You don’t have to wait for permission. We live in an era when everyone has a camera in their pocket, and frankly, the latest versions are pretty solid cameras, too. Sound equipment can, if you look around, be very cheap for some basic starter tools. Lighting is totally doable without fancy lights, and natural light really is the best. Have an idea for a short film? Write it, shoot it, and edit it. Want to make singing videos? Find some karaokes and go for it. Take advantage of the fact that we live in an era with so many channels to share your content, or even just a time when learning is far easier than it’s ever been!
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Victoria Gordon.
Take the glamour, style, and sophistication of show biz tradition, and add the digital era’s DIY energy, and you wind up with a transcendent and unique performer/artist like Victoria Gordon. With a touch of class she inherited from her show-business family and a keen eye and ear for what both physically present and socially distant audiences might want, the multitalented Gordon is a force to be admired.
Gordon attended Beverly Hills High School and graduated magna cum laude from USC before winning acclaim as a short filmmaker and continuing her lifelong passion for stage performance. It’s no surprise she turned to the performing arts, as her great-uncle Dr. Ernst Katz was founder and conductor of the legendary Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic, and her grandfather was television comedy writer Al Gordon, whose award-winning career spanned everything from “The Jack Benny Program” to “Three’s Company.” When you grow up with Army Archerd as a family friend and getting performance advice from the likes of Florence Henderson, like Gordon has, you develop a deep appreciation for the professional side of the business — and you also have a lot of great stories to share.
Victoria Gordon is a vibrant bridge between the rapidly-fading show business past and the new era of digital native creators, finding a way to connect that legacy and tradition to the new technologies and platforms and a new generation of audiences. Whether she’s behind the camera or with microphone in hand, there’s no denying she’s got what it takes to entertain. It’s in her blood.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/0c8efbfa274fce016add8b4bd8d45872
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a really creative family. My mom and all of her relatives are classical musicians, so there was a lot of music in my life. My dad and his family all work in entertainment, and my grandfather was a TV writer from the earliest days of television. My dad used to play improv games with us from the time we were very little, so I was always immersed in performing and the arts. That was a great experience, because my family was never the type to, say, restrict television viewing. They knew that exposure to good TV was just as useful as any other activity. And that really shaped me, because I learned about storytelling, narrative structure, and, to be honest, cultural history.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I loved performing from the moment I first set foot on stage, and when I was 10, I decided that I was going to be an actress and singer. When I was in middle school, Seinfeld started airing on weekday afternoons. I have always been a huge sitcom fan, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus was one of the first people I saw on TV who had curly hair and wasn’t made to feel like she was ugly for it. As a child with curly hair who was constantly being nagged to straighten her hair, that was life-changing, and I knew from that point forward that I wanted to star in a sitcom someday, just like Julia. I even studied at The Second City because I read that she started there, and I began to realize that my performing could only be enhanced by writing, too. And once I got to writing, I learned that writers in television end up producing their own work, so it kind of became a little circle: if I wanted to act and write, I was going to have to learn how to produce. And then I just kept singing because I love it so much and it gives me a great chance to act in a totally different way!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Oh, wow, so many things. Probably the most interesting, though, is the time I wrote for Betty White! We both grew up in Beverly Hills. When the city turned 100, Betty White was the featured guest at the Centennial Celebration, and guess who was writing the script? Hanging out with Betty White, and then hearing her read my words onstage, was amazing. And let me just say: she is just as lovely and sweet as you’d hope she is!
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 embarrass easily, so I have a bunch. But probably my favorite is the time I was working with a performer — and I won’t name her, to spare us both — who also has a famous brother. When I met her for the first time, I said “oh my gosh, I am such a big fan of your brother!” She didn’t really know how to react to that, and I didn’t know how to walk it back to not sound like I was crazy, so I just found a way to get out of there as quickly as possible, and I avoided her as much as I could. In hindsight, though, the bigger mistake was allowing that to dictate our entire relationship. We’ve all had embarrassing moments or make silly mistakes, and if that happened to me today, I’d just crack a joke and let that be a funny story we could both tell. Instead, I let a youthful goof turn into a big headache, and that was not worth it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m doing an awesome anthology web series called Pilot Season! It’s five different comedy stories that will be airing through February and March. I wrote the series, and I’m producing and appearing in two roles. I’m so excited to do this because I think we really need some comedy out there right now.
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?
I’ve developed a passion for creating diverse experiences, in part because I realize that diversity encompasses so many different things. It’s not just about any one thing — race, gender, sexual orientation — but rather, it’s about everything, and creating a media landscape that actually resembles our country and world. Similarly, it’s about giving people the opportunity to see themselves represented on screen. Look at Grey’s Anatomy. That show has so much diversity, and imagine all the young people who can look at that show and see themselves at Seattle General. That’s how we build our next generation of medical professionals. But most of all, I think diversity in entertainment gives us a chance to stop acting like anyone in our world is an “other.” Television in particular brings characters into our living rooms every single week. For some people, that may be their only encounter with someone who is BIPOC or LGBTQ+ or another marginalized group, and it’s a way to educate people and remind them that we are a multifaceted society with more than just
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Study everything! I wish I’d spent more time when I was younger exploring all of the jobs on both sides of the camera and curtain, and not just the ones I wanted. Knowing how lighting works, or how stage managers communicate with crews, or any number of other seemingly “useless” skills for a performer or writer is actually going to make your life so much easier.
- Learn who you are. When I was younger, people tried so hard to classify me in ways that didn’t fit who I was or wanted to be, and I didn’t have the conviction to defend myself. Now, I know who I am, what I offer, and why someone would or would not choose me and my work. And having the confidence to back up my unique style and voice has given me far more career positivity than being someone’s vision of what I “should” be ever could.
- You don’t have to wait for permission. We live in an era when everyone has a camera in their pocket, and frankly, the latest versions are pretty solid cameras, too. Sound equipment can, if you look around, be very cheap for some basic starter tools. Lighting is totally doable without fancy lights, and natural light really is the best. Have an idea for a short film? Write it, shoot it, and edit it. Want to make singing videos? Find some karaokes and go for it. Take advantage of the fact that we live in an era with so many channels to share your content, or even just a time when learning is far easier than it’s ever been!
- Protect yourself. Early in my career, I was offered an opportunity that sounded really interesting (it was a multimedia project). But the more I talked to the person behind the project, the more I realized that it was, at best, really shady. But young people fall into these traps all the time. Really, really learn to evaluate opportunities. Do as much research as you can on the people behind any project. Look at past work. Ask to talk to references, if you feel like it might help. But never give anyone money to get a job, and know that even seasoned pros fall for scams occasionally.
- Get good at business. There is no way to avoid needing strong business skills! I’m not saying you have to become an accounting expert (I’m certainly not) or an economist (ditto) or even know how to do your own taxes (again, I don’t), but you need to realize that your career is a one-person business with a variety of business needs. Become a good negotiator. Learn the basics of business finance. Understand that your career decisions are business decisions. I think one of the reasons I’ve managed to do as much as I have is that I treat every part of my career (save for the actual performing or writing) as if I’m the CEO of an amazing small company. And I am.
Here’s a video of me sharing a bit more about my “Five Things.”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Preventing burnout is a journey, not a destination. I am constantly fighting that battle myself. The best and most important advice I can give is to have non-entertainment outlets to allow you some time to not think about the industry. I studied Art History in college, and one of the best things about my peers in my major was that they really didn’t care much about what was going on in film or TV. They were far more interested in new findings in the art world, and that gave me a chance to step back and focus on something totally different for a while.
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. 🙂
As far as I’m concerned, there should be no food insecurity in our society, period. The idea that there are people who go to bed hungry at night, or who skip meals because they have no means of affording them, just hurts me like crazy. Why are there no viable, long-term solutions to this problem? We have so much technology, so many resources, and yet, we still have people who don’t have food. I want to see that be a thing of the past — everyone deserves to eat.
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?
I’m really lucky to have such an incredible family. My mother, father, and sister all have gone so far above and beyond to help me achieve my goals. I remember in the earliest days of the pandemic, I was scheduled to perform a brand-new cabaret show for Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday, and when everything shut down, I was devastated because it meant that I wouldn’t get to stage the show. But I decided to do the show, anyway — just virtually. Once I brought it up, my family was doing everything they could do to help: setting lights and sound and bringing in their fancy cameras to shoot it. I wound up doing 15 more virtual shows and they were 100% on board for every one. I’m so grateful that they’ve been willing to give of their time and talents to support me!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My quote in my senior yearbook from high school is “You’ve gotta be original, because if you’re like someone else, what do they need you for?” Bernadette Peters said that. And it’s so true, because any time I’ve ever tried to be someone other than the unique person I am, it’s failed. So many times, I’ve been expected to conform to a stereotype of what a person or performer my age might do. I’ve been shuffled back and forth as agents, managers, and producers tried to figure out how to squeeze me into the little box that they felt suited a funny but serious twenty-something brunette who sings and writes and…you get the idea. Boxing me in has only led to frustration for everyone involved! Bernadette is right: be you!
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. 🙂
Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one clamoring to meet with her, but Amanda Gorman! I’ve been a fan of her work for years, and I was so excited that she got the recognition she truly deserved at the Inauguration. I’m a millennial, but I can see that Gen Z is doing amazing things, and I can’t wait to see her back on that dais as the President of the United States!
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m a bit social media-phobic, so the best way to keep up with me is to visit my website at www.thevictoriagordon.com and sign up for my (infrequent and unobtrusive) emails. I send them all myself and reply to every comment I get!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!