“I struggled a lot with “burning out” and it’s because I didn’t know myself enough to thrive.” With Ming Zhao & Mae Claire

Learn to know yourself and your priorities. I struggled a lot with “burning out” and it’s because I didn’t know myself enough to thrive. Sure, Elon Musk can work 80 hours a week and be successful at what he does (whatever success may be to you). But you are not Elon Musk. You are you. […]

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Learn to know yourself and your priorities. I struggled a lot with “burning out” and it’s because I didn’t know myself enough to thrive. Sure, Elon Musk can work 80 hours a week and be successful at what he does (whatever success may be to you). But you are not Elon Musk. You are you.

Asa part of my interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mae Claire.

Mae Claire is an actress, model, and recording artist based in Philadelphia, PA. After graduating from college with a Pharmaceutical and Business Healthcare degree, she dipped her toes into the arts and entertainment industry after being cast as Selina Kyle in the short fan film, “Catwoman: Retribution”. Since then, she has been taking classes at Playhouse West Philadelphia and went on to pursue a professional acting career which led her to doing plays like the Playhouse West production “Welcome Home Soldier”, and creating her own award-winning films such as “The Best Way to Murder”.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thanks for having me! Hmm… It’s really hard to tell because I never wanted to be an actress. I actually thought I was going to be a singer. I played the small role of Maw Cawawkee in a middle school play called Kokonut Island and I remember absolutely hating the process of learning lines.

But I was always surrounded by creativity growing up. Music was my first love. My parents had a family band called Weekend Rush and they always brought me to their rehearsals. Eventually, I became a singer of the band as well. We mostly played at weddings, birthday parties, and small events. Being so immersed in music, I took piano and flute lessons, and taught myself to play the guitar and ukulele from the internet (Thank you, YouTube and UltimateGuitar!). I was very shy in grade school and often hid from people by quietly drawing in the back of the classroom.

During my second year of high school, I remember applying to almost 20 jobs at the mall without a single one calling me back. I thought to myself, “If no one will hire me, I’ll hire myself!” So, I took on freelance modeling, character parties, and other odd jobs. Most of my family had careers in the medical field so I reluctantly went to a 6-year pharmacy program in college but eventually switched over to the business side since my heart really wasn’t into it. Eventually, I got bored of modeling. There was something missing in my artistic pursuits so I decided to take an acting class for fun. It changed my entire life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

The most interesting story was before I really got started on my career. Just to let you know — one of my favorite hobbies is cosplay. When I was 13 years old, the cosplay industry was small and relatively unknown. I got scouted by an talent agent at a local anime convention and was hired to perform at a small venue in New York City. In costume, I opened for a locally famous Japanese singer. I sang and played the guitar in front of an audience who barely even knew me but the amount of support I got blew my mind. They genuinely enjoyed my performance. It was nerve-wracking. But it was also an amazing experience for a 13 year old girl. It was different from performing with Weekend Rush. I never thought it was possible for a single performance to really impact people’s lives. That was when I thought that a career in the entertainment industry was possible.

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?

I’m going to be completely totally honest with you. I am still in that beginning stage.

I’m working on developing the character, Nora, from “A Doll’s House” in class right now. One of the first exercises we do are character interviews. We develop the character physiologically, sociologically, and psychologically, then we are asked questions about every single thing in our characters’ lives. I wrote a 20 page background on my character and felt so prepared but the one thing I got wrong was that I learned a Norweigan accent. Apparently, in theatre, no one ever plays classical pieces with a Norweigan accent even though the characters are from Norway. They played the characters with a General American Stage accent. Or an English accent, if you lived in the UK. I felt like an uncultured, uneducated swine.

Anyway, this just shows that no matter how far along you are in your journey, there’s still so much to learn. The one thing my teacher tells our class is that it takes 20 years of consistent, hard work to be a master at something. At this point, I’m still a baby in the cycle of my career. Even though these moments can be embarrassing, it’s much more beneficial for you to embrace it with open arms.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently producing and acting in a new short film I wrote called, “Crazy He Calls Me”. It is about a reclusive gamer who falls into insanity as she tries to save a guy she fell in love with in an MMO game. The film is a thriller/fantasy hybrid that combines my love of dark, edgy themes with the bright, mesmerizing worlds of fantasy video games. This has been my most challenging production so far but it’s very exciting to work on because of the amazing team we have. I’m super thankful for the cast and crew who are so dedicated in making this vision a reality.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Have I met anyone famous yet? No. But I will tell you that I have met people from all walks of life since starting my career. I’ve met people who are extremely wealthy. I’ve met people who are homeless. I’ve met people who are recovering from drugs or abuse. I’ve met people who know other famous people personally. I’ve met people who are happy with their lives. I’ve met people who are still struggling to find out who they are. This one thing called acting connected us regardless of our age, race, economic, or social status. If it wasn’t for being a part of this industry, I don’t think I would have ever expanded the circle of people I know. In the end, we are all trying to find ways to become better versions of ourselves.

will say that my favorite interactions are those who have boundless confidence in their own ability to succeed. They are so giving to others because they know that other people aren’t their competition. They believe so much in themselves that I intrinsically have no choice but to believe in them too.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Learn to know yourself and your priorities. I struggled a lot with “burning out” and it’s because I didn’t know myself enough to thrive. Sure, Elon Musk can work 80 hours a week and be successful at what he does (whatever success may be to you). But you are not Elon Musk. You are you.

What do you value most in your life?

The first priorities are basic necessities like food, health, and shelter. How are you supposed to thrive as an artist if you can’t even take care of yourself? Get that straightened out first before anything else. You don’t need to live in luxury. To some people, they’re okay with having the bare necessities. Others need a little bit more. And that’s okay.

Next, think about the things you need in your life and what you would be okay without. Being excellent in your craft requires a lot of sacrifice. What are you willing to sacrifice? Is cultivating relationships with your family really that important to you? To some people it is. To others, they’re okay with putting that aside in the meantime to focus on what they need to get done. How about friends? Do you really have to go and party with them every weekend to be fulfilled? Or is short, quality time with them enough for you to fulfill your social needs? These are some of the things you have to ask yourself because you’re the only person who knows. Don’t settle into someone else’s standards. Create standards for yourself. If you don’t, you’ll end up very unhappy.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I’ve learned to do things I enjoy without any sort of goal. I think our society puts too much value on money and productivity. Everyone’s trying to make a career out of their hobbies.

I mean — I get it. Doing what you love and making money from it is the dream to a lot of people. But sometimes, making careers out of multiple hobbies sucks the enjoyment out because if you’re like me, you have to be perfect with every single one.

I love makeup and skincare. A lot of people suggest I should start freelancing as a makeup artist or start taking classes to be an esthetician. No way. I just really like taking care of my own face. I love finding new restaurants and hiking locations. Many people suggest I should start a travel channel. No, I just want to find beautiful places and eat good food. I love painting galaxies. People suggest I should sell my pieces. No, I am very happy with keeping my creations and hanging them up on my wall. I find things that I can get really lost in without the pressure of being really good at it.

Lastly, I read books and I spend time with people I love. I think that the moment you stop being curious about the world around you and stop wanting to share new experiences with others is when you start dying, as harsh as it may sound.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Iwish someone told me that it was okay for me to go into the arts and entertainment industry. Growing up in a Filipino household, my generation was always encouraged to pursue jobs in the medical field, all in good faith, of course. But I questioned my identity a lot and was frustrated by the fact that I had no desire at all to be a nurse or a doctor. I thought all Filipinos wanted to be nurses. So, I’m telling you Asian Americans right now that it’s okay to pursue this career. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll find your place in this industry.

I also wish someone told me that I’m only in competition with myself. When I was younger, I was always compared to another person who was better or worse than me. It mostly made me self-entitled. At other times, it made me feel worthless. As a result, I always compare myself to others and I hate it. This is a learned trait I’ve been trying to get rid of because it’s so destructive. It breeds jealousy and hatred when the purpose of telling stories through my work is to bring people together. We are all born with different struggles and privileges. It’s our job to work with what we have.

Being an actor is a business and you need to invest in yourself to make it work. Most importantly, you have to make sacrifices. Like any business, you have a higher chance of failing than succeeding. What were the statistics… Most businesses fail after 5 to 7 years? Sometimes people decide to invest in just the marketing aspects of it — the headshots, the resumes, the reels, the networking. But people often neglect themselves. Why wouldn’t you invest in years of classes or rehearse after coming back from your day job? Why wouldn’t you continue learning new plays and watching movies even after graduating? You don’t expect any other person to stop learning about their job. Sometimes people market a crappy product and it fails because they made the wrong decisions in their business. And vice versa. What you don’t know can and probably will kill your business.

And if you fail, it’s okay to fail. I encourage you to fail. Then, let it go. Stop moping and just do something about it. Are you going to accept it or are you going to change it? There have been times in which I’ve failed and locked myself in my room doing absolutely nothing for days. I still do it sometimes. But it’s not a good habit to have and you need to kick that out of your system. The harsh reality is that no one cares about your struggles in this industry. We are all struggling. You need to find a way to cope with your shortcomings and be strong enough to be your own cheerleader and protector despite all that.

Lastly, I wish someone told me that I was good enough. As an actor, it’s extremely vital to know who I am and everything I stand for. I spent a lot of years in my life changing myself to be accepted by the people around me. But if I continued that path, how would I ever be able to object to something I truly believed was wrong in a scene? How would I ever be able to express extreme joy over getting what I want? In real life, why would that even be embarrassing? Because people will think I’m too this or too that? Strong people create strong characters. You are good enough. You don’t need to be another (insert your favorite actor here). You just need to be you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Strive for excellence, not perfection.” -H. Jackson Brown Jr.

I would even add that this applies to everything you do. Not just your craft. Strive for excellence in your day job. Strive for excellence in your relationships. Strive for excellence in a random hobby. Go for that 110% at everything. It doesn’t mean you’ll reach that 110%, but the attempt at it will make you better than you were yesterday. Whenever I take a genuine interest in something, I always do my best to become an expert at it. There are times where I don’t reach it. And that’s fine. It’s not my priority. But, it made me resourceful. You’ll never know when you need it.

I used to work as a marketing manager before I quit my day job to pursue acting. I never wanted a lifelong career in marketing. It was just something I was interested in and was fairly good at. I learned about SEO, project management, copywriting, photo editing, video editing, website design, graphic design — the whole nine yards. I used all that knowledge to create my own actor’s website without having to pay anyone. And those project management skills? Thank God, I have them or my short film would be falling into pieces right about now.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Myacting teacher, Tony Savant, has a big hand in shaping who I am today. He’s a tough teacher. Ask anyone who knows him and they’ll say that he has the highest standards for people in this industry. Tony expects those standards from you because he knows that everyone has the capability to do it. They just decide not to.

In the words of Meryl Streep, “Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there”. I came into his class when I was about 18 years old. At the time, I didn’t know who I was and struggled a lot with social anxiety. Over the years, I became a better version of myself and learned how to express myself more freely.

Honestly, I think everyone should take an acting class whether or not they want to be an actor. Learning about yourself makes you more open and empathetic to the world around you.

You never realize how much the influence of society taints your own values. You think you know what you want because society tells you what you want. But Tony has taught me to strengthen my character and trust my intuitions. His teachings have made me a better actor and a better human being overall. I am extremely grateful for that.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Ijust want people to be more human to each other. More empathetic. More caring. More understanding.

I want them to listen.

I see a lack of these values everywhere I go.

In the acting industry, actors complain about their managers or agents for not getting work when they should really be working on themselves. In the customer service industry, I see people saying, “Hi, how are you doing today?” without actually meaning it. In business, salespeople are pushing products or services to their prospects without getting to know them or what they really want. Within families and friends, I see people giving each other the wrong advice because that’s what they want for themselves.

No one is really listening and I think that’s why a lot of us have become very lonely.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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 see this. 🙂

There are so many people I would love to have a private breakfast with but I’ll have to go with singer-songwriter and rapper CL (Lee Chae-rin).

Why not an actor or director? While I was growing up, I never felt as connected with any of the people I saw on the big screen because they didn’t look like me. They didn’t experience the same things I did. Even though I was living in America, the reality was that Asian American experiences are very different from American experiences, and the stories told on film and TV never portrayed that. I’m glad to see the change now.

But CL, man. She influenced me so much that I even dyed my hair blonde and got the same haircut as her back in high school.

CL defied all the expectations of an Asian women in the entertainment industry. She was a figure of strength and independence — someone who had the confidence to create powerful music for herself in a conservative society. It was amazing to watch her grow as an artist despite her struggles.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Instagram at @mae.claire or like my Facebook page “Mae Claire”.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

Thanks so much for having me! I really enjoyed this interview.

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