No Twirling Allowed


Anyone who has spent some time with me, knows two things. 1. I adore Justin Timberlake. 2. I twirl my hair. A lot. (up until 12 days ago)

I’ve twirled my hair my entire life. People always commented. I laughed it off as a habit. A silly addiction.  At least it wasn’t harmful.

I started to get annoyed. By the comments. And by the fact that I seriously couldn’t control it. I would be doing it without even realizing it. I’d try to stop and then I would find myself doing it again.

Two weeks ago I went on an audition and was sent video of the audition. I’ve had on-camera classes but to see an audition is another thing. It actually was fine, but I realized something. I had probably been twirling my hair in the lobby before (because it’s always worse when I’m nervous or worried) and I didn’t want to be that girl. That girl appears nervous or ditzy or just plain crazy.

And then I saw Jennifer Aniston on Ellen. There is no way the Goddess of Golden Locks and Good Hair twirls.

So I decided to stop. Really stop. No twirling allowed. I thought it would be harder than it was/is. Mostly because I thought it calmed me down. Turns out it was just a part of a vicious cycle.

I feel more present now. More aware and awake. Empowered. You’d think I quit smoking.

Hi … my name is Nissa and I haven’t twirled my hair in 12 days. And yes, I had the Rachel haircut in high school.


Butterfly in the Sky

I enjoy the show “Community” on NBC. I love that comedy icon Chevy Chase is a regular and how lucky is the rest of the cast to work with him? Last week’s episode was shot in a mockumentary style and guest starred LeVar Burton as Troy’s idol. Troy’s reaction to meeting his idol is pretty hilarious (you can watch the entire episode here).

This Tuesday is my last day of Improv 101 class and then we have the dreaded – I mean kickass – graduation performance. Class has definitely challenged me. Improv may look fun and even easy at times but easy it is not. There are so many things to think about when you are doing it. You need to establish your relationship. And place. And then why are you there? Unveil information (but don’t ask too many questions). Find the game and pattern. Then repeat it in a different way.

But I think it can be easy. It’s about using your imagination! And, sadly, that has been the hardest part for me. One exercise was to “paint” a place on stage. I had to mentally revert back to childhood. Back to the time when I was creating characters, creatures and places everyday. When I would actually look up at the limitless sky and daydream. When I watched Reading Rainbow. (Which is no longer on air. Do kids today even have imaginations?)

We have to grow up, get a job, pay the bills. Be responsible. But that doesn’t have to be so serious and boring. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve taken things too seriously over the past few years. I’ve actually been told to just have fun with my new job. So another risk for me to take? To have fun with it (and “it” could refer to many areas of my life). Grown-ups need to have fun too.

But as Troy’s idol would say … you don’t have to take my word for it.

There’s a First Time for Everything and Everyone

How can 2011 go bad when I spent the first day with Jay-Z and Oprah?

Damn OWN. I’m already hooked and it just launched.

As expected, I ignored the pile of dishes in the sink and stack of clothes in the hamper to do nothing yesterday. When Andrew wasn’t looking, I checked out Oprah’s new network, OWN. My favorite shows were “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes” and “Oprah Presents Master Class” featuring Jay-Z (hence the video post of him performing “Hard Knock Life”, his first commercially successful song).

The show with Jay-Z was inspiring. He went from dealing drugs in the projects to creating his own label because no one would sign him to being worth $450 million.

Oprah, also worth millions (and by millions I mean $2.4 billion), is ending her talk show after 25 years and just launched her own TV network. After everything she’s done, that’s still a first for her. Those producers have a lot of pressure too (Oprah is intimidating!). Each show they do is a first. They never know what will happen in interviews (even Oprah can’t control that) and they have to worry about getting good enough footage.

On Tuesday I will attend my first improv class with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. I’m also hoping to attend my first boxing session (I told you I was serious about it). So I’m not recording my first hit record or launching a TV network, but these two things are firsts for me. It’s comforting and encouraging to remember that megastars like Jay-Z and Oprah had to start somewhere and continue to experience things that are new even for them.

Maybe 2011 will also be the first year I do the dishes and laundry in a timely manner.

But one thing at a time.

Hot Spot and Tater Tots

T. J. Jagodowski is the actor on the left in one of my favorite Sonic TV spots above (Tot Rejection). He performs in TJ and Dave at iO Chicago. Ever since I lived two blocks from iO in Chicago, I have loved this theater. Friendly and talented people, good beer and cheap entertainment. When I saw that iO West was having a free improv class last night, I had to go.

My introduction to improv was at the Piven Theater Workshop last summer. I was nervous. I never wanted to do improv. Too much pressure to be funny. But my teacher, Bernard Beck, took us back to the beginning. Remember when we were kids and just played? No pressure to be anything but ourselves (or a superhero or a princess). No judgment.

So I started to actually like improv last summer, but my palms were still sweaty last night. We played a game called “Hot Spot” where, after given a word, a player jumps in the center and sings a line or two of a song that comes to mind until another player replaces him/her, and so on. The Hot Spot screams pressure to me, but the game teaches you to get out of your head, listen, commit and act quickly on a thought. Moments become funny because they are original and not because the players are trying to be funny.

I spent three hours in a different kind of Hot Spot today interviewing for two jobs. Sweaty palms were back, but who knew some improv training would be helpful in a conference room? I didn’t let the fears consume my head. I listened. And I committed to explaining why I should be hired.

I was my original self and hopefully I’ll get an offer.

Or maybe I’ll be rejected. Like the poor tater tot.

Stress Dreams

I know that Amy Poehler’s monologue from the 36th season premiere of SNL was scripted, but a part of me hopes that there was some truth to it. Was Amy Poehler actually nervous about hosting SNL? Did she really have stress dreams before shows? When I was working, every now and then I would have stress dreams about meetings or deadlines. I hated those. Made me wonder how I would ever succeed when not only was I worrying awake, I was worrying in my sleep. (Highlight to being unemployed: No stress dreams! Although I’m starting to stress about being unemployed, so I probably just jinxed myself).

I often forget that celebrities are humans. Actually, I often forget that any successful person I admire is human and therefore capable of making mistakes. Last Thursday, I went to a Step Up Women’s Network panel called “A View From the Top: The Future Wears Heels” (see event photos and read The Huffington Post’s recap here). The moderator was Willow Bay, senior editor, The Huffington Post, and panelists included Michelle Kydd Lee, executive director, CAA Foundation; Gina McLeod, principle, Deloitte Tax LLP. & West Coast president and national dean, WIN; Natalie Pace, author of You Vs. Wall Street, founder & CEO, Women’s Investment Network, LLC; and Laura Allison Wasser, attorney, Wasser, Cooperman & Carte. All incredibly successful women at the top of their careers. They had great insight and advice (e.g., take risks(!), think big, be self aware, be yourself), but what I found most refreshing was their honesty and humor. They were open about divorce, therapy, motherhood and mistakes, and joked while talking about it. I’m guessing if they were asked about stress dreams, they would’ve all had some funny stories.

So maybe Amy Poehler wasn’t actually nervous, but I’m sure she was at some point like the four newbies on the show. I’m afraid stress dreams are inevitable in my future, but maybe I can begin to think of them as sketches and laugh about it. And if the same guest stars from Amy’s dream appear in mine … even better.

Pink Lipstick

Me with pink lipstick. (Photo by Jessica Gisin. Makeup and Hair by Morganleigh Battle.)

We cut cable out of our budget (I’m happy to report that I’m doing better than expected without TV) so I had to catch up on Project Runway online yesterday. In Episode 8 (A Rough Day on the Runway), the designers were challenged to create an American sportswear look inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy. Andy refers to her as a “fashion risk taker” and takes his own risk by creating these (awful) cargo pants. I am definitely no fashion expert, but I know Jackie O would not have worn those pants today. He took a risk and failed.

After finally unpacking all of my clothes yesterday, I looked in my closet. Yawn. My fashion style: safe. Boring. I mean I don’t think I’m totally clueless. My clothes aren’t embarrassing. But I am not a risk taker in fashion either. What if I try something, fail and someone thinks I look completely ridiculous? But what if I try something and it’s fun and it boosts my confidence?

Before leaving for LA, my friend and photographer, Jessica Gisin (Fotografie Chicago), took some headshots for me. She wanted me to have on dark pink lipstick for some of the more fun shots. The outcome of the first few: me looking like I wanted to kill her. I was so uncomfortable and rigid. But after some coaching from Jess, I loosened up, let go and had fun with it. Turns out my favorite photos are of me in that pink lipstick.

I don’t normally wear lipstick, but now I might give it a try every once in awhile. And because new clothes are also not in our budget, I need to be creative. So I might actually venture into a thrift store to find something different (and I’m talking about a real thrift store; not a “thrift” store only celebrities can afford).

We’ll see how it goes. And we’ll see how many people laugh at me.