I Have Artistic Tourettes

It felt weird not posting a blog entry last Sunday, November 8th! But I’m back! So let’s get right into it.

I have a confession to make.

Are you ready?

It’s something I’ve never admitted before. Not even to my lover James Franco. Not even to my second mother, Madonna.

Ready?

I HAVE ARTISTIC TOURETTES!

No, seriously. I have artistic tourettes.

Before I get into the WHY I have it, let’s get into the WHAT. According to the official website, tourette.org:

“Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (Tourette Syndrome or TS) is a neurological disorder which becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence. The first symptoms usually are involuntary movements (tics) of the face, arms, limbs or trunk.  These tics are frequent, repetitive and rapid.”

This paragraph below really resonated with me:

“Many persons report what are described as premonitory urges – the urge to perform a motor activity. Other symptoms such as touching, repetitive thoughts and movements and compulsions can occur.”

That’s it! That’s exactly what I have! I have the URGE TO PERFORM A MOTOR ACTIVITY on a daily basis. COMPULSIONS. In other words, I have a compulsion to be an artist 24/7. And this compulsion to be an artist expresses itself in the form of motor activities. Okay, who’s still with me on this one? Have I lost you yet? Have I lost the plot? Or do you FEEL what I’m saying and you’re yelling “AMEN!” right now?!

And whenever I’m in public, the compulsion is at its highest. I mean, come on, it’s a free audience waiting to receive your brilliance. For example, I’m currently experiencing the “joys” of public transportation here in Los Angeles. Yes, Los Angeles has a public transportation system. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe since it feels like everyone drives. Now, is the LA public transportation system as extensive as the one in NYC? No, but Los Angeles DOES have a public transportation system. Anyway, I’m on public transportation because my “Tesla” is currently at Express Auto Shop. Sam and his crew are simply THE BEST. Here’s their address and tell them George Ortiz sent you: 8927 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035.

Anyway, taking public transportation and being forced to interact with people has been an interesting learning experience. We spend so much time in our cars that we start losing touch with human connection. We start forgetting how to interact with people and how to handle and manage energy. Taking the train and bus has been a great way for me to observe people and life. As actors, we sometimes say, “The character would never do that” or “That’s too big/bold of a choice to make”. Um, stop for a second and take a look at LIFE and you’ll see the bold, crazy, daring, evaluated choices that people make on a daily basis. They are committed to their choices, they are moment to moment and they let their scene have a beginning, middle and end LOL.

Anyway, when I stand on the subway platform or I’m walking down the streets to the train station, and I have my headphones on for example, I can’t help but perform. The streets, the subway platform, the bus stop feels like a stage and it seems like such a waste to not take advantage of it. I’ll be walking down the street and then all of sudden, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, WOO HOO! I’ll start dance-walking. I’ll be in the zone with my music. I’m moment to moment with the music and my body becomes the vessel for which divine inspiration flows through. I don’t fight it. I can’t fight it.

I’ll be standing on the subway platform and then all of a sudden, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, WOO HOO! I’ll start performing a monologue to myself. Or I’ll recite lines from an audition I’m working on or from a film (The confrontation scene between Woody Allen and Kirstie Alley in “Deconstructing Harry” has been my go to scene lately)

I’ll be on the bus heading home and then all of a sudden, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, WOO HOO! I’ll start writing dialogue for a script I’m working on. Or I’ll start singing. Or I’ll be re-inspired with creative ideas for my career administration.

At the supermarket, WOO HOO! HERE WE GO AGAIN! GET DOWN! Dancing down the aisles. My body becomes a vessel and Bob Fosse enters. Madonna enters. Jerome Robbins enters. Michael Bennett enters. Prince enters. Whichever musical act I’m listening to enters. But they filter through my interpretation and my experience.

I can’t help it. I HAVE to perform. I HAVE to create. When the MUSE, when the COMPULSION comes, I have to express it. I can’t NOT perform and create and express. I don’t want to be a regular, normal human being. It bores me to tears. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I want to stand out. I want to shock myself. It’s almost like I’m creating performance art in the public eye.

I come home and I see the courtyard in my building and it looks like a large arena with a raised stage and everything. And then all of sudden, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, WOO HOO! GIVE IT TO ME! I’m on that stage and launching myself into an hour and a half dance extravaganza with a beginning, middle and end. During that time, I go on the classic hero’s journey from Orphan to Wanderer to Warrior to Martyr–Read “My Story Can Beat Up Your Story” by Jeffrey Alan Schechter if you don’t know what I’m talking about 🙂 🙂 🙂

And look, I know some people look at me like I’m weird cause it’s more “important” to be cool. To be unaffected. To be glib. Fuck that. They don’t pay my bills. I do. So they are of no significance to me. If anything, I’m hopefully inspiring them to chill out, to relax, to get out of their middle-class thinking and behavior, to stop being so uptight, to have fun. FUN. FUN. FUN. My God, when did we stop having fun? Who said that being an adult meant that you stop having fun? That you’re supposed to be dead on the outside and the inside? Being around the public, I truly see how unhappy a lot of people are. And how people don’t like seeing other people happy. That only makes me, that only makes me, that only makes me, GOD DAMMIT! WOO HOO! GIVE IT TO ME! It only makes me want to perform bigger and harder (wait, am I still talking about art or am I talking about sex? Then again, I’ve experienced incredible art that was the equivalent to experiencing amazing sex. No lie.) And I’m sure there are videos of me on Youtube, but whatever, I don’t care. I don’t want to be normal. I am extraordinary and it needs to come out. If it doesn’t, I become miserable. I become restless. I go crazy. I need to stay sharp with my creativity.

I smile when I see other artists performing in public without apology, without fear, without self-consciousness. These two male dancers got on the train recently and did their thing. I loved it. And of course, the stanky, snooty, middle-class thinking people sneered and snickered. Why???? They weren’t bothering anyone or harming anyone. What makes you better than these dancers? Why are you bothered by their artistry? Why are you not smiling? Are you secretly jealous and upset that you can’t be that free? I’m inclined to believe that the last question has incredible validity as I remember a former teacher saying, “We criticize the things that we ourselves cannot become.” I applauded the two dancers on their bravery and their artistry.

On the other hand, I’ve also made many people smile because of my artistic compulsions. They’ll clap for me. They’ll cheer me on. They’ll ask what I’m on and if they can have some of it. I remember seeing the fireworks this past July 4th with a buddy of mine. Afterwards, we went back to his car and waited for the crowds to disperse from the parking lot. We were listening to music, talking, killing time. Before we knew it, the parking lot was almost empty. A great, infectious song came on and I told him to turn on his headlights. He was confused by my request, but eventually complied. I got out and started dancing in front of his headlights to the song. I felt like Nicole Kidman in that iconic dancing scene from “To Die For”. I got such a rush. This guy walked by and said, “I’ll have whatever you’re on.” I said, “I’m on life, baby, life!”

I remember jogging through Barnsdall Park in Los Feliz and I stopped by this secluded, quiet area. I put on a mini-concert to about three songs. When I was done, I turned around and realized I was dancing in front of Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. I looked up and saw a young kid looking at me through the window. He waved and had the biggest smile on his face. I don’t know if he was a patient or not, but I became his hero and brought joy and happiness into his life. Can you imagine if I held back my compulsion to create?! What a crime that would have been! I smiled, waved back and continued on my jog.

I guess the point of this blog, the bottom line, is that we are artists. How BLESSED are we to be artists?! To know that any given moment, we can create and express in so many ways and in so many places?! To move, inspire, heal people in some way. I am an artist and I have to share and express it.

I HAVE ARTISTIC TOURETTES!

According to tourette.org:

There is no cure for Tourettes.

THANK GOD FOR THAT. I NEVER WANT MY CREATIVE COMPULSIONS TO STOP.

How A 15-Year Old Inspired Me

I witnessed something so beautiful, courageous and moving in my scene study class this past Thursday. So much so that it inspired today’s blog post.

A very talented and beautiful 15-year old actress named Juliet started scene study class about a month ago. I actually interviewed her and was blown away by her maturity and clarity with what she wanted as an artist. Her attitude was great and I knew she was a “yes” in my book to be a part of the Richard Lawson Studios.

This past Thursday, she did a Song & Dance exercise in class. The Song & Dance exercise is drawn from Milton Katselas’ book, “Acting Class: Take A Seat”. This is the book we use to understand the acting approach at this studio. The point of this exercise is to get the student present and relaxed so that they are emotionally available. This exercise combines singing and dancing as tools to break down and free the student from ticks, nervous movements, tension, habits…basically anything that will prevent the student from experiencing the emotions that are underneath. And experiencing emotions can only happen if the student is absolutely relaxed. This exercise is great for understanding how to be relaxed in a performance or for a close up on camera.

This exercise is not about being a great singer. And many people already have a button or a consideration about singing for a VARIETY of reasons. I have seen people flinch from this exercise just because they did not want to sing in front of an audience. Juliet got up on stage and as she began singing, she broke down into tears. The tears continued throughout most of the exercise, sometimes to the point of hyperventilation. However, under the masterful and nurturing supervision of our teacher that night, Doug Spearman, he was able to keep her present and to push through the tears.

My heart went out to her, but at the same time, I was quietly rooting for her. As was everyone else in the room. We were all on her side. We were her cheerleaders. The reason she inspired me and this blog entry is because of the courage she had. To be 15 years old, to be a teen, is not an easy thing: Peer pressure, hormonal changes, demanding school work, etc. But despite all of that, she had the courage to stand in front of a group of adults and work her way through her Song & Dance. She could have run away. She could have quit halfway through the exercise. She could have not shown up to class. But she showed up and she kept fighting through to the end.

And I said to myself, “If she has the courage to sing, then I should too.” Why? Because I love to sing. Music is a big part of my life. But I buried my love for singing a long time ago. Which is a shame because I grew up doing musicals. My senior year in high school, I was cast as Tulsa in “Gypsy”. “Gypsy” is my second favorite musical of all time. I worked my ass off in rehearsals. At home, I would rehearse my song, my lines and all the dance numbers for HOURS. I wanted to put out the best product possible.

The show ran for several performances and we had sold out audiences each night. On the final night, one of the drama teachers told me that I was so excellent and professional in the role, that I could be on Broadway right now. He said my performance was Broadway-level. That same night, after we took our final bows, the director of the production introduced me to an agent that was blown away by my work. He gave me his card and I set up a time to meet with him. The agent really liked me and represented me. I was now signed to one of the top agencies in NYC. One of the biggest auditions he sent me out for was “The Lion King” on Broadway.

I knew musical theater was my path. I applied to different musical theater conservatories during my senior year in high school and got into prestigious programs at the Tisch School of the Arts and Syracuse University. In the end, I decided to go to Vassar College. During my freshman year at Vassar, I auditioned for a major, off-campus production of “A Chorus Line”. This is my favorite musical of all time and I could not believe how fortuitous it was that they were holding auditions for it. And I loved that it was a production outside of Vassar because it felt more legitimate and important. In other words, real-world experience.

The first round of auditions included a singing and dancing component. I believe I also performed a monologue. I knew I wanted the role of Paul (the soft-spoken, gay, Puerto Rican dancer) I got a callback and read for Paul! I really thought that I had Paul in the bag. When they finally cast the show, I got in! But I was cast as Richie instead (the more street, sassier, dynamic black dancer) I soon figured out that the only reason I got cast as Richie was because I was the darkest person who auditioned for the production. So on one hand, I wasn’t too disappointed because Richie is a great character and I got CAST in “A Chorus Line”. But on the other hand, I was disappointed because he’s not my casting. Plus, his solo numbers are WAY TOO HIGH for me to sing. As soon as I got cast as Richie, I knew that his solos would be a struggle.

Rehearsals began and I was doing great on the acting and dancing fronts. We were doing the Broadway choreography for most of the show and I loved it. On the singing front, I was doing really well in the group numbers. We rehearsed for five months straight and I was also balancing a full, demanding course load at Vassar. When rehearsals finally began on my solos, I struggled. I tried hard not to freak out when I was not hitting the high notes. Richie has two solos in “And” and “Gimme The Ball”. “And” was just painful and “Gimme The Ball” was okay. My confidence started to decrease every time we would rehearse those solos. And man did I try. I really gave it my all.

About three months into rehearsals, the director pulled me to the side and told me that she was giving my “And” solo to another person. She knew I was struggling with it and was looking out for the production as a whole. I remember being crushed. It felt like I had been shot in the chest. If anyone knows me, I work my ass off. And so to have something taken away from me was devastating. I walked away from her and locked myself in the bathroom. I sat down on the floor and cried my eyes out. It took her 20 minutes to finally convince me to come out.

Another reason why it took me so long to finally come out of the bathroom was because I didn’t want to confront the entire cast. I knew that today’s rehearsal was starting right after the opening number, “I Hope I Get It”. That meant that the 19 potential dancers we follow throughout the show were already lined up on stage and facing out into the audience. All of them, plus the musical director, were waiting for me to get out of the bathroom. The bathroom was at the back of the theater. I was like, “Oh fuck. On top of this awful news, I now have to walk down the aisle towards the stage with everyone looking at me and knowing what just happened.” So, I braced myself, opened the bathroom door, and with my eyes blood-shot red from crying, I marched down the aisle with my head up high. With everyone looking at me from the stage, the walk down the aisle felt like an eternity. I finally walked up the stage and passed by the person who now had my solo. I gave him a death stare and he took two steps back (He later confessed to me that he was afraid to talk to me for a while because he thought I was going to kill him.)

I was only 17 years old. I was incredibly young and vulnerable. I was the youngest person in a cast of adults. I felt invalidated. I felt that my singing voice was no good. I felt like I failed. I got a taste of the real world and had no support system to help me up. Rehearsals continued and I worked even harder to make sure nothing else was taken away from me. The show opened in May and we were sold out every single night. My “Gimme The Ball” solo had improved, but it was still something I did not have complete confidence with. One night, after a performance, a representative from a major record label approached one of my cast mates and gave him his card. I remember being jealous and hurt because I knew that I had worked harder than him on every level. But because he was a better singer, the record label representative approached him instead. So, I was even more convinced that I was a terrible singer (Ignoring of course that the record label rep did NOT approach any of the other fantastic singers in the production as well.)

In the end, my dream show turned into a bittersweet experience. I had wins with it on the dancing, acting and singing levels, but not with my solo numbers. After “A Chorus Line” ended, I never did musical theater again.

Looking back at all these years, I’ve only sung a few times in public. And it sucks because music is a big part of my life. I love music. I believe I was a pop star in another life. I would love to have a career like Madonna, Jennifer Lopez or Justin Timberlake (modern-day artists who act, sing and dance) What a wonderful fusion of disciplines!

I recorded one of my favorite songs recently in one take (“The Girl and the Robot” by Röyksopp featuring Robyn) and was really pleased with what I heard. I was like, “Wow, that’s me????” I even uploaded the song onto Youtube, but I didn’t want to share it with anyone. I totally flinched. But for fuck’s sake! Why?! I have a good voice. I got into conservatories for musical theater, I had a great agent in NYC, I was auditioning for Broadway. But I experienced such a loss with “A Chorus Line” that it wiped out all of my previous statistics and influenced the rest of my life.

But when I heard “The Girl and the Robot”, I realized how much I love to sing. And that I can sing. What I experienced with “A Chorus Line” does not mean I can’t sing. It was just WRONG casting. Which is why CASTING is so fucking important. If you’re cast in the wrong role, you don’t have a chance to shine. You don’t hum like fine crystal because the role doesn’t fit you like a glove. Wrong casting means that you could potentially walk away from the experience with a tremendous sense of loss. An actor cannot play every role out there. A singer cannot sing every song out there. I shine best as a singer when it’s the right casting and in the right genre of music. I can’t compare myself to other singers. I have to embrace my unique voice and maximize that in the right arenas.

I had a similar experience with acting. I almost quit acting when I was new to LA. I got an agent and they turned out to be really good. They got me out on a lot of auditions…for gang bangers, cholos and prisoners. They saw that I was a Latino male with a buzz cut, and because I didn’t understand the concept of driving my own career bus at the time, I let them call the shots. They sent me out on so many big TV auditions and I would be in the waiting rooms with people who actually looked like they just got out of jail. I worked as hard as I could to be those guys, but it’s just not in my nature. It’s not my CASTING. I would leave each audition feeling okay about my performance, but never with a feeling of a SLAM DUNK. I started getting discouraged and thought that I couldn’t act.

Finally, I stopped the madness and took control of my career. I got real clear with my agency about my casting and what I could play. Once they heard me, I started going out for things that I could really play. And I started producing winning results. Today, I would not accept the role of Richie. I’m clearer on my casting.

Seeing Juliet in her Song & Dance inspired me to action. Seeing her cry at the age of 15 reminded me of ME crying at the age of 17. The only difference is that she is part of an incredible community of people who will support her and hold her up. I wish I had artistic supporters when my event occurred. Things could have turned out differently for me. If Juliet at 15, starting out brand new with acting, could have the courage to cry through her Song & Dance in front of a room of seasoned, trained, professional adults, then who the fuck am I to keep hiding my own singing?

So here is what I am doing to take action. And I hope that my actions will inspire you to reconnect with something you have let go of or something you have a failed purpose on.

1) I am including links to two songs I recorded in one take. The first song is “The Girl and the Robot” and the second song is the ending of “I Don’t Care Much” from “Cabaret”. I LOVE the role of the Emcee. It’s one of my dream roles. But because I had such a failed purpose on singing, I heard “I Don’t Care Much” and freaked out over how high the ending part was. I was so convinced I was a bad singer that I could never sing the song. Every time I tried to sing it, I failed. Until two weeks ago, I finally said fuck it. I’m going to nail this ending part. I gave it my all and the notes came out…beautifully. I shared “I Don’t Care Much” with my good friend Lindsay Hopper and she said, “Dude…You need to sing more…WTF? Why do you hide that?”

2) How do I move forward to destroy this failed purpose? Do I sing songs in scene study class? What are my current castings in musical theater? What other genres could my particular voice shine best in? Do I begin vocal training to rebuild my voice? Do I sit down and figure out how to incorporate singing into my overall picture and business plan as an artist? Where does singing now fit in, if any, within the bigger picture of my career?

3) I am going to send a Facebook message to the director of “A Chorus Line” to finally address what kind of impact that event had on me. Writing a letter or sending an email communication, without blame or anger, is an effective tool that I have learned at the studio to handle something. It worked beautifully for me before on another occasion and so I am excited to do it again. In the message, I will let her know how I’m doing and that I hope she’s doing well. I will let her know why I’m writing, how the event affected me and what I’m doing now to reclaim my love for singing. And I’ll end the communication by sharing the two links with her as well and wishing her the best.

I look forward to sharing with you all how action number three turns out.

And thank you Juliet for your bravery and inspiration.

Here are the songs I recorded in one take:

The Girl And The Robot: https://youtu.be/ItV-n4iMSAc

I Don’t Care Much: https://youtu.be/81uwLM7mRSM

Onward and forward.

The Hustle

“I’m always so impressed when I see the breakdown of what you’ve done, the minutes, the hours. So just something to consider for your blog in the future is: Taking a screenshot of your week, broken down, so that you’re not just sharing these experiences, but this is evidence of the hustle. Cause it inspires us and I know it will inspire others.”

Thank you to the incredible Beth Pennington for inspiring today’s blog post. I have taken three screenshots of a typical week for me. In these pictures, you will see the work, the hustle. The work speaks for itself. I hope that these pictures will inspire artists to do the same amount of work (or more) because of the following, all-too-familiar story, that I’m about to share. The story that many of us have unfortunately experienced before. These pictures help me to combat the naysayers. These pictures are my weapons against the doubters and invalidators.

My fellow artists, have you ever been in a situation where someone has asked you, “What do you do for a living?” And you reply, “I’m an actor” or “I’m a writer”. And then the person usually replies with a fake response of like, “Oh, an actor.” Their subtext being, “Great. Another wannabe actor.” You hear their subtext and you start back
peddling your answer, “Yeah, I’m an…actor…you know, I act…sometimes…yeah…but I’m a really great bartender. I can make a killer martini!” You start feeling ashamed and embarrassed to be an actor or any other artistic profession you are pursuing.

Then, they continue their invalidating process with questions like, “Sooo, what have you done?” “What have you been in?” “Are you making money as an actor?” “What have you written?” “Have you sold one of your scripts?” “A screenwriter, huh? Are you with CAA?” And the artist starts to sink further and further into the black hole. They feel small and worthless and the invalidator loves that. I used to be that person that was ashamed of saying, “I’m an actor.” I used to believe that in order to be an actor, I had to be working all the time on a professional level. I fell for that awful perception that a person is only an actor if they’re on a TV series or acting in a studio feature film. And that’s just not true.

I have been fortunate and blessed to be with a teacher and school that has taught me about the bigger picture, how to administrate it and how to be the best actor and artist I can be (The Richard Lawson Studios) I am now confident in telling people that I am an actor AND a writer. I have no shame in telling people that this is what I do. Point. Blank. Period.

I have developed a clarity and a work ethic that allows me to treat my career as a business. We are a business. We need to clock in and out like any other profession and put in the work and the hours. We need to know what we want and go after it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We need to be about it. Then, and only then, can we have the confidence to say that we are an actor. Or a writer. Or a director. Or a whatever. Why? Because we now have the evidence, the proof, the statistics to back us up and give us confidence.

When someone tries to invalidate me or write me off as “another wannabe actor”, I quickly shut them down with charm, humor and irony. They’ll ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” I reply, “I’m an actor and writer.” Then, they’ll ask with their sarcastic, doubting tones, “Oh yeah. What have you been in? What have you written?” I give them my business card and say, “If you go to my IMDB page, you’ll see what I’ve been in.”  In this way, I’m directing traffic to my IMDB page and simultaneously raising my IMDB Star Meter 🙂 Then, I say, “There you will see the independent feature films, TV series and web series I’ve been in.”  I also continue with:

**I’ve also shot a handful of national commercials from Toyota to The Hartford Financial Services to Verizon

**I’m currently shopping two TV pilots

**I’m currently shopping one feature film and just finished writing another feature film for James Franco

**I’m in scene study class every Thursday night and the Professional Development Program 2.0 class every Friday morning

**I’m targeting different TV shows, show runners, producers and casting directors with tangible results

**I run a blog and post a new blog entry every Sunday morning

**I utilize social media on a daily basis and have lots of fun with it

**I acted in a feature film in April; I have another feature film receiving distribution in which I play a principal character in that; I was offered a principal role in another feature film that is in active pre-production

**I put in an average of 35 hours a week into my career, and that’s on top of my plan B job

**Ultimately, my goal is to be the next Tyler Perry, Lena Dunham, Cristela Alonzo, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Louis C.K….self-producing artists who create vehicles for themselves

People either shut the fuck up real quick because they see that I’m not just “another actor” or they get really interested and want to know more about me.

So, I’m sharing three pictures of what a typical week looks like in terms of my administration and the amount of time I put into them. Not to show off, but to hopefully inspire. And I’m not just putting in hours for the sake of putting in hours. Rather, every line item and every minute spent is to push a specific project forward. There are no arbitrary actions in my lists. In 2015, I have completed three projects on my plate and just started a new one:

Get a meeting with Creative Artists Agency and Anonymous Content.

(Thank you to the amazing Lindsay Hopper for pushing me to create this project and reach for the top!)

Earlier, I said that these pictures are my weapons because the work doesn’t lie. The stats don’t lie. I can show you everything I’ve done since the first week of January 2015. The invalidators can’t argue against that. They can’t put that down. Every strategic line item of work speaks for itself.

So, fuck the nay sayers. Fuck the doubters. Fuck the invalidators. Fuck the people who want to put you down because you’re doing what they’re too afraid to do themselves. Or because they’re jealous of you and want to bring you down to their level. Fuck them. Don’t let them make you feel bad about being an actor or a writer or a director…a FUCKING ARTIST.

But you will have a better chance of standing up to them when you’re putting in the work and can back yourself up with actions. At least that’s been my experience. When I’m walking the walk, creating the evidence, being about it, putting in the work on a
daily basis, going to class and staying sharp with my craft, and most importantly, HAVING FUN, then nobody can take that away from me.

Before we jump to the commercial break–I mean, the pictures below–I leave you with this amazing quote from Madonna. This was her response to all the critics who continue to write her off:

“It makes me realize how miserable most human beings are and how instead of celebrating that someone could come from nothing and do something with their life, they have to try to tear you down. Because ultimately, people don’t want to be reminded of how little they’ve accomplished in their own lives.”

Let’s continue being the amazing fucking artists that we are! I would love to hear your experiences!

Please scroll down past the tags below to see the three pictures. I’ve taken out the names of some people and some TV shows on purpose. And you can click on each picture to enlarge the text:

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!

On August 22nd, 2015, I celebrated 13 years of living in Los Angeles! 13 years!

It feels like yesterday that I was still living in Brooklyn with my mom. I was at a real crossroads in my life. After 9/11, I knew that life was too short. And I knew that if I wanted to pursue film and TV fully, that LA was where I needed to be. I was so determined to get to LA, that I purchased a one-way airline ticket and didn’t tell my mom that I was moving until three weeks before my scheduled flight. She was so shocked that I gave her such little notice, but I had to make sure that no one, and I mean no one, had time to change my mind.

And in taking all of yesterday to reflect on and to celebrate the last 13 years, one theme emerged. As Madonna said above at the end of her 1995 music video for “Human Nature”: “Absolutely no regrets.”

I have none. I could easily have spent all of August 22nd lamenting all the losses and disappointments, both real and perceived, that I’ve had in the last 13 years. After all, 13 years is a fucking long time and anyone could easily fall into the dark side of regrets and the dark side of the woulda, coulda, shoulda: I could have worked more as an actor, I should have worked more as an actor, I should be at a better place in my life right now, I should have done this sooner, I should have learned that lesson earlier, if I only I knew back then what I know now, etc. But what a waste of time and energy that is.

Again, absolutely no regrets. I’ve never been one to look back…not for too long at least. There’s nothing I can do to change the past. I can only focus on today and how to make it count.

I spent yesterday celebrating how much I have grown as a person and as an artist. Celebrating the fact that I am STILL in the game and that I haven’t given up. I recently saw some pictures of people I went to college with on Facebook and I was shocked by how much some of them have aged. Aged because they gave up on their dreams. They lost that fire, that spark, that thing that made them youthful. That spirit left and life settled in. They are doing other things with their lives now. No judgments. I cast no
judgments. I’m just making an observation. People that I used to have a crush on in college have aged badly or gained so much weight. They’ve let themselves go. Meanwhile I, who used to be so awkward looking in college, have continued to age beautifully both inside and out. I still feel like a big kid sometimes. I’m still connected to my dreams. I still act, I still write, I still dance. I’m surrounded by a fantastic community of mentors and artists who keep me alive, vibrant and focused. Always have since 2002. Always will until the day I die.

When I first landed in LA, I broke down in tears at LAX. Shit just got real. I arrived. There was no turning back now. I came with one suitcase and a leather CD book containing 200 CD’s. I only knew one person out here. I had no job lined up. I had no apartment lined up. I had no family out here. All I had was my faith and determination that things would all fall into place.

And taking a line of dialogue out of the Madonna mythology, I got into a taxi and said, “Take me to the center of everything.” In the Madonna mythology, she arrived in NYC in 1977 with $35 in her pocket. She told the taxi driver to drop her off in the center of everything. So, he dropped her off in Times Square. My taxi driver dropped me off in
Beverly Hills. Now, I know some of you may be laughing, but the universe was quickly working in my favor. The taxi driver dropped me off at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Robertson Blvd., one block south of Wilshire Blvd. Little did I know that located just a couple of blocks south of Enterprise Rent-A-Car was the place that would become my second home for the next seven years, the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

I got my rental car and drove away. I turned on the radio and the first song I heard in LA was Kylie Minogue’s “Love At First Sight”. I’ll never forget that. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. I was vibrating with excitement. The only person I knew out here was a buddy of mine who I used to work with at a dance club in Manhattan. He was out here with his twin brother on business (I would later discover that their “business” was the escort business and they were marketing themselves as 2-for-1 all-American blond twins!)

They were renting a room at the Ramada Plaza West Hollywood. He said I could stay with him and his brother until I got my own place to live. Twenty four hours later, he got me an interview with the front desk manager and I got hired. I started work a few days later. The universe was taking care of me.  Within a week, I found a place to live in West Hollywood. The universe was taking care of me again.

My second day in LA, I ran into someone I graduated with from Vassar. I told him I moved to LA to pursue acting and he immediately recommended the Beverly Hills Playhouse (which is where he was studying) I called the BHP to schedule an interview. They accepted me and I began classes in the first week of September. I sat in the front row, on the edge of my seat, eager to learn and to be inspired. I could feel a palpable energy in the room that I have never felt before in a class (acting class or otherwise) When Gary Imhoff first walked into the room, the class cheered and gave him a standing ovation. I wasn’t expecting that at all!

I don’t remember if I stood up and cheered as well or if I remained in my seat. But what I DO remember was that as soon as Gary settled into his seat, I leaned back into my seat and I said to myself, “This is my teacher. This is my home.” I just felt it in my heart and in my gut. After the first day of class ended, I walked north on Wilshire Blvd. and saw the Enterprise Rent-A-Car! I immediately became emotional because I knew that the universe was taking care of me. It was a cool moment of experiencing something coming around full circle.

Everything was falling into place. LA was new and exciting. The weather was great. Palm trees galore. I had a place to live. I had a Plan B job supporting my Plan A game. I found an amazing second home at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Kelly Clarkson was crowned the first American Idol on September 4th, 2002 (and honestly, her win was the only one that truly mattered) Then, within a month, I hated LA. And I would end up hating LA for the first year because I experienced everything from home sickness to hating public transportation to hating that nothing was 24/7 like in NYC. It wasn’t until I got my first car around my first year anniversary, for FREE, that I fell in love with LA. Having a car really turned my feelings around.

13 years later and I still love LA. LA is my home. I’m part of that very small percentage of New Yorkers who love LA and prefer it to NYC. When I fly into LAX, I always feel good to be back home.

Absolutely no regrets. I don’t regret calling every single agent in the agent book in 2002 to receive representation. I don’t regret walking into casting offices to drop off my headshot and resume. I don’t regret any career administration I’ve executed. I don’t regret putting one foot in front of the other. I don’t regret any scenes I’ve put up in acting class in the last 13 years. I don’t regret the personal and professional choices I’ve made. I don’t regret the people I cut out of my life in order to pursue my career. I don’t regret the people I cut out of my life who were not part of my career bus. I don’t regret the friends I’ve made and the friends I’ve lost. I don’t regret all the times I’ve danced in stores, supermarkets, beaches, streets, subway platforms, trains, bus stations, parks, etc. I don’t regret all the times I ran lines to myself in public places. I don’t regret all the times I rehearsed a scene in public with my various scene partners. I don’t regret rehearsing the diner scene from “Biloxi Blues” at the Silver Spoon Diner in West Hollywood and causing such a mess with my amazing scene partner that management banned us forever. Ironically, the Silver Spoon Diner is no longer around, but I am 🙂

I’m still here! I’m still in the game! Yesterday was a celebration of all the good things I have experienced here in LA. A celebration of all the wins and all the growth I’ve experienced. I started my day by doing DanceFitWalk at the Rose Bowl at 8am. I danced my ass off for an hour and a half with my DFW team. Then, I went home and showered and went to the beach to not only celebrate my anniversary, but to join a friend who was celebrating her birthday at the beach as well.

Then, I went to a restaurant and had an early dinner. Then, I bought champagne and put it in the fridge. And then, I ended the night dancing away with a cool friend I’m getting to know.

Celebrating these 13 years was about joy and happiness!

See you soon 14th year anniversary!

Work Ethic Is A Bitch

Now let’s just set the record straight: I work hard. Always have, always will. Why?

A) I’m Latino, it’s in our DNA. Although, like I mentioned in a previous blog entry, this is one Latino who is not mowing your lawns or cleaning out your pools. Okaayyy. And as a Latino, a minority, I have to work twice as hard as my Caucasian male counterparts. Interesting fact: Did you know that SAG-AFTRA classifies everyone, except for Caucasian males, as a minority?

B) My mother instilled the value of hard work at a very young age. She wanted her children to achieve more than she did. As a result, she was incredibly militant when it came to our homework. She set the tone right away in pre-kindergarten. She wanted to make sure that we were turning in professional, excellent, clean-looking work. And I say “clean-looking” because all of our homework was hand-written on paper with a pencil.

When I was in elementary school, I would always do my homework at the dining room table. I had my Mead composition notebook and #2 pencil. And God bless my mother, because in order to save money and cut down on costs, she would buy me the generic, non-name brand pencils with the cheap erasers. So, if I ever had to erase a mistake, I was fucked because the eraser would smudge the graphite across the word or words I was trying to erase. The cheap eraser never made a clean erase. My mother would come over, see the smudge and then violently snatch the paper off the dining room table. She would then crumple it up in my face and say, “Do it again! You’re not turning in this mess to your teacher!”

My mom never pushed us to perfection, but rather, to excellence. She crumpled up the paper because she knew I could do better. That I could present a better product to my teacher. Was this smudge-filled homework the best work I could turn in? If not, then go back to the drawing board until I created the best work possible. And that philosophy has stayed with me throughout my life. As Richard Lawson would say, “Do Your Best And Forget The Rest”. Did you do your best? If so, great. Now forget the rest.

C) I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Nothing was ever given to me (except hand-me-downs LOL) I worked hard for everything in my life.

So, I work hard. Anyone who knows me knows that.

But MAN, working hard is a bitch. Work ethic is a bitch. This year alone, I’m averaging about 35 hours a week into my career. I hate being the nerd who misses out on countless events because I wanted to stay in and get this scene in my screenplay just right. I hate being the geek who has to schedule his best friend or family member into a 30-minute slot because I have an audition that I’m still carving out. Or because I have a second round of communications I need to draft up and execute for my target list of management companies. Or because I have rehearsal. Or because I have hours of relationship map building to administrate and execute. Or because I’m working on a pitch for another TV series.

I just turned down an invitation to hang out with a hot ex-military guy this past Friday night because I wanted to front load my career administration for the week instead (Friday is the start of the week for me) When I front load my work, then the rest of the week flows beautifully. But again, he was a HOT EX-MILITARY guy. Damn you work ethic! Work ethic is a bitch!

The Friday night before (August 7th), I was up till 12am re-cutting my dramatic reel to make it a stronger representation of my acting abilities. I spent three hours not only re-cutting my reel, but also fixing all the sound levels from one clip to the next to make sure they were all even and consistent. I wanted to make sure that I was creating the best product possible to send out to managers.

I normally wake up at 6am and go to bed at 1am. I hate it. Work ethic is a bitch. I love sleeping. I love my bed. Guys love my bed. Well, they love me more, but they love my bed too. It’s so amazingly comfortable and inviting. You think I want to get up while everyone else is still sleeping? You think I still want to be up while everyone else is sleeping? Sometimes, I’ll drive to a rehearsal or a fitness training in the morning and I’ll see people stumbling out of the clubs.

Work ethic is a bitch.

For the love of God, why can’t I just:

**Dance all day long

**Be at the beach all day long (Well, not Los Angeles beaches…the water is so fucking cold)

**Eat Belgian chocolate pudding from Trader Joe’s all day long

**Drink champagne all day long

**Watch Madonna videos all day long and recreate them…again

**Be on Tindr, Lavendr and Grindr all day long (what is it with these online dating/hook up sites ending with the letter “R”?)

**Hook up all day long

**Have sex all day long

**Travel around the world

**Get a full body massage all day long

**Drive around in a luxury car with friends all day long

**Binge watch different TV shows on Netflix all day long

ETC. ETC. ETC.

But then I take a step back and realize that today is Madonna’s birthday. 57 years ago, on August 16th, 1958, Madonna Veronica Louise Ciccone wassent from heaven and was born in Bay City, Michigan.

Madonna NEVER has to work again in her entire life. She has nothing left to prove. She IS the Queen of Pop. She created the template from which all female (and some male) pop stars draw from. She obliterated the restrictions on what women could do and should be. She changed and crafted pop culture. She was the M in MTV. She has more top ten singles (38) on the Billboard Hot 100 than any other solo artist. She has more number one singles (46) on a singular Billboard chart than any other artist. Forbes named her the richest musician in 2013. She is currently worth more than 800 million dollars. She’s about to embark on another massive world tour to support her latest album, “Rebel Heart” (which is my favorite Madonna album of all time now). She evolves. She progresses. She looks forward, never back.

She can retire TODAY. But since the beginning, Madonna has had a powerful work ethic. She is one of the hardest, most professional, most consistent artists out there. She is a work-a-holic. A perfectionist. She oversees every single aspect of her career…down to the earrings a dancer wears to the nail polish that an extra is wearing on her film sets. When on tour, she does a full run through of every show before the actual show starts at 8pm. She’s the first one to clock in and the last one to clock out. 12 hour-plus days. She has more energy than people half her age. Answering a question on how she continues to amass her fortune and not be taken advantage of financially, she once famously replied, “Because I actually read the contracts.”

She directs feature films, runs a clothing and fragrance line, has written children’s books, raises four beautiful children, builds schools in Malawi, etc.

Her work ethic is INCREDIBLE because she is driven by her purpose, her raison d’être (reason for being or existence) She still has so much to say. She loves what she does. She knows her responsibility and power as an artist.

Hmmm, 57 years old and worth more than $800 million dollars? Still relevant and provoking people to wake up and be better versions of themselves? Maybe work ethic isn’t so bad. I mean, do I want to spend all day getting a massage, or do I want to add another hour to my rehearsal so that at the end of the day, I can walk away cleanly because I did the best work that I could do? I’ll take the latter.

Work ethic is not a bitch. Work ethic is my BITCH. I work hard because I love what I do and because I have something to say. I work hard so that everything I present is the best work possible. I work hard so that I can have pride in what I share with others. I work hard so that at the end of the day, I don’t have any regrets or skeletons haunting me saying, “You should have worked harder. You could have done better.” I work hard because the payoff is wonderful.

Work ethic has been my weapon in staying sharp, ready and current. Work ethic has never let me down. The greats are great and stay relevant because of work ethic. Things move forward and happen when work ethic is involved.

With all this talk about work ethic, I can’t leave out the importance of celebration. I have gotten much better at incorporating celebration more and more into my life. To celebrate the wins and achievements along the way. To do my best work and then celebrate. Celebrations remind me of my progress, my journey and my wins. Large wins, small wins, celebrate them all. I have purchased art work, gotten massages, purchased champagne, etc. to mark my wins.

For example, I mentioned earlier that I front-loaded my work this past Friday night. And guess what? That hot ex-military guy reached out again today to hang out. This time, I said “Yes.” I can afford a celebration tonight for the work I did on Friday.

“Holiday! Celebrate!”

Thank you Madonna and Happy Birthday.

Being Myself & Finding My Voice

“Thank you for always being you. It’s refreshing.” This was said to me by casting director and human being extraordinaire, Twinkie Byrd, on July 16th, 2015. When she said that to me, I felt really good. It also made me pause for a second to reflect on how much I HAVE changed as a person. To take stock on the journey that I have taken to become the person that I am today. “Thank you for always being you.”

Because there was a time where I wasn’t being me. At all.

I was born and raised in the projects in Brooklyn, NY. Let me be more specific: I was born and raised in the projects in Brooklyn, NY as a gay man. Not an ideal scenario. Growing up in the dangerous projects, and knowing that I was different since the age of five, I was afraid of being killed. So as a result, I shut down and became incredibly shy. I had no voice growing up. No point of view. Whenever I DID speak, I had to be really careful how I sounded. Too feminine sounding? Death.

I was also the fifth child out of six children. My older brothers and sisters didn’t want to hang out with me because they were all teenagers or young adults by this point. They did not want to be seen hanging out with a kid. And so I felt that being me wasn’t valuable or worthy. The only way I could stand out and be seen and heard was to act out. To be somebody else. I think that’s part of the reason why I became an actor. To be seen. To get attention. To feel worthy.

Having no voice and pretending to be somebody else became a recurring theme in my life and it got progressively worse. I desperately wanted to fit in and be liked in elementary and junior high school. I wanted my classmates to see that I could be a cool straight kid. I failed miserably. Students would tease me and not be friends with me. I ended up doing school plays because it gave me a voice. It gave me an opportunity to be seen and to be a star in a way that I couldn’t be at the school cafeteria or on the school playground.

Going into high school, I kept pretending to be somebody else because I still desperately wanted to be accepted and to be validated. Being ME was never valued and high school is all about appearances and all this other ridiculous peer pressure. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be popular. I wanted to fit in. So much so that I even denied where I came from. Up until high school, I attended an elementary and junior high school that was within walking distance of the projects. So the majority of the school population was made up of students from the projects. We all knew we lived in the projects, so whatever. There was no need to pretend we were rich.

But high school was a different story. I had to take a train into a better, residential part of Brooklyn to attend school. I went to a really good public high school that wasn’t a block away from the projects. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by white students. And these white students came from middle class to upper middle class families. Many of these white students lived in houses; had working parents who owned one or two cars; had material things; had intelligence; had an outlook on life that was more positive and abundant vs. my projects outlook of negativity, scarcity and death.

So not only did I hide my sexuality, I also hid where I came from. I became Molly Ringwald’s character in “Pretty In Pink”. Molly played a high school character from a working class family who falls for and begins dating an incredibly wealthy student (played by Andrew McCarthy) She was ashamed and embarrassed to reveal to him that she came from the poor side of town. He would give her a ride home, but she always had him drop her off somewhere else so he wouldn’t see where she lived. She always had an excuse as to why she didn’t want him to drop her off at home. Finally, when he insisted on knowing why he couldn’t drop her off at her home, she exclaimed, “Because I don’t want you to see where I live, okay!” She bursts into tears, and even right now, I’m getting emotional writing about it. Damn muscle memory! So, I didn’t tell anyone where I lived.

I even started acting and speaking “white” because I feared that my Latino heritage wouldn’t be valuable. I had an uncle who called me “Kunta Kinte” when I was 12 years old because I’m the darkest in my family. So, I thought my skin color, my Latino heritage, was a bad thing.

June 14th, 2020 Update: How could I forget the time I booked the role of Tulsa in my high school production of Gypsy and the makeup artist made me a few shades lighter so that I could be more passable and more accepting as Tulsa. I remember looking in the mirror after the makeup job was done and thinking to myself with pride, “Wow, this is how I should look.” Thus reinforcing the notion that being darker is bad and that being lighter is everything. With this makeup on, I could not be called Kunta Kinte anymore.

It got even worse in college. I went to Vassar College. Vassar College! A Sister Ivy League School! Vassar declined Yale University’s invitation to merge with them back in 1969! That takes balls to say no to Yale! Vassar is currently ranked #11 amongst colleges in the United States! Vassar had even MORE white people everywhere and a higher economic status: upper middle class to wealthy individuals. On the extreme side of the economic spectrum, I knew a guy who drove a luxury car, who would fly in and out on a private jet and who would wear Gucci, Armani and Valentino as CASUAL wear to CLASS. Girls would go clubbing on the weekends at our underground dance bar in designer dresses, purses and heels during the middle of winter in Poughkeepsie, NY. It is FREEZING cold in Poughkeepsie during the winter! Hell yeah, in this environment, I ran for mayor big time and became Molly Ringwald’s character times a hundred. Ironically, I became open about my sexuality when I went to Vassar, but I sure as hell didn’t say where I lived. I acted and spoke even more “white”. I would say I was Puerto Rican, but not Dominican as well. Why? Because my older half-siblings, who are Puerto Rican, would sometimes make derogatory remarks about Dominican people when I was a kid. And because I wanted to be accepted by them, I believed that the Dominican side of me was wrong. So, I denied that part of me.

So, there was always this sense of incompletion and not really being me at any given moment. You always got a percentage of me, but not 100 percent of me. I could be gay in certain situations, but not in others. I could be from the projects in certain situations and around certain people, but not in others. I could be Puerto Rican, but not Dominican. Fuck me with a mental spoon.

Pretending to be someone else was about survival. Literally and figuratively. Both just as terrible. Literally surviving from being killed in the projects. Figuratively surviving from being humiliated and ostracized by my friends, colleagues and peers.

It has taken me a long time to be the person I am today. When I sit down and take a look at myself, I really enjoy my sense of humor, my sense of subversiveness, my intelligence, my wit and my point of view. I’m proud of my sexuality and my heritage. I’m grateful for all the wonderful blessings that I have and that I’m able to share with the world. I’m happy that I’ve gotten to a place where I really don’t give a shit what anyone says about me. The moment I stopped running for mayor, the moment I stopped caring about what other people thought, the moment I stopped wanting to be everyone’s friend for all the wrong reasons (for THEIR validation), is when I truly experienced freedom. What you see is what you get and that’s it. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m done growing and evolving. After all, my intention is to continue becoming a better form of myself, a better version of who I was yesterday. I still have things to work on. This will be a life-long journey to continue being the best, most evolved version of me I can be.

Here are some turning points that were instrumental in helping me get to a place where Twinkie could say, “Thank you for always being you. It’s actually refreshing.”

**After I graduated from Vassar College, I met my best friend Geri at work. We were customer service representatives at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan. We were required to do two weeks of training before we could officially start. On the first day of training, she arrived two hours late and she marched in like a grand diva wearing big sunglasses, high heels, and a huge purse dangling from her arm. My first reaction was, “Who the fuck is this bitch arriving two hours late?” We eventually warmed up to each other and hit it off within a couple of days. She later admitted that her first impression of me on the first day was, “Who the fuck is this yahoo wearing a cowboy hat?” Hey, Madonna’s “Music” album was all the rage at the time and the era and imagery was all about urban, modern cowboy culture. So when the Queen of Everything speaks and begins a trend, I comply.

Geri and I are still very close to this day. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, has great taste in style and has such a foul mouth–which I love. We would hang out often after work, and sometimes, she would drive me home. And yep, Molly Ringwald’s character possessed me once again. I would have Geri drop me off in a good part of Brooklyn, and then I would walk several blocks home after she drove away. This charade kept going successfully until one night, she asked me if she could use my bathroom because she really had to pee. I could’ve died right there in the passenger seat. I started to panic. I started thinking of alternative bathrooms that she could use instead.

But I couldn’t say no to her when I failed to think of alternatives. I didn’t want her to pee on herself. So for the first time in my life, I came clean about where I lived. And after I was done apologizing for where I lived, and then expecting her to throw me out of her car, she looked at me and said, “Jorge, I don’t give a fuck where you live. That’s not why I’m your friend. I’m your friend because I love you. And if anyone is going to judge you based upon where you live, then they’re not your fucking friend.” In that moment, I finally knew what a real friend was. I knew that I had a friend for life. That moment was instrumental for me. I wasn’t ashamed of being from the projects anymore. We parked in front of my building, she met my mom, my mom loved her and probably thought there was still hope for me (Oh snap! More on that in just a second!) Geri got to pee and the rest is history.

**Another turning point was moving to Los Angeles. I now had to become an adult and support myself. To make my own rules and live by them. As soon as I moved to Los Angeles, I had the blessing and honor of studying with and being influenced by two incredible acting teachers. First and foremost, Richard Lawson. He has been INSTRUMENTAL in my journey of self-discovery and empowerment. I always speak about Richard and how he has changed me. But I also need to acknowledge my very first LA acting teacher, Gary Imhoff.

Gary started my LA journey of being myself and finding my voice when about a year into my studies, he told me to connect with my sexuality and to put it up in class as a personal monologue. He recognized that I was acting through a filter because I was afraid of being discovered or outed. So my work was not as rich and fulfilled as it could be. I would act cautiously and carefully. A year later, he told me to reconnect with my roots and put it up in class as a personal monologue. He recognized again that the denial of my heritage was causing me to act through another filter. How could I be personal and real with my acting if I was drawing from a fake place? Connecting to my heritage meant connecting to me, to my home, to my history, to my genetic makeup. Drawing from who I REALLY am and not who I was PRETENDING to be. These denials were not only negatively affecting my work as an actor, but they were negatively affecting my life as well. Both personal monologues became these John Leguizamo-inspired, mini one-man show extravaganzas that received standing ovations. Turning points indeed. Shortly after the second personal monologue, I put up a scene for Gary and during his critique, he said to me, “You sound different. You are more grounded and centered. You even look more black.” I laughed out loud, as did the class. Gary got the ball rolling for me accepting my sexuality and my Latino heritage.

**The community of true friends I have built and nurtured out here has been another turning point. Pulling in the right friends based on love, respect, integrity, drive, passion, fun, no judgements or criticisms, but willing to express tough love to help me get to the other side and be all that I can be. I love you all.

**But the biggest turning point was in December 2009. I came out to my mom…again.

LOL!

I was in a relationship that I was happy with. He was someone that I knew I wanted to introduce to my family. My mom’s birthday was coming up in February and I thought that would be a great opportunity to introduce him to everyone. Only one problem: I needed to make sure that my mom knew I was gay. I first came out to her the summer after my sophomore year at Vassar. She was completely shocked. She was trying to comprehend my sexuality and the Catholic guilt flowed through her: “God made it to be man and woman. Not man and man. God does not want it this way.” After that conversation ended, my sexuality was never brought up again. Neither by her nor by me. And so for years afterwards, I continued living in a blur, in a fog, in front of my mother and in my life in general. Even though I made steps forward in the area of sexuality with Gary Imhoff and Richard Lawson, I was still incomplete and hiding somewhat. This time, however, I wanted to make sure that she was crystal clear about my sexuality. I was prepared and willing to lose the love of my mother so that I could be ME.

I wrote a letter in which I came out to her again. I told her I was in a relationship with a great guy and how happy I was with him and with my sexuality. The letter was positive. It was not about blame or pointing fingers. It was not about dwelling in the past. It was my intention to clear up any confusion or ambiguity. I mailed out the letter and decided to wait at least a week before I called her. It was the holidays, so I took into account how busy the post office would be. When I finally called her, it was the most amazing phone conversation I’ve ever had with her. She told me she received my letter and that she didn’t care that I was gay. She loved me as her son and she loved me for who I was. She also added that she didn’t care what anyone else thought about me. That if they had a problem with me, they could go fuck themselves. She was very happy for me and my relationship and could not wait to meet him. She also said that she never forgot when I first came out to her. She said the reason why she never brought it up again was because I had never brought it up again. Since I never brought it up again, she figured I went through a phase (And that’s why I could see her excitement when she met Geri.)

LOL Jesus, Mary, Joseph, God! If only I had spoken on this sooner, I could’ve saved myself years of—Ahhh fuck it. No point dwelling on the past and what could’ve been. The point was that my mom and I were now on the same page and her unconditional love and acceptance blasted the door wide open! I immediately came into focus. I connected to who I was because I was no longer hiding. I was no longer pretending to be someone or something else. With her love and support, I didn’t care anymore what others thought about me. My brothers and sisters love me as well by the way…the gay AND the Dominican sides of me 🙂

The walls finally came down! I started settling into my body. My true voice started to emerge. I had a point of view. I expressed myself. My true being started to emerge and affected all areas of my life including my art: I’m a better actor, writer and dancer as a result. Other dynamics and colors came to the forefront and made me a complete, whole person. Being gay is just a wonderful part of my make up. It’s not my entire life. Or as one of my good friends, Lindsay, said to me recently, “You’re a power gay. You don’t show it off. You don’t make a big deal out of it. You just are and get shit done.” But I don’t apologize for being gay, nor am I ashamed of it.

Growing up in the projects is no longer a source of shame. Being Dominican is no longer a source of shame.

I am me. I don’t apologize for it anymore. I inspire people. I make people laugh. I am handsome. I am dangerous. I make people uncomfortable. I am a listener. I am a rock. I am a leader. I am a lover. I am subversive. I am light. I am dark. I am tough. I am vulnerable. I am masculine. I am feminine, etc.

I am a HUMAN being living my God-given purpose on this planet: To be an artist.

I hope that this blog entry inspires you in some way. Perhaps someone out there is currently experiencing what I have experienced before. Just know that there is a light on the other side. When you find yourself and your voice, honor it and protect it! Or, if you are already being yourself, I hope you advance that further too because I’m on the journey of self-improvement for life.

I love being myself and my voice 🙂