I'm in an Facebook group for actors & there is a lot of focus on branding in that group. Every weekend, there is usually a topic that relates to your brand (for the record, my "brand" as an entertainer is sporty & sassy, but a touch girly...that's the short version). One of the first weekly topic (and the thing that really got it going as a weekly thing) was: What would your on-brand TED talk be?
I had to think about it for a bit....sure, it had to include my perseverance. I've been told so many times I couldn't do things in life. That only drives me to succeed even more. I reflected back on my life and came up with the perfect topic: Color outside the lines.
I've been doing it since kindergarten. In fact, that's the first time I remember getting in trouble at school (which I did a lot). The teacher tried to reprimand me for coloring outside the lines and I wasn't having any of that. Really? color inside the lines? where is the creativity in that? I have an active ADHD-ridden mind. It floats, it wanders and there's nothing wrong with that. My mom didn't make me color in the lines at home.. My color/paint by numbers were sometimes by the number and sometimes they weren't & that was okay as long as I was behaving. Now you send me school and some teacher is telling me that's not okay? Why? I see a world outside the line of that little circle you want me to color yellow. I'm pretty sure a defiant "no" then became a temper tantrum and I wound up in the principal's office (a place I became very familiar with through the years) & often because teachers weren't fond of my outside of the box thinking.
Flash forward to junior high. I was allowed to pick out my own clothes and I sometimes made some bold fashion choices. Why? because I could & my mom let me. This would lead me to get ridiculed at school, but sure enough....a couple weeks later, the same outfit I would get teased for wearing was now being worn by the popular kids. The only difference is they were being praised for how cool their clothes looked. Did I mention I was stupendously unpopular and bullied almost daily by students and teachers?
By the time I'd made it to high school, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a model. After a vacation to Los Angeles after my freshman year, I also knew I wanted the hell out of Ohio or at least out of the cow-tipping part of it. I love the bright lights of a big city, the hustle & bustle, the energy that seemed to flow 24/7/365. Definitely not coloring inside the lines. That's unheard of where I come from...crazy talk. You go to the local commuter college (if you even go to college) & you settle down in the country. Yeah, not happening with me. Of course, putting my intentions out into the universe and the world around me (namely my school classmates) opened me up to even more ridicule and bullying. Asking me if I was going to model dog food, telling me I was stupid for thinking I'd ever amount to anything worthy of moving anywhere, throwing dog biscuits at me at prom. Just a few examples. Still, I kept coloring outside of the lines....not as much, though.
I also played tennis and there was some more coloring outside the lines. I'm usually "the poor girl" at tournaments. A product of the public parks, a local grant helped pay for my private lessons, my tennis skirts were skirts from the kids department, my rackets bought on layaway or discount because they were former demo rackets. I modeled my game after Andre Agassi because he seemed to "color outside the lines" as well. One of his marketing taglines was "that oughta wake up the country club" & I lived by that mantra, often knocking off the country club kids.
I did go to college in a bigger city. Looking back, I should've bailed on college to pursue modeling, but playing tennis was important to me as well. After college, someone suggested I started modeling to pay off my student loans. I faced a lot of resistance at first. Here I was starting to model again at a time when most girls are calling it a career and most agencies are no longer interested in developing a "new face". Who are they to set the rules? I don't look my age. Why is age such a big deal? Forget that....I'll color outside the lines and make my own damn rules. I was lucky to find a photographer who felt the same way and was a mentor to me. He often took me to New York. When we couldn't get me into agencies for some reason or another, I'd get on the phone and fake being a manager or agent back in Ohio to get me an appointment with the agency (I had a nice list of aliases). I'd lie about my age (like anyone is asking for ID. as long as you look 18 and say you're 20, they don't care). seriously? fuck your fashion rules. If you don't want the 10-20% for helping me get the job, fine...eventually someone will. Just more money in my pocket.
It obviously works. I'm in Los Angeles, where I've been for over 10 years, working as a model & actor. (Oh yeah....I got a D in acting in college. my crime: turning Steel Magnolias into a comedic piece after the professor said "offer up your own interpretation" for the class final. Yeah, I colored outside the lines. Unfortunately, she seemed to like it as much as my kindergarten teacher enjoyed my little yellow circle at age 5).
I'm on my way to Ohio to walk in a fashion show as I write this. I'll probably be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) model strutting down the runway. There will be models half my age in the show. I continue to color outside the lines of what is the "norm". My life is probably more colorful as a result.
My name is Amy & I color outside the lines. Deal with it.