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Rising Star Elena Dizon: “If thriving means that you have the most validation from strangers, it’s going to do a lot more damage than good”

The word “thrive”. I hope that people have their own personal definition of what it means to “thrive” and hopefully meet or maintain that within themselves. I say that because it’s almost a trap for actors to fall into. I notice a lot of us tend to interpret the word “thriving” as being popular. These […]


The word “thrive”. I hope that people have their own personal definition of what it means to “thrive” and hopefully meet or maintain that within themselves. I say that because it’s almost a trap for actors to fall into. I notice a lot of us tend to interpret the word “thriving” as being popular. These days it’s like, who has the most followers? Likes? Or do I have my blue check yet? All seems like people lose their focus on what really matters. You can get lost in the fact that if you are popular, that fame and money and opportunities will just fall right on your lap and you’ll never have to do any work ever again. And yes, of course a lot of that can apply. No question all that all does coexist. But if you think about it this obsession with having celebrity status, it can take a huge toll over a person’s mental state. If thriving means that you have the most validation from strangers, it’s going to do a lot more damage than good. So I would rather just first mention that you shouldn’t rely on what other people think about you to determine your self-worth. Figure out how you need to thrive within yourself and work towards that to simply better yourself. I mean, wouldn’t that be something?

And talk about people getting burned out. I guess it depends. Do you say you are burned out because you truly want to quit? Or just tired and need a vacation? For the ones that want to give up, are you doing it because you are simply mad that you aren’t famous yet? And if that’s the case then that just brings out a sign of entitlement. So maybe all you need is to go back and reevaluate what is actually important to you. Personally, mentally, health wise. What is really top priority within your heart? If the industry really is important to you, then you can let whatever fear you have go. It’s unnecessary. If you’re burned out because you’re not famous yet and your discouraged now. I hate to say it, but this industry is not meant not for you. It will swallow you whole if you are not able to mentally handle it. But on the bright side, it is a lesson. Dr. Phil [McGraw] once said, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn.” So did you win or did you learn something?


As a part of my series about the rising stars in popular culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing television actress Elena Dizon. We’ve seen her on USA Network’s Shooter, Tom Loveman’s Reclamation, and is certainly no stranger to ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat. She is also hitting the stage this summer in an upcoming play that she will be discussing more about later on. In chatting with her, there is certainly more to her than meets the eye.


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

Growing up, I’ve always known that I was meant to be part of the industry. But I didn’t exactly start off acting. When you are a child, you are constantly bouncing around trying to find your place. And as an adult, I know I have figured it out. But as a kid, I did try singing, I tried dancing, writing, drawing even. But I was super shy as a kid. The thought of acting completely terrified me. I had nowhere near the confidence in it as I do now. And shy kids aren’t exactly audition magnets. But one thing I did know for sure, was that I loved to tell jokes. Love, love, loved it. Adults would constantly ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up. So picture a third grader looking up at you and earnestly saying “I want to be a comedian!” Lots of laughter came from that, but not in an encouraging way, that’s for sure. I don’t think anyone took me seriously. My mom will tell you that I would walk around the house do Rodney Dangerfield material. “I get no respect this, I get no respect that.” And I didn’t get no respect! Now acting, some things never change. No respect I tell ya.

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

I was taking my regular scene study class at the Bill Howey Acting Studio. And as I mentioned earlier, I fell in love with comedy. Sitcoms, sketch, Comedy Central Presents all were totally my jam. I wanted to be the next Tina Fey, head writer, Weekend Update. Yes please! So in class I was working on a lot of comedy scenes.

The night before the last class for this one particular scene, a friend of mine passed away suddenly. And I was a total mess. And I discussed it with Carla that I can’t even function. So, there is no way I can show up to class. There’s just no way. But in her motherly way, she gave me this kind of the-show-must-go-on speech and I did end up coming to class. From my car, to just before the start of my scene, I kept my mask on. Talked to people as if nothing happened. Smiles, joking and shop-talking with the students as I would normally did. Bill and Carla were both the only ones that knew what was really going on with me that night. So it was obvious to them that I was hiding behind my teeth. So we begin the scene. I had the first line. Which would be a normally giddy start of the piece. But my subtext had a changed in this take. A complete 180 from the first few takes from the weeks before. It was less of a sketch and more of an art piece this time around. And that studio trains such incredible talent so thank goodness my partner was totally able to go along this ride with me. So it was the same dialogue, but it was less of a Mad About You vibe and it became more of a Big Little Lies vibe. It was an unexpected shift but weirdly enough it still worked. And worked really well. I think I surprised myself more than everyone.

It was probably the first lesson that I can recall as far as being myself as an artist instead of a performer. It’s the power of a strong choice. Although in that moment, I wasn’t even thinking of choices. I really just wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as I could. In that moment, I threw anything technical out the window. To just be, and let the chips fall where they may. So if I can incorporate that in every piece I do, no matter what genre, who knows where that can take me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting acting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes. Let’s talk about them. They are really just lessons, aren’t they? Just because we’re out of school doesn’t mean we stop learning. It’s all part of growing up. One lesson I learned and that I keep reminding myself is prepare, prepare, prepare. The biggest thing I know I keep beating myself up over, is blowing an audition. And if I’m being completely honest with myself, the main reason I blow it is because I don’t know the sides as well as I think I do. There was this one occasion I had an audition for a network show. I thought I knew it back and forth. Got a little too confident in it. On the day, it was clear I didn’t know it as well as I thought. I prepared but obviously not enough. The casting director got so frustrated with me. And having the sides in my hand made it worse, only because I wasn’t even using them. So, I looked ridiculous. I guess it’s true that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong so always be prepared. Thankfully, I didn’t burn a bridge with that company. I did see them another time afterwards. But lesson learned. Absolutely.

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

Currently, I’m grinding away around the indie circuit. There are just so many incredibly talented people in that realm that I don’t think I would have ever encountered otherwise. When you are working, it feels like there is no competition amongst anyone. It’s nice and it’s a really rewarding feeling in itself. Everyone feeds off of each other to create some beautiful work.

As far as exciting projects, there is a play in the works right now here in Los Angeles and it’s called Plan P from Outer Space, which I am encouraging everyone to go see. If anyone is familiar with the film “Plan 9 From Outer Space” it’s a parody of that. All performed with puppets, so be sure to bring your kids along as well. People of all ages will really love it. And it will play just in time for the film’s 60th anniversary. And I hope everyone enjoys it and has a great time.

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

We meet all sorts of characters in this business. We really do. We talk about extroverts and introverts but we also talk about people that may possibly be from a completely different planet. So eccentric or simply weird, but honestly, they are so free and they are so open. They’re energy is really infectious. They really make life interesting. And every day is different from the last. Which is another reason why I love my job. You are exposed to all sorts of people and every day. It’s unpredictable. In a lot of ways, it gives me permission to feel like I can be more open and still survive. There is so much to learn from and connect with all types of people, which I don’t think I had before.

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

The word “thrive”. I hope that people have their own personal definition of what it means to “thrive” and hopefully meet or maintain that within themselves. I say that because it’s almost a trap for actors to fall into. I notice a lot of us tend to interpret the word “thriving” as being popular. These days it’s like, who has the most followers? Likes? Or do I have my blue check yet? All seems like people lose their focus on what really matters. You can get lost in the fact that if you are popular, that fame and money and opportunities will just fall right on your lap and you’ll never have to do any work ever again. And yes, of course a lot of that can apply. No question all that all does coexist. But if you think about it this obsession with having celebrity status, it can take a huge toll over a person’s mental state. If thriving means that you have the most validation from strangers, it’s going to do a lot more damage than good. So I would rather just first mention that you shouldn’t rely on what other people think about you to determine your self-worth. Figure out how you need to thrive within yourself and work towards that to simply better yourself. I mean, wouldn’t that be something?

And talk about people getting burned out. I guess it depends. Do you say you are burned out because you truly want to quit? Or just tired and need a vacation? For the ones that want to give up, are you doing it because you are simply mad that you aren’t famous yet? And if that’s the case then that just brings out a sign of entitlement. So maybe all you need is to go back and reevaluate what is actually important to you. Personally, mentally, health wise. What is really top priority within your heart? If the industry really is important to you, then you can let whatever fear you have go. It’s unnecessary. If you’re burned out because you’re not famous yet and your discouraged now. I hate to say it, but this industry is not meant not for you. It will swallow you whole if you are not able to mentally handle it. But on the bright side, it is a lesson. Dr. Phil [McGraw] once said, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn.” So did you win or did you learn something?

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. 🙂

It Gets Better. I didn’t start it. I don’t need to start a new one. That one touches me the most. I think it’s powerful. Helps so many people. The stories behind it, it’s unbearable. You can truly see that the mind is such a powerful thing. For many victims, it’s not easy to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel however dim it is. But light is there. It’s just that the mind can be so clouded with so much hate and ridicule that there seems to be no hope. But there is. It takes patience. It really does and it certainly takes strength however you can muster it. At the very least, it takes baby steps forward every single day. And overtime, you’ll be able to look back toward where it started for someone else or even yourself as an individual. And I hope you and everyone will be able to celebrate how far you’ve come, whatever your journey is. Cause you are worth 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.

1). Audition. That’s all actors need to do. If you are auditioning then you are doing something right. Doesn’t matter how big or small the project. Get over yourself, first off, and do your job. Find a way to get yourself into auditions. If you audition, and you do well, the right people will take notice. Let go of the rest of the nonsense. Get yourself in the room. Take time to research how.

2). Casting directors do want you to succeed. Let’s be honest, some of them come across as jaded. Or perhaps, that is our fear talking? So let’s get out our heads. If a casting director’s office makes you feel intimidated, then you must not be confident in your training. So work on that more. When you are doing well, you may not even notice they are in the room when you are performing. And if you’re not right for the part, hey there’s the next one.

3). It is more business than show. From the outside looking in you see the glory of the performance, but keep in minds it’s only the final product. There is certainly work behind that. How does an actor even get to that point? That’s the kind of work actors may try to avoid because it’s not the glamorous part of it. “I want the glam, but I don’t need to work. I want it handed to me because I’m just that talented!” Come on, son. Really?

4). Get an Instagram! I was late in the game with that. Not a social media kind of person. I prefer to connect with someone in person instead of a filtered version of that person. But didn’t occur to me that it actually is a great marketing tool for people who run businesses these days. So that’s what I use it for. I’ve noticed it’s been way more beneficial than I originally expected. Has it opened doors? Kinda. If anything, gives people a window to peak into if they are curious. Grow with the times, before you get left behind.

5). Stay Hungry. Just a constant reminder of where and how you started. Keeps you determined, keeps you driven, keeps you humble, and keeps you remembering who you are as a human being. It’s your focus, it’s your reason why you are there in the first place. Keep that up and you will be just fine.

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

I’m not putting any energy into being barely good enough for you, when I can apply it to being something greater than that.

I wrote that! It’s probably the biggest lesson that I wish I had known from the beginning of my lifetime. If those were my first words, I would be some creepy little girl, but dammit she knows what she is talking about. My past is what it is. There are many people who made me feel like I had to prove that I am good enough to simply be allowed in their presence. Or that they feel like I have to be punished for simply existing as myself and not as a mold of what they want me to me. Yeah no more. That’s done. I’m grown now. It’s nice to no longer have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Means I can put more focus in being happy and healthy. You feel like you have to pull me down because you believe there is something about yourself that is inadequate and so you need me to be lower than you? Yeah, no. That’s not going to happen.

I mean in general. Don’t treat people like garbage. How hard is that? I’m mean really, how hard is that? It’s never ok and it’s not necessary.

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?

It’s almost unfair to pick one person, isn’t it? Because it’s not like an awards show, where you name key players in the film, “Love you, mom and dad”, kisses to the wife, and tell your kids to “OK turn off the TV and go to bed.” It’s not like that. Everyone had there their part in my path.

And whoever is seeing this is going to be grumbly at me saying “Hey, you didn’t mention me!” And I’ll say “That’s right! I didn’t! Don’t worry about it! Here’s a thank you bitmoji instead.” No, but really. I wouldn’t know where I would be without the supporters I have. I hold them super close and super dear to my heart. And they are exactly what I need. They are encouraging without being “yes men”, nor do they belittle me in any way. They are my best friends and I truly do love them. And they know who they are because I probably called them today or texted them a random clip from The Simpsons.

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. 🙂

Jerry Seinfeld. An episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, wouldn’t that be something? I’d imagine he’d pull up in a hybrid, obviously. Since my face is a hybrid. And it’s also cute and sort of saves the planet. I’m sure he’d even make fun of my driving. Jerr can say whatever he wants I would just be stoked to be sitting next to him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @RealElenaDizon

Facebook: @elenadizonofficial

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

Oh my gosh. No thank you very much.

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