Up & Comer: Actress Natasha Younge
As with any showbiz pursuit, it’s important to make a name for yourself. For a budding actress in Los Angeles, a place crowded with budding actresses, the challenge is greater than usual. Your Industry Insider came across today’s profile subject while she was promoting her Younge Hollywood Blast, which was newly nominated for a Shorty Award. We were impressed with her initiative, her desire to contribute to the acting community, and her promotional go-get-it-ness. What could we do? We had to find out more…
Current situation: I am an actress and the editor of, “The Younge Hollywood Blast,” an online publication I created which was nominated for a 2012 Shorty Award. In addition to the paper, I write blogs and produce YouTube videos to help new actors and other working professional actors.
College & degree: I have a Masters Equivalent in Acting from the Drama Studio London and a BA in German (with a minor in Business Administration) from UC Berkeley. I also have a Recording Arts Certification from Los Medanos College.
Internship: I was the internship queen of my day. I was lucky enough to be accepted into a corporate internship program during college (INROADS) where I gained invaluable knowledge and interned in the Financial Services Industry. Even after I left college, I did a range of internships in the music industry. Interning for me was about gathering experience, and networking.
Life before your dream: My dream has taken a circuitous path. I always knew that wanted to work in the entertainment industry. As I’m sure many say, I heard a voice. No I really did! When I was nine, it clearly said I was going to be actor. But I didn’t see any way to make that happen. No one else in my family had such a vocational interest in the arts. Given my focus on my musical talent in my youth (I played classical clarinet), I thought I was going to work in the music industry after I graduated from college. I got into the music industry from the Business side, taking classes at night in audio engineering, working at a record label during the day and also interning for high profile organizations like NARAS (The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc.).
While I was at NARAS, I met my first vocal coach, and subsequently auditioned for and booked my first professional stage musical. I had zero training as a professional actor but something about the acting grabbed hold of me. So much so that, even though I was quickly ascending through the ranks, I quit my job at the record label for employment that would be more flexible.
First acting experience and/or one that got you hooked: The musical that I mentioned got my toes in the water. When I decided to make that big shift in my career focus, my parents became very concerned. They were worried that my college education was going to be for naught, and my employment prospects might not provide the job security of the corporate path I was educated for. My mother suggested I give myself one year to pursue the acting field full out – if nothing came of it, then I would promise to return to a more traditional line of work.
But things went extremely well. I began to get cast in local theater, and eventually commercials. It wasn’t until I performed in a stage production of “The Wiz” that I was completely hooked. Yes, I had wanted to be an actor. But something about the process of being involved in creating that performance, with the level of talent I was exposed to, lit a fire within me. I had to become a professionally trained actor and nothing would stop me from that. Two years after that production, I went off to gain my professional training in England, and have not looked back.
First paid acting job: The stage musical, “The Wiz,” at the Willows Theatre in the Bay Area of Northern California, where I grew up. I was paid a stipend under Equity Waiver. I don’t believe it was more than $100 total, if that, for rehearsal and performances. I really can’t say I remember the amount, because I didn’t do it for the money. Although it was nice to be paid, and I’m sure it helped with a portion of my expenses, the experience was worth far more to me.
Best day of your quest (the day you nailed the audition, the day you played a part on …, the day your one-woman show opened, etc.): The day I performed in a matinee performance with a traveling theater troupe in Northern England for some children. My role was Snow White, and the scene was solo improvised movement set to an original composition of beautiful ethereal music. My character’s movements were to represent Snow following a butterfly on its’ journey through the forest. There was nothing on the stage, save me, the song playing, and perhaps some generic scenery that was there throughout the show. As I followed the flight of this imaginary butterfly, the small children in the audience gasped and followed with me, my imagination and their own blending to create a moment that is too magical for words. It gave me chills as they pointed exactly where the “butterfly” was in the room, exclaiming about its beauty and colors. That was one of the best acting experiences I have had.
Worst day of your quest: We try not to remember these days, because they’re just no fun. There are several “worst days,” and all for different reasons, but one that hit me particularly hard was when I was applying to graduate schools for acting. It was my first year auditioning, and I had been preparing my pieces with the aid of a coach I paid with money I had earned working as a substitute teacher full-time.
I will not say which university, but it was one on the East Coast, and quite prestigious. I performed my pieces, mind you with no other acting training under my belt from college. The person from the college had me stop one piece not very far in and switch to another, then another, then another. I had prepared six monologues – a feat I can’t even comprehend right now. Then she rose her hand in the middle of the last and said simply, “I’ve seen enough. Thank you.” With that, I was dismissed from the room.
I felt deflated and totally devoid of worth in that moment, and probably for days and weeks after that. (You really try to forget these things.) But something about it stirred me up, too. A spark lit within me – a desire to never have to hear those words about my acting in such a dismissive way from anyone ever again. What did that take? I didn’t know, but I wanted it. So even though it felt awful at the time, I always thank that person for helping me to realize that acting REALLY was my path.
Best paid acting job so far: My best paid acting job on the fun scale was working on “General Hospital.” That job was a miracle; there are no other words to describe it. Being on that set allowed me to experience what I hadn’t up to that point: that hard work can (and should) pay off. It was sweet – and so much fun to know I could do whatever was asked of me by the director with confidence. An awesome experience.
Eureka moment (when you realized you did or did not want to do something or that you should do something differently, etc.): From day one, I had approached my career as an ultimatum – all or nothing. I pushed myself – and my health – to the limit in an attempt to make headway by myself in an industry where every success I’ve had was made through obsessive determination.
I have never been shy of hard work, and so, when I arrived in Los Angeles, I did what I had always done – everything possible! Student films, unpaid projects, auditioned for everything and everywhere. I was working myself to an early grave. I had to change that approach when I found that I needed urgent medical attention. I had no health insurance and had little prospect of high-paid acting work on the frontier to cover any medical expenses.
Once I decided to always put my health, my peace of mind, and my personal relationships with family and friends first, I received the first major breakthrough of my career: a recurring role on “General Hospital.” Amazing. That experience just reinforced that “hard work,” where what you sacrifice are the things dearest in life, is NEVER the right way. Although I am still prone to over-work, it’s a good reminder.
Brush with greatness (can be a celebrity encounter or just being exposed to someone being brilliant at what they do): I got the chance to train with the renowned Shakespeare expert, director Patrick Tucker, while at the Drama Studio London in England. He taught us how to work with Shakespearean text in a way that was so enthralling and active that, to this day, I feel a sense of unshakeable confidence about it. He was pure joy to work with, not to mention, a bonafide genius.
Words of wisdom to someone coming down the path behind you: Get to your art every day. No matter what that means for you, make time for your artist to express him/herself in whatever way you must. They told us these things at drama school, but when the day-to-day grind of making your way in the world as an unknown actor hits, it’s easy to forget. Sing, read text, vocalize, stretch, laugh, rest, dance, wiggle, paint, garden, walk your pet llama, take your bicycle for a spin, whatever it is – commit to it, for it is the very stuff that sustains us through every rejection, every closed door, every “I’ve seen enough, thank you.”
How will you know when you make it? Ha! That is great. I am such a workaholic I doubt I’ll realize when I’ve “made it.” But a good sign will be that I’ll be consistently getting paid to do what I enjoy doing anyway. And the creations that are just brewing now will be fully formed and in the world for my audiences to enjoy, for many years to come. People will be repeating my character’s lines back to me. People will be singing my songs. People will be moved by the stories I tell.
How will you celebrate when you make it (buy a new car, burn a bad review)? I’ll celebrate by rewarding those who have stood by me through the best and worst days, who have supported me and helped me nurture this dream when it didn’t make any sense to do so. So I’ll probably take my family on a very well-deserved vacation to a restful and beautiful location, and give them the full spa treatment and watch them enjoy themselves. And then surprise them with gifts whenever I want to. That would be reward enough for me.
Dream job (the one you will make happen when you have the power): Well, that’s all strategy now – can’t give all my chips away. But one job I would love is to create an animation series with my brother. We’ve been a creative team for as long as I can remember, and to make that happen would be like winning the lottery.
Photograph by Zaugh Photography (2012).
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