…This is a favorite topic for me. It’s a bit of a parallel from how I grew up as an ethnic little girl in a predominantly white city. One of the most important reasons why I feel diversity in film and TV is important is because we need to see ourselves on the screens. Audiences are diverse and therefore, what we see in TV and film should reflect the audience. It can make for a more powerful connection. I remember thinking I wanted to be blonde when I grew up. I know it’s so twisted to think that, but that’s all I really saw on TV. That didn’t reflect me and who I was meant to be. It was conditioning that I had to eventually undo. If we can show viewers that all of us have a place in the world it would really bring some confidence and belief in people so they can grow their dreams to their full potential. Without diversity on screens, we’re simply distorting the true picture. I think if viewers see people of all ethnic backgrounds it will also educate people and create a standard that we are actually on the same playing field instead of dividing us. Lastly, without diversity, TV and film would be so boring. Diversity helps stimulate creative realms instead of stifling it.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Celestine Caravaggio.
Celestine has performed in over 25 commercials including Walmart, Uber, The Keg and the GoDaddy Raptor commercial. She was also selected as the face of advertising campaigns for Bounce and Downy in North and Latin America.
In 2019 Celestine was featured in “Ghost Writer” on the Apple Network, Season 1. She was also featured in two “Movie Of The Week:” feature films “Baby In A Manger” and “Christmas Recipe For Romance”. 2020 will include “The Set Up” on Lifetime Network in the US and “The Time Is Right”, network TBD. Celestine appears in CBC’s Season 2 of the drama series “The Coroner”.
Celestine was raised in Guelph, Ontario. She is the eldest of three daughters born to a single mother. She knew from an early age that being a performer was an innate part of her personality and with that she enrolled in Sheridan College’s Media Arts program.
Celestine currently lives and works full-time as an actress in Toronto continuing to hone her craft at the Pro Actors Lab and Improv for Actors at Second City.
In her spare time, she advocates for families of children with special needs through her charitable work organizing benefit concerts like Music for Possibility. She also supports the parent community at Beverley School in Toronto through Dream Serenade. Celestine is also extremely proud of her association with Dravet Canada and Epilepsy Ontario where she peer mentors other families whose children have these conditions. Celestine hopes to utilize her rising profile to raise money and awareness for Dravet Syndrome and support families whose children have special needs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Celestine! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Guelph, ON, born to a single, immigrant mother from The Philippines. Luckily, she was educated as a nurse and she raised my two sisters and me. It was an interesting place to live. At the time, I could count the few ethnic people in our school. We all sort of stuck together and weathered some really hard times but had some good times too. It taught me to embrace standing out and deepened my kindness towards people of all backgrounds.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I used to be a record label executive for Universal Music. I worked with some of the biggest musicians in the world like The Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Gwen Stefani etc…I learned what separated them from the pack and what it takes to be a “star”. I learned that talent is important but so too is hard work and believing in your talent. I grew up always wanting to be a musician/artist myself. It wasn’t until many years after that career that I wanted to try acting more as a hobby. After taking acting classes and seeing myself on camera, I became driven to become a more serious actor. I never imagined that I would take it to this level. I think everything just happened in the perfect order. A bit of divine timing if you will. I wouldn’t have the confidence to do what I’m doing today had I not taken that path.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most amazing thing happened when I was on set for a TV series. I was booked to have one line. I thought my scene had wrapped but the director asked me to stick around and shoot more scenes which I thought was really exciting. When we went to rehearse the scenes, the director asked the writers to give me more lines. I got bumped from an “actor role” having one line to “principal role” having more than 10 lines. It was amazing! It was the type of thing I’d only ever heard of happening to actors in Hollywood who had been ‘discovered’ while on set.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It was actually kind of embarrassing. I had a callback for a commercial for a major car company. I was so nervous. I really didn’t have a lot of experience and the director had asked me to look at the camera and give a particular facial reaction. Instead of giving a confident smile, I gave a look like I had given a speech in my birthday suit. It was a disaster. The whole room laughed. It was so painful. I didn’t book it but I had to do several more auditions before I could learn to calm down my nerves. Nerves and adrenaline make for a powerful combination. I still get nervous before auditions, but it’s when I tell myself that it’s not about booking it, it’s about just “being”, then I tend to give a more natural performance and I more often get booked. The camera responds best to natural authenticity.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Well, right now, the industry has really come to a halt. We are all social distancing in light of the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. I agree with these restrictions and although I’m not working, I really think it’s the best way for us to keep as many people alive. I have hope for the film industry in the future. I know that we will come together bigger and stronger, having garnered lessons and meaning from our time apart. In the meantime, we need to just protect each other and hopefully, Mother Earth is also benefiting from us being kinder to the planet. As for me, I’ve been attending on-line forums given by talent agents and casting directors. I’ve also been watching some films and TV series that I usually don’t have the time to watch. I’m watching these things not just to enjoy but I watch film and TV through a different lens: how are the performances, what shots are taken to create the scenes, how is the script unfolding and telling the story, etc. It’s far more interesting to watch as someone in the industry. I appreciate the subtle nuances in an actor’s performance. I understand how important the subtlety is to conveying naturalism. I am wholly in the process of fine-tuning my craft.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
This is a favorite topic for me. It’s a bit of a parallel from how I grew up as an ethnic little girl in a predominantly white city. One of the most important reasons why I feel diversity in film and TV is important is because we need to see ourselves on the screens. Audiences are diverse and therefore, what we see in TV and film should reflect the audience. It can make for a more powerful connection. I remember thinking I wanted to be blonde when I grew up. I know it’s so twisted to think that, but that’s all I really saw on TV. That didn’t reflect me and who I was meant to be. It was conditioning that I had to eventually undo. If we can show viewers that all of us have a place in the world it would really bring some confidence and belief in people so they can grow their dreams to their full potential. Without diversity on screens, we’re simply distorting the true picture. I think if viewers see people of all ethnic backgrounds it will also educate people and create a standard that we are actually on the same playing field instead of dividing us. Lastly, without diversity, TV and film would be so boring. Diversity helps stimulate creative realms instead of stifling it.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone told me to take an acting class sooner. I was 40 years old when I decided to give this a try. Had I done this sooner, I may have had an even bigger body of work. I may have been a better performer. Still, I have no regrets.
- I wish someone told me to be more still in my self-tape auditions. I have a tough time watching some of the ones I did earlier because my actions are all over the place. They are dizzying to watch.
- I wish someone told me to appreciate how I look on camera. I’m not skinny. I don’t have curves. If I believed that was acceptable, I’d be less stressed about maintaining how I look on camera. I’d like to say I don’t care what people think, but the hardest part is what I think about myself. That’s just the honest truth. I don’t think I’m alone whether you’re on camera or off.
- I wish someone had taught me that ‘living’ makes us better actors. It’s not what we learn in acting class but it’s all the colors of life that enrich our performance.
- I wish someone told me to enjoy the ride. I’ve come far in a short period of time. It all happened so fast. I try to relish the moments, but I’m still learning to juggle the job, the experience, and what it’s teaching me.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Self-care is an important thing in all aspects of your life. This is something I was forced to learn as the mother of a child with special needs. I think it’s one thing to be driven in what you do, but it’s always a good thing to take a step back to feed your other interests, nurture the relationships you have in your life. I believe that “living” makes you a more connected actor. Everything we do, feel, and share in life are all the things we draw from in order to give a good performance. The more connected you are in that way, the more believable you are on the screen. This is why I feel self-care is important for everything you do.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I learned a lot of life lessons before I became an actress. I love being an actress but I already have a cause that is dear to my heart and as my career grows, I plan to continue to speak out about it. I mentioned before that I am a mom to a child with special needs. As a caregiver, I learned a lot and managed to come out of the darkness and into a much healthier place in my life. My devotion is to the special needs community specifically the parents/caregivers of kids with special needs. They have to face the heartbreak of having a child with a medical condition and disabilities. There is a lot of hard work, emotional and physical stress that goes into this duty to their child and in many cases the rest of their families. If parents/caregivers don’t practice self-care, there will be little to give their child with needs. Further, I feel a vocation to spread the word about their plight to the greater community so that perhaps some of the stress can be relieved when people understand how they can help and support these families. Perhaps more support can be available to them, friends and family can better assist and eventually the world will accept that these people are superheroes and take the burden from society. If we could all do our little part, the load may not be so heavy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I come from a family of strong women who were immigrants to Canada. My mom, my grandmother and aunts were incredible role models for me. They weathered a lot from leaving their families behind in The Philippines to discrimination and having to start from the bottom up just to build a brighter future. They taught me not to underestimate your power and value that sometimes being an underdog can actually motivate you to rise to the top.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When faced with challenges remember to RESPOND and not REACT. We can argue our point of view in any argument, but our point of view is far more compelling when we can be calm and respectful about it. This holds true in our personal lives and in politics.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a private lunch or dinner with Oprah Winfrey. I cry every time I listen to her tell her life story. She knew from an early age that she was going to be bigger than a slave to a white family in Mississippi. She believed it was possible in a time where it seemed impossible. She listened to her instincts along her journey, took risks but they were all in the name of what is right. She invested in herself and made an incredible impact on the planet as a whole. I’ve learned so much from this and every hardship I go through, I remember how hard it was for her. She has had a huge impact on my life.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram — @celecara
Website — www.celestinecaravaggio.com
Twitter — @celecara
Facebook — @CelestineCaravaggioActress
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.