I’ve had a really fabulous few weeks.
All those blog posts in the last 2.5 years where I’ve said I’m tired of being a struggling artist, and how I sometimes think of giving up, or how I feel bad about my body, are just blips in the past.
Those thoughts are GONE! I’m in a place right now where I feel wonderful, and I’ve outlined a plan in the next month to keep me feeling even MORE fabulous!
I’m not really sure when I decided that I was going to be happy 100% of the time, but I believe it has a lot to do with the people with whom I’ve surrounded myself. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I feel toward the friends and family I have. I have a “New York Family” that is largely made up of artists and creative types who keep me motivated and positive. I also have my actual family, who I can call/text/FaceTime any time I need to. Not to mention the friends I have spread out over the country, whom I love and adore.
It is still tough to not know where my next paycheck is coming from, or know when I’m going to have my “break,” but once I let go of the idea that I needed to “be famous” by a certain age and just focused on my love of my craft, the stress melted away. I now feel like I can share my art with the world, and that will naturally lead me to success.
Also, success does not equal fame. Success to me, I’ve realized, is being able to do what I love for a living and be proud of the product I’m putting out in the world.
Here’s a touchy subject I’ve written about many times. I know that I have a beautiful body, but it took me a while to get there. Recently, I’ve decided that I want to optimize this beautiful body and make it everything it can be. This doesn’t mean I want to drastically change myself, I just never want to stop improving.
So what does this mean?
Well first of all (you all know how I roll) I had to do it in style. I received a Victoria’s Secret VSX sport bra and yoga pant complimentary of Influenster in the mail. I have had the same ratty sport bras on rotation forever so I was in much need of a “sport bra breakup” with these babies.
Here is Influenster gift
My new bra and pants accompanied me on my West Side Highway run, and I felt great afterward. Nothing like a good bra to keep the “sisters” happy.
I also popped over to the GIGANTIC VS store in Herald Square where I dealt with some delightful associates who helped me find my perfect sport bra. Anyone who knows me, will know that this bra absolutely suits me:
THEN, the ladies helped me order a new, hot pink track jacket that will be absolutely DIVINE for my breast cancer walk. Which BY THE WAY… my breast cancer walk is a month from today. If you would like to donate, I’m still pretty far from my goal of $1,800. It is a wonderful cause that I believe in very much.
And this fierce jacket accompanied me to Central Park the other day.
(PS: If you want the hookup with amazing free gifts in return for testing products and writing reviews, click on the badge on the right side of my blog that says “Citizen of Influenster Nation.” You can thank me later.)
Once I re-vamped my workout style, it was time to get down to my fitness plan. Last night I signed up for a personal trainer, who is going to give me a 5 week bootcamp 3 times a week along with a diet plan to optimize my weight loss. Now, when I use the word “diet” that simply just means what I’m putting into my body. I’m not doing some sort of “fad diet” or “quick fix.” This eating plan is something that I can carry with me for the rest of my life.
I’m a singer/actress/performer. My voice and my body are my instrument. Anyone who wants to condemn me, go ahead, but I see this as almost as if I’m taking my instrument to the repair shop. When I get my “instrument” back at the end of this 5 weeks, it will be fixed, tuned up, and shiny. I’m still the same girl I’ve always been, but now I’m getting a “tune up”
My soul feels at peace right now. A few months ago when I wrote that post about moving to Austin, and re-thinking my life plan, I was lonely, sad and confused. This summer has been a journey to repair my soul. I had to put a big bandage on my heart for a while, until I was able to carefully peel that bandage off and appreciate the scar that difficult part of my life left on me.
Every single “scar” and “scratch” I have on my soul is just a reminder that I need to keep pushing, working and remaining true to myself.
This month I’m going to focus on my artistry and let my music soothe my soul. I’m going to learn everything I have yet to find about my voice, my piano/guitar playing abilities, my sound, and my performance techniques. Even if this means using all my weekend time staying inside and writing music instead of going out.
It’s crunch time, and I’m ready for it all. I’m ready to have the life I’ve always dreamed about.
And guess what? Everything I’ve accomplished up until now is a result of my hard work.
Not too shabby, Shan Babe. Not too damn shabby!
This is the face of a happy girl
Love, Rock, and Roll
Social Media is a powerful tool. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc give the masses power to essentially communicate anything to not just their friends and family, but potentially the entire world.
Most of us enjoy these platforms as mindless entertainment, or to keep in touch with long-distance friends and family, or to secretly stalk all our ex-boyfriends/girlfriends.
But how about when this “mindless” platform actually gets used for some good?
For instance: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
I truly do not understand the negativity I’ve been seeing on Facebook especially about how this challenge is “narcissistic,” “pointless,” “idiotic.” These things are personally very offensive to me. I understand very much that not everyone who endures the challenge actually donates, but simply look at the ALS site (http://www.alsa.org/) and the numbers don’t lie. In fact, the association put out a press release today (August 20, 2014) stating that the ALS Association as received $31.5 MILLION in donations compared to just $1.9 million during the same period last year (July 29, 2013 – August 20, 2013).
So PLEASE, if you have negative thoughts about the Ice Bucket Challenge, respectfully keep them to yourself. OR BETTER YET, donate to your favorite charity! There are SO many people struggling with cancer, and diabetes, lupus, heart disease, MS, etc. Not to mention people who don’t have access to food or clean water.
So while you’re posting on Facebook about the last brownie you ate, or putting up another video of a cute cat (both of which, I’m guilty of… so no hate), maybe think about how much your life (and someone else’s) would get better if you donated your money or (if you don’t have the funds) your time. NEVER underestimate the importance of volunteering or simply spreading awareness.
While we’re on the topic of awareness, I also want to address the people who think the attention ALS is getting, isn’t actually doing anything to further the treatment of the disease. The money to the association is definitely one argument, but how about that young scientist or doctor who wants to start his/her research on a cure? Or how about the billionaire investor that funds this person? Can you honestly tell me that MORE people knowing about this horrible disease is a bad thing??
My personal favorite cause, which to donate has always been breast cancer, since my mother, Rosemary Allen, passed away of stage 4 in 2011. AWARENESS and making sure women (and men) regularly get checked for lumps CAN SAVE LIVES. I repeat, AWARENESS and EARLY DETECTION can save LIVES.
I know this may not be the same with ALS, as there is no cure, but the buzz we as a population are creating is our scream for treatment. It’s a scream for a cure!
My cousin was diagnosed with ALS last year, and I’m very committed to spreading the education, and furthering the scientific research to find treatment and a cure. You can read her story and donate here (https://www.chipinforchris.com/). I know Christine, for one, has been overwhelmed with the amount of support she has received, as she wrote a very touching Facebook post thanking friends and family and all those who participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. She said ALS is something that is “usually discussed in hushed voices because it’s so scary.” She also thanked everyone for keeping her laughing and happy.
So think about THAT next time you post some dumb, self-absorbed post about how this challenge does “nothing,” and is “pointless” and “idiotic.” Go back to your posts about what you made for dinner, and leave the rest of us to spread the LOVE AND HOPE!
I have yet to be nominated for the Ice Bucket Challenge, but I’ve decided that if I’m nominated, not only will I donate to ALS, but I’ll also sign up for the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure in NYC Sept. 7th, in addition to my Avon Breast Cancer Walk I’m doing in October.
Now, all I ask is that everyone who reads this post, PLEASE go out and do one of the following: (1. Donate to ALS (if you can) (2. Spread awareness about ALS through the Ice Bucket Challenge if you do not have the funds to donate (3. Donate, volunteer or spread awareness for your favorite cause (4. Tell those people who are in need of some love, that you love them
So here are some websites to check out!
ALS Association: http://www.alsa.org/
Chip in for Chris (My cousin, who is courageously battling ALS): https://www.chipinforchris.com/
My Avon Walk Site: bit.ly/shannonavonwalk
Now make like Taylor Swift and SHAKE IT OFF!
Also… watching Dave Grohl re-enact Carrie as he performed the Ice Bucket Challenge, was THOROUGHLY amusing…
OK. I’ve been a little scared to officially write about this, but after having an incredibly creative few weeks, I’m ready.
I’m writing a one-woman show.
Well… I should clarify: between my original music, blogs, journals, and just experiencing life in New York City, the show has basically written itself.
Today I sat down and made a rough outline of the show, and I honestly surprised myself with the amount of material I had at my fingertips. The outline, as it stands right now, actually might be TOO much material for one show. And that’s never a bad thing.
I’ve already found my musical director, the INCREDIBLY talented Freddie Atlas (Frederic Casimir) and we are going to have a meeting this weekend about regarding the show.
The tentative title of the show will be Shannon Allen: Love, Lust and Libations. It will follow my story of the past five years starting out in Boston, fall 2009 and ending present day. It will be a story with love, drama, struggle, and of course, much laughter. My goal is to perform the show sometime, probably in late September, and use the proceeds to my breast cancer walk in October.
If you want to see my musical story of the last five years, you can watch this video below that I compiled a few days ago.
Now, having told you my grandiose plans, here’s where I need your help.
1. I need to figure out if there is actually any interest in this??? Would people be willing to pay a $10-$20 dollar cover for this (also keeping in mind where the proceeds go)? Does anyone actually care? If there is no demand for this show, I figure the point is probably moot, but since I received such amazing feedback from my cabaret performances, I figured why not do an entire show!
2. I need a venue. I’m looking for somewhere in New York (preferably Manhattan, but I’m flexible) that has a stage (or makeshift stage), seating, some sort of lights (doesn’t have to be a crazy lighting rig) and a piano. I know there are so many performance spaces to rent in this city, ESPECIALLY in Midtown, in my hood, but I need recommendations from people. I’m looking to spend money if I must, but I don’t have a lot of it. I would also prefer a place that is BYOB, as I know a lot of these black-box-esque spaces are.
3. I need a few of “producers.” For me, the term producers more or less just means going to a rehearsal with my musical director and I, and giving feedback that will make the show better.
4. I need some performers. Most of the show is exactly what I stated… one woman. However, there is a number where I will need some gay men (for an original song called All my Friends Are Gay).
5. Good vibes, and people to spread the word. If the first show goes well and I raise a lot of money for my cause, I will consider doing another show later in the year, or other performances like this.
I want to especially thank my friend Chadd for really inspiring me to do research on this kind of show, and also for all the wonderful support I received from Cranky Cabaret, where I got my original epiphany to write this show!!!
I love you all and please give me your feedback, positive OR negative.
Also, if you want to catch my Cranky Cabaret performances, start with this one and the other ones are on my youtube page. :)
It’s been about five years since I put together my first band in Boston in the fall of 2009.
Five years that I’ve been cultivating my skills and really focusing on a life of performance.
There have been so many ups and downs, twist and turns, hills and valleys.
I could sit here an write out a narrative about these past five years; the band members, the makeups, the breakups, the rehearsals, the songwriting sessions, the gigs, the friendships, the bonds we formed like family. But I feel as though this story is better heard rather than read.
So here it is, my story. The Evolution of Shannon Allen. The best of the endless footage I have of live gigs and performances.
A few notes before you watch this:
1. The Mojo Filters were my main band throughout the first half of this video. The players fluctuated slightly a few times, but mostly they were the boys who became like family in Boston. We broke up in 2011 for personal reasons, and also because I was moving to New York, but I will always look back fondly on my times with my Mojo boys.
2. You’ll notice as the video progresses that I start showing more original music, because that’s what I eventually started focusing on. Sadly, I don’t have the footage from my album release show, or my last few gigs in Boston.
3. Having said that, there were SO many performance that were left out of this video, not only for time, but because I didn’t record the gig, or the footage is in someone else’s possession, and I don’t have access to it. (2013, for example, only has a few videos because I only recorded one gig on my digital camera and I have no footage of my off-broadway show that consumed my weekends and performance time)
4. My look fluctuates, as does my weight throughout the years. A lot happened to me in five years. Go ahead and judge me. No one is perfect. The one thing that is constant in these videos is my strong ability to lead a band and rock vocals.
5. I’m considering making another video that has “home videos” of me writing songs, singing, performing and being silly. I wanted to put them in this video, but it would have just been TOO long.
Rock and Roll
At first I almost titled this piece: Rules for Being a Tourist in a Big City. However, I realized that there are, in fact, many people who live in big cities who don’t know the basic rules of functioning in a city, or even functioning as a human.
I recently took a weekend trip to Boston, where I lived for 3 years, and just like New York, I saw the same stupidity from tourists and locals alike.
So, in order to do my duty as a citizen of the World, I present you,
Shan Babe’s Rules for Functioning in a Big City.
1. Walking on Sidewalks.
General Rules: Walk on the right, pass on the left. Walk fast or risk being run over. Keep your bike off the sidewalk.
Yes, sidewalks get crowded, and sometimes you just have to weave in and out, (a bit like Frogger) but just try to at least follow of the basic principles of human decency and be mindful when people are trying to pass.
Tourists: I know that where you’re from, you probably don’t walk to get from point A to point B very often, but just imagine if I were in a car in your city, moving 15 mph in a 65. Would you be mad? Most likely, yes. So if you want to walk slow in the big city, you better wear knee pads.
DON’T, for the love of CHRIST, stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture, answer a phone call, search for your phone/keys/etc. If you bump into a friend, (or worse, a guy/gal you used to hook up with) and would like to catch up with them, kindly step aside into the nearest apartment stoop, minding the fresh urine from the homeless man who just peed.
Please don’t walk like a fucking idiot with your stupid friends 3, 4 or 5 people wide. This doesn’t make you look cool, it just annoys the shit out of everyone. This is a big city, people have places to be. Be mindful.
And while we’re on that topic… GET THE FUCK OFF YOUR CELL PHONE IF YOU CAN’T WALK AND TEXT/TALK/SEARCH SOCIAL MEDIA while still using basic brain function.
I’m a big fan of bikes! (Yay Mother Earth!) But get your fucking Citi Bike off the sidewalk. There are bike lanes for guess what??? BIKES! There is also the street where bikes are actually considered a vehicle. (Traffic laws DO apply to bikes as well, even though most cyclist think they are exempt). If you are too afraid of the bike lanes or the street, go to Central Park and ride your bike.
Also, the yellow ones don’t stop, so if you aren’t paying attention and get hit by a taxi… your fault. Sorry.
2. Accessing Public Transportation.
General Rules: Have your metro card/T-Pass/whatever they call it in other cities, OUT before you stand in front of the turnstile like a fucking dick. Let people off the train before you enter.
Don’t be afraid to ask a local for help finding a place/navigating the subway. Yes, you run the risk of that person being a bitch, but I’m happy to give a friendly tourist the help they need if it means one less stupid person clogging up the public transpo system.
If you don’t have your transportation card out when you reach the turnstile, kindly step out of the way. If you would like to piss off a New Yorker, you will prevent them from catching their train. I don’t wish that wrath on anyone.
If you do happen to reach your scheduled train on time, it is IMPERATIVE that you let the people off the train before you enter. Basic logic will tell you that the train cannot, indeed, depart until all the people are off, so elbowing your way onto the train while people are trying to get off only slows the process… and again, makes you look like a dick.
3. While on Public Transportation.
General Rules: Seats are for sitting, not for your piles of shit. Give up seats to people who need them. Move into the center of the train. Don’t be a pole-leaner. CONTROL YOUR FUCKING CHILDREN.
In an empty train, it is acceptable to put your purse, grocery bag, shopping bag on the seat next to you. I do it sometimes. However, once the train starts populating, you are NOT so special that you can simply hold this seat for your imaginary friend, Fred, or whatever your imaginary friend’s name is. Move your shit.
If an elderly person, pregnant lady, person with crutches enters the train, get your ass up and offer them your seat. In New York, some folks of these demographic will refuse, (being the tough New Yorkers they are,) but it is always appropriate to ask. You have two legs, good health, and are capable of standing. Yeah, you worked a long day at work, but so did everyone else. This is a big fucking city, most of us are overworked and under-slept.
Staying close to a door on the train is often prime real estate, especially when you’re trying to get off in a few stops. That being said, if the train gets crowded, scoot your ass over. Or, if you can allow enough space to squeeze by without assaulting your neighbor, please get the fuck out of the way.
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY DO NOT LEAN ON THE POLE. If I have to busy out my balancing skills to not fall over on a train because you are leaning on the length of the pole, I’m going to go bananas.
Next, we have the children of public transportation. Crying babies get a pass… they are babies, and although incredibly annoying, cannot help their annoyingness. Your toddler and kids though? They aren’t cute. Their iPad that is blasting their video game with no headphones? Not cute. Them treating the train like a jungle gym? Not cute. Them blowing snot rockets and spitballs across the train? Not cute.
YOUR KIDS ARE NOT CUTE.
4. Personal Hygiene
General Rules: Deodorant, deodorant, deodorant. Hand sanitizer is a must. Crop dust in less concentrated areas.
We all stink. We all fart. We all poop.
In a big city, everyone is closer to one another because the population is exponentially condensed into a confined space: the subway, the bus, the sidewalk, the “hottest” nightclub where everyone is packed in like sardines.
Be courteous for us, and shower. Bathing is essential for living in a city. I understand some of us may be smellier than others, but I tend to carry around deodorant, a toothbrush, mouthwash, gum and floss with me in order to keep myself smelling up to standard. I realize most of us may not be THAT particular, but I see it as me doing my duty to society by being one less smelly New Yorker.
Also, be mindful that millions of people are touching that subway pole, that turnstile, that bathroom door, etc, etc every day. Don’t cough or sneeze and then wipe your hand on public property. There is a reason I contracted the swine flu a year ago, and it’s because there are fucking nasty people who inhabit this city. Do yourself a favor and go to Duane Reade, CVS, Walgreens or your closest neighborhood bodega and buy some .99 cent hand sanitizer. The world will thank you for it.
And just as a courtesy, if you have to fart, just look behind you. There is nothing worse than being downwind of a silent-but-deadly bomb. Research says that farts release fecal particles into the air, so think about how you would feel if a piece of shit hit you in the face.
Speaking of poop…
5. Public Bathrooms
General Rules: Wipe up your piss. Girls, don’t get gross with your lady business. Smelly poop can sometimes not be avoided.
There is no excuse for piss on a toilet seat that everyone uses. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like to sit my ass cheeks on a public toilet seat. I’m well-versed in the art of the “squat and pee.” There is, however, a little rhyme all of us should remember: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie.”
Simple. Or, just lay down TP on the seat an then sit your ass down. A Myth Busters episode took cultures of toilet seats and said they are often much cleaner than people assume. Also, fun fact: the first stall in a series of stalls typically has the least amount of germs since it often gets overlooked.
Now… next up: ladies. Once a month we have to endure Aunt Flo and all her glory. Most of you have been experiencing this every month over the course of many years. WHY, THEN, is it so impossible for you to not be the GROSSEST HUMAN ON THE PLANET, and clean up after yourself???
Get it together.
The last uncomfortable topic I will talk about is poop. Sometimes it’s unavoidable in a public place. If you find yourself in public, and know you need to poop, try these tips. Use the stall furthest away from the closest human. Use the restroom in the basement of the facility or the top floor; those are usually less condensed. If you find yourself in the awkward position of being in a single stall with a line outside the door, simply flush a few times, and apologize to the next person in line… or just blame it on the previous occupant…
Sometimes shit happens… literally…
This one deserves it’s own category because it INFURIATES me when people don’t know the basic rules of the escalator.
IF YOU WANT TO STAND, STAY ON THE RIGHT.
Do NOT stand side-by-side with your stupid friend and clog up the whole damn escalator when there are people trying to pass on the left.
It is so simple, yet there is always that ONE MOTHERFUCKER who ruins it for everyone.
7. Eating Out
General Rules: ALWAYS TIP. Large parties: be prepared to split the bill or just bring cash. Don’t be a dick.
This one is for all my friends in the service industry.
Some people may disagree with me here, but there really is not ever a reason not to tip. Especially in a big city where wages are usually meager enough, and some people live SOLELY on tips. Unless that server or bartender came to your home and slaughtered your first born, cut off your sexual organs, or physically assaulted you, you should ALWAYS tip.
Are there situations where I’ve dealt with some real cunts as servers/bartenders? Sure. Have I ever given someone a crappy tip for being a cunt? Sure. Have I ever not tipped? No. My hope is that karma gets the best of these people, and in the city, it’s likely they won’t last long anyway if this is how they treat their customers. Also… YOU might be the cunt, and the attitude you get from them might be deserved.
This is especially true with large parties. Large parties are fucking annoying. If you are going to go somewhere and have a large fucking party, discuss the details ahead of time. Is everyone expected to split the bill evenly? Is everyone bringing cash? Is the server okay with splitting checks? How about the person who has one beer and an appetizer? Is there a person designated to work out the bill at the end of the night? (In my case it was always my friend Christina, she was a MASTER of working out the check).
If you find yourself in a large party, DO NOT assume that because you want to order fucking mozzarella sticks and chips and guac and potato skins, that everyone else wants to eat them… OR PAY FOR THEM. I’ve been in so many situations where we’re all supposed to “split the appetizers” when all I had was a small salad and a glass of the cheapest wine. I’m broke as a fucking joke. Don’t assume everyone has money to throw at your fucking potato skins.
And don’t be a dick. If you can’t afford this birthday party, be honest. I’ve gone to dinners where I’ve let the birthday boy know that I would be eating at home and had one drink that I paid for in CASH. If you know that you need to bring cash, go to an ATM. We’ve all been in these situations, and they are THE WORST.
8. Going Out
General Rules: Have your ID out when you get to the bar/club. Don’t be an idiot and order a crazy complicated drink at a dive bar. Don’t get white-girl wasted. Spilling drinks is not cute.
Just like having your metro card ready when you enter the subway, have your ID out when you go somewhere. I want to drink, and if some dumb bitch is standing in front of me is giggling while she tries to search through the bottomless pit that is her purse for her ID, I’m going to get aggravated.
Don’t get between me and my whiskey.
Again, I have a lot of friends who are bartenders. They tell me what annoys them the most. Girls who come into dive bars/sports bars and ask for mojitos or cosmos or some other complicated drink that you usually get at a cocktail bar. If you’re at someplace in Midtown Manhattan that has some kind of incredibly Irish-sounding name, chances are you’re going to annoy the piss out of the bartender when they have to make you some stupid fucking sugary drink, when you should have just ordered a beer or a well drink.
Don’t get white-girl wasted… or try not to. This one is more of a guideline… not law.
However, if you choose to get white-girl wasted, pull yourself together. None of this spilling drinks bullshit or taking off your shoes. Remember our lesson on personal hygiene??
General Rule: Different strokes for different folks
Just because you don’t understand a lifestyle, does not mean it’s wrong. As long as no one is hurting you, anyone else, or infringing on your rights as an american, I see no reason why we all can’t co-exist. Big cities tend to be filled with all sorts of weird birds.
Especially if you’re a tourist, or a non-native, you cannot be judgmental when you come into OUR city. Keep your racist/sexist/homophobic/naivety to yourself. You are a visitor. I don’t go to the Bible Belt and start shouting about how I’m an atheist. Don’t come to Hell’s Kitchen and run around screaming about how you hate gays.
Tolerance is a beautiful thing.
10. BE SMART
The city is a beautiful place, but you share the city with millions of people. BE MINDFUL. The universe does not revolve around you and your smart phone. BE ALERT.
Also, remember your manners. Remember to be kind. Try to be patient with those who deserve your patience. If someone is being an idiot, and you absolutely MUST call them out, try not to be the bitchiest version of yourself. Stand up for intolerance. Practice basic principles or cleanliness and hygiene. Don’t hold up the line… whatever line that may be.
No matter what city you live in, be it New York City, Boston, Chicago, LA, Rome, Paris, Tokyo or Beijing, remember that there are different cultures and ways of operating. If you are visiting, figure these things out BEFORE you travel. The natives will thank you for it.
Now go! Get out there! Frolic wild and free through the streets! You now have the basic principles for functioning as a human!
Goodnight New York City, Goodnight moon
A New Yorker,
Well hello again!
So I spent some time in hibernation. Partially when I was home in Cleveland, and then when I came back to New York. This was all part of the plan to “figure my life out.”
Unfortunately, I still don’t have all the answers, but I have come to several realizations.
Being alone for long stretches of time is not really my “thing.” I’m a social butterfly; I thrive on human contact and emotion. However, I needed time to clear my head of what everyone else’s opinions were of me, and figure out what my own opinions of myself are.
So here are my thoughts.
1. Being alone sucks at first, but then it gives one clarity
I did NOT like my first few days alone. I felt depressed and low. I wanted to sleep a lot and felt lazy. After about day two, I decided enough was enough.
I started taking walks, connecting with myself. I went to bookstores and coffee shops. I went to parks and people watched. I cleaned my room and purged unnecessary clutter. I worked out and appreciated all the bone and muscle and sinew that made up my body. I cooked myself meals and put leftovers in the fridge for later. I submitted for castings that I never normally would have deemed myself worthy of submitting. I auditioned for a show where I knew I wasn’t the best fit (it was a very technical dance audition), didn’t get a callback, but still felt like I rocked it out. I went to an open mic alone, and soaked up all the unknown talent in the room. I prepped for singing auditions. I re-did my resume (both professional and performance). I watched World Cup soccer with strangers. I wrote a few more chapters of my book. I worked on a new demo. I wrote music. I went to an art exhibit called The Strangers Project and anonymously shared my story on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper for this artists collection.
Over this time, I cried a little bit, but I also smiled a lot. I got headaches from thinking too much, but I also started to feel my old feelings of self worth. Which brings me to my next thought…
2. I am worth a lot more than I give myself credit
The great thing about being alone, is you can completely separate your own thoughts from the thoughts of others, because there is no one else around you but yourself.
I started to realize that most of the negative thoughts that I had about myself, (ie my talent as an actress, my talent as a singer, my weight, my looks, my personality) were not coming from me. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure I like everything about myself at the moment. I was letting people on the outside project their insecurities on to me.
And the moment I was truly aware of how low my self esteem had gotten over the last 6 months, was when I was lucky enough to work with a high-profile actor in a featured roll and no one even thought twice about the fact that I wasn’t a size 0. No one fucking cared. Wanna know why? Because I’m fucking great at what I do. I have a great fucking attitude. And because I’m extremely fucking talented.
3. I’m not apologizing for being talented anymore
We are taught growing up, especially if you happen to be female, to be modest and humble about your strengths. I agree with this to a certain point. I don’t believe we should all walk around thinking we’re better than anyone else, because in the end, we all end up in the ground. However, I’m not going to allow myself to undermine my talent anymore.
I remember after Ro died and I was just getting back to Berklee. I saw a music business job pop up in my Berklee email about a talent buyer position. It was asking for people with “experience” of which I had very little in the actual business. But you know what? I was so confident in my ability to do that job that I went in and impressed the HELL out of my future boss. Did I have the credentials some of these students had? Absolutely not. But then, not only did I get that job, but I ended up working for a woman who became a mentor, a friend, a second mother to me. She told me later after I’d gotten the job, that it was clear from the moment I walked into that interview that I was qualified, even if I didn’t have all the technical “qualifications.”
For a while out here in New York, I was paralyzed with the fear of going to auditions or submitting for things I didn’t think I was “right for, or “skinny enough” for, or “talented enough” for. Fuck that.
I’m not saying this to try to brag. I’m saying this because I don’t believe it enough of myself.
Last week I went to an audition for Rock of Ages for their open dance call for a cruise line. When they called my group of about 20 people into the room, I could tell everyone was sizing each other up. Not me. I was calm, confident, only concerned with myself. I tuned everyone else out, and focused solely on my performance. When the choreographer taught the dance, I knew it was a bit of a stretch for me since it involved a lot of technique that I simply do not have. I’m a great hip hop dancer, and I pick up choreography quickly, but there were elements like turns and kicks that I was only able to display with mediocrity. When it was my turn to dance in front of the casting director, I threw them my fiercest face, hit every single count with raw energy, and had passion shooting out from my fingertips all the way to my toes. I didn’t get the callback, but I had people come up to me afterward and commend me on standing out in the crowd. I was a little sad about not getting to sing for them, but there was nothing in that audition I could have done better. I left everything on the dance floor, and that was that. Maybe next time they’ll see me in a different light and maybe they won’t. It’s out of my hands, so why stress?
4. Sometimes seemingly serendipitous events occur, but they just turn out to be fruits of my labor.
I got some great news the other day, and had an amazing opportunity thrown my way. (I apologize that I can’t really discuss specifics. The industry and productions deserve all the respect and privacy they ask for, so please respect my vagueness.) When I got the call, I couldn’t believe that I had been chosen, and thought maybe this was a “sign” that I’m on the right path to where I want to be.
While I do believe this event occurred at precisely the right time, this wasn’t serendipity. No, this was my hard work paying off. Had I just sat in my room beside myself, none of this would have happened. I put myself out into this strange world that we call the entertainment industry, and someone finally said, “Yes, Shannon. We believe in you. You are our choice.”
I get told, “no” a lot. It takes a strong stomach to walk away from those “nos” and keep searching for that one “yes.”
AND BOY DID IT FEEL FUCKING GREAT TO GET THAT “YES!”
To be incredibly honest, today was the first day where I thought to myself, “Hey Shan, you might actually be able to make a career out of this,” and actually mean it. Sure it has always been my hope and my dream to sing/act/perform for a living, but I seldom every call it more than just that: a dream.
This is not a dream for me anymore. This is my life, my livelihood. Today when I walked off set, I was so sad that my day was ending, even though I was dehydrated, sweaty and tired from waking up at the crack of dawn. I live and breathe to be in front of an audience. I can’t even go to a concert, a movie, a play without an intense anxiety and want to be up there. I don’t want to be an observer of the arts, I want to be the art. I want to share my talent.
Having said all this, I have not gotten any of these opportunities by knowing someone famous, or having a lot of money, or being the skinniest/prettiest girl at the casting. I’m the underdog. I’m the loud/quirky girl with big hips and a bigger personality. I got down on my knees, dug in the dirt, planted my seed, and slowly watched it grow. I’ve clawed myself to the top of a mountain where I’ve been bruised, cut, knocked down, even knocked out for a while. I’m not at the top of the mountain, but maybe I’ve reached a small peak.
5. Positive thinking is quite the powerful tool
I let my life be controlled by the negative. My thinking was always, “How long will I be able to do this?” or “Will I ever ‘make it?'” or “Will I ever be skinny or beautiful or perfect enough?” When it should have been, “How can I make sure I will be able to do this for the rest of my life?” or “What is my definition of ‘making it’ that will make me happy and fulfilled?” or “What is unique about me, my personality and my looks that no one else has?”
Every day since I’ve come home from Cleveland, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and told myself one thing that I like about myself both physically and spiritually. For example, one of the first few days, I wasn’t feeling so hot about my body, but I looked at myself and told “mirror Shan” that I had nice eyebrows and I have the ability to make people laugh. I started small, and pretty soon, every time I caught myself in the mirror, I was screaming inside with happiness about the person I was looking at.
Sure, there were points where I went a few steps backward and stood in the mirror and pinched at my thighs and wondered why I was still single after 2 1/2 years of not dating, but who cares? My life is pretty damn great with my big thighs and no boyfriend to distract me.
6. There are plenty of people who still want to see you fail, but more people want you to succeed
Ro used to always tell me, “Misery loves company.” She was right. If a person is unhappy with themselves, they will project that unhappiness and those insecurities on to you. Plain and simple. Fuck, I’ve been guilty of it. I’ve probably unintentionally projected my negative feelings onto others, and for that I’m sorry.
I hate to quote Mean Girls right now… Awww who am I kidding? I would LOVE to quote mean girls right now: “Calling someone fat won’t make you any skinner. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. Ruining someone’s life won’t make yours any better. The only thing that you can do in life is solve the problem that’s in front of you.”
And with that:
7. THE LIMIT DOES NOT EXIST
I kept putting caps on my dreams because I thought only if I were X, Y or Z that I would be able to “make it.” There is no limit on talent. There is no cap on how many people can function in this industry. There is no rule that says you must “be this tall to ride the entertainment industry ride.” Of course there are shallow, political and shady things that go on, but I don’t need to be a part of them to survive. I’ll be over here, in my hippie clothes, spiky boots, and red lipstick against my pale face, watching everyone else crash and burn, while I’m hunkered down, focused in my bomb shelter.
Thank you Cady Heron! (or shall I say Tina Fey for writing this brilliant piece of pop culture)
Shan Babe ***DROPPING 1,000 MICS*** OUT!
Now THIS is a happy girl!
PS! I am VERY MUCH still raising money for my breast cancer walk in October. Click here to spread the love… bit.ly/shannonavonwalk
I just wanted to give everyone a quick update, since it seems many of my friends and family are concerned about me.
I’ve always been a fighter. This is nothing new.
However, my last few posts have given off a rather defeatist, sad attitude.
I recently went home to Cleveland to recharge. Since I’ve returned to New York, I’ve been a bit silent, and my friends have expressed their concern.
What I want to reiterate to everyone, is that I’m in a tough spot, and right now the best thing for me is hunker down and focus. My days since I’ve been back have solely been devoted to applying for castings, setting up auditions, attending fittings, working background, singing, going to open mics, writing and really reflecting on what my hopes for the future are.
I know that many of you think I’m just pulling away, but I’m not. I’m not trying to be mean. I’m not trying to ignore you. I’m not sitting at home and crying my eyes out, wishing my life would get better.
I’m just focused.
I understand that everyone is just trying to help, but I’ve realized that when I have 100 different opinions and suggestions thrown in my face, my brain just gets confused and shuts down completely.
One of the problems with my personality is my tendency to reach out to others to tell me what to do when I get myself in a rut. Most of my friends have unfortunately been at the other end of these conversations: calming me down, giving me advice and telling me that everything will be okay. But the problem with these conversations is I never really end up considering what I want. I always try to make a logical decision, and take what I feel like the “best” or “right” advice is from friends.
This is why I haven’t been posting to Facebook, texting, or calling much within the last few weeks. I’m trying to figure out what I want. I’m trying to figure out what will actually make me happy. I’m trying to take everyone else out of the equation because once I consider the fact that someone else wants me to do something, my brain automatically goes into “pleasing mode” and I ignore my basic needs in order to appease another person.
I’m sure I’ll be back to my old self soon, but in the meantime, just know that I’m not trying to become a recluse or pull away.
I also need everyone to respect that I don’t have the answers to anything. I don’t know anything about anything. I have no answers about how to “make it,” how to pursue a “dream,” or how to be “successful.” When people approach me as an expert in the struggle of how to be a creative in New York, it stresses me out beyond belief. I’ll start giving out advice once I reach some level of success. Until then, “all I know is that I don’t know nothing.”
I’m also broke. So if I decline an invite to your show, birthday, hangout, bar night, it is simply because I cannot afford the social liberties of New York at the moment. However, if you want to come to my place and watch Netflix with me or walk around one of the city’s many parks, I would gladly welcome that. As long as we don’t have to talk about my life or career.
So cheers to being young. Cheers to being confused. Cheers to being broke. Cheers to being a struggling artist. Cheers to allowing oneself to be young, sad, confused, broke and struggling.
Shannon Rose Allen
PS: I know that some people will want to respond to this post with comments like, “Keep working hard! You will succeed! Never give up on your dream!” etc, etc. I appreciate the positive encouragement, but I am not inviting lectures on the importance of following my dream. I KNOW you all believe in me, but until you are a broke, unemployed, struggling singer/actress, please hold off on the lectures. I’ve gotten my fair share.