If you don't hear this today, from anyone else, you're going to hear from me that you are love, and you are loved. And that is something I actually say to myself every day at least three times a day. Why three times a day? Because it's when I eat meals. So when I, you know, I kind of I bless my food. And the first thing I say is, “I am love. I am loved.” And it's not that I don't know I'm loved by other people. But in my field, I could be in another city. I could go a whole day without talking to my partner, and you just may not hear that from someone else. And it's not because people in your life don't love you. But life happens. And you may not hear from someone else, so why not hear from yourself?
Hello, it's Tony , and welcome to the Tony Howell podcast Conversations with Changemakers. On this month's episode, we speak with Antuan “Magic” Raimone, author of Becoming Magic, a TEDx speaker, and Broadway performer with 20 years of experience. His credits include six years as the universal swing for the Pulitzer Prize-winning global phenomenon Hamilton, as well as the four-time Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights.
Antuan is a survivor of repeated childhood sexual abuse and is on the frontlines fighting for victims as a soldier of love, his registered trademark, and movement. You will soon hear his universal messages of hope and inspiration for all. After 26 episodes, this might be my favorite. Enjoy!
Antuan, I'm so excited to chat with you. And the first thing I wanted to share is one of the favorite things, one of your catchphrases that I love. So let me be the first to tell you this morning. May this find you in good health and spirits.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
I know it's a very special time in your life because you have just finished six years with the global phenomenon Hamilton. So we're going to dive into that. But how are you feeling today now that you're no longer a part of the company currently?
It feels different. And it also feels the same because it's, you know, it's a Tuesday morning, and my morning is kind of how usually the wakeup I watch the news and do my morning meditation. What will be different is around five o'clock today, I will go to the theater to pick up my tour trunk that's been there. And so I'll pick that up, and I'll bring that home. And this is the first time since I've been given the tour trunk that it will actually live in my home. So that will be a first big, like, “Oh, yep, we're really locking into this thing that it's not your day to day anymore.” So I think they're going to be several of those moments in the coming weeks where life is happening for me, but it's not. But Hamilton is not a piece of that life. So those I'm going to see a show tonight on a Tuesday evening. And I have to call out, I can just go to the theater.
So exciting. I mean, I personally don't know how (a) your brain could do that and (b) like your mental health can handle the stress and anxiety of anyone calling at any moment. I personally know that you just shared as well, like, hours of stories about Hamilton on your Instagram without in bed with this episode. But yeah, looking back, and from this week of storytelling, what are some of your all-time favorite moments with the show?
I'll start most recent. So in September of 2021, I went out to the LA company. And it was my first time working with them. Although several of the people in that company like it was the company was created from people from all other companies of Hamilton. So there are people that have been in Chicago production. And I had spent three years with the Chicago production. So I knew several of them. There were some other cast members that we had worked together doing In the Heights many years ago. And I know we're going to talk touch on that a little bit later. So it was nice to see people that I've worked with in some capacity over the past decade. And then the people that I had never seen or never worked with were so warm and wonderful and welcoming because that's something about being a universal swing. And we'll specify what that means also in the interview. So please hold, listeners.
Something being universal swing is when you come into a new company, oftentimes, those people have gone through six weeks of rehearsal tech weeks, previews, opening nights—all of these things—and then you just get thrown in there, and they have a momentum, they have a cohesiveness, they have an energy that they've created with each other, and I have to come in. It's like transferring to a new school. Genuinely, that is the emotional and mental feeling of the thing is “Okay, I'm here at this new school,” even though we all are kind of doing the same lessons, but it's new energies, and so to have gone to that company, and for them to be so welcoming, I connected with them on such a level that I did not anticipate.
And at this point, I've been doing the show since 2016. And this was 2021. And so when I left there, I was so sad to leave those people. And I was scheduled to go back to them in January of this year, but their closing date got moved up from June of this year to March. So it didn't make sense for me to go back to their company. So I never got to say goodbye to them. But I will because I'm flying to LA this weekend for their closing night.
Oh, so fun. Well, I guess like, to, I don't want to dwell the whole time on Hamilton because we have so much to talk about. But, you know, we have this thing. We still have this thing called coronavirus. So you are the glue that often, you know, saved this show. So I guess my question for you is, like, how has that been particularly in the last two years? I'm sure your job was a little bit more difficult and maybe a little bit more frequent.
Yes, it was. And I can say easily that two of my most stressful work moments have occurred in the last six months. And part of that corona adjacent, it was a combination of an actor had gotten their booster shot. And so they, you know, were given a sick day around booster shots because everyone's body responds differently to them. So that actor took their booster day. And then one of our other male swings happened to also be out sick. And then . . . and they were covering for the person who was out for the booster. The next another swing that was in the building who are—sorry, they weren't in the building—they had a personal day, but they knew the track, but they weren't actually in the building.
And so it was myself and one other swing, and that other swing did not know the track yet. So I'm the only body in the building that knows this track that is now vacant. And when I got the call about that, I said, “I haven't performed this tracking over two years since before the pandemic,” and I don't even know when I performed before the pandemic. So it was really, yes, the track was there in my body in my mind somewhere. But I had no rehearsal for him. I hadn't been watching him because I've been doing other things in the show.
And so I performed the show, but it was easily the most sick, the most physically sick I've ever felt. And I get excited nerves but fear nerves? I've seldom if ever get those, but fear nerves were in full effect that day in the show happen is an experience I don't ever want to repeat. And I would never want someone else to repeat. And I think the saving grace as to why I said yes is because the actual linear, somewhat linear tracking of what that track does, when they begin and when they end, is the same as what I know. But with other companies, those tracks are different. They've been taught differently. So if I were in any other company, the answer would have been “No, I'm not doing the show because it's not safe for me. It won't be safe for someone else.”
I still have anxiety dreams from swinging a show that you know the actors were sent nightmares. So kudos to you for saving the day safely and . . . and keeping the show going. Just in case anyone is not a theater nerd like the rest of us, can you just break down? What's a swing? What's a track? And you were also in that hit show called In the Heights but a different kind of swing. So can you address that? What was different about Hamilton versus In the Heights and . . . and what are . . . what's the swing and all the different ways?
So a swing, in general, I equal that or compare that to being a substitute teacher. So when someone is the math teacher every day, they take a vacation and then but there might be other teachers in the building that also know what that person does. So in theater, you have a male and female ensemble of dancers. And then there are swings that will cover all of those people. In Hamilton, there's five women, and they're six men. So as just regular swings, they cover those six people for that one production only. In the Heights, I was a vacation swing. So for vacation swings, I would be given, like, “Okay, we need you to come into the theater for a week,” two weeks, a month, whatever the amount of time is, and then I'm there to fill in as one of the for any of the onstage dancers that might either have to move to be an understudy or if they've taken time off whatever that might be. And also as a vacation swing, I'm only paid for the dates I am actually working at theater. So as a vacation swing, once that month or whatever that amount of time was ended, so did my paycheck. And as a universal swing, I am on contract, sort of as a retainer, and I am always with the company. So when I'm in New York, I report to the theater every single day, extra coverage. I cover those same six men, and I do that for all existing companies of Hamilton. So there were five US companies of Hamilton, so I could be sent to any one of those five companies as needed. And they aim to give me at least 24 hours’ notice before traveling, but sometimes emergencies come up. I think the shortest amount of time I've been given was 32 hours. I found out Thursday evening during the show that I'd be flying out on a Saturday morning. So you've got to pack a bag and do whatever you need and take that with you. And if they know how long you'll be sent away, then you pack for that. Sometimes they don't know how long you’ll be sent away. Sometimes they tell you what amount of time, and then it changes.
So you're on call, like, doctor, and I know that during In the Heights, you got this nickname. So can you tell us how you earned your middle name, your nickname? How did that come about?
Yes. So my professional performance name is Antuan “Magic” Raimone. It's not my actual given middle name. But so a part of why I have been a swing for In the Heights and Hamilton is because I have this innate given ability to pick up choreography very quickly and also retain that information. And it's almost photographic. So as I see it, it just kind of imprints within me. And I can be taught something just a few times, and then I'm ready to go.
So Michael Balderrama, who was one of my dance captains for In the Heights, as he was teaching me the show, he would show me something two or three times and say, “Okay, what's next?” And he kind of paused and said, “Are you sure?” “Okay, what's next?” “Okay.” And so we just kept going. And we came back the next day, and I had retained everything he had taught me, which was a surprise to him. He wasn't expecting that because of how quickly we're moving.
And so the cast was just sort of asking him, like, “How's the new guy?” He's like, “Oh, he's great. He picks up stuff quickly. I mean, he's like magic. He's magic.” And he started calling me Magic. And this is 2007. And we've known each other for almost 20 years now. And he exclusively calls me Magic. He has introduced me to people as Magic. And those people have known me for years before they ever knew my first name was actually Antuan. So it took me some time to get used to that nickname. I would meet people with him, and I go to shake their hand and say, “Hi, I'm . . . my name is,” and I'd have this sort of pause or random glitch because I, the . . . the humble person in me, was like, “Don't introduce yourself as Magic.”
Yeah, that's you Starbucks name. Now.
Honestly, this is any food order, so they can't even pretend to misspell it.
I love it. Well, I wanted to have you on because I'm super proud of you for creating your book. And so this is what I call the Good Morning America question: why this book Becoming Magic? And why now?
Well, this book, it's been something I've had so many people in my life, they've just like, “You should write a book,” “You should write a book.” I've heard that so many times. I even saw an astrologist the beginning of 2016. And she's like, “You're gonna write,” like, “You're a writer. I think you're gonna write a book at some point,” like, “You are not the first person to tell me that.” And I, just at the time, I was like, “Ah, okay, maybe I don't really know what that would look like.” And then I just because I've been a writer. I've written in journals throughout my entire life. I mean, I had some as a kid. I've lost those. I have no idea where those are. But then I picked it up again as an . . . as an early adult.
And so when I started writing a draft of a book, I had three ideas in mind. One would be my life as a performer specific to being with Hamilton. One would be writing about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. And then there was kind of a third one as well. And as I was parsing, you know, sort of separating these book ideas, I thought, “How would I do that? It's just a part of me.” So I just decided just write one book that gives an introduction to me in my life up to this point. And I just started writing some drafts. And so I think, an even more specific answer to the question of why now? It was a series of wonderfully fortunate opportunities. And the book is what, I believe, it's a stepping stone towards something bigger that I'm not even aware of today. I don't know what the book will afford me. In my future, I just know that at the time that it came to exist was the time that it needed to exist.
And I happened to meet a fantastic ghostwriter through a very good friend of mine that I love and respect so much. And it was, like, I'd had two conversations with two different people about you should, you know, work with someone to write your book. I was, like, “I hadn't even thought about that.” And then I got a connection. And it all just came together. It wasn't something that I had been seeking out for long term, just opportunities presented themselves and I trust my gut, and my gut said yes.
It's beautiful. It's a very, very inspiring, and it does . . . it covers like we get to meet Antuan “Magic” Ramoine. And I know you a little bit from our friendship, but I guess, yeah, let me just transition here. I feel like it's part of your larger mission, your larger movement, and that is titled Soldier of Love, which happens to be a registered trademark. So we talked a little bit about becoming Magic. What is hashtag Soldier of Love and this movement? And I love that it started on 1111. So give us give us the beginning story.
So the first public proclamation of Soldier of Love, yeah, that was it came much later. And I was doing some re-titling of some blog entries I posted per your suggestion, because, at the time, I was like, it was entry one, entry two, entry three, and you said, you know, go through and assign an actual title to these blog entries. So I had to reread the entries to figure out what the titles would be. And I had started a blog post in 2012 maybe and, or maybe sooner, I can't remember. It's been so long.
But as I was reading through these blog entries, I saw, like the seed that was like, this is Soldier of Love, like the whole the embodiment of it. And so my elevator pitch of what a Soldier of Love is, and how I define a Soldier of Love, a Soldier of Love is someone who is intrigued and curious enough to live the whole life. And I define living a whole life as a life where mistakes can exist, where fear is not debilitating and where vulnerability is not a weakness. And I want to encourage people to be curious enough to ask themselves, is the love I have for myself enough?
And that for me, many, many years ago, the answer to that question was no, the love I have for myself was not enough. I looked to my friends. I looked at my family. I looked to performing. I only felt that I held any value when I was onstage. I only felt important or powerful or worthy of being seen when I was onstage. When I was off stage, I felt small, I felt weak, I felt insecure.
And through a series of events, like working on cruise ships, where I was physically removed from everyone that I had known or grown up with and put in a space with new people, and we're doing the show, but you're traveling the world, and so people wanted to do different things. I had time to myself, and I was able to learn I love being with myself. I'm okay being by myself. And it created this foundation of support through, and also, additional work and therapy allow for that as well.
And so I just want people to be curious enough to ask themselves, is the love I have for myself enough? And if the answer is yes, great, build on that. If the answer is no, then ask a follow-up question: how can I trust that the love I have for myself is enough? And so the actual phrase of “Soldier of Love” came from an Instagram post that I posted in 2009. No . . .
Look at your memory working. This is that memory that — swing memory, because I would I would have no idea.
Well, for me, there's a bookmark because it was during Trump's election when he won, and I was just noticing around me so much fear—fear on conversations, fear on energies, fear on social media—and I was swimming in that pool of fear for a few days. And the person that I am, I cannot operate in that space long term. So I had a pep talk with myself and said, “Okay, I have to figure out a new way of existing in this world because I can't live this way for the foreseeable future.” And I was also trying to figure out how I wanted to utilize Instagram specifically. And so I made a post, and I said, “I understand that people are experiencing a lot of fear. And that is valid.” [I] said, “I have no idea how to keep you from feeling fear. But what I can do is offer you love. So I am making a vow to be a Soldier of Love for you,” meaning that whatever I post on social media will be informative, educational, inspiring, empowering, thought-provoking, sometimes funny, but I will always do so from a place of love, not to be nasty or snide. There's enough people offering those goods. I don't need to be another one.
Well, people are falling in love with you right now because this . . . this is so good. I have to find the quote that I really like. It's on your website, and it's in your TEDx talk. So I just want you to break this down for us. But you say “When we're living in the fear of what may happen, we are able to live in the love of what is happening.” So can you just expand upon that a little bit?
Yes. So, for instance, for myself, in certain spaces that I existed in, there would be this underlying fear of what people are thinking of me, how they're going to look at me. And what may be surprising to the viewer and the listener is that early in my life, the spaces where I felt most fearful were the spaces where everyone looked like me. So being in a group of other people of color was fear-inducing for me because I grew up in spaces where I was one of few. I grew up in predominantly white suburbs of Missouri. So everything, from elementary school to college graduation, I was one of the few that looked like me in any of my classes, anything I was doing, and I had a few, they may have been small a number but large and impact, experiences with some other boys of color where they looked at me, and I represented something to them that triggered them. And so they would be verbally aggressive towards me, you know. I had experienced sexual abuse at the hands of actual family members, so their physical embodiment also was a threat to me.
And there was this ongoing fear that I had about how would some black guys see me walk down the street, respond to me. Would they want to make fun of the way I was dressed, the way I was walking, or whatever that was? And what that was robbing me of was just the beauty of who I am, the brightness and the light and the love of who I am. And also just enjoying the moment I'm in. And, you know, it could be the smallest—it could be as specific or minute of it's a gray cloudy day, and it's raining. And it could be, “Ugh, this is a shitty day. It's raining.” And then but also within that, you could walk past someone that has a cool pair of shoes on or has a nice smile, or there's going to be some amount of beauty in even some of the more mundane or blah moments of your day. And also, it's just a matter of when we continue to carry fears from our past into our present, we're expecting to also see them in our future, but we don't have to.
I love it. I feel like you're speaking to me is all . . . all that I will say. Speaking of speaking, you touched on this a little bit. You are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. You serve as an advisory council member and advocate and a speaker with the Office of Victim Services, New York City, and you even share that you are on the frontlines as that Soldier of Love every chance you get for this cause. So what are the ideas? You've shared many already, but what do you try to pass on to audiences particularly around, I guess, around victim services? What do you try to share with them, whether it's one person or a room of thousands?
Great question. And actually, this is such an immediate answer for that because I went to an alumni event last night here in New York. And so I got to meet some of the graduating class members of my alma mater, which is Missouri State University from Springfield, Missouri. I graduated with a BFA musical theater, thank you very much.
And so I was speaking with two young gentlemen that will be graduating this year. And they were just asking, you know, about, like my time with Hamilton and just like, “What, what do you—what's next for you?” And I was sharing that with them. And I had mentioned speaking at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. And when I spoke there, I went in as a way to say, “Here's, these are ways in which you can be of support to someone that discloses to you.”
And so when someone who has experienced sexual violence, when they choose to disclose to anyone, that is not an easy decision for them because of so many reasons that we've all seen played out in the news and on TV and in life. They're afraid they won't be believed, that the pain will be minimized by the person you're sharing it with. And, you know, so we already are aware of how difficult it is for women to speak up against predators. And it is as hard for men because the whole thought is, how can a man be overpowered? It is possible. It happens to adult men all the time.
And so what I had shared with them was if or when someone chooses to disclose to you, the best answer you can offer them moment is, how can I support you? What do you need from me? Don't offer solutions. Don't offer action steps. Just listen. And as uncomfortable as you feel as much as it will hurt to hear that, it can't be about you. It has to be about them. So just ask them, “What do you need from me? How can I support you?” So that's what I impart to an individual or a full room. I give nothing else. That is an action step you can take.
I love it. I'm committing it to memory. It will be on the quotes with this episode. You also volunteer with Live Out Loud of New York City. And this was something I've not really heard of. So you are an openly gay role model to the LGBTQIA+ youth. And I also love that they have something called the Homecoming Project where you went back to your high school to speak. So, yeah, what is what I'm just going to call LoL? I don't know if they call it that. But, like, tell us about LoL. And in case people want to get involved, how can we learn more and get involved?
It’s a not-for-profit organization here in New York. And actually one of my good friends from college—he is how I actually got connected with him. So many years ago, almost 10 years ago, if not more, he was doing a concert. And he invited representatives from Live Out Loud and also the Trevor Project. And so the kind of . . . their . . . their heads of their boards were there, and I was introduced to both of them. I was intrigued about the work that they did. So I reached out to Live Out Loud, and when I started working with them, I was actually writing curriculums that would go to their GSAs. It was Gay Straight Alliance, but now it's Gender Sex Alliance, I believe.
I was like, what is it GSA? Okay, thank you for that.
Yes, you’re welcome. And so they had these role models going into their schools, and they wanted to do something that was like more special versus, like, okay, instead of just showing up at a club and having pizza, like, let's have a conversation to learn things. So I was on a, in a group, a committee. We were creating essentially topics for the students to have conversations around. And in the course of that, I said, “I'm actually more interested in being in the room with the students and having conversations with them.” And so that's how I got into being a role model and actually working with them.
So what they do is, you know, and they're always looking for people to help, and especially if you are a person of color, yes, yes, yes, that representation needs to be here. And you can be in any field of work. It's professionals across the board. And so you go in, and they schedule it around your time. It's usually in the afternoon because it's right after school is out. So it could be like a three to four, 3:30 to 4:30 situation. Zoom, as you know, it's happening, so makes it even easier.
So you have a conversation. There's someone with Live Out Loud that is also there to facilitate the conversation, so you're not alone in this space. We have someone there to guide the conversation, and you just talk. You share your experiences. They'll send you information ahead of your scheduled time, so you know what the topic is.
And you just talk with the students. You hear what's going on in their lives, what the realities are for them. You can answer questions. And what I really like about this organization and what they're doing is, so seldom as we become adults, especially for those of us who don't have kids, I'm not hearing the conversation of high school students because I'm not in that space with them. And I don't know what their realities are as LGBTQIA+ individuals, and even though we're different generations and things will be very different, there are so many things that are so similar.
One example, I remember being at a school, and one of the students said, “What do you do when someone just keeps taunting you and . . . and just being mean and cruel?” I said, “I know this is gonna sound really simple and really hard to do.” I said, “But turn the other cheek. Ignore them.” They . . . “But what if they just keep a?” There's some sort of pain that person is experiencing that has nothing to do with you. But for some reason, they're choosing to take it out on you. And maybe you represent their fears. Maybe you represent their reality that they aren't able to face. But at the end of the day, it's not about you. It's something else that's going on with that person.” I said, “But if they're getting physical, and if they start the fight if they throw the first punch, then you feel the last one.” But that's what my mom always told me. Like, “Don't be start. Don't start any fights. But if someone hits you, then hit him back.” And I'm also a black belt in Taekwondo.
Okay, certified. Well, I think we already picking up a three-line. There's . . . there is a lot of personal work that you've done and then a lot of work that you're doing to pay it forward, to pass it on. One of the moments in your book that may—I’m getting emotional now—but there was a pivotal moment for you in therapy, where 30-year-old Antuan did some role playing with an 8-year-old version of yourself. And I think we all have childhood wounds. Like, I think that's just impossible to escape childhood without them. So, I don't know, however much you want to share. But what would you say to someone who still has childhood wounds? Like, how can they maybe go about healing some of that by having that experience?
If a part of those wounds is judgment against yourself for not doing more or not doing something differently, allow yourself grace because you were a child. And as children, we only know so much. We only know so much. In our world, even though the people can physically be so big, what we actually know about the world is so, so little. And the fact like if you are alive and breathing today, that kid version of you made it possible for you to be at the place you are today. And that was something . . . that was part of my conversation with my 8-year-old self and my therapy session because I had judged myself for, and I had two separate instances of sexual abuse.
And the first one I was 8 years old, and so my response to that in the actual moment was to freeze. And until I was 30 years old, I thought freezing was a sign of weakness because we've always, I think so many of us have heard there's the fight-or-flight response. I had never heard of a freeze response until I was 30 years old sitting in my therapist’s office. And I never thought that could be a valid form of protection for myself. And for years, I thought I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything when, in fact, I did do something. And it was in that moment in my therapist’s office I was able to see just how strong I was.
And so from the age of 8 to 30, I've been having this conversation. “I'm so weak, I'm so weak. I'm so weak, I'm so weak.” And then at 30, I was like, “Oh my gosh, look at how incredibly strong this boy was to protect us in that moment.” And it was a mental and emotional protection. I may not have fought back physically, but I guarded myself mentally and emotionally, and when you have mental and emotional strength, there is very little other people can do towards you, to you, and against you. And I was able to respect and honor what my 8-year-old self did for me. And that was when, you know, I said earlier in the interview asking the question, do I trust that the love I have for myself is enough? It was in that moment I trusted the love that I have for myself was not only enough but way more than I ever anticipated. It could be.
Well, I love you. And the response that I had is, like, you are strong AF because also look at everything we've gone through in the last six years. And you just held up one of the biggest Broadway shows for six years. So I think the proof is in the pudding. Obviously, you're a very, very talented writer—I'll just say go get the book Becoming Magic—but as well as a speaker. So I think I can say it here officially that's really I think where your focus is next. What is it about speaking for you, public speaking? Why are you seeking to have more of those opportunities?
I like connecting with people. And I am an introvert, meaning I recharge in spaces by myself or that are much less stimulating. But I really love conversations. And I think part of that is growing up, I'm the youngest of three, and the sibling closest to me is twelve years older than I am. So I kind of grew up as an only child. So I didn't grow up having conversations with people every day. And there's just something about also being able to tell my story and to share what I have and to offer that to other people.
And I didn't use to think that sharing my story would have much interest or value to others. And so like, “Well, why . . . why would I share it then?” But there have . . . I can't say I've ever experienced a moment when I've had a conversation with someone where I didn't genuinely notice them being positively affected. And that's the difference: positively affected. I don't ever share anything with the purpose of diminishing someone. And I don't want to shock someone. And I speak about a very difficult subject, sexual violence, but I do so from a place of learning. This is what I've learned from this. These are ways that I've taken this experience in the struggle and have found love and light and joy from that. I don't want to get into—this is a part of my signature. It says—
I was just about to ask you that. I was like, “Wait, I need to know what this is about,” because I was, like—okay, continue.
So part of my signature, my email, is I take responsibility for the energy I put into this world. And it's that simple. And if I'm having a bad mood and I'm around people, I say, for one, people who know me well, you know what my mood is. I don't hide it. But I also don't throw it in your face. My baseline is pretty, pretty good. I'm kinda like an eight usually. And if I'm at a five or lower, I'm not saying hello to people because that's not where I am, I'll make eye contact with you, I might give you a nod, but I won't be as engaging as people are used to. And that's because when I'm going through stuff, that's when the energy I have is to allow me to do the things that I have to do in that day. And it's selfish. And I use the word selfish not in a negative connotation but in a preservation connotation. So I remember saying to a friend with Hamilton. We were . . . we had a rehearsal one day, and I was on the stage stretching before rehearsal, and I was in a low day, in a low mood. And he kind of like crawled up to be kind of funny. He said, “Hey,” and I was like, “Hey.” I said, “I only have enough energy to be here today.” And he said okay, and he respected that.
And so that's what I mean by taking responsibility for the energy we put into the world. If you're in a bad mood, and you're having a bad day, know that for yourself. Don't ice people out. But just if people ask you, “How are you?” this is a phrase that works wonderfully: “I've been better, and I could be worse.” And I learned in high school. That was the first time I learned just how much my energy and presence affected other people because when I came in upset or in a bad mood or whatever that was that was not my baseline. people would ask, “Are you okay? Did I do something wrong? What's wrong?” There was such a need for people to help me feel better.
And I'm the kind of person that I'm okay sitting in the muck of my emotions because it gets me through them more expeditiously like I don't want to drag this out for days or weeks. It's like, okay, let me sit in this. Let me be upset. Let me be sad. Let me be annoyed. And then I can figure out what is this. And then if there's a solution where I need to speak with someone or if it's just I just needed to be in this funk, then I can get out of that. But if you're someone who finds yourself like me, where people are, like, “Hey, what's going on? Are you okay? Did I do something wrong?” “Nope. I'm just having a low day today. Thank you for asking.” I appreciate it.
I feel you. I have a tendency to be a nine or a ten usually, but I definitely think that we can take those moments that we need, and it's okay not to be okay and to respect those boundaries. You were in my class called “Smart Ass” about social media. And I love what you do on social media, particularly this past week sharing all the stories. And it's in your book. I just want to hear you talk about how you approach social media.
Social media, and I—I'm quite the quarter when it comes in. That's a very eight . . . that's a . . . that's a very different term for this new generation. But I, you know, I have to go on many, many, many, many, many dates, with social media before I commit to it. I didn't, really, I didn't actively join Instagram until 2016. And I couldn't even tell you when Instagram started, but I was like well behind that curve. And for me, I want to be clear about how I'm going to use a platform before I give my energy and time to it because my energy, and all of our energy and time, is precious and valuable. And also, I want to know that what I'm offering people is me, like, you're not getting all of me because that's just not who I am. I'm not gonna give you all of that. But when you meet me, I'm gonna be who you've been watching on my Instagram, you’ve been reading about on my Twitter or on Facebook. They won't be like, “Oh, I thought he might be, like, a little bit different.” Or he seemed a little less or a little more like. No, like, that's me. And so that's something that I think about, and it's just a matter of, like, okay, what do I . . . what am I going to post about? And . . . and it's also . . . it's a matter of what will I be consistent about posting. You know, I'm not going to, like, “Hey, so here's this thing,” and then like, “Oh my gosh, I have to keep doing that kind of thing over and over and over again” because then, for me, it doesn't feel authentic. It feels, it feels performative. And if you want to see me perform, you can come pay a ticket and see me.
Yeah, I think that there's a through-line here. And I just know from my 10 years, which like that flew by fast, but there's a through-line here that I just want maybe you to close on. So alongside this episode, if people find the link, they're gonna be able to go to your website, get a free chapter of your book, watch your TED Talk, all the things. But what I think, Antuan is happening is that you, like many artists, are using your voice telling your story, whether you're writing, whether you're speaking, whether you're using social media. So if you could think back a couple years ago, prior to the book, prior to your first public speaking engagement, what does the artists need to know about permission to be themselves to not be in a costume and being someone else?
I love this question. Ooh, I like this a lot to know about themselves, huh? Oh, man, great question. So what I would say to that is there is no requirement for you to always be on because what you're doing on stage, that is a job. You are presenting a character or characters. They are a part of you, they're of you, you're bringing yourself to those things. They are not all you, but they are a combination. And when you're not on stage, the more rooted and comfortable you are in yourself. And when I say yourself, that your whole self, the parts of you that you may not like, again, living a whole life, where mistakes can exist, where fear is not debilitating, and where vulnerability is not a weakness.
When you can embrace those parts of yourself in your everyday life, then those things also show up when you are performing onstage. And there is less of a transition from one to the other because you're being your genuine self in all of the spaces you occupy. And people sense energy. People sense authenticity. And if you are creating a persona in your life, be it on social media, be it when you're at an audition in the holding room, or you're at a restaurant or a bar with friends if you feel you having to perform and all of this stuff, and it's not genuine to who you are, people are going to pick up on that.
And also it becomes exhausting. You trap yourself. You . . . you build a cage around yourself, where you're the performative person, and you run the risk of locking away the parts of you that are beautiful, that are flawed, that are imperfect. The human pursuit of perfection is a lie and unobtainable. So don't try to be perfect. Be who you are and have people in your life that not only love and respect you for your imperfections and your faults but also call you out when you are trying to present something else that's not that.
You know, I have people in my life that will honestly call me out if necessary, and we can call each other out and say, “Hey, what this is not the “you” that I know. What's going on?” or “Hey, I see or it seems like I haven't heard from you in a while. Just wanted to check in.” I have this wonderful quote that I found online. I have like a folder on my phone. And it says, “It's true friends that hear you most when you're silent.” So when you have people in your life that reach out to you because of your silence, those are people that understand your heart, that understand your spirit, and that want to support you and love you, regardless of how many followers you have, how many likes you have, how many Broadway credits you have, how many books you've written or sold, how many talks you've given. They don't care.
And when they ask you about your life, they're asking about your life, not what was the last show you did, what's the next show you're doing, you know. So I understand with where we are in life and with social media offering so much to viewers. And there's so much content and there's all of this and we're seeing versions of people's lives that seem so glamorous. And so oh my gosh, and you know, they're a TikTok influencer, they're an Instagram influencer, they're this thing influencer.
What we don't know is what's happening off-camera. So when you can, honestly, and I'm gonna come back to the same statement earlier, trust that the love you have for yourself is enough, that is your base. And then people who come into your life support that they are not the source of that love. You, you as the individual, you as the viewer, you as a listener, you are the greatest source of love you will ever have in your entire life that goes above your family, that goes above your spouse, that goes above anyone else that comes into your space. You have to has to be you, because you wake up with you every morning, you go to bed with you every night, you know the darkest secrets that you've never told anybody and will never tell anybody. And if you can't love yourself for those dark secrets, you'll never find anyone else that will.
I thought we were gonna get a RuPaul quote there.
It is. “And if you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna have somebody else? Can I get an amen?”
Amen, honey! I think that is the episode. That is magic. Is there anything else you wish to share, anything else you want to pass on?
Yes, if you don't hear this today from anyone else, you're going to hear from me that you are love, and you are loved. And that is something I actually say to myself every day at least three times a day. Why three times a day? Because it's when I eat meals. So when I, you know, I kind of I bless my food. And the first thing I say is “I am love. I am loved.” And it's not that I don't know I'm loved by other people. But in my field, I could be in another city. I could go a whole day without talking to my partner. And you just may not hear that from someone else. And it's not because people in your life don't love you. But life happens. And you may not hear from someone else. So why not hear from yourself? So if nothing else, know that you are love, and you are loved. And I invite you to tell yourself that at least once a day. Do it in the shower because that is a space you will more than likely have to yourself.
Thank you so much for being on the show, Antuan, for doing all of the work to heal yourself. But then paying it forward, sharing your story, and all of these amazing words. Thank you for listening. And I have to highlight a few things Antuan said, and I have a list of seven.
Number one, I am love. I am loved.
Number two: is the love I have for myself enough?
Number three: each of us is capable of living a whole life, a life where mistakes can exist, where fear is not debilitating, and where vulnerability is not a weakness.
Number four: when we continue to carry fears from our past into our present, we're expecting to also see them in our future. But we don't have to.
Number five: it's true friends that hear you when you're silent.
Number six: when someone asks, “How are you?” and you're a bit low, “I've been better, and I could be worse.” And finally, when someone discloses to you, “How can I support you? What do you need from me?”
If you want to go further, click on the link that goes alongside this episode. I have created a one-stop-shop for Magic. You can watch his TEDx talk, learn more about the Soldier of Love movement, get his book Becoming Magic, or hear more backstage stories about his time at Hamilton.
If you enjoyed this conversation, take a screenshot. Share your favorite takeaway on social media. Want to do me a favor? Hop over to Apple podcast and leave a review. And while you're there, subscribe, because next month's episode, I'm also very excited to share. Thank you so much for listening. Now please go out there and use your work to change the world. Maybe you and I can have a conversation about it very soon.