The Renegade Spotlight category on DaveUrsillo.com is a new, monthly feature that showcases the biographies and stories of real-life “Renegades” — men and women who, while brandishing a defiantly positive and determined mindset, are pursuing their dreams in spite of criticism, cynicism, and being misunderstood by those around them. We are the Renegades. Are you among our ranks?
1.) Introduce yourself!
“I am an actress and writer living in Astoria, NY. After graduating in 2008 from the College of the Holy Cross, I spent my summer working at Redfeather Theatre Co. in Worcester, MA where I performed in two shows in rep. I then moved to New York in the Fall to pursue my dreams of becoming an actor. Since moving to New York, I’ve done a ton of theater, as well as some commercial and film. In the past year, I’ve rediscovered my love of improv comedy, and have been really focusing on that by taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. I also write a weekly blog, MyFaceHurtsFromSmiling.com, detailing my adventures in customer service with the uber fabulous in an exclusive, private club in New York City. I also have a personal website, KristenFleming.com, which features my acting credits.”
2.) What dreams are you pursuing?
“A short term goal of mine is to either get on or start an improv team. I have one more level to go in my UCB undergrad program, and by that point I will have learned long-form improv. In the next year, I also want to get signed by either an agent or manager. If anyone knows the secret there, by all means hook a sister up. For long term goals, to be honest, I just want to work professionally as an actor, i.e., support myself soley on my acting. I think every actor’s dream is to quit their day job.”
3.) What effects have these pursuits had on your life?
“Well, for starters, I’m broke. Living on your own is hard, but in New York, everything is priced to the max, so it is damn near impossible to save money. I stuck it out living in the city for two years, but I’ve just recently moved to Astoria in hopes of saving some money. We’ll see how that one goes.
Relationships are hard because all of my free time is devoted to acting. You have to think of yourself as a product, or a brand, so in order to make the product successful, you have to put a lot of hours and money into it. That means taking classes, networking, performing — the whole bit. I’m lucky because my boyfriend is also an actor, so he totally gets the lifestyle. I also have amazing friends and family, who are all incredibly supportive.”
4.) What has pursuing your dreams taught you about yourself? About others? About life?
“Holy moly, that’s an intense question. About myself? I think I’ve learned how to have a thick skin. 99.9% of pursuing a career in acting is being told you aren’t good enough. I actually once had a casting director tell me that there is nothing interesting about me. And the thing about it is, you just have to stand there, smile, and thank them for their advice. That’s why you have to really LOVE what you’re doing. Because, if not, you’ll get swallowed alive.
Throughout this process, I’ve learned a lot about others — both the good and the bad. The bad: there are some shady, shady, shady people in this world. Lots of people looking to feed off someone’s inexperience and basically steal money. You learn how to spot scams — I’ve certainly figured that one out, thankfully. But, I’ve also seen the good. I’ve met so many wonderful people, who have done nothing but cheer me on, give me advice, and try to help me make it in this business. Those are the people I surround myself with.
It’s hard for me as a 25-year-old to give my thoughts about life, but I’ll give it a go. I’ve found that I feel better about myself when I am the most grounded. New York City does not stop, and even when you have physically stopped moving, you can still feel the pace of the city. It’s easy to get wrapped up in silly things, so maintaining a strong sense of Self and a solid focus on what matters to you is important in my life. Having a sense of humor about things is key. Basically, just be happy. Life is way too short.”
5.) Do you have any special methods or practices that help you along the way? What are your sources of inspiration?
“I always take time for myself. We just bought this amazing new leather sofa, so I spend an hour a day curled up drinking coffee and relaxing. I usually spend this time catching up on all the TV I miss during the week, or reading… or watching Real Housewives of blah blah blah. I just can’t help it. I also love walking. I’ll go for walks that last a few hours just to clear my head.
People are my inspiration. I love ridiculous people and situations, as evidenced by my blog. I also just love to laugh. Making people laugh is seriously such an amazing feeling, to know that at that moment I am making someone happy. Specifically with improv, I love creating something out of nothing. That whole process really fascinates me. Working with a group does as well, connecting with people, and really developing a group mind. It’s just so cool.”
6.) Do cynics, doubters and pessimists affect you and your pursuits? If so, how? If not, do you avoid them, tune them out, use them to your advantage, etc.?
“Are you kidding me? If I let doubters affect me, I would be quivering in some box on 42nd street. Like I said before, I am told every day, “You suck.” There have been so many auditions that I’ve walked out of like, “Well, I’ll never get called into that casting office again.” Sure, maybe I don’t book the job, but I still get called back in. And that’s the point. You can’t even focus on the actual audition. You have to think of it as a way to introduce yourself to the casting director, so they’ll remember you for the next thing you’re right for. Also, I only give myself twenty minutes to freak out after a bad audition. After the 20 minutes is up, I have to let it go and move on to the next. Just don’t talk to me during those 20 minutes.
Also, I am surrounded by people who remind me when some agent or casting director doesn’t see my fabulousness that I’m not delusional. I do have talent, and I do have something to say. To be honest, it’s about creating your own opportunities, like writing the blog, or starting my own improv team. So if “haters wanna hate” (to quote the 90s female trio, 3LW), let them. I’m just going to do my own thing. Once, after chatting with a casting director for a few minutes and discussing my resume, she told me that I should be proud of all the work I’ve done since I’ve been here. And believe me, I’m holding on to that quote for dear life as I continue on my journey.”
Check out MyFaceHurtsFromSmiling.com and Kristen’s personal website, KristenFleming.com! I’m confident that Kristen will end up on Saturday Night Live some day soon, so you’d better learn more about her before she becomes famous!
Also, you or someone you know can tell their story here on DaveUrsillo.com in the new Renegade Spotlight feature! Send me an email through my Contact page! Tell the world your story, inspire hundreds of men and women, and get your name and face known by thousands of fellow Renegades across the world!