BOSS ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: MICHELE LYMAN
The road as an artist is a very bumpy one. There is no one way to become a successful working artist (i.e. actor, singer, writer, etc). The misconception is that if you're not in the top 2% represented in mainstream Hollywood, then you're not really doing anything special. That's actually the farthest thing from the truth!
It's total BS - and that's why we're featuring artists who are creating their own way and doing it on their own terms. They'll share the ups and downs of their journey so that you may be able to glean steps that you should take or avoid as you seek to live out your own artistic dreams.
This week we turn the spotlight on Boss Artist, Michele Lyman. She's an actress, writer, director, and producer. After returning to the industry, she is back and blazing her own trail. Check out what she has to say about creating her own content and ways she pushes through on the most challenging days.
What makes you a Boss Artist?
I’m the Boss of my life, the boss of my career, the boss of my choices and how I pursue my goals. This business is not for the faint of heart, you can’t sit around waiting for someone to recognize that you have talent. Yes, I self-submit to projects, but I feel strongly that you have to be proactive. Create your own work, promote that work and your gifts - and cheer yourself on when it seems like no one else will.
What advice have you gotten that changed the game for you?
When I first got back into the business in 2015, I took a workshop intensive with the great teacher Anthony Meindl. I had basically watched all of his YouTube videos when I was contemplating if I could realistically start over in this biz. I started following him on Twitter, and shortly after I made the declaration that I was returning at the start of 2015.
Anthony tweeted that he was coming to NY to teach a weekend intensive. The Universe completely conspired to support my decision and I snagged a coveted spot. He was everything I saw in his videos and more. Just a really fantastic human being. I remember him looking directly into my eyes and telling me that he saw a lot there, that I had a lot to offer and that it didn’t matter that I was older, no longer a size 6, or whatever it was, that I was fearing.
On the last day of the intensive, I remember him telling the class that the world doesn’t need another Meryl Streep, it already has one, the world needs “you” as you are. And that we should stop comparing ourselves to what we perceive to be true about celebrities. It helped me to just focus on my own race, my own journey. There is only one me, no matter how many people may look similar to me in that audition waiting room.
What’s your advice for someone who sees your journey and wants to give it a try?
Make sure you love it, and are not just giving it a try. A try will break your heart. But if you truly give it your time and attention, you will see rewards. Slowly. Sometimes crawling. But you will make progress. You have to know that you know . . . that you love it. Really love it.
Complete the sentence: this time next year I will be….
On a higher tier.
How do you manage fear? What’s an example?
I don’t have time to deal with fear, I’ve got things to do. So if it starts to creep in, I squash it back down, whether it be in an audition or on set. I’ll take a couple of deep breaths and remind myself that God did not give me a spirit of fear, and I keep it moving. If it refuses to leave that's okay, do it afraid. There is no progress if you let fear rule your next steps. There is no other choice, I’m not getting any younger.
What are you working on right now and how can we support?
My short film, Getting Over, has been blessed with a lot of acceptance and many wins within the film festival circuit. I, myself, have received several best actress wins for my part in the film. It is still in the festival circuit, so we’ll see if it makes any more progress on that front. We just got accepted into the Las Vegas Black Film Festival. I'll be attending to for the screening and panel discussion.
I’m simultaneously working on another short and a feature (which is a continuation of Getting Over). I had an Indiegogo campaign to fund my feature several months ago. Unfortunately, it was not successful. It completely bombed! Despite all the awards I'd won for the short, people were just not supporting the feature. I expected peers that I had supported in the past to contribute, but they didn't. To be honest, it hurt a little. But I re-grouped and told myself I needed to keep working on the script anyway. So, it was for the best. I’m not one to wallow.
Now I’m making the script better and when I’m ready, the money will be there. Some way, somehow. I have faith. I intend to shoot the next short in the coming months and self-finance it like I did the first one.
I AM INSPIRED BY…
Who are you crushing on right now?
I greatly admire Dee Rees, Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis and Issa Rae. I also seriously dug Misha Green's work on Underground and Mara Brock Akil on anything. Rachel Morrison's cinematography work on Fruitvale Station, Dope and Mudbound really draws you in.
What song do you have on repeat?
I switch my songs depending on my mood. Some days I’m blasting praise and worship music. And sometimes I just wanna dance around the living room to some Bruno Mars.
What’s your favorite TV show?
Queen Sugar. I love how complex, open, intense, vulnerable and real those characters are written. The storylines, the execution of the storylines, the visual beauty of how these wonderful actors of color are filmed and portrayed. I feel the same way about This Is Us for many of the same reasons.
On a bad day, you turn to…?
Long walks with my dog. Laughing hysterically with my daughter about anything at all. Prayer. Singing praise and worship songs. I also do those on a good day.
What/who inspires you to live your best life?
I’m inspired by knowing from whence I came. My journey has had many twists and turns, much sorrow, sickness and pain. Way too much to divulge in this interview. I am an overcomer and I remind myself of that often. There are so many great things in store for me, and I will not settle.
Current saying that describes your life right now:
Life ain’t been no crystal stair, yet still I rise.
How do you prioritize your life to make sure you live it in a meaningful way?
My life is meaningful because I’m doing what I want to do. Every day that I wake up, that I have breath in my lungs and the movement of my limbs, is meaningful. It’s another day, another chance to do what makes me happy. No matter how tough it may seem some days, it has a hold of me, and I love it. I also donate to various charities like the Southern Law Poverty Center and the ACLU. There’s a volunteer day at my day job, and I participate in that. And I’ve also volunteered at various organizations like the Pajama Program and the SAG Foundation. Sometimes it’s tough to carve that time out, but when I’m feeling a little too self-interested, I make a point to do for others.
How do you manage the ups and downs that inevitably come with working in this business?
I remind myself of how far I’ve come. I took a very long hiatus away from the business to focus on raising my daughter. She is a wonderful human being, a budding photographer (she took all the on-set stills of my film and also pitched in as a PA). We are very close. I have no regrets, everything in it's time. When she was in her sophomore year of college, I seriously began to contemplate getting back in the biz. I missed performing a lot, it was like a constant longing, a persistent nudge in my side. At the beginning of 2015 I created a Backstage account and jumped back in. I told myself it was better to try again even if I failed, than to not try and never know what could have been. Since that time, I’ve done several theatre and film projects. I started freelancing with an agent last year. And I also wrote my first screenplay last year, which is now an award winner of several festivals. I became weary of constant submitting and waiting for the next audition or booking, so I wrote my own script. I’m used to dealing with ups and downs in general, cause hey, life. Life is never going to be all good or all bad. Even when it feels that way, there is always some sliver of something on the other side. I am the master of my fate, I choose to make things happen for myself.
What rituals do you have to get and stay in the zone?
I don’t think I have any rituals. When it's time to work, it’s time to work. In addition to being an actor, I’m also a singer. I was a voice major at LaGuardia HS of Music and Art. So music is very important to me and is usually playing if I’m working on a script. Because my tendency is to sing along, I will put one song on repeat so that after a while the lyrics kind of fade to the back and the music itself just carries me into a zone.
You can learn more about Michele Lyman on her website at MicheleLyman.com.