Jennifer Penner: “Never stop believing in yourself”

One day I hope to inspire people to make the world a better place. One day I would like to open art schools where children and adults are able to express themselves in a creative way. I want to offer acting, dancing, singing, painting, theater classes etc. Every human being is gifted with a talent. […]

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One day I hope to inspire people to make the world a better place. One day I would like to open art schools where children and adults are able to express themselves in a creative way. I want to offer acting, dancing, singing, painting, theater classes etc. Every human being is gifted with a talent. We just need to recognize it and utilize our talents to help achieve happiness for ourselves and those around us.

As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Penner, a 24-year-old actress from within a forested countryside village, Warstein, Germany. After a confusing and frankly depressing year, feeling like she had no direction, or forward momentum to get there, she decided to change her life. Realizing she stood at the captains helm of her life, filled with determination and an unshaking belief in herself, she set her sights on a star-studded horizon. In spring of 2019, she packed all her belongings, quit her job, sold her car, and moved to Los Angeles by herself. This is a story about a woman with unstoppable vision, power and strength.

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

My whole life I felt most happy whenever I had a chance to entertain people around me. My mom signed me up for a German carnival dance group (similar to Rockettes) when I was six years old and I loved it to be on stage and perform. But the older I got, the more I grew into the average life, like everyone else around me. I had my office job, time with family, friends and a yearly vacation, just the usual routine of life. I was 22 and I asked myself: “Is this my purpose in life? That’s it?” I didn’t want to accept that. I wanted to have an extraordinary life, to take risks, to shape my life the way I imagine it and be an inspiration for others. So I left everything behind me and moved to Los Angeles to fulfill my dream of being an actress.

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

Starting out I did a lot of background/extra jobs. One day I was on set with Kerry Washington and that was a very exciting moment! Imagine the drastic contrast of growing up in a small town, surrounded by fields and forests to then be standing next to a movie star in Hollywood. To see her in a position that I’m working towards, to observe her poise, her professionalism and how engaged she was finding true enjoyment in repeating the scene over and over again was really inspiring to me. I was very happy to be on a professional set and learn how the actors and the crew worked around me.

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 made a lot of mistakes when I was starting! What does it mean for me to move from Germany to Los Angeles and study at an American acting school? Right, SPEAKING ENGLISH 24/7. It was really challenging to play a scene or simply explain yourself in a foreign language. And of course, my grammar and pronunciation weren’t perfect. In one scene I had to be really angry and deliver a powerful speech, so I did! (I thought I was great and very convincing) Then the whole class and the teacher started laughing so hard, they couldn’t hold themselves on the chairs! My teacher’s feedback was: “That was really cute Jennifer, thank you.” So yeah, I was a funny entertainer for the class. I am way better today, but it still happens. I was really hard on myself for those mistakes, but I learned to be more patient with myself and accept that I am learning and growing. It’s a process.

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

Luckily, business is slowly coming back in Hollywood. I’ve recently booked the lead role in a music video/commercial and can’t wait to be back on set! I also have some voice-over jobs coming up for leading roles in feature films! Speaking German and Russian comes in very handy for this type of work. I am getting more auditions, which I am very thankful for! I’m just enjoying the moment right now, I know great job opportunities will happen soon; I’m remaining positive and try to do my best every day.

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

One of the first jobs I had as an actress in Los Angeles, was as an extra for a Netflix feature film. It was so exciting to be on a professional set and see everyone working so passionate but at the same time under a high amount of time pressure. Every single staff and crew member was giving their best. When we got on set I saw Kerry Washington preparing herself for the first scene of the day. It was so amazing and inspiring! I was so thankful to be able to see a professional actress doing her work. I learned a lot and I also got a feeling of a 15-hour day on set. It was hard to stay focused and energized all the time, but it was so much fun!

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

Never stop believing in yourself. Everybody has good and bad days. You can feel lost and uninspired but that is okay. Allow yourself to feel and don’t hold it back. But after that, you have to push yourself up again and fight for your dream! Nobody will fight for your goals but you. Read, learn, grow. You have to be in peace with your inner self, only then you can make it work. Love yourself, the good and bad side. Oh and be a kind human being, we need more kindness in this world.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I am still at the very beginning of my career, but I am happy and thankful for every project and experience that brings me one step closer to my goals. But what I already learned is that you have to take risks and leave your comfort zone, otherwise you won’t grow. Never think that you will fail! It’s not true. You can only win, because every challenge on your path will bring you experience and strength! Everything in life is a teaching lesson, you just have to be open minded for it and great things will happen.

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 created small habits that I am doing every day. For example, I nourish my mind by reading five pages of a book, or by meditating. I care for my body by taking a walk, doing some stretching exercises, moving your body can work wonders. I feed my heart by making lists of gratitude, connect with my family and even more meditation. If I have more time, I do more. I might read 20 pages or turn the walk into a workout, it depends on the day. But those things are the minimum and finishing them makes me feel amazing. A good, healthy routine for yourself.

What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

– The true amount of time I would spend becoming one with my business, to learning, to growing. I start every day with a commitment to myself, to my dreams, to my goals. Consistency is key, and finding the strength to discipline myself, especially in confusing and chaotic times like these, finding my center again was much more difficult than I expected.

– I had prepared myself for people to be tough on me, but I wish someone had warned me that there can be truly mean people in this business, who will seek to hurt you, simply because they have the power to.

– I wish someone had told me how incredibly hard being away from my family would be. To be so far away from them, for us to experience loss and to not be able to go to them, to be together as we should, was easily the hardest thing I have done yet.

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

“There’s no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A.” — Will Smith

He’s absolutely right about it. I have to go 100% all the time with my plan A, this plan needs all my time and energy. It takes a lot of work, training and consistency to reach your goals, I have to give it my full attention. Some people were asking me: “Jenni, what will you do if Hollywood doesn’t work out for you? What is your safety plan?” My only answer to that was: “I don’t have a safety plan, I don’t want to think about what happens IF it didn’t work out. I only have plan A and it will work out, because I believe in this plan.” If I have a backup, it allows me to believe in the possibility of failure, which is something I will not do.

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?

Without my family, I wouldn’t be able to be here to begin this journey. Because of them and their belief in me I was able to start this journey. Moving to the United States and starting a whole new life here is very expensive. I had to pay for the acting school, living expenses and for all my different types of visa, employment authorization etc. While you’re studying in the US as an international student, you are not allowed to work. So you have to have the budget you need for your living in advance. I just couldn’t afford it by myself. My family said “we believe in you, and your dream. We will give you the money you need” and they did. They gave me all their savings but still, it wasn’t enough. My grandparents took credit from the bank to make it happen for me. I am so thankful for their love and support, I am not taking this for granted because this is more help that I could ever imagine! I love my family so much.

Once I made it here to the US, one person who I am deeply grateful to is my Sanford Meisner technique teacher Josef LeMieux. He taught me not only how to be in the moment of the scene, how to connect with the other actor, how to express my emotions right but also how to connect with my inner self, how to be aware of what is inside of me and how to control it. He helped me realize how much potential I have and ultimately formed my philosophy in the way I observe and interact with the world around me.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

Well, I don’t think that I have an enormous influence yet. I am still building my career and to be well known for your work takes years and years of consistency. One day I hope to inspire people to make the world a better place. One day I would like to open art schools where children and adults are able to express themselves in a creative way. I want to offer acting, dancing, singing, painting, theater classes etc. Every human being is gifted with a talent. We just need to recognize it and utilize our talents to help achieve happiness for ourselves and those around us.

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. 🙂

I would love to have a talk with Will Smith, because he is simply the coolest person walking around on this planet. His movies inspired me to become an actress and to bring love and happiness into people’s living rooms. I think I watched every single interview with him on YouTube. His advice, his motivational speeches, and his funny stories are absolutely inspirational to me. He is so positive and open-minded, I love that. His videos help a lot when I have a hard time believing in myself or when I feel lost.

How can our readers follow you online?

Facebook and YouTube: Jennifer Penner

Instagram and TikTok: @jenniferpnnr

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

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