To the middle-aged pilot dude who I sat next to on United flight 5484 on January 6, 2015**
((**No, I was not sitting in the cockpit. Although that would’ve been rad.))
I just wanted to thank you for the awesome career advice you gave me. Because you dated an actress that one time you totally know everything there is to know about being an actor, and you were so insightful to recognize that I’m not actually a real actor. Seriously, thank you so much for calling me out! You’re totally right! You’ve never seen me on a TV show, and I am definitely not famous, so I am definitely not an actor! Why doesn’t anyone else get that? I am a total fraud! It was also super thoughtful of you to do this while I was trapped in a metal death cage hurtling through the air and strapped to the seat next to you, so I couldn’t escape the conversation. Normally, I would tried to set you on fire, or set myself on fire, or set anything that happened to be near me on fire, but since I couldn’t take my lighter through security I was safe from that fate, and I was able to really listen to your wisdom. Oh! And I know you were asking me about who took my headshots, because apparently your ex-girlfriend got her headshots taken by the “top photographer in LA,” so I just wanted to follow up and show you my headshot so you can either approve or disapprove of it.
I still am not sure who the “top photographer in LA” is, because I’m 95% sure that is not a thing that exists, but this shot was taken by Daniel Scherl, who has like a super pimped out resume and stuff. And this is just a test shot! I was just helping him test a new lighting setup! He’s like, really fucking good and stuff! APPROVE OF ME/HIM/US!! VALIDATE ME!! No? You’re just going to punch me in the soul with all of your dumb thoughts? Alright Mister Pilot. Hmmm now how can I prove to you that I am, in fact, an actor. I mean, you are totally right, I am not signed with CAA, the most influential agency in the universe, like your ex-girlfriend was, but I swear to you, the agency I was telling you about that was fool enough to sign me in the PacNW, Ryan Artists, is a real thing. I know you’ve never heard of them, but like, you’re a pilot, so that makes sense. They even got me a job this one time playing a nurse in a training video for a bunch of hospitals. AM I LEGIT YET?? Oh my God do you want to see my resume?? I acted onstage at the Lincoln Center once! I was in theatre companies and stuff! I can sing opera! I was in “Nunsense: The Musical” when I was a teenager!
Can I send you my taxes so you can see how poor I am too???
WHY WON’T YOU LET ME JUST SIT ON THE DAMN PLANE AND READ MY PAPERBACK IN PEACE?
((Ugh. I’m lying. I WISH a giant shark had taken down that plane and put me out of my misery, but unfortunately we were flying over land, so I was out of luck.))
Well Mr. Middle-Aged-Privileged-White-Pilot-Man-With-Impeccable-Knowledge-of-the-Entertainment-Industry-and-World, No, you have never seen me on your favorite TV show. No, I don’t have $2000 headshots and a big ole fancy douchey agent. But that doesn’t mean I’m not an actor.
You are right: baking a loaf of bread does not make you a “baker.” You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that you’re an “actor.” But once you’ve baked 10,000 loaves of bread, if you don’t have the courage to call yourself a baker, then you’re a fool. It doesn’t matter if someone hasn’t heard of your bakery.
I’m getting my goddamn Master’s degree in acting. I’ve spent at least 10,000 hours doing it in my lifetime. No one is going to give me the validation of calling me an actor except myself, and at this point in my life I have the self-respect to do just that. I’ve had this conversation too many times with too many people, and And you know what? Even if I HADN’T worked on acting for 10,000 hours, I WOULD STILL BE AN ACTOR. There are too many people in the world like you who want to invalidate the arts as a profession for us not to call ourselves actors and artists and writers. We don’t need your approval to be artists.
So forgive me for prioritizing my novel over your ignorant, judgmental commentary in the guise of fatherly advice, and forgive me for doing this at the end of our flight: Maybe if your stupid airline hadn’t canceled my original flight the day before because a STUPID PILOT landed at the wrong airport or delayed our flight today by two hours because the STUPID PILOT overslept, I wouldn’t have been up since 3:30 a.m. and totally incapable of human conversation. Although human conversation doesn’t seem to be your strong suit either, so I guess that’s cool. I hope that the next time you sit next to an actor on a plane, it’s a real actor, so you can have a real conversation. I mean Jon Hamm looks like he is flying mega-first-class, but still. Maybe you’ll get lucky.
All my love, Dani
P.S. To all of those actors/artists/writers who have sat through countless conversations with people who try to devalue or invalidate what you do, or who otherwise try to make you feel like an illegitimate human, here are a few suggestions on how to avoid these conversations in the future.