Welcome to the VIP Ignite blog, 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.

Deneen: Hey everyone, my name is Deneen White and I am the host of the VIP Ignite Live blog.

This is a special series of interviews that we’re doing during quarantine for the Coronavirus.

We’re doing this special series for two reasons.

First of all, we want to bring inspiration to our listeners.

The second reason is we want you to know that now is the time that you should be planning and building a career as an actor, model, or musician.

Today, I am so excited to have Sarah Pao on the show.

She is coming to us from Syracuse, New York.


Sarah, can you please tell me how you’re keeping yourself occupied during this quarantine?

Sarah: Well, I spent a lot of time with my cat!

The rest of the time I do VIP stuff, and I am working at a grocery store right now.

I check people out, bag groceries, and tell them to stay safe.

I obsessively clean my conveyor belt.

Deneen: It must be really nice for them to know that they’re in such great hands with someone who’s telling them to stay safe.

Especially from someone that’s compulsively cleaning, because I know I’ve been to the grocery stores and not everyone is as detail oriented as you are when it comes to that.

Sarah: Sometimes you’ve got people one after the other and it’s hard to clean everything, but I try to wipe everything down.

I’ve wiped the pin pads so many times that at one point the touchscreen stopped working at the end of the day.

Deneen: Oh my goodness.

Now that is a clean touch pad.

Thank you for doing that.

Let’s talk about how you’re a part of the VIP Elite Talent Academy.

You said we’re keeping you pretty busy.

How long ago did you join us?

Sarah: Probably two weeks ago.

Deneen: Oh my gosh.

We’ve been doing pretty much nonstop coaching for that whole time.

Sarah: It makes me think, “Oh my God, it’s just so much.”

I know there’s no way I can catch up with everything, but I’m trying to keep up with all the live videos and calls as much as I can.

I’m trying to also go back to the very beginning and to try and get the first couple of ones done.

Oops, my cat was actually biting me.

Deneen: Aw, bad kitty!

I’ve never said that on the podcast before, but there you go.

Here’s a question for you, Sarah.

How do you feel about having your career to focus on at this time with the VIP Elite Talent Academy?

How do you feel like that’s helping with your mental health?

Because I know a lot of people are struggling.

Sarah: I’m the type of person who, if I don’t do anything, I really get depressed.

I have been dealing with depression since I was in high school, so maybe 10 plus years.

Sometimes, if I don’t have motivation to get out of bed, I really would just stay in bed the whole day.

I would just knock out, be in my pajamas the whole entire day, and get nothing done and ultimately feel really bad about myself.

Honestly, before I got the job at the grocery store and before VIP, I was pretty lost.

I was feeling it right after I stopped working.

I actually have a day job, but they dismissed me in the beginning of March.

Then I had a night job, which is a bar in Syracuse.

So of course they closed the bar down.

I can’t work there anymore.

Probably a week or so ago, I was devastated.

But now I have something to look forward to by working, and I feel really fulfilled that I’m spending my days being productive instead of just lying there not doing anything.

You don’t feel bad at the end of a day.

Deneen: That’s awesome.

I’m glad because our whole goal here was to make sure that people have a reason to wake up.

I know for me, I love the calls because every day in the morning I have to make sure I at least make myself look presentable.

I’m not hanging out in my sweatpants.

I have to make sure that I’m ready, that I have my makeup and hair done because I’m on live calls all day just like everyone else.

So I’m glad that it’s helping you, because the last thing we want is anyone to feel like there’s nothing to do.

There are so many reasons, honestly, to not be happy right now.

I’m glad that we’re giving you a reason to get out of bed and be excited about your day.

Sarah: It’s been kind of hard after the initial excitement of “This is so cool”, but now I really need to push and I need to be putting in the work.

It’s great to have people who are keeping you honest and keeping you on point, and just having a group of friends who’s very supportive through all these cool things has been awesome.


Deneen: Let’s talk about the community.

You are a part of a Shakespeare on Zoom, weren’t you?

Sarah: Yeah, I was!

Deneen: Can you talk to me a little bit about how that transpired and your whole experience doing the play, and what it meant to you to be able to be a part of that?

Sarah: So that happened because Mark Christopher Lawrence gave us a challenge on one of his calls to read a whole play.

He had given us points about how to do Shakespeare, and that kind of thing.

So we all did act three, scene two of Hamlet, and after he gave us pointers, we did an entire play.

One of our VIP members, Zuli, suggested we do A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

She had some experience before with that piece.

I liked that.

The first time I ever heard of Shakespeare, it was in a strange comic book that people had.

It was a graphic comic, and it was a story that was featured in that graphic comic with animals instead of people.

It was really odd, but anyway.

I’m familiar with the stories.

I like the funny ones, so let’s do it.

I’ve always wanted to be part of a play because I never really got the opportunity to do that.

I’m not one of the theater kids or anything.

I’m kind of actively working now.

I almost dropped the ball, because before the coronavirus, I was getting involved in the Syracuse community theater group.

The person who owns the bar I work at also runs the production company called Breadcrumbs Production.

His name is Tanner.

We do theater stuff and we do a play reading group as well.

So I want to do more of this stuff.

The people who are in this community are so creative and supportive, and very genuine.

I love that part, and that’s why I wanted to be part of it.

It was pretty cool.

I can’t believe we actually did it!

It took so long, but we took three days and about two-ish hours of together time to practice it.

And of course I had practice offline as well.

The first part of the week was focused on that.

Deneen: So before you got started with this, you knew very little of Shakespeare.

Now you can say you’re a Shakespearian actress because you performed a whole Shakespearian play.

How does that make you feel?

Did you imagine three weeks ago that you would be having this conversation, and you would have put on a Shakespearian play on Zoom?

Sarah: I don’t know.

It feels kind of unreal.

I don’t feel like I’m that qualified because I didn’t even memorize the lines.

I feel bad calling myself a Shakespearean actor because of that.

Deneen: You performed Shakespeare in a play with a group of people.

So you’re a Shakespearean actress!

How amazing is that?

Do you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot by doing that?

Sarah: I think I accomplished something that definitely was not in my mind.

I definitely wouldn’t do that myself.

I think I accomplished a lot just by getting myself to do something I’m completely uncomfortable doing.

English is not even my first language.

I feel like regular English can be challenging, and even right now, I have trouble annunciating my words.

So that is definitely the challenge of having to speak old English, or whatever the correct term is for that period of English.

It’s very different and I’m really happy that I did it.

Deneen: I’m happy too!

Do you feel like this is going to give you a new sense of confidence when Syracuse opens up, and you can go be a part of the theater company?

Sarah: I hope so; I think I need more experience.

I think I still need more practice and training for sure.


Deneen: Well, the good news, Sarah, is that because you’re a part of the VIP Elite Talent Academy, you’re going to have a lot of practice.

For instance, this evening at 5:30 PM Eastern standard time, we’re having Robert Galinsky, 50 Cent’s acting coach, do a whole training on how to present a monologue and how to act.

So sit back, my friend, because we have a lot more great stuff for you.

How about that?

Sarah: I still have to pick out my monologue.

That’s one of the problems that I’ve been running into.

How do I pick one?

Do I just take one and go with it, or do I have to pick one that’s my type or something?

I’m just at a loss.

I’m going to need a little bit of nudge here and there.

Deneen: Would you like a little advice?

Sarah: Sure!

Deneen: What’s your favorite movie right now?

What movie could you watch over and over again that has a female character?

Honestly, gender doesn’t really matter.

What’s your favorite movie?

Sarah: That’s the hard part.

A lot of the movies or TV shows that I’ve watched don’t present a lot of non binary characters.

I’ve been kind of raised as a girl, so I look female and present female as well.

I’m so new to the acceptance going into the community, and being okay with just being in-between, which I kind of knew.

I’ve always known I’m a kind of an in-between, but I tend to find myself associating more with the male character a lot of the time in movies and TV shows.

Deneen: Who’s your favorite male character then?

What movie do you watch on repeat because you love one particular character, male or female?

Sarah: Oh God.

I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies, but I can tell you the ones that I watched recently.

I don’t think anybody’s going to know this, but it’s called The Untamed, a Chinese production.

We’ve talked about this one before.

It’s based on a guy’s web comic.

It’s set in ancient China.

I know, it’s crazy.

These two men develop their relationship.

People in China are there to make this a live show, and people love it.

I watched it two or three times, and it’s 50 episodes long.

It’s pretty crazy.

Deneen: Why don’t you do this?

Go find a transcript of one of the episodes that you really enjoyed the most.

During one of those episodes, I’m sure one of the characters that you admire so much did a monologue, even a one minute monologue.

Why don’t you go find one of them, obviously translated for us to understand?

Why don’t you go to your favorite show and whichever character it is, translate one of their monologues and then use that as your monologue?

Since it means something to you, and it’s so powerful to you, it’ll come off that way to your audience.

The cool thing is, a lot of people here probably won’t know it.

So no matter how your performance goes, it’s going to be amazing.

Sarah: That’s a good idea.

I’ll definitely do that!

Deneen: The thing that most people don’t realize is that when you’re performing a monologue, it doesn’t matter if it’s a male, if you’re a female, or a male doing a female; it’s the way that you present it.

If you can present it with enthusiasm, with the inflection, and with the emotions that are necessary, then it’s going to be phenomenal.

That’s what I want you to do.

Now you’ve gotten homework on the podcast!

I can’t wait for you to do that.

I have a question for you.

Can I give you a little bit more of a challenge?

Sarah: I don’t know if I can handle it all!

Deneen: I know you’re working tomorrow, but are you planning on being on the variety hour at 8:00 PM Eastern standard time?

Sarah: Yes, I do plan on attending it!

Deneen: Why don’t you work on that monologue, and then present that tomorrow?

It’ll be our little secret between us.

Sarah: Oh God!

Okay, okay, okay.

I’ll try my best.

I have another monologue somewhere in my back pocket.

I can polish that one up and present that one instead, because it’ll probably take me a while to dig the other one out.

Deneen: And you have to work.

So I’ve given you very little notice.

Why don’t you pull that other one out of your back pocket?

But in the meantime, be looking for the other one because that’ll be the one that pushes you over the edge.

It’s gonna mean so much to you, and you’re going to be so passionate about it that people are not going to be able to not react.

Sarah: Sounds great.


Deneen: See, on the VIP Ignite live blog, you never know what you’re going to get.

You’re going to get coaching, you’re going to get inspiration, you’re going to get everything.

So Sarah, what has been your favorite part so far about being part of our community?

Sarah: I really like how nice people are with each other.

That made a difference too.

I find people are genuine.

They’re not trying to get you to buy something.

They’re not trying to say one thing and mean the other.

I hate that kind of stuff.

So I really like that people are genuine.

Deneen: What you see is what you get; Alicia and I don’t know any other way to be.

So if anyone’s looking for us to be anything else, sorry, we are who we are.

Have you had a favorite coaching session thus far in the VIP Elite Talent Academy?

I know we’ve thrown a lot of stuff at you and you’ve completed so many challenges, but who’s been your favorite coach so far?

Sarah: I’ll have to say Jym Benzing, because I learned so much.

I note the topic that he talks about or something that I’m very interested in.

I’ve been kinda doing it by myself for a while, and I never really get to see what’s formal.

I really like his coaching sessions.

I also like Phil’s.

I’m doing just a little bit that I got to hear yesterday.

It was very inspirational.

Deneen: Awesome.

Well in case anyone doesn’t know who Phil and Jym are, Jym Benzing is the head of casting for Estee Lauder.

He is one of the biggest casting directors in New York City for beauty and fashion.

He actually worked directly with Anna Wintour, so he’s a pretty big deal.

Then the other person that you mentioned is Phil Sullivan.

He is a top male model in the United States.

He’s been in Vogue Italia.

He’s the face of Nautica, of Banana Republic.

I know that one of your biggest aspirations is to be a model.

So you’re learning tips from people that are either currently working successfully in the industry, in the modeling field, or you’re learning from people that are casting the models.

How mind blowing is that for you?

Sarah: It’s pretty crazy.

I can’t imagine being able to just talk to Jym Benzing, and see him twice a week.

It’s pretty insane.

Deneen: What has been your favorite challenge that we’ve presented to you so far?

Sarah: Oh, there’s so many I haven’t done, honestly.

I really do enjoy the one that Mark Christopher Lawrence gave out.

Those Shakespeare challenges.

It’s definitely not something I would do, but I feel like I was kind of rehearsing it.

I was talking on the phone with my friend, and he said that every single time I say it, I sound better.

And that’s really encouraging to hear.

Another one is I spent a lot of time going on Pinterest and looking through magazines, just trying to know the different photographers out there and the different styles of modeling.

I’m looking for stuff that I can see myself doing.

Deneen: That’s awesome.

I’m still sitting here trying to process the fact that the first challenge that you mentioned was the Shakespeare challenge, because that makes my English major heart just so happy.

I love that you’re being pushed out of your box, but you’re also kind of being challenged to do research on those things that you already knew you loved.

So not only are you expanding your horizons, but you’re digging deeper into the things that you already love.

I think that’s pretty amazing.

One more question I have for you: are you happy that you decided to be a part of the VIP Elite Talent Academy?


Sarah: I’m pretty happy!

I still feel like I’m at the edge of a cliff about to jump off, but it’s not a bad cliff to jump off of.

I haven’t been skydiving before, but I imagine that’s kind of how it feels like.

Deneen: There’s the adrenaline rush of just everything you’re learning all at once.

Where do I look?

What do I do next?

Because the thing is, Sarah, I’m getting excited too.

You literally dove in the deep end.

You didn’t stick your toe in and say, “Let me try one.”

You’ve been on as many coaching calls as your schedule will allow and you’ve been very proactive.

The one thing that I ask every person who becomes a part of our program is, are you willing to work hard?

And you’re working!

You even have spreadsheets.

Sarah: If I was sharing my screen right now, there is actually one here.

Deneen: I’m sure you’re more organized.

I may have to take some organizational tips from you.

Sarah: This is a spreadsheet of agencies that I am looking into that Jym had mentioned that look at petite models.

This one is my resume, and I have some older stuff here.

Like all the other masterclasses that I have taken so far so I can work on that as well.

Deneen: You have about 10 for the last week, so you have a lot there, Sarah.

Sarah: I killed all my tabs, but this is my email.

It’s just a lot of stuff.

Deneen: Wow, that’s awesome.

I’m really proud of you for the way that you dove in because again, so many times people tell me they want to be successful.

I want this and I want that.

That’s great, but are you willing to do the work?

You definitely are someone who has been doing the work, and I’ve seen growth in you too.

I remember the first time I talked to you, right after you joined, you were a little more reserved.

I feel like you are really growing a lot.

You’ve grown a lot over the past two weeks and I can’t wait to see what happens as we go forward.

Sarah: Oh really?

I have come a long way, and I’m the type of person who looks forward, and doesn’t look back.

So sometimes I kind of look back a little.

I did all of that, and I like to acknowledge that I have accomplished these things.

Deneen: You’ve accomplished a lot, and my job as a coach is to see those things.

My job is to not only keep pushing you forward, but also help you recognize how far forward you’ve moved.

So thank you for allowing me to do that for you today.

You have no idea how excited I am for your future.

Sarah: Oh, thank you so much!

Sarah: I’m so happy there are people who believe in me.

I had a pretty traditional family, and I was, for one reason or another, pushed in a different direction.

Not that the creative realm is not one that is celebrated in our community.

It’s great to hear that somebody believes that I can do this, and it’s not just a little voice inside of my head or something.

Deneen: I’ll be a very loud voice in your head if you want me to be, because I truly believe that you can do this.

You’re taking it seriously.

One of the things that people have to understand is yes, you have to perfect your craft, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

In less than two weeks you performed a Shakespeare play with other members of the VIP Elite Talent Academy.

Let’s wrap our head around this for a second before we even look at all the other things.

You’ve made tremendous strides, and I just want you to know that you’re being noticed.

I want to thank you again during this time where there are so many people that are kind of taking their foot off the gas pedal.

You’re not one of those people.

You’re now a fearless rebel.

You are someone who is in momentum, and in a time when the world is shrinking back, you’re pushing forward.

That means that when the world opens up again, you’re going to be leaps and bounds ahead of those people that are sitting back waiting for the world to open.

So for that, I thank you, because it’s people like you that inspire me to want to keep challenging you.

Thank you so much, Sarah, and thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to do this podcast with me.

It really means a lot that you were willing to share your story with me and my audience, and I can’t wait for us to talk to you again in a couple months and see how much further you’ve gone.

Sarah: Oh, that is so nice.

Deneen: You have a great rest of your day and stay safe, and keep the city of Syracuse safe for me!

Sarah: Thank you so much!

Deneen: You’re welcome, Sarah.

Have a fantastic day!

Thank you for reading the VIP Ignite blog.

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