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.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Are you afraid your audience will Boo you?
Do you find yourself in front of your audience tongue tied, dry mouthed, and so nervous on how you will be received?

Do you find yourself working on your projects again and again, hoping it will actually work and be adored?

You look at other artists and performers who seem to have the Midas Touch, where everything they release is a HIT!

How the HECK do they do that?

Our audience can feel so elusive….have you ever felt like this?

What would be possible for you, if you really knew?
How would it feel to look into your audience’s eyes and see not only joy, but that you have moved them?

 

Alright Rogers, you’ve got the floor.

1969, Fred Rogers was testifying in front of a Senate committee, headed up by the very gruff, Senator Pastore.

The future of PBS lay on the table.

Nixon wanted to cut public funding, and $20 Million dollars was at stake.  With this, PBS could continue it’s programming.  Without it, it would disappear.

Senator Pastore had spent the last two days closed off, unconvinced, and PBS had saved their most valuable speaker until the end, Fred Rogers.

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood had been on the air for over a year and was radically different than all the other children’s programming. Instead of cartoons showing violence, and pies in the face, Fred Rogers was writing and performing content that dealt with much larger issues, like childhood anger, and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

Fred began to speak, and share what made his program different.

Our show is about a Neighborhood expression of care, helping each child to realize he is unique.  At the end of every show, I say, “You’ve made this day a special day, just by being you.  There’s no one else in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

If we, in Public Television can only make it clear that Feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.

I think it’s much more dramatic to show two men working out their feelings, much more dramatic than gunfire.

Senator Pastore had become transfixed, quiet, and a change was occurring over his face.

He was softening.

He was listening.

Fred then shared the lyrics to a song he wrote called,
What do you do with the ‘Mad” you feel?

And then he spoke,
I’m supposed to be a pretty touch guy and this is the first time I’ve had goose bumps in the last two days.  You just got your $20M.

 

Why was Fred Rogers able to turn the tide when other men had not?
What was different in his performance?

In 1969, it was not common to have a grown man talking about feelings, and talking about self acceptance.

But, this was absolute truth for Fred.

He was CLEAR.
He knew WHAT he was talking about.
He believed deeply in what he was standing for.

Fred Rogers had great conviction, but he also had great respect. He never spoke down to the Senator, and included him the entire time he was speaking with him.

But, the piece that resonated most was WHAT he was speaking about.

Humanity.

He wasn’t trying to be clever or pull tricks. Fred wasn’t making something up on the spot, he was prepared.

He looked at Senator Pastore and spoke to him, not as someone on a pedestal…but just as another human being.

For years, as a performer, I would give all of my power to my audience. I would place their opinion over mine, put them on a pedestal, and meekly HOPE what I was presenting was worthy.

Where did this get me?
Years of frustration, resentment, and feeling like I wasn’t enough.

The incessant voice of
Will they like me? was exhausting.

Without even realizing it, my deep desire of approval was actually putting up a wall and repelling the very people I wanted to connect with the most.

Everything turned around when I placed the audience on the same level. I felt joyful because I now experienced my audience as equal.

In truth, we have so much more in common than differences with our audience.

I imagine when Senator Pastore heard the song about dealing with anger, he was recognizing how that was alive in him.

Because this is what our audience does….they look for what you SHARE. They are listening to every word, every note, reading every word to see,
Is this like me?

Because underneath it all, we really want to BELONG.

And Art allows that.

Your stories
Your talks
Your music
Your dance
Your paintings
Your photography

It brings you AND your audience to a place of belonging.

Or as Fred Rogers said,
An expression of care.

 

So, where are you placing your audience?
How would it feel to be on the same level and just SHARE what you have in common?

When you transform from within, your audience will do the same.

This is when they will be WITH you, and your confidence soars.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

This feels much better.