“When faced with fear, dig deep inside, find your inner vamp and vamp it out”

With Actress Brooke Lewis

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Photo Credit: Albert L. Ortega
Photo Credit: Albert L. Ortega

Inside somewhere, each of us has their authentic truth. That is what’s real and it’s okay to share that with the world. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be insecure. It’s okay to tell the world that you’re not feeling well today, that you’re not happy today, that you have struggles. I’m scared but even with that fear, I have to tell myself to just go for it. We are all scared but act anyway. Just do it. It’s like the simple Nike slogan from years ago, “just do it”. So push through those fears. Be You. Be Fearless.

I had the pleasure to interview actress Brooke Lewis. Brooke is an award-winning actress who has appeared in many different genres, but is most known for the mystery, thriller “iMurders” (2008), mobster movie “Sinatra Club” (2010) and her comedic mobster Vampire “alter-ego” character and passion project “Ms. Vampy”. After growing up and beginning her creative dreams in Philly, she moved to New York City and got her first little/big “break” playing Donna Marsala in the Actors’ Equity Off-Broadway hit comedy “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding”. She made her living acting in New York for four years, before packing it up and heading to Hollywood. Never forgetting her ties to the LOVE statue and Geno’s Steaks, she launched Philly Chick Pictures in 2002 to create more opportunities for herself as an actress. In 2007, she played Dr. Grace Sario, opposite Charles Durning and Michael Pare, in the horror, mystery “Kinky Killers”, which aired on Showtime, and had the title ‘Scream Queen’ bestowed upon her in the entertainment industry. In 2010, she was honored with the ‘B Movie Golden Cob Award for Scream Queen Of The Year’ for her work in “Slime City Massacre”. She has been fortunate to work opposite a long list of talented veteran actors, which includes, Mark Ruffalo, Andy Richter, Charles Durning, Michael Pare, Michael Madsen, Tony Todd, Billy Dee Williams, William Forsythe, Gabrielle Anwar, Danny Nucci, Jason Gedrick, Michael Nouri, Joey Lawrence, Dominique Swain, Courtney Gains and many others. Brooke is a passionate Philanthropist and has been an active force in several charities for women battling breast cancer, female empowerment, programs supporting teens, and is a Celebrity Ambassador for Breaking The Chains Foundation.

Yitzi Weiner: Brooke it’s really a delight to get to know you. Are you able to tell us the story about what brought you to your particular career path, as a celebrity, an actress and a host?

Brooke Lewis: You are so kind. Well bless your soul for those kind words, I appreciate all of the acknowledgement, it’s such an honor.

To answer your question, I woke up one day and I just knew, I knew that I was destined to work in entertainment. For me a big part of it personally is the emotional components of being an actress. The emotional component of being in the public eye and sharing.

Everything in my life, whether it be the acting, whether it be life coaching, offering books, speaking in public, it’s all been about passion and sharing with others. Even my book “ Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess”, which we’ll talk about later, you know, was developed through me owning my hot mess, owning my mistakes, my failures, and sharing it with you and the world.

So that’s really where I was, a very emotional child. I used to watch a lot of television. My parents were divorced when I was two and I grew up in a house, just my mom and I and so it was the thing that sort of connected me to other people.

Yitzi: Ok, super. So you’ve had a fascinating career. Can you share the most interesting story that’s happened to you during your career?

Brooke: Well there’s so many. I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but one that just inspires me so, and that I think about, I will share with your readers. It’s something that I really, genuinely cherish and I think about it a lot, even all these 14 years later.

So, I remember when I moved to L.A from New York. I started my acting career off Broadway in New York in Tony and Tina’s wedding, the Off Broadway show. I did the show, 7 shows a week for 3 years straight under an equity contract. I moved to L.A and when I came here, it was much more challenging for me. I didn’t know anyone in the business. I didn’t have family in the business. So when I came, I had to work so hard to get even a little break in Hollywood.

And I remember, this is now, 2004 and I had been like asking the universe, the higher power for help and support. I had been asking for a TV series. I wanted a TV series more than anything. That always had been my dream in life . I’ll never forget, there was a role that went out for a guest star with a recurring role on a fox TV series and the title of the show is the Sitcom called “Quintuplets” . Quintuplets was about a family of five hilarious quintupletchildren, on Fox, with Andy Richter at home as the father of the five kids and Ryan Pinkston who I adore, who I just ran into, from Punk’d and Jake Mcdorman who went on to be huge TV star and Sarah Winter.

So they put out a breakdown apparently, for a role that I used to play, one of my favorite roles in the world that so many of my characters have been emulated and been similar to which is that Brooklyn, Staten Island sort of Guidette character that I played in Tony and Tina’s wedding.

So, why this is so special to me is I had been asking for support for a TV show. My agent called and he says, Brooke, they want you to come into Fox to read for this role, Gina Graziano, they cannot find what they’re looking for and they’ve had weeks of audition. So I got so excited. I went in for it and I nailed it. Which is something that all the actors who are reading know how challenging that is. Like, I’m so self critical as an actress all the time that I can rarely say that I feel like I nailed a role. I nailed this role. I brought that every ounce of my New York, New Jersey, Guidette girl that I love so much and that’s a big part of me as Brooke Lewis and I nailed it.

So why this was so special is they literally kept me the entire day. Took me through two producer’s sessions straight there that day, like all day long, I was there at Fox and I kept waiting in the Fox lot and I kept going “This is where I want to be”. This, like my prayers have been answered. This is where I want to be. They called my agent and they said, we want to put her on the role and we need her now. We’re going to take her to set now and we’re going to film starting today and literally start rehearsal. Literally, I remember getting whisked away in the little cart that you see in the movies on the studio lot and I was whisked away in the cart by the big leagues at Fox. They welcomed me and we started rehearsals that day. I remember I was so grateful that I had a pair of lower heels in my trunk of my car and a comfy shirt to throw on because I was all decked out there and I was like, wait a minute, I’m going to spend the next eight hours on set and rehearsing. That was that and it just was the most magical moment.

They threw me into this beautiful trailer of my own, like a honey wagon trailer, and treated me like a rock star celebrity. Why it’s so powerful for me is it was one of those moments where and you know, I’m a very spiritual person, it’s an experience for me where it shows that it can happen. That dreams can come true, that it can happen in a split moment like that. Not literally a moment, a couple hours, but a split moment where one day you’re going, ‘I want a TV series’ and the next… and in a few hours later, I’m sitting there in my own trailer on the Fox Studios lot and going, oh my gosh, it’s mine, the role is mine and so it’s so magical for me. So, I try to hold onto that whenever I’m sad.

That’s actually one of my lessons when I coach. I coach a lot of actors and actresses as clients and it’s one thing I share with them, to remember a moment that inspired you, that excited you in your life. I remember that when I’m sad or when I’m in an audition and I need to hold on to positivity.

Yitzi: That’s great. That’s an amazing story. I appreciate you sharing that. Can you share a story of the funniest mistake that you’ve made since you started acting?

Brooke: I’ve made many [laughs]. Oh boy. I have made many. That’s a great question and I’m never short for words and i’m stumped, but let me think so I can answer you as authentically as I can.

You know what? Okay, I’ll share this one and I share it because again, everything I share is to empower women and empower people, right?

So I did have a bit of my own, “me too” story. This is not one of those “I’m a victim stories”. The only reason I share this story — it’s not funny, — is because I want to empower women. This is actually, an “I’m an empowered woman” story.

I met a very, very, very big movie producer when I first moved to Los Angeles. He was interested in me for a role in a film and he asked me out on a date. I was young, and I end up going on a date with him. Then after, he had a whole plan to go back to his Bel Air mansion. He had his assistant there and a chef and he was cooking me some dinner and so on and so forth. He later invited me into his movie room to watch a movie.

So I went. I went up to the movie room, to watch a movie and he forgot the movie. He made a move on me and in a big way instead of the movie. I thought we were just watching a movie and so when he made the move on me, in that moment, my gut instincts kicked in. I stopped dead in my tracks there and I said, “No thanks. No thanks. I’m not interested in fooling around with you. Not Happening. It’s not happening. I’m going to see myself out.” and I took myself out down the stairs to the door and left graciously and gracefully. I feel like it was a mistake. I trusted him, and he wasn’t a terrible person, but I feel like the mistake was to go to his house alone.

I share that story because if had I known then what I know now, I don’t think I ever would have gone. I don’t know, maybe I would’ve gone to the house for dinner and see his beautiful mansion. I was a young actress in Hollywood and hoping for a big break, but I know I wouldn’t have gone upstairs to the movie room again. I’m blessed and grateful that I’m fine and he was not a bad guy at all. He understood me leaving,

I want to share that with the young male and female readers. I feel like I made the mistake of going into the private room with someone who I knew was maybe interested in making a move on me.

So if I had known then what I know now, I think I would have stopped at going into a private area with a producer knowing that he was interested in more than just hiring me as an actress. That was a huge lesson learned. I share this because I want all women of the “me too” movement to be mindful of knowing and trusting your instincts.

If something doesn’t feel right in business and when a boundary has been crossed, personally you leave. And that is how I roll. It’s how I always rolled and I’m grateful that I’ve had enough strong instincts and sense to remove myself from a scary situation. So that’s the mistake I think I made.

Yitzi: It’s great. That’s an amazing story. Now what would you say is the takeaway, the practical takeaway from that story?

Brooke: I want all the readers to know— young readers and older readers , it doesn’t matter — To trust your instincts, and when it feels like there’s a boundary being crossed in a profession, it doesn’t matter if it’s the movie industry or any profession, when your gut instinct tells you that something’s not right and that someone is about to cross your boundaries, you remove yourself from the situation. There’s no need to stay.

Yitzi: Would you say that in a power dynamic where one is superior and one is subordinate that you shouldn’t be in a secluded in a private room?

Brooke: I think that, yeah. I think now in this this day and age — and again that was years ago, 15 years ago or so, — in this day and age, I don’t think there is a reason for two people to be alone in a room, whether it’s a doctor’s office or whether it’s a movie studio or a T.V studio, you know, there’s really no need. There should always be a third party there. So yes, I am answering that with yes, and I think that again, if you are doing business, just two people in a room, it’s okay to make sure you trust the person, but always take care of yourself and do not give your power away. I liked what you said, — feeling like a subordinate, – do not give your power away. That’s something I speak about a lot, whether it to be to teenage girls or to the LGBT community, to adults. Do not give your power away.

Again, there’s so much going on, especially in our industry right now, in the entertainment business that it’s sometimes challenging legally to prove anything. So, I think that having a third party there is always beneficial because you know, there’s always three sides to every story. Your side, my side and the truth. I think the truth can come out when there’s a third party there, especially for young women.

Yitzi: So how do you respond to somebody that says, you’re being prude or old fashioned. How would you respond to that?

Brooke: Great question! So if I were speaking as a life coach right now, this is what I say when people ask me. I am incredibly nonjudgmental and I have to be as a board certified life coach as well as an actress. I also think that if you’re in the entertainment business, you better be nonjudgmental. So to answer that question where if someone’s being called a prude or old fashioned — because I’m extremely liberal, I’m extremely current, — but I have some old fashioned belief in me still. What I say, what I speak about, what I coach about is:

“You are the only one who has to sleep on your pillow at night and wake up with yourself in the morning.”

I have written that in articles for magazines. I have written that in one of my books that I’ve authored.

You’re the only one who has to sleep on your pillow at night and wake up with yourself in the morning. It does not matter what others think of you.

I know how challenging that is. I have been there, I have been attacked in the media. I have been criticized as an actress. It’s so challenging not to care what others think and it’s something that I personally have to work on everyday of my life but you have to trust your heart’s own instinct.

You individually, I mean the readers individually and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if anybody else thinks that you’re old fashioned or thinks that you’re prude or thinks anything negative of you. You’re the one who has the gift to choose. You have the power to choose.

Yitzi: That’s amazing. Brooke I really admire you.

Brooke: It’s not easy and I want to really reference that to the readers. Like it is not easy being in the public eye. Even at a small or midsize level. It is not easy. It’s not easy living in this day and age out of the public eye today I feel. That’s a whole other thing, we could do a whole interview on that. I mean, social media to me is brutal. Brutal. The judgments that people make on you, you know, judge you on social media, it’s brutal. So it’s a challenging time to be living. It really is.

Yitzi: You’re a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Because you never know what, just saying that the idea in this forum, you never know what your idea can trigger.

Brooke: Well, I would say my movement is to “ Be You And Be Fearless”. There is so much in there, and it sums up a lot of what we just talked about. You know, there’s so much power in “ Be You And Be Fearless”.

It’s something that I struggled with since childhood. I was just a very insecure child. I’m an insecure adult at times. I am sometimes afraid to just be me and speak my truth and so it’s something that I live by everyday and I impart to others. In this day and age and with social media, where everyone is putting up a false façade. Everyone’s putting up some facade about their life, it’s so perfect and that they’re out and about and everyone looks like they make, a million dollars plus a year on Instagram and Facebook. But the people are just showing the world what they want the world to see and they just blocked out their authentic truth.

Inside somewhere, each of us has their authentic truth. That is what’s real and it’s okay to share that with the world. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be insecure. It’s okay to tell the world that you’re not feeling well today, that you’re not happy today, that you have struggles.

I’m scared but even with that fear, I have to tell myself to just go for it. We are all scared but act anyway. Just do it.

It’s like the stupid Nike slogan from years ago, “just do it”. So push through those fears. Be You. Be Fearless.

Yitzi: Brooke, you’re amazing. You’re so inspiring.

Brooke: Thank you. It’s because I’m honest, because I’m authentic and honest. I mean I authored a book “ Coaching From A Professed Hot Mess” for a reason.

It’s funny too because I’m so blessed. I’m so blessed and grateful for my fan base. They’ve been with me from New York to L.A for 20 years since college. I am just so grateful and I have fans that support me through any movie, TV genres I act in, through my books, through my clothing brand, my makeup brands, like they’re just amazing.

I’ll just share what they tell me and what people I wake up to. Hundreds of messages on social media each day and morning and what they say is ‘we love how honest you are’. This is because people want relatedness. They don’t want to feel like they’re alone and they shouldn’t have to. When we’re authentic like, oh my gosh, I failed. I fell. I made another huge mistake. I made a bad career choice. I made a bad dating choice. You know, I own it, I share it, I process it, and it makes it less and I let the other people in the world know that they’re not alone. That is the movement. That’s probably one of the great movements. “You’re not alone”. We’re all scared and anyone who pretends not to be, is not being truthful.

Yitzi: Can you share with us your favorite life lesson quotes and then, how you found that relevant in your own life?

Brooke: Yep. Number one, again, Be You And Be Fearless. There you go. There’s my number one quote.

My other quote that I just love to death, pun intended is from my Ms. Vampy character that I created years ago. Ms. Vampy was a comedic mobster, Brooklyn Vampire. She is sort of like Mona from my cousin Vinny meets Elvira but she has a heart of gold. We wrote several screenplays and a TV show around her, so in the screenplay I wrote years ago and something that I came up with when I did a talk show for teen girls as Ms. Vampy. I said in my intimate vampy Brooklyn accent, “when faced with fear, dig deep inside, find your inner vamp and vamp it out”. That’s my single Ms. Vampy saying. Again, and you see how everything in my life and career relates to one another. We’re all fearful. We all have fear kept inside, but again, it’s the teenage way and Vampy way of basically saying the same thing. “ Be You And Be Fearless”. Dig down deep. Find that inner Vamp. To me, what I love about Ms. Vampy is that they live forever. They’re fearless. She’s like my alter ego.

So that’s another one. And one last quote. I have to quote one of my icons and idols, my two favorite icons and idols are Elizabeth Taylor and Mae West because they were such powerhouses when women weren’t allowed to be powerhouses in the Hollywood entertainment industry. One of my favorite, favorite quotes , in fact, I’m staring at it on one of my wall now — is from Mae West is, it’s very cliché but true. “You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough”. That’s how I choose to live my life based on my icon Mae West.

Yitzi: Ok amazing. Well Brooke, I want to thank you so much for your time. This is honestly, among the most insightful and profound interviews I’ve done and I’ve actually done like close to 3000 interviews.

Brooke: Oh My God. Really? I’m so honored. Thank you so much. Wow, 3000 interviews?

Yitzi: Yeah, they weren’t all over the phone. Many have been thorough email but yeah, yours is really profound. 🙂

Brooke: Thank you. Your questions were so thought provoking. I’m telling you, no one stumps me and your questions were just as profound, which is why I was able to deliver those answers. So thank you. Thank you and your team. I can’t wait to read it.

Yitzi: I appreciate your kind words Brooke. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful weekend.

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