12 – Desi Oakley: Using Your Voice, Fueling Your Flame, and Sharing Your Gifts

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00:58 Desi:
No matter the success, no matter the job, no matter the work ethic, no matter the money, we're all human beings. That is the number one thing that's never going anywhere.

01:23 Tony:
Hello, superhuman, it's Tony Howell, digital strategist for artists, and thank you for hitting play. In this conversation with a Changemaker, we speak with Desi Oakley: singer, songwriter, Broadway actor, social media influencer, and more.

Desi was most recently on Broadway as Roxy in Chicago. But prior to that, she originated the role of Jenna in the First National Tour of Waitress. Now, the backstory is that Desi and I traveled together in the First National Tour of Evita. And I can tell you what blows me away about this woman is not just her many talents (emphasis on the plural) or her leadership, her work ethic, or her attitude. It is her music.

You'll hear how much I love it, but I wanted to bring Desi on this December to inspire you. How can you share your gifts, your voice, your talents in a larger way? Our theme this month is “presenting my present” and Desi is the embodiment of that message. So this is a really great episode. I can't wait for you to listen in. I do have to tell you I’ve got two special gifts for you. Exciting news, but you're going to have to wait until the very end. So with that, let's get going. Here's Desi Oakley.

Desi. Thank you so much for being here. It's so wonderful to have you in the house.

02:52 Desi:
I'm so happy to be here and it's just lovely to talk to you. I've missed you.

02:57 Tony:
Likewise. I get to see you on social, but now I get to see you LIVE in front of me and everyone else just has to listen. So I'm the lucky one. So for those that don't know you, which are very few people, you are an actor, you're a singer, you're a songwriter, you're a dancer, you're a model, you're a social influencer, but I want to rewind back to childhood. Can you tell us what was the first love and how did you sort of enter…I believe it's theater, but how did you enter that world?

03:29 Desi:
Yeah, you're right it was theater. It was theater and piano. That's sort of how my musical experience began, but specifically musical theater. So I grew up in Wichita, Kansas and Music Theater of Wichita is a regional theater. There it's a summer stock theater as they call it. And they do professional shows throughout the summer, mostly five shows in the summer. And the whole community of Wichita supports this gigantic company. It's amazing. They call themselves a Broadway caliber theater and it is.

They have Equity performers come and play the leads. And then they offer non-Equity spots to the college kids. And then also to the community, they offer an opportunity with either one or two shows every summer for kids, and that becomes, “come one, come all.” There are hundreds of kids all through Wichita who flock to that building and they want to be a part of the show and the producing director there, Wayne Bryan, has such a heart for the community and for especially the kids.

And so honestly he will throw 80 children in the middle of a show. And yes, I did it as a kid, but for most of us, it was like I was in the show. But if I just ran across the stage waving, my mom would bend down to get a mint out of her purse and she would miss me, but I was in the show. That is really what got me so excited. And everybody auditioned for the shows—like everyone did. So it was less about like, “Wow, this is my future. This is my passion.” It was more like the thing you do. And my sister, my cousins, we all just did it, because it was a cool experience.

And then I quickly realized, “Wow, this is so cool!” And I think it was a combination of, I'm slowly recognizing that I'm sitting on Kelli O'Hara's lap right now and I'm looking at all of these college kids and they're all musical theater majors with like major passion and the best schools in the country. And I'm like, “Oh my gosh, you can do this for a living. Oh, this is wild.” And then a combination between that. And then the producing director, Wayne Bryan, sort of seeing something in me, and I don't think it was just insane talent. I wasn't like a star prodigy child. I would've never starred as Annie. I did not really have my voice then, but I had something. I had had some sort of crazy “let's go for it” attitude as a child. And I was like, yeah, this is awesome. And like, woo. And just carefree excitement. And collaboration as a child that I think that is what he saw and then the rest was sort of history. So that's really the initial launch of my journey for sure.

06:44 Tony:
That's how you became Desi Oakley. So I know that your breakout role there, maybe it wasn't even the breakout, but you got to play Dorothy at a relatively young age. Yes?

06:52 Desi:
16. You're right. That was actually my first lead role. I was paid as a professional at 14, two years prior. It was my very first, I'll never forget it. I was like, wait, so this is my job. And my parents were like, yeah, this is your job. Like your sister works at McDonald's and you do this. And we laugh about it forever. We laugh forever. You're going to start to save your money. And this is your job, but yeah, Dorothy was huge. Dorothy was actually pivotal. That's when I decided to do musical theater. So it was that role when I was auditioning for it. And I was like, wait a minute, should I pursue this? And the reason I was asking, should I pursue it was, I was asking if I should pursue it or songwriting at that age. At like 16 years old, I was thinking, and we were doing research and my mom said “Girl, I think you should probably study one or the other.”

And I said okay, I have this huge audition. If I get Dorothy, I think I'm going to use that as my go ahead to knock down the doors of theater. And they were like, fantastic. So I literally had a family meeting. I said we're going to get a call on the landline any moment, when you used to wait for the call. I said okay, team, if I get Dorothy, I think I'm going to try to major in musical theater. And I think I'm going to try to be on Broadway folks. And if I don't get it, I think I'm going to take that as my sign to pursue Nashville, I had a songwriting exposition in Dallas that I was set to go to, go to LA, I was ready to go.

And I got the call and they said I was going to be Dorothy. And I said okay, I'm going to do this. So Dorothy was really pivotal, I just chose. Sometimes you have to do that in life. You have to just say, I'm going to take this as a sign and I'm going to walk through it with confidence and I'm going to be like, this is my next step. Because if you sit around waiting for the sign, sometimes you have to put yourself out as well as what you're receiving from the universe, it's a give and take. And that was one of the first moments I've ever done that. And I just did. It was like, okay, here we go.

09:07 Tony:
I hope we get to hear about a few more of these pivotal moments. And I want to get to your songwriting, but specifically, because a lot of the listeners are actors. I do want to zoom in here for a moment on the theater side. So your resume is incredible. Led the first national of Waitress, leading the long-running company of Chicago, most recently as Roxy. You've defied gravity as Elphaba, Fiona, and Ariel. But I know what people don’t see are also the years of hard work and the time between jobs and not getting certain jobs. So for the listener who wants to be a principal on Broadway, what advice would you give 16 year old Desi playing Dorothy?

09:54 Desi:
So my journey to playing a principle in a large production, like a National Tour or Broadway show was different than some. I started kind of from what we would call the ground up. Though I was Equity when I moved to the city, I was the Universal Swing of Wicked. So that is what we would call, yes, blessed and booked as they call it. But that is the bottom of the food chain as far as a role in a show like that. I did not just jump into playing Elphaba. So I think that I would tell 16 year old Desi, you might not move to New York City and become a Broadway star the second that you move there. Your journey might be to work, establish relationships, establish a work ethic in this field, network, connect with people, prove yourself, allow people to see who you are and then eventually lead roles might be granted upon you.

That's what I would tell 16 year old Desi. And I have a feeling that 16 year old Desi would not freak out about that information because I thought okay, I'm doing this, but I don't think I had all the confidence in the world like, wow, this is really going to work out for me. There's always that, we're going to go for this and we're going to try this with all of our might, but I'm going to try to work no matter what happens. And success for me was getting a paycheck, doing what I love to do, and then being able to sustain a life in New York City, that to me was success, and that happened for me. So even being a Universal Swing in a show, I thought I did it, everything else after this is a plus.

And I think because I had that mindset of I'm going to work really hard and I would rather do this than work at Starbucks. I would rather be doing this than waiting tables because some people come in and they're so amped and they want the principal and the lead. I should be playing leads. And then their team is like, yes, you should be playing leads and good. That is so good. But you're going to be sitting around waiting for a while if that is how you want to go. The jobs are going to be fewer and further between, which is what I'm experiencing now. So it's a give and take. I thought, “I don't care what I'm doing. I want to sing and dance.”

Thank you that you see me as a principal performer, team. Thank you. And I see myself too, and I think it will happen, but I want to sing and dance. I moved here to do that and I want to do that. So I'll take a regional gig. So I'll take an ensemble gig. And that was my particular journey, but I think telling my younger self, Hey, it might not look like people say it's going to look and it might not look how your deepest desires and dreams show it. It might look a little different than that.

13:15 Tony:
You alluded to this a little bit, but now that you have several Broadway credits, what are misconceptions that people might have about being a successful actor on Broadway? A Broadway star.

13:27 Desi:
I love that question. You don't just jump from show to show once you have a show. So each individual show takes its own incredible amount of effort to break into and to be trusted with. So some people say you have to have Broadway to book Broadway. I say nope. It seems like that when you're first trying to break into this business and you're first moving here. I can't be taken too seriously with my credits because I don't have any credits. It will come in the same way that you will either book or not book another show after this. Eight shows a week is incredibly difficult. Maintaining your self-care, your vocal health, your mental health on an eight show week contract is no joke. It is not to be messed with. You will undoubtedly always be tired.

It's just maintaining your level of tiredness. And in order to do that, you've got to want it bad. And hopefully most people do, but it does seem that over the years I have met people who once they get here, they say, wow, I don't know if I want to put in this work and it sometimes shows on stage. And it is obvious, we know. I think those are misconceptions for sure. This is like me at 30 years old telling you this now, sometimes the job is the job and it's 100% okay for you to show up to the theater, just like somebody would show up to their office job.

I'm kind of feeling 80% today. I'm going to say hey to the people as I walk in the hallway. I'm going to open my laptop. I'm going to get a couple of these deadlines done, and then I'm going to go home. It's just the job. And it's actually really okay to show up to your Broadway gig or your gigantic regional gig or your huge national tour and be like, wow, okay, I'm a human today, but we have this misconception, let's call it, that it's my dream and my dream has now come to fruition. So I should be a thousand percent grateful and like a hundred percent me every day, why am I tired? Why am I getting sick? Why am I stressed? We're all human beings and the more human we can be, the more human the audience will relate to us, that's the best connection we can ever have. And Jenna taught me that, lean into how you are as a person. And it's most likely that the story will shine even brighter because you're just being true and authentic to where you are that day. So that's kind of what I would say.

16:21 Tony:
Just to kind of dig into that. Would you say that that is just being instead of pushing, is that sort of what you're talking about?

16:28 Desi:
Absolutely. Oh yeah. The lights are on, there's a huge audience out there. Some of my most successful performances were when I let go of whatever pressure was in my head to perform, or whatever pressure I felt to deliver on a certain note or a certain song. “She Used To Be Mine.” Those four chords would start and I would hear rusting in the audience like, oh, this is the song. Oh, I love this song. And there was something that would come over me, alright girl, this is what they paid for. This is what some of them paid for. My most successful performances were where I walked away and was like, oh, that felt good, was when I thought, forget about it. Lean into where I'm at right now and tell the story.

Sometimes that just means singing the notes on the page, saying the words in the ink, just doing it and then allowing whatever is going to happen will happen. And if I was a snotty cracking mess on fire in her eyes, because I was in the moment and being true to where I was at. Great. Okay, great. So it wasn't the most gorgeous, belted D with a sweet little riff. I would rather pay to see somebody be in the moment than try to put on something.

18:02 Tony:
These high stakes moments, whether it's 8 shows a week, the money note, or if it's the final call back in front of a giant creative team, how have you learned to handle those moments mentally on the inside — to just do the work?

18:18 Desi:
Yeah. It's so huge and so difficult. I think some of the best advice I've heard recently was actually from my best friend, Caroline Bowman. We love throwing she's playing Elsa on the Frozen National Tour. It's just not casual. So she and I were talking once, probably before the actual performance of Roxy. And it sounds a little silly, but it's a, it can be a great metaphor. Roxy begins. She runs on the stage. She kills someone and then she climbs a ladder and the ladder is really tall and there's nothing connecting me to the ladder. It's just me holding onto it, and so it's adrenaline. And then I was having a hard time at the top of the ladder, dropping in. She sings “Funny Honey” up there, my heart is racing. I would start to feel some panic of like, oh my gosh, I'm right out of the gate. And now I'm up on this ladder and nothing's holding me and I talked to her about it.

And she said, here's what I think you're missing. She said, have you actually allowed yourself to feel your heartbeat and to recognize, oh my goodness, I'm alive right now? While you're on the ladder, are you actually saying, whoa, I'm feeling the ladder. I'm breathing really hard. My heart is beating and I'm alive. Have you tilted it to be, whoa, I'm a human and I'm doing this? Have you actually, and could you? So the second that I started to think whoa, I leaned into the nerves, and I actually allowed it to be almost like a thrill, an exciting experience. So in honestly it's kind of connotation or perspective in a way, but instead of saying panic, bad, bad, bad panic nerves Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Wow. Oh my goodness. It's exhilarating.

I would have chills all over my body. I would look around, [&] the spotlight is on me. I'm breathing. I'm sweating, I'm singing. And instead of making this a bad thing, I made it such an exhilarating thing to where then, oh my gosh, funny honey is suddenly this, whoa, rockstar moment. But it's almost like the internal change to say, Hey Desi, you're nervous. That's great. You're human. Hey Desi, you're nervous. Fantastic, use it. Hey Desi, you're anxious. Good, you're alive. Leaning into that and changing the connotation to a positive experience.

Maybe even a thrilling one, and I say thrilling, because it's, whoa I'm on the edge. Whoa. It can be a good thing. It can be a good thing. So that's how I've started to realize, to manage saying it's okay to be nervous or it's okay to have an anxious moment. No one in their right mind would be like, Hey, there are 14 producers in there. You're cool. You're not nervous. What? That's not real. It's more, okay, wow, whoa, this is so cool. When you're 85 years old on the porch, sipping a mint julep looking back at your life. You're going to say, I did that. I did that.

21:57 Tony:
You're going to have quite a few of those moments. So let's talk about one of them, your TV debut in Gotham. And for those actors that want to make the switch from stage to TV and film, what is your advice to them?

22:15 Desi:
That's super relevant to where I'm at right now, because after Gotham, I thought I want more of this and the opportunities don't come around as often as my musical theater opportunities and I want them to. So it's actually really relevant for me, where I'm at right now. I'm currently trying to continue to make the switch. I learned a lot on set at Gotham and did realize that I love it and did realize that it could be something that I really enjoy. It's totally different. I think the advice would be, I'm finding this too, is to study it. So take the classes, subscribe, pay the extra money, subscribe to the Hulu and the Amazons and the Apple+s and watch what's actually out there and watch the different types of acting that's going on on the TV and also recognize that it is not just, I think, that transition from theater to TV. We sort of feel like we have to make it really small and we have to make it really quiet and we have to make it really narrowed in because the screen is really huge. And the camera's really close.

No, there are outlandish wild characters, loud characters on TV. There are sitcoms, like Modern Family. There are funny, big, bright, silly, goofy, even musical people and characters on television. So I think my main thing that I'm learning right now is that just because I go into a TV audition or I'm throwing down a self-tape does not mean I have to be really still and be really quiet and pick one little place on the wall. No, there are different types of television. Get smart about what you're auditioning for. Research it, find out what kind of television it is and adapt your performance to that. It isn't just broad strokes, like theater is big and TV is small anymore. So I think that's my main advice and something that I'm currently working on because I'm currently still trying to get more TV credits, literally as we speak.

24:29 Tony:
There we go. Well, stick shifting to another hyphen in your job titles, let's move to singer-songwriter. So you talked about that, this has always been with you, that you've played piano for 13 years, but I could be wrong, but your first single was “White Butterfly,” Is that right?

24:46 Desi:
My first single was “White Butterfly.”

24:48 Tony:
Which is a beautiful single everyone should go listen to. So talk to me, when did that emerge from the caterpillar to butterfly and what's your advice to people who have that tickle that inkling, that they want to put music out?

25:03 Desi:
Oh my goodness. If that tickle or that inkling is in you to put music out, put music out, just do it. That's sitting and being, I really want to, I don't know what to color right now, but I shouldn't in case somebody doesn't like it, what? Pick up a paintbrush and paint something for you. If even just for you. Somebody doesn't have to love it. So I think, yes, you're right. It was always with me. Songwriting was always with me. I started writing for fun in my piano lessons. So I had an incredible piano teacher who at the end of each lesson would say, okay it's time to show me the song you created.

So each week she would have me create a song. Even if that means it's called “elevator” and the notes go up and then the notes go down, it doesn't matter. But she had me create. And I thought okay, I love this. So that's really what initially kind of got me into it and she would listen every time and say, oh, that's beautiful. When I was eight years old, it was probably total crap, but how precious, that she created a safe space for me. And then she listened and I would perform it for her. And I knew that she would like it because she was proud of me. So then that is a metaphor for my whole life, that I can create a safe space, always for me to create. And it doesn't really matter if the masses love it or not. I'm going to do it for me.

And then I wrote little songs when I was 11 and 12 and 13, and they're somewhere. I put out an album when I was 13 years old that most people don't know. My middle school friends still have. And I did a photo shoot with a friend and made the whole cover, it was called the sleeve. And it unfolded, it had all the lyrics to every single one of my songs. So I do have an album that I wrote when I was 13 years old. We will disregard.

Jumping to the songs I put out that I'm really, really proud of. That's when I decided to make Repeat. There's a song on there called “All or Nothing,” and I'm an all or nothing person. So for a long time, I've always felt like, why would I ever try to uncover these different titles when what I really want? And what I should be focused on is musical theater, because that's what I majored in. And that's what people expect. And that's the doors that have been open.

So why would I stray from that? Why would I take a risk and stray from something that we already know is working? Why would I sing, that's a risk? One day I said, no, I miss songwriting. It's been a lot of years since I haven't had the time to sit and write an album and I've got all these songs and all these ideas. I'm going to be a Broadway actress and a singer-songwriter. Why not? Who says I can't be both? I just woke up one day and said “I'm going to do that.” I woke up one day and said, “I want to do voiceover.” So I just woke up one day and said “I'm going to take a class.”

And now I do commercial voiceovers. Just allow yourself to wake up and say I want to do this because you're already not doing it. So why not try it? I already did have an album. Okay. Now I have an album. Woo, good for me. This fear of failure is so prevalent in humans, but it's so, so prevalent in artists. But our artistry and our uniqueness is what makes us so special. And if we can find more unique ways to express it, the better off we're going to be 85 on the porch. We express ourselves in every capacity possible. And if there's an inkling to make music, or if there's an inkling to make a podcast or an inkling to like to put something out in the world, we have to do it. We're the people for it. No one else will.

29:23 Tony:
Agreed. I want to highlight “White Butterfly.” That was your first single, but then Don't Look Back was your debut EP. And Repeat is your latest album and listeners... I'm pushing Desi to make a Christmas album. You heard it here first.

29:45 Desi:
You did say that. And honestly, last year, I think I went home for the holidays and I was sort of just tickling on the keys and playing a couple of holiday songs and I actually had several DMS that said you've got to put this out. So that was the first thing ever. And I laughed, I showed my mom and we said, haha. And that was it. And then you texted me the other day and you said what about a Christmas album? And I said, okay that's next. It has to be.

30:19 Tony:
I love your music. I sometimes run to it. People go listen, go follow, go subscribe. So now shifting again, you also have done a lot of developmental work, so labs and concerts of new music and stuff. So for the actor who wants to get into those rooms and those stages, first of all, how do you start to connect with these new composers and up and coming works? And then once you get in the room, what's your advice to leverage that? Because we know that you don't always move forward. So what's your advice for someone who gets that opportunity?

31:00 Desi:
Okay. Two things. So the way that most of my labs and workshops came about, I will say they're almost always offer only. So collaborators, like new creators, want to find people that they've already had an inkling about or they've seen before, and they mostly won't do an audition, especially with the early stages. They'll just call people. That being said, every audition counts. If you do not book a gig, you will likely make an impression that could lead to that creator's next project. And that is 100% how every single lab I've ever gotten came about, every single one. They came from an audition that did not lead to the gig, but that led me to a connection with a creator, every single time tenfold for me, 100%, whether that was the creator or the casting director or whatever. Hey, Desi did really great work today. The music director would love to have her do this reading. Is she interested? 110%.

So that is one thing, just go into your audition and do your best for those purposes, because I am the living walking proof that exists. And that happens. Secondly, nowadays, a lot of it is social media.So sometimes you will have fabulous content. This is zero pressure to expand your social media, because I think it's important to have a healthy balance with it. But if you want, get some content out there, make some cute videos of you. Social media can be a really fun way to also find new creators. So new songwriters, up and coming, they have a concert coming up, attend the concert, go up to them afterwards and say, “Hey, I'm a vocalist here in the city. I loved your music tonight. I'd love to either DM you or grab your email for your next concert.”

This happens, this is called networking. And a lot of that information now is on social media. Angela Sclafani, an up and coming incredible female songwriter, she DMs, she said I love your work. I wrote a song with your voice in mind. Do you want to do it? I posted about the concert, she posted about the concert. Anybody could have said, oh, if Desi's singing, I have a voice similar to hers. I would love to see that. You could have shown up. You could have made a connection with me and with Angela… boom. So most people, especially new creators in the city, are looking for people to sing their songs, especially for free. If you are interested in a collab.com, then like you are the person for the job, and you're okay without a paycheck. They want you, they need you, they love you, DM them.

And then once you're in the room, it's just all about collaboration. It's bringing that eight year old Desi, let's go for it spirit, and let's try it and let's see, and let's test it, and I'm the girl for the job. Even if what you hand me on the page is what I would say, wow, this is never going to work. Just try it. It's all about your personality in that room. It's all about your effort. It's like showing up and saying, Hey, I'm here and I'm ready and I'm game, and I think those are the people that continue with the projects.

34:30 Tony:
I want to highlight one tip that I'm going to extract from what you said, which is something that I saw in my acting career, and that I speak to artists on, is that I use it for networking just as much, if not more than as marketing. Because we can get lost in the marketing side realizing that there are actually humans there. And it's just about making connections, but can you talk to us about your relationship with social media and maybe just one or two tips?

34:57 Desi:
Totally. I feel like I found a balance with social [media], it's tricky. It can sometimes feel overwhelming because it's a huge, vast, ever spinning, ever evolving, 24 hour a day world. And I think that my balance with that has come from, if I feel like posting or sharing I post or share. And if I don't, I don't. And that's it. The second that I feel pressure to share something is when I go, Hmm, I'm going to check myself. Where is that pressure coming from? Is that coming from comparison? Is that coming from my team, is that coming from my authentic, true self? And if it's not, then I don't. So that's my personal balance with it. I also like to use it to connect. I like to use it to uplift. I like to use it to put out good in the world.

I think it's a beautiful thing because that's important. I feel like the world always needs good, but real good, like real, authentic good. And not being afraid to talk about the hard stuff if you want. And then saying, oh, I've crossed the line. Great. I've crossed the line. I let too much in. I know for next time. It's kind of like every relationship really. And then tips. Reach out to people. So I like to think of everyone, every handle, sometimes even like people with big followings or companies or corporations, it feels like it's unapproachable.

Someone is running that social [profile] and that someone is a person, it's a human being just like me - maybe even younger than me. So reaching out via DM is okay. Like my tip is that I have booked work through DMs. I have made collaborations through DMs. I have booked concerts through DMs. Whether I'm reaching out or they're reaching out, it's a person behind that little handle, do we say handle anymore? Do the kids say handle?

37:09 Tony:
We do. That's so funny.

37:12 Desi:
So like, there is a person behind that gigantic grid. And if you think about it more like. I think it's good. Well, I think of DMs like that because I answer DMs. So because I've booked work from them. My Kind collaboration, Kind reached out to me via DM and said, we would love for you to be a Kind ambassador for us. I'm so glad I checked my DMs that day. I'm so glad I answered, but as long as you don't feel the pressure, as long as you do it on your terms, and you feel like, Hey, I sent five or six DMs today, and that was kind of like sending five or six emails, but not a lot of companies or agencies or big, big creators give out their emails so easy, but maybe contacting them via DM is harmless.

And then last tip, make sure that when they check on your handle, you love everything that's in the grid that they might check. I like to just keep things really real. I definitely think before I post because I have a lot of young people following me. I have a lot of creators following me. I have casting directors following me. Don't feel the pressure to "keep up your brand." I say with air quotes, but more so like, just make sure it's you. Make sure it's authentically you.

38:35 Tony:
One more question, and then I want to move on to other topics. But I do think there's a generation below us, of people that are choosing not to participate in social media at all, because they're, so sick of the crazy world that it is. And then I also think there's a generation above us that want nothing to do with it because they don't know the value of it. So for those people, actors in particular that are choosing to say, and they could even be celebrities that say like, I'm not that doing that. How would you respond to them?

39:10 Desi:
I would say I get it. And I would say, then I think that they haven't found their balance. Just like with anything, if they're choosing not to participate because it's overwhelming or it's too much for them, then it might not be good for them because there's part of social media that isn't good for people, especially the comparison game. If you get on there and you're in a swirly, swirly vortex of chaos and comparison, it's going to cause anxiety. And I feel like that really does exist in people. And I feel like it really does hurt. And if it is hurting, then absolutely step away. Absolutely take a cleanse, absolutely say you're putting it on hold or get off of it. Because to them, I would say hopefully their protest against social is based on something that's actually good for them, that they're making a choice that's good for them. And then I say good on you. But otherwise, if they're not knowing the value of it or they haven't tried it, I would say at least try it. Jen Anderson just joined like a couple of weeks ago.

40:21 Tony:
Patti LuPone

40:22 Desi:
Yes. Patti LuPone. They're like, I may as well try it - just to see. Someone on their team said, “Hey, we would break the internet if you joined, let's just try it.” People like them, they might have people running it for them. That's fine. But if you are running it and if you feel overwhelmed and if you feel like you need to take a step back, do it. That's what I would say. Because after all, this is something that I always believe no matter what, no matter the success, no matter the job, no matter the work ethic, no matter the money, we're all human beings. And we have to remember that at the end of the day, that is the number one thing. That's never going anywhere, 85 on the porch.

We're all human beings. And if making a decision like that is going to fuel you because you are a human being, then yes, I say capital YES to that. But if you haven't tried it or you're really curious, or I think I have a good balance with it and I don't think it's going to bother me, then go for it. Try it, use it. It's there, but you’ve got to find your balance with it.

41:32 Tony:
So it is a tool. And you talked about having a team and you now have a manager, a legit agent / commercial agent. Can you talk about your existing team set up and when you added new members, I know you've changed agents. And so just talk about that for people who are seeking representation, wanting to change representation, add on, let's talk about the team.

41:55 Desi:
Totally the team. My legit agents are the same since I graduated from Michigan. So they came to my showcase. They saw me, I'm in love with them. They're the best. And they've always sort of been my home base since almost nine years ago. And from there it felt right to expand at certain times in my life. When I woke up that one day and I just said, I wanted to do voiceover. Then it was like, okay, I need voiceover agents. So I added them by taking a class and then doing the showcase and they were in the class and I said that we want to sign you. And all I said was, I want to take the class. I did the work. And then I was rewarded.

So then there's that, then I did some sort of concert and commercial agents were there and they were like, we love the way you told this story. You could be great for commercials. So they signed me after this concert that I did. I'm telling you, it can just happen at any moment. So just, show up, do your best work. You never know what could happen. And then eventually as I was continuing, it was after Jenna, I thought, okay I have an album, I'm writing. I want to do voiceover, I'm submitting to modeling agencies. I'm doing branding. I'm still doing legit theater. I want to do TV, it's film, I've got a lot of spokes in this wheel.

Getting a manager would be fantastic. That's the time to get a manager, I think. Unless you graduate or you are new to the city and a manager out of the gate wants to work with you. And that seems to be the only option I would do. But for me it made more sense to have individual agents working in their individual categories and then a manager to kind of manage all of it. That's how it worked for me. And that's how I knew it was time to expand when I was just doing different interests.

And simply put, most of the time, if an agency says they're just a legit agency, trust that. And don't try to say, but could you maybe break into the voiceover world or do you do any, just trust that that's what they do. And in order to have success in the next field that you're looking for, you need that specific type of agency. That's kind of my advice with that. And that's how mine kind of unfolded. So now I have branding agents and voiceover agents and commercial agents and legit agents. And then I've got manager who says, dun dun, we do it all.

44:24 Tony:
There she goes, team Desi, #TeamDesi. So as we cruise towards the end, I want to talk about the low times, because we've talked a lot about high times. Krystina was the last guest and she shared a little bit about not booking jobs and how she handles that. So could you just share your process for the times that it really hurts? I'm sure you have easy ways to let it go, but those things that you really wanted.

44:59 Desi:
Yeah. Krystina and I actually started a company called Pop/Rock Broadway together. And this weekend, this past weekend were our first master classes. The master classes were so fantastic. They were sold out and we had an incredible conversation. And actually we talked a lot about this because Pop/Rock Broadway we’re really leading people in their specific journey, and a lot of them are aspiring and really wanting to know how to break into this business right now, where they are. So it ended up being way more than just Pop/Rock singing. We were really getting into the nitty gritty of their journey. And we were talking about the no's, the N-O that happens so frequently in this business, way more so in this business than in any other.

And I said something, the no's in this business have to, at the end of the day fuel you.
And if they don't fuel you after a moment of sadness, be sad, it's okay. But at the end of a certain small, short time of sadness, if there is not a spark of, okay, what's next? Or, oh my gosh, that sucked and I now need a yes, I'm going to find my yes. If that turn doesn't happen, if that shift doesn't happen and you're finding time and time again, that each no is all consuming and each no is burying you. Then I would suggest that this business is not for you.

And that might sound harsh, but the most successful people in this industry hear the no and are somehow fueled and are somehow amped like great. Okay. Wow. That was a no, I cannot believe that they say with a smile. Wow! Let's go find the yes. Actually tomorrow, I'm going to reach out to so and so and you know what else, I'm going to do, I'm going to do this. So that no actually ignited something in them. And it did not snuff the flame. It ignited a flame. So it's, that's what I feel is the missing link for somebody who's like, why am I struggling so much? I would say, what are the no's that you're hearing? Which by the way, you're going to hear a thousand.

In the last two months since finishing Chicago, I was in two final callbacks with the whole producing team, all of it, all the way. And both of them did not stick. Both of them did not go my way. And they would've been roles that, I mean, I would tell you, I was like, this is so perfect. It's so perfect. And they both did not go my way. And absolutely in that time of sadness call people you love, treat yourself to something good. Take a bath at noon. Eat a fudge brownie, cuddle with your significant other. Just do something good for you because you do deserve to have a down moment.

And anybody who says that they just spring up right away and is like, nope, that didn't affect me. Anybody who says that is not a human being, allow yourself the sadness and then let it fuel you and then be cool, what else do I have? Because there's more to you than just that job. There's more to you than the job in general. And there's more to you than the work, but there's also way more that you could do the next day that could fuel you, that could propel you forward. So it's that little shift.

48:43 Tony:
I was going to label it as resiliency. Yeah, it's really important.

48:48 Desi:
And it comes with practice. That will come easier and easier and easier and easier. That period of sadness will get shorter. The older you get, the more experience you get and the more no's you have, which, I've got a huge collection of no's. It's like a gigantic one. So I feel good about that. And I feel good about all the no's I've heard, because look at me, I'm still smiling and still wanting every day, still go, Desi do you still want to do this? Yeah, I do. Okay, good. You're good. Keep going.

49:15 Tony:
Beautiful. I love snuffing the flame or lighting it even more. That's brilliant. Taking it away from the business, let's say there's another loss. You lose a partner, you lose a parent, you lose a pet. I know that you've had your fair share of losses. We share that in common. So taking it away from the business lens, what have you done during those periods of other losses?

Yeah. So resiliency again, a huge moment. I think the thing about, so what I was just talking about, like the timing of being sad and then allowing that timing to go away and then start to actually use your sadness as a fuel. I think with personal loss and with personal life, the rule book goes out the window. So there is no grief or healing rule book. There is no such thing as timing, that's perfect in those ways. So loss can take a lot of different shapes in your life, especially in your grieving and healing life. And if it's taking shape where it's still consuming you after a certain amount of time, I would say that it doesn't deserve a label. But as you know, each of us is growing towards healing, which I think is always the goal, is to not sit in sadness.

And as long as those tiny steps forward are toward healing, then that's enough. So there's no timing. There's no rule book, but each and every day, if the desire is to grow away from the sadness or the pain, then you're doing all you need to do, that's it because there are some people, and it could be the way that you're wired, or it could be this particular loss that you had, that do feel they need to sit in this sadness and that they want to get comfortable there and they want to build their home there and they want to stay there and they want to get cozy in that pain. And there is a human tendency that you will probably find that's tempting. It is tempting to cozy up in that pain. We sometimes feel safe as the victim. We sometimes feel safe as the one suffering.

But as long as you are fighting against that every day, whatever that looks like, it's like, no I want to be healing or I want to feel better. Or I want this to become a part of my story. Or as long as the desire is toward the light and toward the healing, then that's enough. That's enough. And suddenly you'll wake up after who knows how long, and you'll say, wow, this is a part of my story, and I might not be all the way healed and I might not ever be, but gosh, I've come a long way, and wow, I've really used this, and I've really learned a lot from this. It will happen as long as the desire is there.

52:40 Tony:
So beautiful. I'm like, what's your Venmo handle, so we can all send you money for this therapy session.

52:48 Desi:
I love you.

52:49 Tony:
Oh, I love you. So this has been wonderful but unfortunately you have places to be, so what's coming down the pipeline? What can you share with us that we can look forward to?

53:02 Desi:
Yes. Okay. So after the holidays, after the first of the year, we are doing more Pop/Rock Broadway master classes in the city, we're going to do some specialized classes. There's also going to be in the works. It's not announced yet, but Natalie Weis is going to do a riffing intensive with us.

So maybe when this is out, it will be public knowledge, but I am flying to Wichita, Kansas, my home, and I'm doing my first concert back home on December 29th, it's called Coming Home and it's a family-friendly concert. I'm going to pay tribute to all the roles I played at Music Theater Of Wichita, like singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” We're going to do some Disney. We're going to do some,”Let It Go.” It's going to be really, really fun. And so that is something I'm hugely looking forward to give back to my community. A portion of our proceeds go to a non-profit there called The Laughing Feet.

And I just really would love to just embrace my hometown, that I just constantly lovingly talk about in my career. And so I'm coming home and I'm going to do a concert. So that's coming up, which I'm really looking forward to. And then all these other little fun things. There's a lot down the pipe right now. And they could turn into a no, but you know what happens if it's a no, it'll just be ignited into a sweet, sweet little plan. So we'll see about some of those bigger projects, but those are the ones for now that are tangible and exciting.

54:33 Tony:
And in the meantime, where can we go to get connected to all things, Desi.

54:38 Desi:
All things Desi, follow me on Insta. Insta is my absolute way to connect. I answer DMs. I check DMs. I see what you say to me, reach out to me, respond to my stories. I always give it a double click. Like it's always fun to read. So my Insta handle is @DesiOakley. I also recently joined Twitter, which I'm not really understanding, but I'm getting better. I'm thinking okay, maybe it's a sweet way to put something out there quite literally. My Twitter is also just @DesiOakley. And then you can go to my website, which is DesiOakley.com.

55:31 Tony:
And I'm telling you right now, you also have to go to iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to music and tune in because it's real good.

55:39 Desi:
Thank you. Yes, my album Repeat.

55:42 Tony:
Desi. Thank you so much for being here.

55:45 Desi:
Tony. I love you. This has been so rewarding. I am so grateful for you and thank you for creating a platform for people to listen and grow and learn. I mean, you are making this space and so thank you for creating a space that I can connect and they can connect and listen and grow. It's so inspiring and amazing, and you're doing the work and when you're 85 on the porch, you're going to be saying, I did so much.

56:10 Tony:
I will be at the nursing home.

Thank you, Desi. And thank you for hitting play. Now. I hope that this episode inspired you and if it did, please share it with a friend. But I will want you to take just a few extra minutes to focus on you. This podcast, specifically this episode, was about your presence.

What gift do you have to share? Not just this holiday season, but in the New Year and beyond. So in the same way that Desi is using her voice on social media or on a podcast, and also putting her music out there packaged so that it can reach more people and affect them. How can you take your talents, your voice, your gift, and share it with more people? That's what this podcast is about. That's what my business is about. And I'm going to challenge you to not only think about that, but make a post with #PresentingMyPresent and put it out there for people to see.

Now I promised you two gifts, two special announcements. The first is that we have holiday gifts for you. Starting next week I'm going to be leading you through a holistic look back at 2019. Before we go full-tilt-boogie-woogie into the “New me, New Year, All That Jazz,” I want you to take stock of 2019, to look back, see how far you've come, and recognize your achievements so that you come from a place of abundance and gratitude as we head into this idea of, “What's next?”

The following week, we're going to take a moment to pause, to be present, and to look at the now in different areas of your life so that we know where you're doing really well. And then areas where we could focus on to make additional improvements.

And then finally we will get into that goal setting and starting the day after Christmas, I'm super excited to share with you a special event we've been creating called The “12 Days of You.” So through 12 days, we're going to help you take a look at where you want to go to really not only just set a resolution or a goal, but to break it down into an action plan: quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily.

It is about taking your brand, your business to the next level. I hope that you will take us up on these holiday gifts. The only way to get them, they're all FREE, is to make sure that you're not just subscribed to the podcast, but that you're subscribed to the website. So hop over to TonyHowell.me. And the easiest way to sign up is in the footer.

The second gift, the second piece of news is that Season Two of the podcast is coming! Yes, Season One has come and gone. 12 episodes like that. I have learned so much. And I thank you for coming along on that journey with me. That being said, there are some improvements, some changes to the format that I want to make next year. And we've got some incredible guests lined up. But if you would, if I haven't heard from you, here are some additional questions I want you to ask yourself and perhaps share your answers with me. So here we go:
What change are you trying to make in your life, in your business, in your industry, in your community, in our world… what do you want to change?
What conversations do we need to be having? I'm a little nervous about that one, but I think it's important to ask.
And finally, what changemakers do we need to be having those conversations with?

Now, we've sent out surveys. You can reply to any email that goes out. You can send me a DM @TonyHowell or an email at TonyHowell.me. But if you have answers to those questions that you want to share with me, please make sure that I get your feedback. So that's it. Season One! Thank you so much.

If you want to connect with Desi, be sure to follow her @DesiOakley or visit DesiOakley.com to listen to her music.

You can find me at Tony Howell on social media and the website. Again it's TonyHowell.me. I can't wait to see what you've got to share with #PresentingMyPresent.

I wish you a very happy holiday season. I hope that I get to see you in the upcoming events. And with that, I'll sign off for Season One and talk to you next year.

Singer-Songwriter, Broadway Actor, and Social Media influencer, Desi Oakley is a generous gift. She most recently appeared on Broadway as Roxie Hart in Chicago, and originated the First National Tour of Waitress as Jenna. But her new original album, Repeat, is the catalyst for this episode. Our conversation is the perfect way to celebrate our holiday theme, #PresentingMyPresent.

No matter how you use your voice, or want to raise it higher, this episode is like therapy!

Click here to access bonus resources from this episode.

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