It’s always interesting how the topics for my blog entries come up. Sometimes I know ahead of time what my next blog entry will be about. And other times, the topic hits me a day or two before Sunday’s deadline. Today’s blog entry is an example of the latter. I really didn’t know what I wanted to share in terms of my artistic journey, my process, my career wins or my career strategies…until a good friend of mine texted me today and said, “I just got off the phone with Michael. I’m trying to realize what my true raison d’être is. I need some guidance.”
I proceeded to offer my guidance in this area and shared my raison d’être to help her see an example of one that is personal and that resonates. And then it hit me that I would love to share my raison d’être with you all!
Raison d’être translates into “reason for being; the reason for which a person exists.”
I study at the Richard Lawson Studios and one of the cornerstones of the teaching is for students to have and be empowered by their own business plan. At the RLS, we call it a Declaration of Independence or DOIN’ for short. It’s a vital document for all of us to have because it’s the guide and plan of attack for our careers. Every business and organization has a business plan that they follow so that they can build, evolve, thrive and succeed. What most actors fail to realize is that they are a business too and must treat themselves as such. The DOIN’ keeps an actor/artist on track with the help of different components like postulates, goals, policies, administration plans, affirmations, etc.
All of these components are vital, but the most important one is the raison d’être. That is the first component you see in the DOIN’ template. Why? Because it’s your reason for being! Your reason for being on this planet! The reason why you get up every day to pursue the career of your dreams and not a career in another field. Your raison d’être is the engine for the entire DOIN’ and the engine for your life. Your raison d’être sits at the top of your business plan and influences everything that comes after it.
Now, I know some of you may feel a little daunted or overwhelmed with the concept of raison d’être. If someone came up to you and asked you what your purpose and reason for existence on this planet was, could you answer that? I mean, what a big, intimidating question! Can you look someone in the eye and tell them with confidence what your reason for being is? That’s a tough one! That can set some people inward. That can set some people into a crisis. That can scare some people away and make them judge or doubt their entire lives: “Oh my God! Who am I?! What am I?!”
My intention with today’s blog entry is not to scare you away. Rather, my intention is to inspire and to get you to ask the next question in your own discovery of your raison d’être. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a timeframe of how long that will take. It may take someone a few years to discover their raison d’être or it may take them a few days. Or a person may have already known their raison d’être since they were born. But one thing is apparent: when someone is clear about their raison d’être, you see it. You see it in everything they do, everything they touch and they are driven by it.
Look in your universe and identify someone whose raison d’être is clear. I can list many examples from Richard Lawson to Madonna to Angelina Jolie to Jesus Christ. Hell, I’ll even give a shout out to my ex. He’s a hair stylist and when I would see him work, whether it was at the salon or on set, I could see and feel his passion and joy. And in turn, every person that he came into contact with also felt his passion and joy. I could see his craftsmanship and how he treated everyone like a star. And in turn, every single one of his clients left feeling like a better person. He was BORN to be a hairstylist and he’s clear about WHY he does hair: To make people feel confident, rejuvenated and beautiful on the inside and out.
It has taken me a few years to discover my own raison d’être. It has taken trial and error, asking the next question and taking an honest look at what I’m interested in, who and what I’m turned on by, what I’m attracted to, what makes me light up, what infuses me with energy, etc.
My raison d’être influences everything from my postulates (self-generated truths; predictions) to the TV series and feature films I write to the scenes I put up in class to the people I want to work with. It influences the way I dance and the way I act (both onstage and off) For those who know me really well, you will see ME reflected in my raison d’être. You’ll know why I am sometimes eccentric and left of center; why I’m drawn to sexuality and sensuality and unconventional relationships in stories; why I’m drawn to and collect certain types of artwork; why I like to be subversive on an intellectual and primal level; why my stand up comedy is so wrong it’s right; why I am drawn to the masculine and feminine sides of me; why I hate middle-class thinking and behavior. You’ll get what makes me get up every day to pursue my career.
In a nutshell, I was put on this planet to open the closet door. And not just in terms of LGBT stories, but stories that people are uncomfortable with and don’t want to talk about. Let’s open that closet over there and talk about that gritty thing inside of it. Open the closet door to a different form of beauty. Open the closet door to different stories and faces. Open the closet door to wake people up and think! I’m drawn to the fringe and to the unconventional. Give me The Weinstein Company, HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Fox Searchlight, Annapurna Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, etc. They push the envelope and are not afraid to get dirty.
SOME of my favorite films of all time include Fruitvale Station, Precious, Soldier’s Girl, Transamerica, Black Swan, Dallas Buyers Club, White Bird In A Blizzard, Gun Hill Road, Birdman, Normal, The Fighter, Raising Victor Vargas, Zero Dark Thirty, I Like It Like That, Quinceañera, Inception, Lars and the Real Girl, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and all of Quentin Tarantino’s films. Different, ground-breaking, bold, daring, unconventional, raw, gritty, unapologetic.
Here is my raison d’être:
I was always in love with film since I was a kid. I loved how magical film was in transporting people to another place, in teaching people something, in making people feel. However, I didn’t see myself up there. I didn’t see anyone who looked, sounded or acted like me. My experiences and stories were left out. Art is global and creates change faster than any other profession. Therefore, through acting and writing, I will infiltrate mainstream consciousness and bring a different perspective and experience to the table in order to open the “closet door” to people. By opening the closet door, I will expose the world to different sides of life with the hopes of enlightening people and changing their perceptions so that at the end of the day, they learn about, accept and celebrate each other equally as human beings.
I hope to hear from some of you about your own raison d’être!