What’s in a Name?

Have you gone through name changes in your career?

Have you agonized on what to call yourself as an Artist,
your band
your show
your brand
your pen name?

We look at some of the most iconic artists who had those BIG names that just stand out, and wonder,
How did they do it?
Was it the NAME that brought them so much fame?

Madonna
Woody Allen
George Orwell
Lady Gaga

We get so much advice around our NAME, and sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice to just ASK our audience…
does this matter?

Do you ever wonder if your own name is enough?
What’s in a Name anyway and how does that really play into growing your audience?

I’m asking because today is a big day…I’m actually at the Motor Vehicle office right now as you are reading this doing something I didn’t think I would EVER do again….and I wanted you to be one of the first to know.

I’m changing my name.

 

I remember when I got engaged the first time.  I was 21 and had stars in my eyes.  I was in my second to last year in college and preparing to move to the city and pursue my career full time as a professional performer.

I had grown up with Peterman as my last name, and had never really felt much connection to it.  Especially as an actress, I didn’t think it had that “ring” to it.

My soon to be married name?  That had flair!

Nikól Wolf.

It sounded exciting, a little dangerous, and edgy.  Nikól Peterman was going to become Nikól Wolf and I couldn’t wait to go into my first audition with this name.

I got new headshots, created my resume and moved to New York City, booking work so much I was turning it down.  This new name was GREAT!

 

Until it wasn’t….I started to really struggle with so many aspects of the industry.  The rejection was starting to wear on me, feeling like I had to have it all together all the time, constantly comparing myself to other dancers….and then even with my husband, who was also an actor.

He was a natural comedian, and even though I usually got cast as the funny character…I doubted myself.  My husband was the funny one, not me.  I had taken his name….this wasn’t mine.

I even created a personal email address that was “the other Wolf”…..I really wasn’t owning it.

I remember a teacher telling me,
when you walk in the room with your red hair and bright voice, people expect you to be funny!

I knew he was right….and it terrified me…because I didn’t think I was. I was starting to put up a mask, saying everything was ok, when it really wasn’t.  I started to panic.

And then the man who I changed my name for left me.

The name disgusted me….
It felt like something dirty I wanted desperately to wash off.  I had to wait for nine months before my name would officially change back to my maiden name, and in the meantime, I went by my middle name, changing my social media to:
Nikól Bardol

When the divorce was legal, I started the very long and arduous process of changing my name…it took YEARS.  For months, I would walk around with my divorce papers in my bag because everyone seemed to need to have them faxed, scanned, or look at to change my name.

With all the hassle, I swore I would never change it again.

And then something magical happened, I started to really get to know who Nikól Peterman was….who she had been, and who she wanted to be.

Out of the fog of extreme loss and pain, I started auditioning again, with headshots and a resume that had the name I had for the first 22 years of my life.

And I found out something radical….
She was funny
No, I mean she was REALLY funny!
And she was strong, quick, powerful.
She actually didn’t have to compare herself to anyone, because she was now clear what made her stand out.

And it had nothing to do with her name. It actually had to do with something far deeper….something that was constant no matter what name she had…..

I remember getting my new drivers license with Nikól Peterman on it, and being so taken by the wide smile of peace on my face.  I showed it to my therapist who asked to see my license picture that had been taken just months before my divorce.  She looked at the two pictures and said,
Wow, there’s a big difference.  The old picture you look so foggy. In this new one I can actually SEE you.

Oh.

Yes……in my new picture I was clear.  My eyes were bright staring straight into the lens with confidence.  Why?

Because I was no longer afraid to be seen….all of me.  I knew it didn’t matter what others thought…I knew who I was.

And it took re-connecting to my birth name to realize it never WAS the name.  I just needed to discover that I actually had all I needed within.

So, ironically, I was cast a TON with the new name.  I was cast as hilarious characters and stepped onto the stage OWNING my voice.  Broadway directors gave me free rein to PLAY, and I loved it.  There was no more mask.

In releasing the mask, I found peace in Peterman, and launched my company ZenRedNYC.

And then I met Chuck. And I fell in love.  Things were getting serious, and the question arose,
Will I change my name again?

I really took my time with this.  When we got engaged, I stared at the ring and opened the possibility.  I found myself remembering the headache of contacting endless platforms and providers to change my name…the pieces of mail that were STILL coming with Wolf on them and how I hated seeing that.

Maybe I would just stay with Peterman….

Then in June, I went on this epic trip to Alaska with my family to go bird watching, and started to have strong reactions to smells.  I spent a day in bed because I didn’t feel well, and my father looked at me and said,
I think you’re pregnant.

My hopes skyrocketed, and my fiance and I went to get a test….which was negative, and then I got my period. But something about feeling the possibility of life stirred something even deeper.

The next day, we were at the main gift market in Anchorage, and I looked straight at Chuck and said,
I want to take your name.

His face lit up like a Christmas tree.  He had never asked me to do this, but clearly, this was his vision. And I knew it was mine too.  My vision has always been a family name.

And now that I knew who I was, it didn’t really matter what my last name was.

On September 16th, I stood in front my closest family and friends and vowed to love Chuck every day, eyes open and awake…..much like that photo taken of me after my divorce.

In truth, this was the vow I made for my LIFE.

And that is what allowed me to finally be at ease in front of any audience of any size, and grow globally. That is what allowed me to connect to you.

 

So, what about you?
What does your name mean to you?
Have you made it more than a name?

Who are you REALLY as an Artist and are you claiming that and owning it?

 

As we approach the end of the year, take stock.
Change is constant.  What do you really need to grow your audience in 2019?

This is deeper than the “perfect” name, or a Facebook ad, or learning the latest algorithms.

Because at the end of the day, you are able to grow your audience when you are clear who YOU are.

So, I’m excited to announce and share with you this special moment.

 

Hello, my name is Nikól Rogers, and I’m so grateful to see you.
Truly SEE you.

Eyes open and awake.

 

 

 

Photography by: Dag Photography

The Deep End

I’m falling
In all the good times I find myself
Longing for change
And in the bad times I fear myself
I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

-Lady Gaga

 

A star is born.

And so is a fan, and not just any fan, but a super fan.
The kind we all desire as Creatives.
The fan who loves what you do, who GETS you, who purchases your work, and most importantly of all, tells EVERYONE about you.

They become your ambassador, and you didn’t even have to ask them.
They are doing it simply because they LOVE what you are doing.

This is the kind of fan, that when multiplied allows you to achieve the acclaim you desire, thrive in your art, and feel unlimited. They support your career.

You feel confident.
You feel Unstoppable.

So, I can hear you as you’re reading this saying,
Well, that Lady Gaga.  She’s a HUGE celebrity!  Of course she has super fans!  How does this apply to me, Nikol?
How can I find these super fans?

I’m glad you asked.

 

I’ve always admired Lady Gaga.  I’ve been at many parties and danced around the room to her hit songs, marveled at her costumes, but it wasn’t until recently that I really started to notice. Until recently, I never bought any of her music.

The change came when she decided to do a duets album with Tony Bennett.  I started to  SEE her, and hear her.  It wasn’t just electronic production in a studio.  I quickly heard this woman can really sing.

I was touched by her camaraderie with Tony Bennett and her innovation.  This wasn’t just about her little monsters…there was more underneath.

And then I saw her performance at the Superbowl two years ago and literally jumped out of my chair watching her sky dive from the top of the stadium, effortlessly landing on the stage and giving one of the most seamless performances I have ever seen.

She was fearless AND she was singing live.

Having sky dived myself and having 20 years of professional performing on stages across the world, I knew this was NO joke.

But it was last weekend that took me over into super fan.
And it was the song above that did it.

Lady Gaga is completely stripped down in this movie, doing full scenes with no makeup.  She plays Ally, a waitress in her 30’s who is completely frustrated with the music business.  She’s a brilliant singer songwriter, a knock out singer, and when she meets a rock star, he falls in love with her and ends up launching her career.

There is so much more to this movie, and I’ll leave you to experience it, but today, let’s stick with the mystery behind a super fan.

Not only does Lady Gaga give an incredible performance in this movie, but it’s raw,  real, and she wrote a ton of original songs for the film which she performs LIVE in the movie.

It’s not dubbed, it’s not sung by another singer because the lead actress can’t sing. There’s no bait and switch or cover up.

It’s her, singing HER words, and connecting to something we all feel very deeply.
Something I feel very deeply.

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

We don’t have to look far these days to see how deep things are.  The news has been littered with devastating actions, especially towards women.

If I learned anything from my divorce and this journey to creating a new life, it’s that I spent a lifetime desperately trying to STAY in the shallow end.

I relied on my outward appearance to boost my career.
I tried to be perfect in everything I did so I wouldn’t be rejected.
I pushed my strong emotions aside, and told myself they didn’t matter.
I kept thinking it was the NEXT song, the NEXT show that would make me happy as an Artist.

And then it all fell apart.
And I dived in.

I dived into the deep end.

The deep end that was actually my LIFE, everything that had been calling for me to look at.  What I found there was shocking, surprising, painful, and also miraculous.

I started writing again.
I found work I loved.
I found you, my brilliant.
And I met the love of my life.

This didn’t happen in the shallow.
It happened in the deep end.
It happened in ME stripping myself down, being vulnerable, taking off the years and years of stage makeup and just stepping forward, and saying,
This is me.

I had thought for years I would be rejected if I did this.

And I was wrong.

I became a super fan of Lady Gaga because I saw myself in her.  I was deeply inspired.  There was no smoke and mirrors.

And this is true for you too.

Your audience is STARVING for connection.
Your audience is starving for truth, honesty, and authenticity.

There is only one of you, so trust that.  It can be so easy, and I did this for YEARS as a performer, to try and do what everyone else is doing.  But, your real power as an Artist comes from your authentic expression, not being a carbon copy.

As a society we are far from the shallow.  Every day is a new disappointment in the news, and as Artists, we have the power to enrich our audience’s lives.

You have the power to enrich your OWN life by being honest with yourself.

So, what does that look like?

If you knew you had this Unstoppable force within you, what would you do differently?
What could be possible?

 

A Star is Born is a smash hit.  It’s giving me hope, and I know I’m not the only super fan that has emerged from this film.  This stripped down, and very REAL performance is coming at a time when we need it.

 

On the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Lady Gaga said,

“I’m a survivor of sexual assault.  If someone is assaulted, or experiences trauma, there is science, the brain changes and literally what is does is take the trauma and it puts in in a box, and files it away and shuts it so that we can survive the pain.

But when she saw that Judge Kavanaugh was going to be put in the highest place of power in the judicial system of this country, she was triggered and the box opened.  And when the box opened, she was brave enough to share it with the world to protect this country.

 

We’re far from the shallow now.

So dive in.
The ground was an illusion anyway.
This is where we really create our most powerful work.