Diana Vaden

IG @dianavaden

EP 43: Diana Vaden (autogenerated)

You booked it, episode 43, Hey, entertainers and performers of the world. I’m your host, Dane Reis, and welcome to you. Booked it. Where I chat with inspiring entertainers, seven days a week by digging into their journey. We’re going to discover everything you need to do to be a successful entertainer, you know?

[00:00:25] Cause. Training, usually skips that part about how to actually make your skills work for you in the real world. Fellow entertainers, my drive here at you booked it is to share the inspiring and incredible journeys of successful entertainers. We are here to support your journey. So go to youbookeditpodcast.com.

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[00:01:09] So you don’t miss an episode, leave a rating and review and to show our appreciation for your fingers crossed five star rating and review. I will give you a shout out on an upcoming episode at now. Let’s do this. Okay. Let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Diana Vaden. Are you ready for this Diana Alliance?

[00:01:34] So ready? And I’m so honored and thrilled to be on the podcast? Yes, let’s do it. Diana is a performer and writer originally from Reno, Nevada, and now based in New York city, a university of Southern California alumna. She spent time as a company member of mashup contemporary company. And LA contemporary dance company after traveling and performing on cruise ships and in Las Vegas, she moved to the big Apple to pursue her Broadway dream.

[00:02:05] She has shared stages with norm Lewis, Bebe Neuwirth, Joel gray, and Vanessa Williams. She made her Broadway debut in the Tony nominated musical Tootsie. Before the New York pause, she was in rehearsal for the Broadway bound musical. Once upon a one more time, she was also the executive creative director of radiant NYC and online magazine and community for women and is currently developing a new television series with her writing partner, Michael radish.

[00:02:37] Diana. That is a 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, who you are, and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry. Of course. So like you said, I’m from Reno, Nevada, born and raised there.

[00:02:58] And I grew up mostly dancing. I had early dreams of being a backup dancer for Janet Jackson, but then in high school I fell in love with, because I just love the art of storytelling through acting. So then I decided I wanted to go to LA because I wanted to be in the commercial dance world and I wanted to pursue acting.

[00:03:18] So I went to the university of Southern California. While I was in college, I performed with an all girl, contemporary dance company called Masha. And that was my first professional gig. Then I spent a few years performing on cruise ships, like you said, for Royal Caribbean cruise line where I did some circus LA style shows as well as musicals.

[00:03:39] And that’s when I fell in love with musical theater. And once I was back on land, I made singing lessons as a priority and decided to pursue more musical theater work. So long story short, I work as a singer dancer actress and after hopping about from LA San Diego and Las Vegas, I moved to New York city and that’s where I’ve been for the past three years.

[00:04:01] And my New York experience has been really fun. I was very determined and focused and on a tight budget when I moved there. So I lived in Midtown, in hell’s kitchen, in an all girl dormitory run by Catholic months. It was quite exciting. Yes. And then my Broadway debut last year, and to see the musical, which was very exciting.

[00:04:22] And then right before COVID-19 in New York, like said I was in rehearsals for a show called once upon a one more time, the musical featuring music by Brittany Spears. And it’s all about fairytale, princesses and female empowerment. It’s going to be very exciting once we get back to it. Oh, I love that. I love your whole story because you started off in one place.

[00:04:45] That’s what I love about this industry is that you can start off one place thinking I’m going to do this because this is what I like. And then through your journey, through doing it through meeting new people, different parts of this industry, just start opening up for you. And you’re like, wow. I really liked that.

[00:05:00] Oh, I’m passionate about that too. And he just keeps snowballing and snowballing and look at that. Now you have had your Broadway debut and that’s amazing. Definitely. And the cool thing about the connective tissue of the experiences, like for instance, moving from Las Vegas to New York city, it was definitely a leap of faith, but there was an encouragement that came from a particular choreographer that I was working with.

[00:05:24] Just during a workshop while I was in Las Vegas. So it was those kind of threads that lead you to the next thing that are unexpected, that you can’t always plan for, but you kind of ride that wave. And then you’re like, Oh, look at me now. So it’s exciting. Yeah. I love that. Well, let’s move on to the next section here and look, Diana.

[00:05:44] I am a sucker for a good quote. What’s your favorite quote you’d like to share with her? Yeah. My favorite quote is actually a Bible verse Ephesians two 10 and in a particular translation called the message. It says. We have become his poetry or recreated people that will fulfill the destiny. He has given each of where we are joined to Jesus, the anointed one, even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it.

[00:06:16] I love that. And how have you applied that quote to your daily life and your career? So in my daily life, I’m confronted as most people probably are with a lot of worries about missing out on opportunities, AKA FOMO, especially when it comes to my careers. It’s so hardcore with our career. It’s so intense.

[00:06:39] And so this verse is really helpful because it shifts my mindset. And helps me believe that as long as I have the courage to show up, I won’t miss out on the things that are supposed to be on my path. So practically, this looks like if I go to an audition and I’m really, really nervous, which is often the case, those nerves actually get in my way.

[00:06:59] And, and then I don’t perform very well. So if I remember that, yeah, this job is one of those. If this job is one of those good works, prepared in advance for me to do then. It’ll happen, but if it’s not, then it won’t happen. And I just allow myself to be okay with that. And when I make peace with that, I can, like, I can fully show up, engage taking the pressure off myself and I inevitably performed better.

[00:07:26] I love that. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. And let’s move on to this next section. So Diana, of course you are an entertainer. I’m an entertainer. And I think you’d agree that this industry is one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally emotional industries in. Existence and, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and to have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now takes a lot of dedication and hard work.

[00:07:58] And while yeah, of course there is an outbreak, just amount of fun and excitement being an entertainer, being on stage. There are also our fair share of challenges, obstacles, and failures that we are going to inevitably experience and we’re going to have to move forward through them. So tell us what is.

[00:08:15] One key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career. And how did you come out the other side better because of it? So, one of the key challenges I have, has been finding my place in the entertainment industry as a black woman. I realized that this was going to be an issue back in college, where it was evident from the way the school of dramatic arts that USC was set up, that opportunities for people of color and productions on campus.

[00:08:43] We’re limited. And of course this also reflects how the entertainment industry runs on a larger scale. On the macro level. I remember one experience in particular when I had auditioned for two shows and yeah, one semester and one was a play particularly for black actors to tell them more black centric story.

[00:09:02] And the other was a musical. And I was approached by my Dean during that audition week because we would audition for all the shows. For that semester at the same time. And he approached me after our casting list had been posted and said, Oh, aren’t you excited about being cast in the colored museum, which is the title of the play, but I still hadn’t finished the process of auditioning for the musical because callbacks were later that week.

[00:09:26] So it was very interesting because the underlying message I was receiving in that moment was you should be doing this particular show. Don’t you agree? And that was a little hard for me to swallow. I remember thinking, okay, somebody is already telling me where I should be in what shows I should perform and where it should focus my energy.

[00:09:47] And. Of course, I’m trying at that time to find it and myself as an actor in my formative schooling years. So it really felt like a defining moment. So after that one, I was very angry, but too, I didn’t want to feel that way again. So after I left college, I had in my mind that I would not let someone else dictate or limit my opportunities.

[00:10:09] Meaning, I wouldn’t let somebody tell me Diana, you can only audition for that, or you can’t audition for that, or you’re not right for this, or you’re not right for that. Now people have still said that to me explicitly or implicitly, but I was determined to not internalize those messages and that encompassed other things.

[00:10:29] In addition to my race and ethnicity that had to also do with tight vocal style, the amount of training I had or didn’t have. And I think that really helped me throughout the years of my career, especially in the way I approached open call auditions. I just made sure that I started by giving myself permission to be there no matter what anybody might say.

[00:10:51] Otherwise, I love that. I love your, your perspective on everything and you’re right. That is just, it is not okay for people to have create assumptions and to have, and to tell people these things. It’s just, it’s just not okay. But I love your perspective because while unfortunately there are people out there that are, that create those opinions and spread that into that you are able to rise above that.

[00:11:17] Yeah. And own your talent, own your artistry and give yourself 100% to whatever project you are doing. Right. Well, that’s the only thing I have control over the moment. So it’s like, why not take that opportunity to say, okay, I’m going to have this mindset instead of the other. Absolutely. Because there are so many things in this industry that are just simply so far out of our control, that to try and control them is futile, but to really double down on the stuff that we can control, definitely.

[00:11:52] Alrighty. Well, let’s move on to this next session, chin down 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 as an entertainer. Tell us about that. Oh, there are so many, but the one that comes to me the mind was when I performed in Chicago, the musical on the allure of the seas for Royal Caribbean cruise lines, I was in the ensemble, one of the cellblock tango ladies doing the, he ran into my knife.

[00:12:30] He ran into my Knight 10 times, not allowed, but the moments that really stand out were when the ensemble sit on the edge of the stage, still in view of the audience. And we had to sit with such. Elevated posture and still be present to the story. Still leaning in still part of the world that we had created.

[00:12:50] The band is playing there onstage with us, and it just felt like you’re a part of this unique world and the intensity of storytelling and just that my presence alone was important. And a part of that. And I was like, I want to do this all the time. It was amazing because you know, There are beautiful dance break moments in that show and the opportunity to sing and do a monologue.

[00:13:12] And then to just sit and be fabulous, honestly, just full gamut. Isn’t that show. So I experienced that and I said to myself, I want to do this as often as I possibly can. Absolutely. You’re in you’re so you’re so right. I. as you’re telling that story, I’m thinking about different opportunities or different times when I was on stage and yeah, of course we love the singing.

[00:13:34] We love the dance and we love the acting and those big scenes and those big dance numbers. There’s so much fun, but there is something absolutely to be said about just being almost a decoration in a scene, you know, and just being able to watch the show, but in that world, because you’re not really doing all that much, you really get to soak that up and absorb that.

[00:13:54] And you’re so right. That feeling is so great. It’s amazing. It really is really the most simple things. Cause you can re you can just relish in that, just in silence and just enjoy. It’s so good. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Well, let’s piggyback on that question and let’s talk about your number one book moment. Walk us through that day, the auditions and the callbacks.

[00:14:18] If those happened to be a part of it, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment? Makes it your favorite? Booked it moment. Okay. Hands down. How I booked once upon a one more time, the musical is my number one book. That moment it was a journey of trust and a lesson in humility, and it also was very dramatic and exciting.

[00:14:41] So the first audition happened when I was still into the musical, but we knew it was closing in about a month. So I was very excited to go on some auditions because I wanted to get another job lined up. And the cool thing about this audition was I was going in for a featured ensemble part. Now this was new for me.

[00:15:01] The part would have some featured scene work and some solo singing moments, something that I hadn’t done yet on Broadway. So I was very excited about that. The audition was a prescreening with the casting director only. And I think it goes really well. Now the audition happened over Thanksgiving. So people are kind of in and out of the office during holiday times.

[00:15:23] So he lets me know that he might send me an email about callbacks as well as an email to my agent about callbacks. So I’m like, this is great. Now I’m waiting, biting my nails, hoping that I’m going to get a call back in a couple of weeks. Go by. And randomly, I am checking my junk mail and I see that I got an email from the casting director, but I had missed the call back.

[00:15:46] So I call my agent frantically and they’re like, Oh yeah, we got the information. But they said, they sent you the information. So we thought you already have the information. So there was a lot of miscommunication and missed the audition. Yes. And I am, I’ll be honest. I was very mad and I am shocked and I’m like, what have I missed out on my next opportunity?

[00:16:09] So then I had to pause, I had to pray about it. I’m like, okay, I need to trust God. I need to trust that. Ephesians two 10 verse. I mentioned, I was like, if it’s something that’s for me, then it will happen. If it’s not, for me, it won’t happen. so as my agent is contacted in the casting director and seeing if there’s any way I can still be seen, or if they’ve already made a decision, et cetera, I’m just trying to calm myself down later.

[00:16:34] That same evening, I get an update from my agent saying they will see you in a month. They have not made a decision. You are okay. Ooh. I was like, wow. So fast forward to the next audition. I’m feeling great about it. It’s dance. I get to read sides singing in front of the producers and the full creative team.

[00:16:52] And I think it goes really well. Now this time, the role has been upgraded and they are looking not only for that featured ensemble member role, but also an understudy for two principal roles. So I’m thinking, wow, this is an amazing opportunity. Yeah. Yeah. So then a week or so later, I get a call from my agent and I’ve been going on some other auditions during this time and getting into that kind of frustrating, but also hopeful place of being one of the final two people that casting and the creative team are considering.

[00:17:23] And I had just been in the process of not getting a job because of that, but it was still exciting. Cause I was like, wow, I got down to the final two. So in this situation, the same thing happens for once upon a one more time, they said it was between me and someone else and they went with someone else and I was like, Oh, okay.

[00:17:44] But there was the little sliver of hope that my agent put forth saying that the other person might have some scheduling issues, but let’s just move forward as if it’s not going to happen and just continue in our audition process. So. I let it go. Of course I am disappointed, but I’m processing thing.

[00:18:03] It’s okay. If that, if it’s not something for me, then something more suitable for me will come along. Then I find out that I get an offer for another job. Yes, I’m very excited. But my agent is telling me that she’s going to use this as a way to ask the casting director of once upon a one more time, if anything has changed because.

[00:18:27] If they’re still considering me, they want me to know or want, she wants them to let her know the casting director gets back to her and says, they’d like to see her again. So I get a second chance that I did not see coming. I get to prepare a little more work on the things that I didn’t feel great about in the first audition and go in audition again.

[00:18:49] And then a couple of weeks later, my agent calls and I find out that I booked it. Oh, right. So it was incredibly exciting, but mostly because throughout the process, it was honestly a huge test of faith and a battle to believe in myself. There was one particular lie I kept believing was they, if they didn’t want me the first time, why would they want me, if I go in a second time, which is a very discouraging and defeatist attitude.

[00:19:18] And if I had believed that, then I probably would’ve said, you know, I just don’t want to go in again, or I’d probably have that mindset sabotaging my performance. So I was glad I pressed through that and believed, you know, what, I will show up, show them who I am and what I can do as best as I can again.

[00:19:38] And that’s all I have control. And honestly, that’s enough. I love that story. It’s so good and bit drawn out, but it’s obviously the way it was meant to be. And I also think there’s so much to learn from that. Like you said, you could say, well, if they didn’t cast me the first time, why would they cast me the second or the third time?

[00:19:57] Or they see me and it’s easy to get that go to that place in our minds. But like you said, W worry about the things that you can control and just keep showing up. But also there are so many logistics that go into creating and casting a show that you simply don’t have any clue about. So you just keep showing up and doing what you do, and the good things will happen.

[00:20:22] All right. Well, let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking at forward to? And of course we’re amongst this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years? Yeah, well, the New York part has given me a lot of extra time.

[00:20:43] So I’ve been so excited to have more time to work on the writing project. We mentioned before with a good friend of mine, Michael rad, if he’s a fellow performer, he and I have been developing a television series. It’s political drama, and we’ve been working on it for several years now. And it was actually birthed during a very interesting opportunity.

[00:21:03] We had. When we were both performing and Steve, when showstoppers in Las Vegas, we performed at this inaugural event, when president Trump was elected and it was an interesting experience. And out of that formed an idea, a really provocative what if scenario? So we’ve been spending most of our days developing that.

[00:21:23] And then as you mentioned in my bio, I’m also invested in. A project as the executive creative director from my magazine community called VPN in NYC. And we just want to enlighten and empower New York city women to pursue a lifestyle of radiance and resilience. So that is really rewarding work for me right now.

[00:21:47] And then in terms of the entertainment industry moving forward, you know, I know that Broadway, regional theater and other live performances will be coming, coming back at some point. It’s just a question of when. But I do know that right now, virtual performance and virtual experiences have really been thriving during this time and providing a different way for us to engage with art.

[00:22:09] So I think we might see more of that coming into play and more independent projects and productions being even more respected and viable because of this time. Yeah, I love that outlook. Well, let’s move on to one of my favorite sections of the interview. I call it the grease lightning round. I am going to ask a handful of questions.

[00:22:30] I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you ready? Yes, I’m ready. All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer? Fear of what people thought that it wasn’t a viable or valuable career. Right.

[00:22:51] And the second question, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received? A quote from my dad going that room and show them why they should hire you. I love that. 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, consistency and dedication to practice?

[00:23:19] I don’t always do this well, but when I do it makes all the difference because practice makes progress and it keeps the joy and discovery and raw and excitement of rehearsal alive. For me. And the fourth question, what is the best resource? Whether that’s a book, a movie, a YouTube video, a podcast, maybe a piece of technology that you’ve found is helping your career right now, the book big magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, especially the chapter on audacity.

[00:23:52] I do not know that book, but I will be looking that up after this. And the fifth question. If you had to start your career from scratch. But 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?

[00:24:14] I would cancel the following phrases from my vocabulary as often as quickly as possible. I can’t, but what if they, I love that. Can you explain or expand on that? Just a little bit more? Yeah. So, so often my. My thoughts have said, like, if there was an opportunity and I was like, I can’t do that. I can’t do that.

[00:24:37] Like, so, and so I can’t get that audition. Yeah. Material together in enough time or in that amount of time, any I can’t statement. and then the other one is, but what if they, but what if they think I’m too? Or what if they think I’m not enough? Or what if my mom doesn’t think that’s a great job for me any, but if they think like something outside of me, Is that other phrase, love it.

[00:25:02] Love it. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in the industry that you’d like to leave with everybody you are valued and loved whether you book it or whether you don’t such a good reminder. And that about wraps up this interview. But before we do it is time to give yourself a plug.

[00:25:29] Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote? Yeah, you can follow me on Instagram at Diana Baden. And if you are a woman or no women. So I guess that’s for everybody, I would love for you to check out radiant.nyc. The online magazine I mentioned before, even if you don’t live in New York city, I think that the wisdom and the encouragement on our Instagram and in the articles on our website will be really applicable to women anywhere.

[00:25:59] We share a lot of personal stories of how we are pursuing a lifestyle of radiance and resilience and being women of beauty and grit. So that’s that. I love it. Well, Diana, thank you so much for joining me today. It has been fantastic to have you on thank you so much for having me. This has been amazing.

[00:26:20] Thank you so much for joining us today. My one call to action for you is to go to youbookeditpodcast.com and join our free email community. Where we dig deep into a continually growing resource of truly actionable things you can be doing right now to help you advance your entertainment career. Don’t miss an episode.

[00:26:43] We have a new guest, seven days a week search for you, booked it on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast app and subscribe today. All the best to you. We’ll see you tomorrow.