I am an actress and life coach with a mission! OK, maybe I am also a "drama queen" with a powerful message. Do you know how many young people in the LGBT community struggle with the courage to make the right choices and find their own voice? My mission is to empower young people in the LGBT community to be courageous, so that they can make the right choices and find their own voice. I am here to support you, guide you, and honor you in areas where you are feeling stuck, confused, fearful, insecure, or simply needing help. I am here to share some of my feelings and experiences, so that you understand how important it is to find strength and courage, even during challenging times. I believe that sharing and communicating is super important, because when you share, you learn that you are never alone. There are always people out there who have been through what you are going through. There are always others who are feeling exactly what you are feeling. Yup, I, too, have more issues than The Advocate! I, too, am still learning, growing, and changing all the time. So, it is a joy to share the information I know and am still figuring out with you "gorgeous" (both inside and out!) readers. It is a joy to encourage you to be you... and be fearless!
Now, you may be wondering how a big-haired actress from Philly/Jersey/New York qualifies to be an advocate and supporter of the young LGBT community. Well, I have helped more friends come out over the years than the sun comes out in La La Land! Really! Maybe they have chosen me because I have always been a fabulous cheerleader with innate gifts of love, compassion, and the ability to not judge or make people feel wrong for their choices. Or maybe they have chosen me because I have always been a bit "different" and danced to the beat of my own drum. Maybe it was because I have stayed true to my heart, soul, convictions, and dreams, even when others have not approved. That said, my life hasn't always been easy. I have often felt like I don't belong. I have often felt like I am not "good enough." I have often felt like people don't approve of my choices, or that I am letting them down. I have spent a lot of time and energy caring too much about what others think of me. And, in more recent years, as my acting career put me in the public eye, I have been totally trashed on the Internet (don't even think about it, Homorazzi!). However, even in the face of judgment and disapproval, I have chosen to be fearless!
Being you is a choice! Being fearless is a choice! I love the statement, "With every choice, there is a consequence." Think about it. When we hear the word "consequence," we perceive it as negative. The actual definition of the word "consequence" is "a result or effect of an action or condition." When you read that, it no longer sounds negative, right? It is simply the result or effect of a choice you make, whether positive or negative. When I first heard that statement, I thought, "Wow! So, with every choice I make, there is a consequence, right or wrong, good or bad! With every choice I make, there will be a result. And, if a 'consequence' can be right or wrong, or good or bad, then my choices really are more powerful than I ever realized! Like, I actually have some power in what happens in my life. Now, that feels powerful!" So, being you, and I mean the true, authentic, real, living-out-loud you, is a powerful and fearless choice!
I believe this was always the message in my mission, long before I was a certified life coach, an actress in the public eye getting trashed on the Internet, or even living in La La Land (and you should have seen how big my hair was back then!). I believe I have always been a supporter of others being true to who they really are, loving who they really are, and finding their voice to let the rest of the world know it! Whether it was helping my smokin'-hot sorority sister come out in college in Philly, or helping my dear friend and co-star of Tony n' Tina's Wedding off-Broadway come out to his big Italian family in New York, or helping my boy-crazy writing partner come out and tell our other writing partners that she was marrying another woman in L.A., my message and mission remained the same: be you... and be fearless!
This message and mission later carried over into my passion project/TV pilot/Web series, Ms. Vampy's Tween Tawk, Teen Tawk & In Between Tawk, which I created in 2011 for tween and teen girls. I wanted to create a show with positive messages about body image, self-esteem, facing your fears, and following your dreams, while also discussing heavier issues like stereotypes, bullying, and putting down other people. The response to the show was tremendous, and I was grateful for the number of emails I received from the young LGBT community. I remember one email I received that both moved me and broke my heart! The father of a 19-year-old girl emailed telling me how much his daughter loves Ms. Vampy, and he shared the story of how she came out to her mother, who tied her up and physically abused her. He wondered if I would email his daughter and give her words of encouragement. I emailed immediately, letting her know that she is not alone and that there is nothing wrong with her, and how courageous she was for being true to herself. She was so thankful for my support and the support of her father. I wish I could personally reach out to every young person who experiences an awful situation like this, but maybe something I have written or said on my show will reach the masses. Hopefully this will be Ms. Vampy's catchphrase: "When faced with fear, dig deep inside, find your inner 'vamp,' and vamp it out!"
Speaking of reaching out and sharing, I was recently lucky enough to connect with one of my longtime favorite, multitalented actor/singers, Jai Rodriguez. (Yup, you got me! I have been in love with him since Rent, and I am a total RentHead! You might also know him from Queer Eye and Gigantic.). I asked him, "Who and what gave you the courage to come out at a young age and be you... and be fearless?" Here is what he had to share:
Even though I was "out" to some friends and family at 18, when I was playing Angel in Rent, it wasn't until Queer Eye hit airways that I was fully out. I was nervous and concerned to be attached to a project with the word "queer" in it. But after I started seeing the word and myself as the true definition (deviating from the expected), I embraced it. Coming out is a personal decision, but know there are people who will love and support you in your road to accepting and owning who you truly are.
Romi Klinger, the adorable star of Showtime's The Real L Word: Los Angeles, was a doll to answer my question, as well:
My mother gave me the courage and strength to come out and be me, whatever "me" is. My mom was married to a woman, and they raised me to be open-minded and love whomever my heart want, man or woman, as long as they treat me right. I thank my mom for my fierce attitude about love. Love should never be judged.
Life can be challenging, and you have one life to live! Be true to yourself, and make powerful choices. Don't allow others to make you wrong for being who you are. Find the courage to express yourself and have a voice! When you feel stuck or fearful, reach out to people who encourage and support you. Always remember that you are never alone. And every day, remind yourself at least once to be you... and be fearless!