When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Tiffany Dupont has had her fair share of big acting roles — Cheaper by the Dozen, One Night With the King, the cult favorite TV show “Greek,” and the upcoming film Brian Banks. This multitalented actress relishes hard work, but also knows when it’s time to practice self-care. In her Thrive Questionnaire, Dupont shares how she replenishes her energy, and her best advice for maintaining resilience after rejection.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Tiffany Dupont: I will admit, it takes me a second. Whether I wake up on my own or get up to the music of my alarm, I always need a moment (or twelve), to just lie there and take in the new day. I have two Brussels Griffons. The younger one, Elliot, insists on sleeping next to me, and Skylar, the 14-year-old, is usually in her own bed on the floor next to my nightstand. Every morning, she asks to be picked up, and joins me and Elliot. We snuggle a bit longer, I stretch them both, and then I say: “Let’s get up!” They excitedly run to my bedroom door and then down the hall to the front door to go outside. They wait for me in the front yard, and once I’ve brushed my teeth and thrown on some jeans, I take them for a walk. I love starting the day with my animals and nature. Being outside revitalizes me. I enjoy saying hello to my neighbors and breathing in the fresh air. It’s a lovely morning tradition that I miss anytime I’m away traveling for work. Once we’re back from our walk, it’s coffee for me and breakfast for us three!
TG: What gives you energy?
TD: Human f**king beings! I love people. I am absolutely extroverted and thrive on human connection. Even just a quick conversation over the phone (and no I don’t mean texting, I mean actually speaking to another human) will give me the extra spark I need to get up and make things happen. (I rather loathe texting. It dilutes the human experience on so many levels and should be reserved for arrival times and “I’ll call you right back” only.) We each embody such unique perspectives, emotions, ideas, and interests. You never know what someone else’s point of view can inspire within you.
I also love making strangers smile; it’s one of my favorite things to do. That simple exchange of energy can change the entire day. Whether it be the person I buy my coffee from in the morning, a kid in the backseat of a passing car while driving to work, or someone I happen to walk past on the street with my pups, I believe we are all here for each other and I’m well aware of how much more alive and inspired I feel after I share even the smallest of connections with another person. Smiles are contagious, we should all do it more often.
TG: Being an actor requires some thick skin. What is one time you had to face rejection or recorded negative feedback? What did you do to apply that to your life and growth?
TD: I love this question: “one time?!” That’s hilarious! I often refer to myself as a “rejection specialist” instead of an actor because I get told a version of “no” numerous times a week. I audition for a living, which is basically a daily, unpaid opportunity to test the tenacity of my backbone. I may audition for anywhere from five to 20 projects before landing a role, and I’m told that’s above average.
Remember that really important job interview you spent days or even weeks preparing for? That pressure that comes with putting yourself out there, combined with the need to make money, attached to the excitement of maybe getting to work for a company you love and believe in, or not?
That’s the daily grind of what I do for a living.
The average person changes jobs approximately 12 times over the course of their career, spanning from age 18 to 48 according to the January 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I do it, on average, 12 times a month (if I’m lucky), and it’s all riding on me — starting with what I look like, how I talk, stand, my essence, as well as my ability to interpret what the material is conveying, all the while presented as a fictitious character I’m pretending to be. Oh, and I have to be super unique doing it because they’ve already heard it 100 times that day (but not too different from the material, so they don’t think I’m illiterate).
Also, like any industry, there are so many factors out of my control involving politics and relationships, and ultimately maybe they’re just going to hire a friend of theirs anyway, so none of my hard work even matters. Imagine that — doing that, a few times a week, by choice. That’s my job.
If I ever paid attention to the statistical probability of actually booking a project, let alone the kind of project I actually care about being a part of, I’d either have to check myself into an insane asylum or just never get out of bed. So instead, I don’t even consider it a real factor. I spend my energy focussed on what is in my control, which is everything having to do with protecting my headspace and confidence, exercising and strengthening my talent, and enjoying the hell out of getting the continual opportunity to do what I love.
People are innately attracted to confidence and ease. The more I can show up to an audition from that space, the more I skew the crazy statistics in my favor. There are a million talented actresses out there that can play ages 28-35. Whether they pick me or someone else has absolutely nothing and everything to do with me, all at once. It’s a paradox. I’ve learned to trust the process and have noticed that the more I enjoy it, the better the results.
TG: Can you share an example of resilience in your own life?
TD: I moved 15 times growing up between birth and college, and no, I wasn’t an army brat. My father designs and flies airplanes. It’s all investor-based, so we would go wherever the jobs were. Some of the moves were just different houses in the same school districts, some were different schools in the same state, and others were brand new states all together. I became really good at just throwing myself in the mix without knowing a soul. It was either that, or have no friends. It has made me incredibly adaptable and easy-going, able to make friends and be comfortable with strangers instantly. That along with constantly being exposed to new environments and people, you learn a lot about yourself and the fascinating differences between us all. Being the new girl had some advantages too. I remember playing two games with myself every time I moved. The first game was how long was it going to take me to make a name for myself in this new body of students, and what did I want to be known for. The second game was leaning into the opportunity that no one knew anything about me in this new place, so what was something I wanted to change or improve about myself because no one would be the wiser.
All of this applies rather perfectly to my job. Firstly, playing and understanding a wide range of different kinds of people is much more accessible. In addition to that, regardless of whether I’m doing just one episode of an existing show or if I’m the lead of a film, I am constantly being thrown into a community of complete strangers and find I can easily make it work. When you’re new to set, you have to find your place and be your best, regardless of what’s thrown at you. Being the new kid over and over made me very good at this. Learning to overcome the pain of leaving behind familiar friends and places, while developing the ability to enjoy forging new relationships in an unfamiliar environment, is a strength I deeply appreciate and utilize daily in my profession.
TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?
TD: The practice I’ve seen have one of the most significant impacts on my overall happiness and ability to, therefore, thrive has been meditation. There is a surprising amount of downtime involved in my career. It may sound like a gift at first, but when an unspecified amount of “free time” shows up, with no end in sight, that could be abruptly halted by a sudden audition or booking. So it can become overwhelming to know what best to do with that time. Some of the most challenging work I do, in my opinion, is managing my headspace, especially during the downtime. It easily becomes a raging battle with the “when’s” and “if’s” related to whether I’ll ever work again. There are no guarantees in my line of work. None. You truly have to become your own biggest supporter, which is immensely challenging when we can all too often be our biggest critics. I have to believe bigger than anyone else or there will be no convincing my team, or producers/directors, to work with me. I certainly don’t have it figured out, but meditation is a vital practice to keeping my thoughts as positive, centered, and fueling as possible.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
TD: Like many of us, it’s my portal to all of the people and things that I love. So it can feel like a vital apparatus of life, which certainly is not the case. Instead of relying on it for connection, I do my best to design it to create as much inspiration and creative motivation as possible. The first thing I see when I pick up my phone is a picture of me holding my beautiful baby niece. This not only makes my family feel closer, but has also made me smile numerous times when I would not have otherwise. Upon unlocking my phone, I am greeted with learning and reading apps on the first page. Things like The New Yorker Today, NYTimes, Motivation Quotes, Spotify, Italian Translator (I’m presently learning Italian), Medium, and Blinkist all are easily accessible in one swipe. I keep social media and communication apps like Instagram and WhatsApp on the second page, so I’m not habitually gravitating toward feeding the often insatiable need to connect. I do my best.
My phone sleeps when I sleep. I keep it on my nightstand, converting its face to an old school digital alarm clock, calmly glowing in the middle of the night in case I wake up wondering what time it is. I put it on silent before I go to sleep, so if a text from an international friend or sales email comes through, I’m not bothered. I think our little black mirrors can be vital assets to our personal growth and evolution if we set them up accordingly. As much as I love human connection, I make a point not to stop everything I’m doing just because I hear a call or text come through. I often don’t even turn on the sound until after 12 p.m.
TG: How do you deal with email?
TD: I love email! Well, I love my work email. Because I love my job. I have two separate accounts, one for personal and one for work. Email is the main source of communication between my agents and myself, which basically means all things leading to opportunities to work. When I get an email, it usually means I have an audition or callback, which equates to the possibility of booking a job, and that always makes me really happy. Other emails can be from my amazing publicist about press opportunities to get to share what I do with more people, which is something else I love about my job. Or I get emails from production letting me know when I have to be on set — which, by the way, I love going to. So the challenge arises when there are no emails. We want emails!
I’m also very aware of “respecting the inbox.” And by that I mean: If someone doesn’t need to be cc’ed on an email, then I leave them off. I would prefer the experience of seeing my name in someone’s inbox to be associated with importance and efficiency, rather than a repetitive annoyance or waste of their time.
TG: Has there been something in your life that happened where you went from surviving to thriving? How did you get there? How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
TD: In my career, going from surviving to thriving feels like a dance I am constantly relearning the steps to. Being a working actress is not like being a junior account manager, in that if you just put in the time, eventually you’ll climb the ladder to Executive Director of Marketing some day. Linear, systematic growth does not exist in my industry. It’s more like, if you don’t give up, and can endure the continual a*s-kicking regardless of your status or ability, you might get to do this job for the rest of your life… maybe.
Even when you’re “famous,” the inconsistencies of my industry force you to have to constantly pivot and adjust again- regardless of status. You can be the lead of a show or movie, and then suddenly have to go back to auditioning for a one episode guest starring role with everybody else the day after the show is canceled. These inconsistencies have forced me to really appreciate and enjoy the wins, as well as try really hard to overcome the fear that I will never work again (still working on that one). As an actor, you have to be super resilient and believe you will keep working and progressing, despite the overwhelming odds against you, a truth that exists on every level of the playing field, with the exception of, perhaps, Meryl Streep.
There is a saying that all actors are a little crazy. I used to really refute that comment, as I derive from a very happy, stable family life and childhood with no major “issues” to speak of. I would never self-describe as “crazy.”
However, I willingly signed up for a career with the odds of success ranked as less than one in a million (divide the “famous-people” count by the global population [7,059,837,187] and you get 0.000086, or 0.0086 percent).
It’s a complete joke, and I still think, and have always thought: I will absolutely make it! Moving between surviving and thriving is the name of the game — a dance I hope to get a little better at every year.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
TD: Power nap! I have this in common with the lovely Arianna Huffington. I love to nap. A quick 15 or 18 minutes can shift everything. It truly recharges me, whether I realized I needed it or not. It’s like plugging in your phone; my inner battery gets a surge of extra power, and boom — I’m ready to dive back in!
If I don’t feel I need a nap, I love to get outside. Breathing in fresh air and feeling the sun on my skin is so revitalizing. I think we all need it. It’s one of the benefits of living in Los Angeles, where you can rely on ideal weather for the majority of the year. I try to take as much advantage of what seems like a perpetual state of 73 degrees (F).
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
TD: It took me a second to sort through this answer at first. Not for the obvious reasons of feeling ashamed to admit fault, but rather because I couldn’t think of a time I felt I had failed, because I don’t really frame my life in terms of failures and successes. And while I can recall challenging or difficult times as easily as a joyous or successful ones, the concept of any of it being a failure or loss does not resonate.
I have often run into the misconception from others that everything has just sort of worked out for me, I didn’t really have to work that hard because I was born lucky, or my favorite: some version of a “woman like me” must be single by choice, none of which are anywhere close to the truth.
There is no question that I have struggled greatly in my life. In fact, I’d say I’ve struggled more with loneliness than anything else. I am naturally built for family and partnership, yet have had to spend quite a bit of my lifetime so far, on my own. As painful and confusing as that has felt at times, this period has had its priceless lessons. For one, it has created a depth of appreciation for a future love and partnership I could not know otherwise, and has afforded me the luxury of time to do the hard work on one of the most challenging relationships I’ll ever have to navigate: the one with myself. All of that makes me a better partner or teammate, both personally and professionally. I see all of this as gifts within the struggle. There is always a silver lining, and I truly believe it is all perfect. Everything is aligning for my life’s greatest happiness, so it’s all a win if you ask me.
TG: What advice would you give your younger self?
TD: Don’t worry about that guy (more like 20+ guys) who didn’t call you. He doesn’t matter, and isn’t worth being sad over. In that same breath, don’t judge yourself for feeling sad, for the sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour. You will find love eventually (still reassuring myself of this presently), and everything is ok. In the meantime, there is a giant beautiful world to experience, learn from, enjoy, and contribute to.
Lastly, anyone who tells you you are “too much” is probably just not enough.
Don’t ever dim your light for anyone.
“This is your world. Shape it. Or someone else will.” —Gary Lew
TG: What brings you optimism? Why and how?
TD: The notion of real possibility. I think the need to feel progression in our lives is vital to personal and professional happiness. So any inclination of possibility to expand and grow makes me very excited. It’s part of what I love about auditioning and meeting new people, you never know what can come of it. Anything is possible!
TG: Social media can be an amazing tool, but also really invasive. How do you handle criticism from social media? Conversely, what is good about it?
TD: Like anything else in life, you get out of social media what you put into it. For the most part, I’ve received a very warm uplifting response from my followers.
I also get a lot of positive motivation from the pages I choose to follow. I curate what I want to see and absorb. The majority of the accounts I follow are either friends and family, or designers, artists, or athletes that inspire me to try something new, beat my best, or think about my life in a new way. It’s like my own personalized online magazine, with everything from Harvard Business Review to Mystic Momma, and everything in between. It’s kind of great.
Now, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never experienced negativity from social media. There have been days I’ve casually opened my instagram and have literally been hit in the face with an image of an ex-boyfriend (because of mutual friends) with his new blonde girlfriend smiling so damn happily. Or one of my girlfriends announcing her third pregnancy — all while I’m still entirely single. And there’s just no avoiding yet another joyous engagement announcement.
I feel that all social media is an opportunity to practice gratitude and be happy — not only for your friend’s successes, but also to take the time to remind yourself of the gifts in your own life, realizing that one day, maybe even today, you’ll be the one with the annoyingly good news.
At the end of the day, being present in the moment is most important. Second to that is being as authentic to that moment as you can, should you choose to share it. And lastly, it’s so important for each of us to remember that social media is just a magically filtered depiction of what I can assure you is the same intensely difficult, sometimes very painful, miraculous, stunning journey we are all on. I choose the pain of real life over the pretty of social media any day.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
TD: This is going to be hard to pick just one, but I’ll try.
“There are innovative thinkers who never get anything done; it is necessary to move beyond the identification of opportunity to its pursuit.” —Howard Stevenson, Harvard Business School