time difference, I was actually setting alarms at 1 AM in Istanbul to wake up and check my email to see if there was anything from my team or them. Day after day, nothing came. I blamed myself for having lost the show, for having been “stupid” enough to think I was helping people with those initial videos, and naive enough for thinking someone as big as a company like Disney would ever take a chance on me. It’s not like I came from tons of connections or money. I didn’t have someone to call to make a call to a friend to convince them I was worthy of this opportunity.
I woke up one day during that (what felt like) catastrophic time in my life, and had the idea for the Be Fearless Summit. I was so fragile that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to pursue the summit idea, but a part of me felt like I was getting back to myself now that I had another idea come along in my mind.
Towards the end of the trip in Istanbul, I felt better. I landed back at LAX, in June now, around 5:30 PM, dragged my suitcase into an Uber I couldn’t even afford (they surge the pricing at LAX ALL THE TIME!!) and set a meeting the next day to figure out how I was going to get my feet back on the ground and not give up.
The next morning I dragged myself to a meeting at Soho House with a guy who was going to tell me how to grow my social media following (“because how could you do anything without 1 million followers?”) and on the way to the meeting, I get a text from her that said
Excuse my language, but f*** ya you REALLY got the show!
We went into production 2 weeks later.
Looking back, if it wasn’t for the entire experience, 9 months of pain and progress, I would have never had the idea for the Be Fearless Summit. I never would’ve met one of my best friends at a mental health conference, and I never would’ve found my purpose or my true passion for inspiring people. I made so many new friends, learned about “real” big, fancy scary industry contracts when I signed this one with my lawyer in Beverly Hills, and I finally got a glimpse of what having a show is like.
The year flew by, and all of a sudden it was on to the next career phase in my life.
I can’t tell you you’re going to hit it big tomorrow. I can’t tell you that if you give up the next person won’t get the role or the dream job you wanted because they might.
What I can tell you is stop caring so much about your Instagram following.
Never once during the initial conversations around Fearless Everyday was I ever told I needed more Instagram followers to sign with them. Same with the kid from Outer Banks and EVERY OTHER SUCCESSFUL FOUNDER OR ACTOR LIKE OPRAH OR ELLEN OR LIAM HEMSWORTH! FOLLOW them and stop following the people who don’t make you feel worthy of your success. You’ll get there one day, because I did.