Felipe Figueroa – Finding My (Rainbow) Voice

We did it. We took the leap and moved to a major metropolitan area where we could not only be artists but also live freely as our wonderful LGBTQ+ selves. We forged a career in the entertainment industry only to find ourselves getting called in and booking substantially less than a straight white male. If we did, we booked as two dimensional co-stars and supporting characters OR even worse for our older generation – we tried to play it “straight” and hid. Then one day, we found ourselves with only a few credits, credit card debt, an abysmal day job, a feeling that maybe our voices don’t matter, and maybe a drinking problem – real talk.

What held me back for so long? Maybe it was the time an acting teacher told me I should lower my voice so that I sounded more masculine. Maybe it was the number of social media posts I’ve seen from my straight white friends (cis male and cis female) about how often they were booking. Another guest star. Another recurring. Maybe I’m not Latin enough or white enough. After long stretches of not even getting auditions, I began to wonder (a la Carrie Bradshaw): is it the business or is it me?

I went with “it was me.” I felt like that was the only thing I could “fix,” but I “fixed” it with further self-punishment. I decided that I didn’t fit. I wasn’t what “they” wanted. Like the last person standing when picking teams for kickball. My light was dim. They couldn’t even see me, because I decided for them that they didn’t see me. I started losing my way. I felt like my talent was something that people would only see in my acting class on Wednesday nights.

All of my happiness was in the future. When someone finally sees me… When I finally get that break… When I finally… I wasn’t even living for today (like they sang in RENT). Something had to give.

I started meditating during a BGB program called the 10-Day Actors Challenge. As I dipped my toe in the pool, I found relief from my own wounded psyche. I started with small amounts of time – 5-10 minutes a day.

I’ve been practicing meditation for two years now. I can’t express how hard it has been to quiet my mind. To sit for 5 minutes without thinking a million thoughts. It’s a practice that continues to grow and expand my connection to my real artist self – the good, bad and the ugly. I came to realize that if I wanted people to see me, I had to fully see and know myself – not just the “perfect, shiny” aspects of myself that I carefully let people see, but all of me. Scary stuff and hard work! All of me? No. But yes! We can’t compartmentalize and separate pieces of ourselves like Voldemort’s horcruxes. It’s hard but worth the difficulty!

I wish there were an easier way. I wish that the quick tips you see from Industry gurus out there actually solved all our problems. Like, if I pick up the phone and call CAA, UTA, Innovative and Gersh that I would bump up my representation like that. *snaps fingers* But it won’t. Let’s face it: even if I tried something like that a few years ago and it worked, I would still have had thoughts of being too gay and not Latin enough.

This is why I keep coming back to the practice of meditation. I do it because it reminds me of me. It reminds me of my own voice. My own power. Today, if I get an audition, I never question if I’m right. I simply do my version. My spin.

I’ve been teaching at BGB, and not only is this so much of the culture of my acting studio, but I want for every actor in my LGBTQ+ and people of color communities to feel and know this: your voice matters and is NEEDED.

The beautiful thing about teaching is that there are so many times when I encourage an actor to step into their voice and I, in turn, remind myself of that very fact and to do so at all times. Not just during a scene or an audition. At all times. It’s one thing to remember this after a meditation or after reading an inspirational quote on Insta. It is quite another to LIVE it – every single moment of the day. That is a real practice. What’s the saying? You don’t gotta get ready if you STAY ready. Living in our voices daily – that’s the “stay ready” part. Then, when we dive into our art as actors/creators, we don’t even have to act. We can simply be.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my “stuff” is still there, but now it’s much quieter so that my real voice can be heard with all my rainbow colors. And no, “teach,” I’m not gonna lower my voice.

Felipe Figueroa is a teacher at The BGB Studio. Explore his incredible ongoing weekly classes: The Connected Actor and The Ongoing BGB Workout.

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