Welcome to the VIP Ignite podcast, your source for tomorrow’s talent today.
Hear real life stories of models, actors and musicians breaking down barriers, launching careers, and sharing their stories of overcoming obstacles and finding real success.
They will activate the winner in you by revealing the path with their best tips and advice.
My name is Deneen White and I am the host of the VIP Ignite Live podcast.
This is a special series of podcasts and interviews being taped during quarantine for the Coronavirus.
Our purpose is to create inspiration for our listeners, and for the planning and building of what’s needed to continue pushing forward in a career as an actor, model or musician.
Today I am here live with CJ Andrews, checking in from Washington DC.
CJ, thank you so much for being on the podcast today!
What have you been doing to keep yourself occupied during the quarantine?
USING THIS TIME TO IMPROVE YOUR SKILLS
CJ: Thank you so much, Deneen, for having me on during quarantine.
The best way for me to keep busy is to remind myself that it’s all going to be over and things are going to get better.
But what’s keeping me busy is reading and catching up on all the things that I know that I must do for my goal.
I want to be an actor.
I am an actor, and for anybody out there who has the same goals, whether it’s in the entertainment business or not, I just say to do your homework.
Pretend this is a long study session and just keep on doing the work, and you’ll come out stronger.
Deneen: I think that’s phenomenal.
You’ve exemplified that, right?
I just met you a couple of weeks ago and I remember that night or the next day you sent me a text message.
You said, “Hey Deneen, I have this amazing opportunity!”
So talk to me about how during lockdown, even though the whole nation is locked down, you have this opportunity.
CJ: Before the quarantine, I had to leave the state and go all the way to Baltimore to do this audition live.
But unfortunately they canceled.
They didn’t let me know.
Traveling the whole trip wasn’t necessarily for nothing.
It was a fun adventure.
It was definitely fun.
But I thought I went there for no reason and I wasted my time.
I asked them, “Did you guys cancel?”
And they said, “Oh my God, we never sent the email.”
They were sorry, but I’m glad I reached out because maybe I caught some sympathy points.
They allowed me to send out my own audition at home and I didn’t think it was the best, but I did it anyway.
I’m not really good at self-tapes.
I never got trained at that.
But I sent it out anyway, and they contacted me saying I made it for the callbacks.
I’m really looking forward to it!
So I’m still putting in the work.
Deneen: That’s phenomenal.
So now you’re a part of the VIP Elite Talent Academy.
Do you feel like being on video calls pretty much every day is helping you feel more comfortable on video?
CJ: Definitely, definitely.
Knowing that I have to look into the camera has definitely helped me with the audition.
Deneen: Let’s talk about VIP.
What’s been your favorite part?
JOINING A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY, NOT A COMPETITIVE ONE
CJ: Meeting the people, like the team, the group, and getting to know these faces and these names.
Even though they are the mentors, I’ve never had a community like this.
When you’re in high school, you’re in the theater company with theater kids, but it’s not the same.
I like meeting these people, and getting to know these people.
Deneen: So let’s talk first about the community.
Something that we’ve realized and part of the reason that we started the coaching program over a year and a half ago is because we want to bring some of the best education online to people who maybe can’t travel to LA or New York for education.
The other part that we really wanted to do was we wanted to create a community of people who are like minded, who would be super supportive of one another.
So talk to me about the meaning of the community for you.
CJ: The community definitely gives me inspiration.
It gives me reassurance that there’s other people out there who have the same goals; different types of goals, but in the same industry.
We’re all trying to make it together and we don’t have to be hostile.
It’s not an us versus them mentality because the only way you can even make it in this industry is if you work together and just be friends with everyone.
Because why not?
Why not do that?
Why do you need to be competing with everyone?
You’re competing with yourself, not anybody else.
Deneen: That’s so true.
The one thing I like to tell people is,
“The only person you can honestly compete against is the person you were yesterday.”
You just have to be better today than you were yesterday.
I love that you said that because again, Mark Christopher Lawrence was one of our coaches.
I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity.
CJ: I watched his standup comedy before, I just love it!
Deneen: He’s amazing.
For anyone who doesn’t know who he is, he’s been acting for 33 years.
He was trained as a dramatic actor in theater and he was in Terminator 2.
He was in the show Chocolate, which is one of my favorite shows.
He was also in the Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith.
He was the guy who didn’t give Will Smith the money in the movie, and he did a coaching call way back early in the beginning.
He talked about the fact that when you go into an audition room, that’s not your competition.
Obviously they’re going to choose someone, they’re going to choose the best person.
You don’t have any control over who they choose.
All you can do is go in and give your best energy to the room.
You may not be the best actor, but if you have the best energy and you’re someone that someone wants to work with, that’ll get you the job.
That’s exactly what you just described.
CJ: Mr. Lawrence, he’s raw inspiration, man.
I don’t know if it was him, but I heard it from somebody who told me that not every opportunity is your opportunity, but you could still go for it.
Anyway, that’s my motto right now!
Deneen: I feel like the majority of the coaches lately have been saying that.
The thing is, when you go into a casting call, whether it’s for acting or for modeling, the client already knows what they want.
They already know the person they want, and they’re just looking for that person that fits it.
If you go in and you don’t fit what they’re looking for at this moment, if you still give it your best, if you come at it with your good energy, if you show up on time, and if you’re polished and prepared, they’re going to remember that.
Maybe it’s the next casting or maybe there’s another part in the show that maybe you’re not auditioning at for a while.
You know what they’ll say?
“I love CJ, he’s amazing and we’ll figure out a way to work with him.”
That’s one of the things that’s like a secret sauce that people don’t tell you about.
BEING HUMBLE, BUT STAYING DIRECT
So CJ, who has been your favorite coach so far?
I knew you’ve been through a lot of coaches.
I know you’ve gone through a lot of sessions.
CJ: Oh, my favorite?
I love so many of them.
Deneen: You can list more than one!
It’s like asking, “Hey, who’s your favorite child?”
While I love them all equally, of course I can’t do that.
CJ: I always come back remembering Phil Sullivan.
That guy was so chill.
He’s so humble, but he’s still doing what everyone else wants to do and he’s not making a big deal out of it.
He told us his story of how he went to college.
He just randomly ended up in New York and was financially struggling.
But he still somehow ended up modeling and I’m just stunned.
There’s Ryan Colby, he knows his stuff.
He knows everything he’s talking about, and I love his personality too.
He’s just so, what’s the word…sassy.
He says what they don’t like, and what they like.
He doesn’t cut corners.
He tells you how it is.
Honesty, I love how he carved me out.
I want him to mold me, make me perfect.
Not perfect, but make me great.
Deneen: There are so many awesome things about the two people that you just mentioned.
Phil Sullivan was on America’s Next Top Model, and I think he finished number eight or something like that.
Phil Sullivan, if you’re listening, please forgive me for not knowing the number you finished.
He finished pretty high up there.
The awesome thing about Phil is that he is so humble and he’s so willing to share the truth.
So many times people feel like being a model means “I’m glamorous, everything’s fantastic.”
But the reality is that there’s a whole other thing going on behind the scenes.
We love Phil.
He’s a great friend of our company, and then Ryan Colby is an agent that we work with.
He books people in New York, he books people in LA, and he’s definitely one of the most direct people that we work with.
I love that you gained from him.
So what was the biggest lesson that you’ve learned from Ryan?
CJ: The biggest lesson was about my approach when walking into the room.
I fear being that diva, that person who thinks they’re so all that.
When he was describing how all of the young teenagers would walk into shoots, they would have this unprofessional clothing.
When you walk in, if you’re not wearing the right thing, or the right color, you’re saying “This is who I am.”
I can’t change who I am.
Deneen: You already do a really good Ryan impression, just for the record.
But I don’t want to be that person.
It’s about the little details.
I learned that.
Deneen: So most people are sitting back and they’re taking their foot off the gas, if you will, because everyone is counting down.
Before we even got on the podcast, you were counting down, 22 more days.
We’re only under lockdown for 22 more days.
While a lot of people are like taking their foot off the gas pedal, you’re not one of those people.
You’re going full steam ahead.
So can you talk a little bit about how the training has helped you keep up momentum during this time?
INCREASING MOMENTUM BY TAKING RESPONSIBILITY
CJ: Well, the first thing that the training did for me was give me a freaking responsibility.
Before that, I didn’t really have anything to wake up for.
That sounds bad.
But in these times, school’s closed, work is closed.
So I said, “I guess I’ll sleep.”
Then I got on Instagram, saw an ad, and I went for it.
I met you guys, and it was awesome.
You guys said we want people who are completely dedicated, and not just going to be on the sidelines.
That’s perfect for me.
Deneen: I literally asked you, “Are you willing to work hard?”
Your answer was absolutely.
Which is amazing.
So we talked a little bit about how you’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of work in DC.
You’ve been to a lot of charity events, and different things like that.
Before we got on here, you were talking networking.
Tell me different things that we’ve helped you learn about networking.
Even though we’re doing this virtually, we still want you to network.
What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned about how to network, especially going forward?
A lot of the networking we’re going to be doing is going to be online and virtually.
Just like how you and I are doing this podcast.
So what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned that you know you’re going to be able to take out into the new normal?
CJ: Well, before I met you guys, I had a couple opportunities when I could network.
I actually met some pretty awesome people, some great people, but I never initiated anything.
I think I was afraid.
I was worried about what they would think of me.
I didn’t want to come off as a leech, just looking for an opportunity.
I just wanted a genuine connection, but I didn’t know how to make it.
Even today we had a meeting about networking and the things to do versus what not to do.
You guys kind of gave me some reassurance that I can utilize my role models, but I didn’t know how.
I didn’t want to play it cool either, but you guys said that I can be appreciative.
I can show them love and make myself stand out.
Don’t just be some random person putting a paper in their face saying “Look at me, look at me, give me opportunity.”
And it’s nice to know that there’s nothing wrong with asking or networking.
I thought maybe there was, but that’s the only way you can make it.
It’s just by meeting people and networking.
Like you said earlier, you’re nurturing a relationship, and I had never thought of it like that.
Deneen: That’s perfect.
I think something that a lot of people don’t realize is it happens to a lot of people, even me on a much smaller scale.
People will reach out to me all the time, asking “What can you do for me?”
I don’t even know who they are.
It’s amazing what people don’t realize.
I think our society has shifted from doing this, because when I was younger I always had to write thank you notes.
Whenever my grandmother gave me anything, I had to sit down and write a thank you note and send it.
Those little things mean so much.
Now that we’re kind of in this situation where we’re distant from each other, I think that a lot of those etiquette things are coming back.
It’s really important for everyone who’s listening to realize that if you want something, you also have to add value to the other person because there are so many people who will take, take, take.
You said the word leech and there are so many people that want to take.
I feel like they’re almost holding a jar in front of you, going “Gimme gimme gimme.”
What people don’t realize is that we all have something to offer.
If you go to someone from a place of humility, like you said, and say “I want to add value to your life”, then when there’s an opportunity for them to give you something, they’re going to be more apt to do so.
It’s like you said about Phil Sullivan, who is honestly one of the most humble people I’ve ever met in my life.
I’m glad that you’re learning these lessons that have taken me 44 years to learn.
I wish I could turn back time and learn these lessons sooner.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF WITH LIKE MINDED PEOPLE WITH BIG
So CJ, what has been your favorite part about being a part of the VIP Elite Talent Academy?
If you could encapsulate it in a couple sentences, what’s been your favorite part?
CJ: Oh, in a couple of sentences?
My favorite part is the community and the goal.
I’ve never really had a circle of people that I could talk to, or even no one I really know.
Maybe a couple, or a handful of people are even interested in doing entertainment.
I don’t know anybody who’s doing stuff like this.
You guys are the first people I’ve ever known to even put your foot forward and make an impact.
You guys went the distance, if I could say so.
You guys have proof, and you guys have just so much to give and stay inspiring.
I go to the calls every day and I see the same faces, and I’m excited to see Reese, Elizabeth, Josh, Kyle.
I’m excited for what all of us are gonna keep doing.
Deneen: That’s awesome.
I love that you gave a shout out to literally every person who’s on every call.
Being a part of a community is great and that’s something that we’ve always wanted.
We realized that there are so many people that have these desires and have these goals, but don’t have someone to challenge you.
That’s why people hire coaches.
I know when I’m ready to get on my weight loss journey, I’m going to hire a trainer because left to my own devices, I’m going to eat apple crisp every night with two scoops of ice cream.
But if I know that I have to go face my trainer in the morning, I’m going to make sure that my nutrition is on point and that I’m actually working out.
I think the same thing goes for the entertainment industry.
You can stay here and practice your monologues, but if you know that on Friday night, at 8:00 PM EST, you have to perform that monologue, you’re going to be practicing that a lot more.
That’s why I’m your coach, my friend.
I’m not just a podcastor, I’m also a coach.
So you were on the variety hour last week, right?
CJ: I was, that was nice.
Deneen: In case you’re listening and you’re wondering, “What is this variety hour?”
We’re supposed to be social distancing, don’t worry.
What we decided to do is have a variety hour where people who are a part of the VIP Elite Talent Academy can come together and showcase their skills.
One of my favorite things to do is go out and listen to live music, but I can’t, so I had the opportunity to celebrate with so many of you.
What was it like for you?
You performed–I remember you performing.
What was it like for you performing in front of your peers?
CJ: It was different!
I’m used to this type of performing when I’m going to be in front of live people and I’m going to have a feel of the audience.
I used to get nervous, but I’m over that.
But with the computer in my face, it was a little different.
The nerves came back a little.
You wonder, “Am I in the right angle?”
Can they hear me?
But they could hear me and that was nice.
Boy, there were some great things.
Singing piano, ragtime, comedy, monologues.
It was great!
Deneen: It was just like we weren’t quarantined!
CJ: You felt like we were in the club.
Deneen: I know!
We had a dance party going on at the beginning.
It was pretty awesome.
How do you think performing your monologue on that platform for the variety hour is going to help you when you have your next self-tape opportunity?
CJ: It definitely helped.
I figured it out.
How was it for you guys?
I didn’t really get to see anyone, so I was just ignoring the crowd.
I was doing my thing!
It was all right.
Deneen: I thought it was great!
How did you feel about it?
CJ: I felt good.
I saw comments reassuring that they heard me.
It felt nice.
Deneen: The awesome thing is we’re doing this every Friday night.
So every Friday night you have a chance to continue to improve.
How cool is that?
CJ: I’ll figure out what I’m going to do this time, I can’t wait.
Deneen: You have two days, so you have to figure it out.
No pressure at all.
I can’t wait to see what you do on Friday night.
So a closing question for you, CJ.
Are you happy that you joined the VIP Elite Talent Academy?
I wish that they were going to see the video, because your look on your face was priceless.
CJ: What would I be doing right now?
I’m not gonna lie, before I even got to call you and Alicia, I didn’t know what I was doing.
I didn’t know where I was going with this.
I knew what I had to do but I didn’t know what I didn’t know, if that makes sense.
You don’t know what you don’t know until you know what you don’t know.
It’s definitely building me up and gives me more confidence when the time comes.
I’m not going to say I was going to quit, or give up.
You know how hard it can be.
Deneen: The awesome thing is I’ve definitely seen a physical difference in you.
I distinctly remember you had a bow tie on for our interview, but I remember you were a totally different person.
You have come out of your shell in a way.
I know that you said earlier that you were afraid to present yourself as arrogant.
You never presented yourself as arrogant, but I love that you’ve really come out of your shell over the last couple of weeks and I can’t wait for you to be one of my success stories in six months.
I cannot wait for this to be over so you can hit the ground running.
CJ: I’m looking forward to it.
No matter how long it takes.
Dedication, keep moving forward.
Like you say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Deneen: Yes, I love it when people quote me to me on my podcasts.
CJ: I’m definitely getting more comfortable with everybody.
Deneen: Well my friend, the best is yet to come.
I want to thank you so much for being on the podcast with me.
Thank you for being a part of our community, and we have a call with Phil Sullivan in an hour and a half.
I can’t wait to hang out with you again soon!
You have a great night.
CJ: You too!
Deneen: Thank you for listening to the VIP Ignite podcast.
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