Sonja McCord



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EP 204: Sonja McCord (autogenerated)

[00:00:00] Dane Reis: you booked it episode 204. Okay, let’s get this started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Sonia, Mick horde. Are you ready for the Sonya? Brilliant. Let’s do it. Sonya, as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director slash CEO of the Sonia at McCord X, she trains professional dancers to amplify their artistic brand, build independent work, elevate their talent and monetize their art all while increasing their marketability and visibility in.

[00:00:40] The industry she has performed with the Pittsburgh ballet theater, Nashville ballet, Alvin Ailey, American dance, theater, dance theater of Harlem, and has been featured in various on online magazines and publications. Sonya. That is a very quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, fill in the gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

[00:01:08] Sonja McCord: Well, Well, currently I’m in New York city, Manhattan. I am a dancer and choreographer. And as you said, the artistic director and CEO of my own company, the Sonia McCord X, which stands for the experience, um, it serves as a dual role for dancers elevating their visibility and becoming more marketable in their performances.

[00:01:27] Right now I’m focused on leading a movement of dancers who have empowered themselves. To build a body of meaningful work and also to turn their art into a legacy. My goal is to disrupt the industry.

[00:01:42] with a new approach, to their visibility as a performer and.

[00:01:47] Basically as a former marketing director, I teach dancers and performers how to use social media to build their credibility their authority and their identity.

[00:01:59] in the entertainment industry.

[00:02:00] So that ultimately they’ll get booked for jobs, especially directly from social media. And 

[00:02:06] the thing that I’m most passionate about is giving performers permission to pursue their biggest dreams and helping them create a strategy around that. to make 

[00:02:14] it happen. 

[00:02:15] Dane Reis: Oh, that’s really good. I really like what you’re doing, uh, with the Sonya McCord X, uh,because yeah, talent, talent is great. Uh, I was just on a masterclass, our hosting one and, uh, they said talent will always, uh, Trump.

[00:02:27] Everything else, whether it’s your real or anything like that. But while that is true, I uh, You still have to be seen. And when someone is going through hundreds of submissions, whether that’s just looking at headshots or they’re looking at reels, or it’s a cattle call and there’s 500 people in the room, how do you make yourself stand out?

[00:02:48] How do you make yourself more marketable? How do you get noticed? And there are very specific things that we can do to help our marketability, our visibility to. get put in that keep pile. Right?

[00:03:02] Sonja McCord: Exactly. It’s about making sure that your presence is known long before you’re in the audition room. So if you’re working actively on social media and you’re posting videos of your performances, or if you’re an actor of you acting in different scenes, um, and then making sure that you’re spreading the word on other social media accounts and interacting with casting directors and just other people in the industry, eventually people are gonna learn your name and that’s, what’s important.

[00:03:27] You want to be able to walk into the audition room and they see your name and they recognize it. And that’s what I teach how to build your reputation.

[00:03:34] in the industry so that it perceives 

[00:03:36] you before you even walked into the room. 

[00:03:38] Dane Reis: Oh, so good and so important. And I’m excited to get into that a little bit more through this interview, but first let’s get into this section here and look, Sonya. I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote? You’d like to share with everyone?

[00:03:55] Sonja McCord: One of my favorite quotes is change. Is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what 

[00:04:02] you could become.

[00:04:04] Dane Reis: And can you expand on that a little bit on how it’s worked its way into your career personally?

[00:04:09] Sonja McCord: Yes. I, I found this quote when I was a little girl and I fell in love with it immediately because I’ve always been pretty shy and afraid to speak to other people. And actually no one believes me, but I’m 53% extroverted. So I’m quite introverted and I would much rather sit and listen to most people speak than for me to have to speak myself.

[00:04:32] I’ve always had this quiet determination to push myself to do more, even if I’m afraid. And that’s probably why people don’t believe me when I say I’m shy because I’ve become so good at pushing myself to take risks, to surrender who I am and to go after big opportunities that I make it look like it’s easy for me as it’s definitely not.

[00:04:52] And I fight this resistance every single day and each day, I try to make that choice to surrender myself with the belief that

[00:05:00] Something new and exciting will enter my life and the faith that I will continue to grow as a person, as long as I keep 

[00:05:07] surrendering who I am. 

[00:05:08] Dane Reis: really well said. I really liked that. And. I also like how you said, you admit yourself, Hey, I’m quite introverted, but you wouldn’t guess it. And it’s still a challenge for me every single day to put myself out there. But would you agree that even though it might not naturally feel like you should be, or you naturally want to be extroverted or put yourself out there for whatever that opportunity is, or to build that relationship, that the more you do it, the, the easier it gets, it’s kind of like a muscle.

[00:05:40] Sonja McCord: It Absolutely.

[00:05:41] is a muscle. It does get easier, but the bar keeps getting raised. So there’s always these situations that come into your life that are the stakes are high, and I still get those butterflies. Wise, but I think what, what becomes easier is the act of pushing myself, not necessarily the doing after, you know, you know, 

[00:05:58] when you get there.

[00:06:00] Dane Reis: Yeah, for sure. I mean, yeah, because each, each scenario is always different and then you have, you know, whatever the relationship, like you said, the stakes. Get higher. And that’s, that is kind of the catch of, of doing what we do. The more, the more we expand our networks, the more we do in this career, the more we push ourselves, the higher the bar always gets raised and you get introduced to bigger opportunities, more influential people in your niche or in your industry.

[00:06:22] And yes, on a micro level, I agreed that those conversations start getting, they’re always nervous because it’s a new kind of level that you’re breaking through in a way. But. Like you said, it’s, it’s knowing that within yourself that you can, I know how to step up and I can do this. And that foundation that you’ve built for yourself is what you can fall back on and Restin

[00:06:44] Sonja McCord: Absolutely. The universe keeps it fresh and life is definitely an adventure. 

[00:06:49] Dane Reis: Yeah, well, well, let’s get into this next section here. And Sonia, of course you are an entertainer, I’m an entertainer. And I think that you would agree that this industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest and personally emotional industries in existence. And you know, you know, as well as I. That in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like your having now takes a lot of dedication and hard work.

[00:07:19] And while yes, there is an outrageous amount of fun and excitement doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures. We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through. So tell us what is one key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out?

[00:07:40] The other side better?

[00:07:42] Sonja McCord: Yes. Put a lot of thought into this. Um, And it’s, it’s been mindset mostly and mindset as a result of racism that I’ve. Experienced like I’ve studied classical ballet. And I always think to myself, my story is what Misty Copeland story would have been. Had she not had an army of mentors guiding her and pushing her past her mental blocks and past that ugly side of discrimination that we see a lot of times in the arts.

[00:08:08] And I was at a dance institution that ignored me. People didn’t believe in me. They made me feel like I didn’t belong. And I was, I was at the top of my class, but I had girls. He spit in my face when I was eight years old and I didn’t even know their names. Another guy told me that he, he basically said he was like, you’re nothing, you’ll never amount to anything.

[00:08:26] And I remember just standing at the bar, like, who are you? Why are you talking to me? And I just remember these, like, things would happen all the time. And at the. As a child, I didn’t comprehend it. But as an adult, when I look back, I recognize it because I’ve been in so many situations that I’ve just tolerated and move past.

[00:08:47] And what a lot of people don’t understand, because you can look at that and think, oh, that doesn’t seem like.

[00:08:51] racism, but racism is just this quiet language and a set of behaviors that only can be identified intuitively by this. Energy and a tone and, and just to serve it from living and a numb referring to racism, that big history.

[00:09:04] And so, like for another example, we were told that if you’re going to be in Swan lake, you can’t get a tan,well, I’m naturally tanned as a black woman. And where does that?

[00:09:13] put me? You know? You know? And I remember thinking like, well, is there. A space for me in Swan lake,like, can I be a dancer? And so that didn’t really give me confidence that what I was doing was actually going to lead somewhere.

[00:09:24] And so I had to manage those thoughts and push past it and try to move forward. But those were those words for made inside me and impacted me significantly. Now, now today in 2021. I’m on the other side of it.

[00:09:37] because my mission now is to use my voice and my art form to disrupt the dance industry and began to cultivate that next generation of dancers who understand that dance is for the people, for all people, for all dance, Sean Rez and art has.

[00:09:54] Then, and we’ll always continue to be at the forefront of change. And as artists, we now have this huge opportunity today to re eradicate racism and body shaming and ageism and all the discrimination. That’s still pervasive industry 

[00:10:08] currently. 

[00:10:09] Dane Reis: Yeah. Wow. Um, really awful that you had to experience all those things. Growing up. Um, but, like you said, in your mission and what you are doing and moving forward, uh, to evolve and disrupt this industry is so important. And I think we find ourselves, especially through, gosh, this last year has been so much going on and on so many different levels, but I think at any time in history, I think we are.

[00:10:36] Actually kind kind of on this precipice where we are able to make some real positive change and really take some major steps forward, uh, in so far as racism in, in so far as bigotry. And so far as, uh, as accessibility and things like this and any kind of discrimination and I’m, I, for one I’m quite hopeful looking forward and seeing kind of how.

[00:11:00] Social media, how these communities online have, have begun to flourish and the conversations are happening. These conversations that have been too, too long, you know, suppressed, or just not even brought up. Right. Right.

[00:11:10] Sonja McCord: Absolutely. I feel really hopeful to be honest. And, um, I just look at every single industry and I’m just saying change. And like you said, these conversations are happening and the tough conversations, you know, the ones that we want to avoid and, and sweep under the rug and, um, especially. In art. Um, you know, we’ve seen it for years where artists take what’s happening in the world and they create these beautiful masterpieces and that’s still continuing.

[00:11:35] And I’m hoping that through dance, I can find a way to tell my story and to push the causes that I believe in such as anti-racism. 

[00:11:44] And anti-displacement. 

[00:11:45] Dane Reis: Yeah, love that. So good. Well, Well, let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for a living or maybe it was, yes. This is what I need to be doing in the entertainment industry. Tell us about that.

[00:12:10] Sonja McCord: one of those people who truly believe that I was born to be an entertainer. Um, in particular dancer, I was two years old, probably a little bit younger than two. And I was watching the original movie, Annie with Ann Rankin and Jeffrey Holder and rented Peters and all the other legends. And every time the movie would go off, I would cry.

[00:12:32] And as I watched it, I remember thinking to myself, like, I want this life, like the dancing. Thinking the wealth, the friendships, New York city, radio city, music hall, the fancy costumes. And even Annie’s like no nonsense, tough girl spirit. Like that. Girl knew how to use her charm, her wit and her passion to change the minds of others and very similar, but to fast forward, about four years after that, when I was six, I went to my friend’s open house at her dance.

[00:13:00] Studio. I remember my sister dressed me up in a khaki skirt, tights and a blouse. And the teacher asked me if I wanted to try the, the ballet class. And of course I got up and I went forward. I pushed myself, but I remember feeling totally stupid because I didn’t have dance clothes on. I didn’t have ballet shoes on.

[00:13:17] I mean, it was like blouse, but you know, again, I pushed myself and when it was over, I told my mother, I want to do this And every single performance and recital that I had after that I would fall more and. more in love with the stage. And guess what? I would do cry after every performance was over, just like with Annie.

[00:13:37] And I think that’s how I really knew this is what I wanted to do and that I was born to do because there’s something in dancing and being on the stage just every single time it moves me to tears and I just never wanted 

[00:13:49] to end.

[00:13:50] Dane Reis: Aw, that’s so good. I like how you said, uh, when you showed up at the dance class at first, you’re like, I didn’t even have proper dance clothes, you 

[00:13:56] Sonja McCord: Right. 

[00:13:57] Dane Reis: and, that’s it, but I love that as well. My wife and I, uh, recently opened a dance school and we’ve got a lot of, you know, young kids that, uh, that come in and it’s, it’s their first time ever experiencing dance.

[00:14:08] Right. And. Oftentimes, they don’t have the leotard. They don’t have the tights and the shoes, but that’s, that’s not the point. There’s time for that. That’s just glows. You can solve that, but just getting people there. And I love, I love just seeing people fall in love with the art or fall in love with dancing and you can see it happen.

[00:14:26] Right. And they just get more and more excited about it. I love that. 

[00:14:29] Sonja McCord: Yes. it’s so beautiful to watch.

[00:14:30] Dane Reis: Yes. And let’s piggyback on that story a little bit. And I want to talk about your number one, booked it moment. Walk us through that day, the auditions and callbacks, if they happen to be a part of it, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment?

[00:14:47] Makes it your favorite? Booked it moment.

[00:14:51] Sonja McCord: Okay. So my favorite book, that moment is sort of an ode to irony. Um, I have a few favorite stories. However, the one that I’m going to share today is when I was younger, um, probably around 11 or 12 years old, and I was invited to audition for the Nutcracker suite with Nashville ballet. I was really, really excited to be there.

[00:15:09] Yeah. And I felt so honored that I was invited. And then I don’t remember much. About the class itself, except the final lineup and the artistic director, which was Yonic Sheridan at the time and the ballet mistress, Elaine Thomas and school director. Ingrid Derrickson was there and they lined us all up in groups.

[00:15:27] And I didn’t know at the time, but this is where they were confirming their final casting choices. Well, while we waited in the back, there were two girls who had auditioned the previous year. So they knew how things went, you know, at the school. And they told me that I would probably be a rat or a soldier basically because I’m black.

[00:15:43] Yeah. And so I was like, okay, whatever, Like I didn’t know. I was just chilling there, like waiting. And so eventually the artistic director finally announced our roles and I was cast as a party child. In fact, I was Claire as best friends and the girls that told me that I would be around were the preps.

[00:16:02] The soldiers. and

[00:16:04] I just thought that was so ironic That they were being so nasty to me and that they ended up being the role that they thought I was going to be. Um, but the best thing about that role of being a party child was that you got to perform during the entire first act of the ballet. And that was my first major performance at. a major theater. And I remember we performed maybe 30 times that season and I never got tired of it.

[00:16:27] I was in heaven. And of course when it was over, what did I do? I cried. 

[00:16:32] Dane Reis: yeah, I’m seeing a theme here. 

[00:16:34] Sonja McCord: There’s definitely a 

[00:16:35] theme.

[00:16:36] Dane Reis: yeah. I also love the irony of that. 

[00:16:40] Sonja McCord: Yeah, but I had such a great sense of humor about it. It’s so funny. Like these things would happen to me and I would always be kind of confused, like what? Oh, okay. like, I guess I’m going to be a rat 

[00:16:49] Dane Reis: you’re like, I’m just happy to be here to be honest. So 

[00:16:53] like I’ll 

[00:16:53] Sonja McCord: then when I exactly just put me at the tree in the background, I’ll be fine. 

[00:16:58] Yeah. So that was great 

[00:16:59] story.

[00:17:00] Dane Reis: Yeah. I love it. Well, also, let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And. Hey, it’s getting better, but we are still amidst this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:17:19] Sonja McCord: Okay, well, right now through the Sony McCord experience, I’m launching a program for dancers is called dancer premiere, and it’s a premium online program that lasts for a year that coaches dancers on how to amplify their personal brand, build their portfolio and resume and elevate their talent. And my goal is to empower these dancers to take the career in their own hands.

[00:17:39] So a lot of times dancers and other performance, we get caught into this like, um, audition and training loop waiting around for someone else to tell us yes. And just even holding off, defining ourselves as entertainers or as professional dancers until we get that major role. Right. So I teach dancers to build their own legacy much

[00:17:57] Bob Fossey mayor Cunningham, just being baker, Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, and Katherine Dunham, how they built theirs and just like like each of them made their mark in American history. I believe that it’s up to this next generation to follow in their footsteps. And so that’s what dancer premiere is about.

[00:18:15] But what I’m looking forward to right now is. Personally making my own mark in the dance industry and building my own legacy of work. Um, I’ve always believed that I am a star and that it’s up to me to tell the world who I am and what I’m about with my dancing. So I’m putting out more and more dance content very, very soon. And in terms of where I see the entertainment industry moving, I see it moving in a direction where more entertainers are, have the power to build and create their own work online and share that. And I believe that in promoting their own projects, they’ll be able to make their own money and really build the visions that they see for 

[00:18:54] themselves. 

[00:18:55] Dane Reis: Yes. I love all of that. I love what you’re doing. And your outlook on the future of this industry. I am also an agreeance with you. 

[00:19:03] Sonja McCord: Thank you. 

[00:19:04] Dane Reis: yeah, and now it’s time to move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightning round. I am going to ask you a handful of questions.

[00:19:15] I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you ready? 

[00:19:22] Sonja McCord: All right. let’s go. 

[00:19:23] Dane Reis: All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

[00:19:30] Sonja McCord: Others to tell me who I am and starting to believe what they say. And the minute I realized that I could determine my own path as an entertainer, that it was possible for me, I believed and realized I had the power to make my 

[00:19:46] dreams come true.

[00:19:47] Dane Reis: Wow. So good ownership is everything. And the second question. What is your best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:19:58] Sonja McCord: This is life changing advice for me. Don’t focus on what you can’t control. Don’t put pressure on yourself and don’t concern yourself with other 

[00:20:06] people’s opinions of you. 

[00:20:09] Dane Reis: so good, especially that last one in this social media existence, that so many of us have all the time and the comparison game is toxic. And it’s such a, ah, it’s such a knife’s edge of looking at other people’s content and seeing what’s out there as inspiration to comparison such a nice edge to walk that.

[00:20:34] Sonja McCord: Absolutely. When I competed in pageants, that was one of the lessons that I learned because the very minute I started focusing on other contestants and looking at what they were wearing and how they were acting. I never did well at those pageants, but the pageants where I stayed focused on myself and competed with myself or the pageants that.

[00:20:52] I either won or A place Kylie.

[00:20:55] So I apply that to the, I apply that to 

[00:20:57] the dance industry as well.

[00:20:58] Dane Reis: A hundred percent, a a hundred percent. And the third question, what is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on? Pause

[00:21:10] Sonja McCord: Simply taking my career into my own hands, creating my own projects and giving myself permission to thrive as an 

[00:21:18] entertainer.

[00:21:19] Dane Reis: So good. And the fourth question. What is your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video, maybe a podcast or a piece of technology you found is helping your career right now.

[00:21:32] Sonja McCord: The book, the success principles by Jack Canfield, how to get from where you are to where you want to be. And Jack says that if you follow it for a year, you’ll have your breakthrough So let’s connect next year when my year is over to compare notes. 

[00:21:46] Dane Reis: Yes. Put it in the calendar. And the fifth question, if you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

[00:22:04] Sonja McCord: I firmly believe that where we are today in this moment is exactly where we’re supposed to be. However, If I had, to change something, the only thing I would have done differently is not allowed. my relationships with friends to distract me from my vision for myself. At some point, I began to settle into ideas that were not my own and started to believe that my my optimism was overly ambitious, but it’s not.

[00:22:30] And so When you look at history and the innovators, they’re the ones who looked and sound crazy. All of the innovators, they were super ambitious. For example, the telephone, whoever would believe that talking over a wire would make sense at all right. Innovators don’t fit in. And they aren’t supposed to And So I believe that I’m an innovator and I only wish that I understood that early that you don’t have to fit in and.

[00:22:56] people have their own ideas of what they think you should do, but it’s up to you to make sure it aligns with the vision that you 

[00:23:02] have for yourself.

[00:23:03] Dane Reis: really well said. I would say rewind that one. That was really good. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:23:20] Sonja McCord: Yes. I want our listeners to hear and remember this manifesto. We are born stars. Ready to shine our light on the world. We are talented, ambitious, and creative performers. We are artists. We are legends, pioneers, history makers.

[00:23:37] We are movers chosen to move the world. We do not rely on other people to tell us we are worthy to give us our chance to shine because we own our stage. We direct our own performances. We turn our vision into reality and we make our mark in this industry. We are a constellation of. Stars moving the world one performance at a time.

[00:23:57] And that is my manifesto for the Sony McCord experience. And I hope that our listeners are 

[00:24:01] inspired by those words. 

[00:24:03] Dane Reis: that’s so good. Did you write that yourself? 

[00:24:05] Sonja McCord: I did. Thank 

[00:24:06] Dane Reis: Oh, I love that. So wonderful. Really great. 

[00:24:09] Sonja McCord: Thank you. 

[00:24:10] Dane Reis: Yes. And with that, Sonya, it is time to wrap up this interview. It is time to give yourself a plug. So where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote?

[00:24:25] Sonja McCord: Absolutely for dancers, I’m hosting a free five day dance and visibility intensive it’s five days full of value packed information on how to amplify your brand, build your resume and elevate your talent. Dancers can head over to the Sonya McCord, and dance of to register and entertainers that are looking for coaching in mindset coaching.

[00:24:49] They can reach me at the same place. Sonya mCLASS Sonya McCord, And you can follow me at, at starring Sonia S T a R I N G S O N J a and the Sonya McCord 

[00:25:02] X on Instagram. 

[00:25:04] Dane Reis: Brilliant. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to everything. Sonya just said into the description of this episodes, you can easily connect with her and also be sure to share this podcast with your fellow entertainers, coaches. Teachers arts and entertainment educators, and anyone, you know, you know, aspiring to create a career in the entertainment industry.

[00:25:29] You booked. It is the number one resource of expertise on how to actually create a successful entertainment career case in point, everything that Sonia is doing for dancers for this entertainment industry and everything she gave in today’s episode. If you enjoyed this one, hit that subscribe button.

[00:25:49] So you don’t miss the next one. Sonia, thank you so much for coming on, having a chat with me, it’s been great to meet you

[00:25:56] Sonja McCord: Thank you. Likewise. I 

[00:25:58] appreciate it.