Virdition: My Chapter 2017-08-12T15:53:09+00:00

Project Description

WHY VIRDITION?

Virdition is built on years of research and development around the needs of industry pros, talent, promoters and the entertainment industry as a whole that is in the business of auditioning. Audition management is a core function and we have pushed the concept into a new digital age, with VIRTUAL AUDITIONING or as we call it “VIRDITIONING”. Additionally, we offer portfolio management, virtual talent competition and a social network built right in. So the question should really be, “Why NOT VIRDITION?”

Forbes Riley Chapter

Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it.

If you were to look at my life right now, you might think that I had my life pretty well-scripted out. The truth is that my journey wasn’t exactly the one I had planned, and many of the detours and obstacles that paved my way are as much a part of the success I’ve achieved as anything else. In short, I am living proof that you are the sum of the obstacles you overcome. When I started out, my goal was to have a great acting career, and I followed that path passionately. I did realize a degree of success there, but acting isn’t really what I’m known for today. Today, I am credited with over $2 billion in TV sales, have won several top awards in my industry, I am in the National Fitness Hall of Fame, and I have created a fitness empire selling millions of dollars’ worth of my own product, the SpinGym. I am also a national talk show host on Forbes Living TV, which is produced in my own film studio in St. Petersburg, FL. And that’s just me getting started.

How did I go from an acting career to all of that? Detours and obstacles. You see, detours and obstacles are not meant to discourage us. These are our opportunities—they can drive us to reset our values and help us find what really matters in our lives. They also provide new experiences that are often greater than we could have ever imagined for ourselves. When we set out on a journey, we have our sights set on the final destination, but what is that destination, really, when you look at its roots? Perhaps it is personal greatness—being your best or impacting positive change around you? Whatever it is for you, that is your true destination, and although we might be clear on that, often we have no clue how to get there. Here’s the trick—you arrive there by walking through doors and showing up for experiences that appear along the way. Especially if they don’t fit within our original plan, especially if it seems far-fetched or a little risky. In fact, if you want to hear the universe laugh at you, go ahead and make a plan.

My detours and obstacles took me into a new field in television that I helped to pioneer, but I had no idea that’s what was happening when I began. I was an actress, and in between plays and parts on soap operas, like most beginning actors, I also went on auditions for commercials. On one such occasion, I walked into a room and someone just handed me a pen, and they said, “Sell that pen to me.” So, I did. I talked about being in college and getting letters from my mom, and how words written from a pen like this can reach in and touch your heart. Just then, Jake Steinfeld walked out of the control room and said to me, “You’re going to make me millions of dollars’” And it seems I did. Jake launched FITtv with me behind the camera demonstrating and pitching thousands of fitness products.

Steinfeld is the celebrity fitness guru better known to audiences as “Body By Jake” and at that the time, he had a daily presence on a 24-hour fitness network. Overnight, I became the woman to watch. At the end of every hour, I’d pitch products like exercise balls and treadmills. My acting friends thought I had sold out. Selling-out is all about perspective, I guess. While they were all waitressing, I was coming home with five-figure checks from working on TV.

Soon, I was getting offers left and right to host infomercials, and Jake sold his hit FITtv for $___ million. Now with 119 infomercials on my resume, this field of direct TV marketing is the basis for my successful TV career. Was it my initial plan for my journey? No, but I followed the opportunities, I opened the doors, I overcame the obstacles, and here I am today.

I was still the actress who had battled her way to Broadway and was cast on shows like “The Practice,” “Picket Fences” and “24.” Then, suddenly, I was cast in the role of pitch woman. And while I still saw it as a way to simply make ends meet, my role continued to grow and it became something much bigger than I could have ever predicted. It wasn’t long before I was standing side by side with my fitness idol, Jack LaLanne, and selling more than a billion dollars in juicers.

I know that some might have been happy just collecting the super-sized checks that I’d take home after every taping, but I still had my sights set on something bigger. And I wanted that bigger thing to be acting! One of my greatest challenges in my life is that I would never let go of my dream: that clear vision I had in my head. My plan, no matter the detours or the obstacles, from the time I was a teenager, I wanted to take center stage! But I kept ending up in the chorus.

So, in my head, all these infomercial gigs were just side jobs, and I continued auditioning for starring roles. I was even cast as the lead character on Fox Network’s “Fashion House.” And I thought, this was it! I’m finally starring in a major network TV show, and the pilot was a hit. Until I got notice that my role was suddenly replaced by Bo Derek before the pilot I filmed went to series. I was crushed.

Adding insult to injury, that’s when my agent said, “You’re a really talented actress, but I can’t get you the role you want.” I was competing with women like Katey Sagal and Kim Cattrall, who had already gotten their big breaks and had name recognition in TV land. He told me, “You’re already making more money with your infomercials than most of my actors. Go out there and brand yourself…” And with that, I lost my agent.

Brand myself? I had no idea what that meant, but maybe he was right. After time spent accepting that all of my dreams of being a hit TV actress have just been crushed, it suddenly hit me: I’m the two-billion-dollar woman. All of the products that I’ve sold on TV in my career, including the international mega-hit Jack LaLanne Juicer, totaled more than $2 billion in sales. I finally understood what branding myself meant. This is who I am, and this is huge success and achievement. I was so busy focusing on not getting what I wanted that I hadn’t even noticed what I had built in the process. I then focused my energy on embracing what worked. My destination was to be a success, but the detours and obstacles took me on a different pathway to that success than what I had mapped out in my mind. It was after that epiphany that I recognized the significance of what I had achieved and began focusing my efforts on building off of that success. Soon after, everything just took flight.

In 2010, I was inducted to the National Fitness Hall of Fame. In addition to that, I was an award-winning TV host, author, highly sought-after spokesperson, motivational keynote speaker, and life coach to celebrities and CEOs. I have helped millions take positive action in their own lives by sharing my passion for and unshakeable belief in the impact a healthy lifestyle can make in your life. I launched my own fitness product, the SpinGym, and I’ve helped inventors and entrepreneurs successfully launch their ideas on TV while making millions along the way. My success has been doing more than entertaining—it’s impacting people and changing lives.

As one of today’s most accomplished entrepreneurs, I have been highlighted by Forbes magazine as a megabrand CEO for my SpinGym fitness product, and I have gained international celebrity status through my highly successful, globally broadcasted infomercials for the Jack Lalanne’s Juicer and the Living Well’s Healthmaster Blender that I filmed alongside Montel Williams. Both of these products grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, individually. The E! Channel even contacted me to be on a TV special they were producing, profiling hot new products and their talented creators, titled Got Rich Quick: Outrageous Fortunes. I was crowned “America’s Fitness Innovator,” for the SpinGym, and the show highlighted my passion about finding unique ways for people to get and stay healthy through food and exercise. Other products and their creators were highlighted on the show, too: Silly Bandz, Skullcandy and Carol’s Daughter.

All of this sprouted from my life-long dream of being a successful actress. All throughout high school I was in all the musicals and all the plays. I thought I was insanely talented, but then I thought that maybe I wasn’t. Every time I went to the audition board my name was at the very bottom, in the chorus. It may have been because I was a little overweight, had a broken nose and frizzy hair, and a really tough, crazy life growing up. I just didn’t “fit the bill.”

Growing up had its challenges in my family. When I was in high school, my dad slipped and put his hand in a printing press. He had to spend three years in the hospital, leaving the family completely broke. My escape was my after school time, where I found joy in doing theater, and escaping into characters. I needed this, because the rest of my life was really tough! I also focused on academics—I suppose I was smart. I skipped a year of high school, and I graduated from college with two degrees in three years. You’d probably also assume that I didn’t have much of a social life, and you’d be right.

When it came time to go to college, my mom not-so-tactfully brought up: “I’m really sorry, we have no money. We’re completely broke. But there is this pageant that you could enter. The Miss Teenage America pageant.” I’m like, “Mom! A pageant?” She says, “No, no. It’s not a beauty pageant.” I think I rolled my eyes, or at least I did in my head. I had a broken nose, eight years of braces, frizzy hair, and was about 30 pounds overweight.

Well, about the broken nose, while my dad was in the hospital, his doctor looked at me and said, “We can fix her nose.” It was badly deformed, and they put me in a room, cracked my nose, put it back in place and all of a sudden I had this cute little nose. Next the braces came off after eight years, and I had this crazy beautiful smile. I was like, “Hi! Look at my teeth! I just want to show you my teeth!” And then they cut my hair. Suddenly, I was sort of cute.

Oh, and about being overweight, have you ever wondered what it’s like to be overweight in show business? They made me go to Overeaters Anonymous. I grew up eating McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken since they arrived on the scene when I was 10 years old—that was Friday and Saturday night dinner. And I drank lots of Coke. My body showed it. But, I could dance. I was a really good dancer, and I had a physique similar to Dancing with the Stars chunkier dancers, Lacey Schwimmer and Cheryl Burke. I was husky, but I could move!

So, I remember my dad taking me to this audition for the pageant, and my mom reminding me, “It’s not a beauty pageant. It’s a written test and talent and personality. And you have those.” So off to the pageant we went. I remember walking into a room with all these beautiful girls, and I was crawling out of my skin. But, one of the things that I preach today in my work and I instinctively understood even in high school is that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. My entire life has been that way. When I was sixteen years old at this pageant, I was told that somebody in that room was going to get to be on NBC with Bob Hope. I knew it was going to be me. How cool is it that it actually did end up being me! The point is, I walked in there knowing that it would be me. And I took this written test, tap danced for the talent portion, and aced the personality. Next thing I know, I’m standing in the mall and had won Miss Teenage New York! Then the next stage took place in Tulsa, and soon after, I’m on television with Bob Hope. How amazingly crazy is it that! Was this to be my start in show business? I thought so. I know wanted to be an actress more than anything.

I did have reservations, though. It wasn’t lost on me that I never got the great parts in the plays – they always went to the cute girls. I was over it, I’m in college now and maybe I should be more realistic. I decided that I should be a lawyer instead. After all, that’s what smart people do. Well, I went to college and immediately auditioned for a small two character play anyway, and got the lead! It was me, another actor and a director. It turned out that the director was amazing. I kept dreaming that I could be like her. In my senior year, I auditioned for a part in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” It was a two and a half hour play where the female character also gets to play a boy. I wanted that part! But I remembered that in high school I also wanted to play Anne Frank, and I wanted the lead in “Carousel” and “Brigadoon.” Reality sunk in, knowing that history has a nasty habit of repeating itself, and in the past all I got was a part in everyone’s chorus!

Regardless, I auditioned for “As You Like It,” and when I get to the board, I started at the bottom of the board looking for my name in the peasants’ category. And it’s not there. And I’m like “Oh my God! Did I not even make the play? This sucks!” Then I looked at the top… all the way at the top, at the very, very, very top… there was my name. I remember looking at the board, and not being able to move. I went to see the director, because I needed to understand, why now? Why did this happen? And I sat down with him, Professor David Richmond, and I said, “Help me understand what happened.” He said, “Well…” And he started to tell me all these amazing qualities that I had, that no one had ever said to me before. He talked about compassion, and talent, and articulation. And then I looked at him and I realized, the only thing different about him and everybody else that I had ever dealt with or auditioned for before, was that he was 100% legally blind. He couldn’t see me. But he was the first person who really saw me. He changed my life, my sense of self-esteem, and my sense of how you judge people. He went on and directed the play. He’s rather famous for being a major blind director. I left college and said, “I’m going to be an actress. This is it!” That was the stamp of approval I needed.

After college I went to New York City and lived in a four story walk-up over a Chinese Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen. That’s what you do when you go to New York as an aspiring actress. So glamorous! Oh yeah! So now it’s time to start going to auditions to get my acting career started. Back then in the “old days” – thank you very much – they had a thing called “Backstage Magazine.” Yes, before the internet. So I’m flipping through the Backstage auditions and there’s an audition for the lead in a horror film called “Splatter University.” I went to the audition; I was so excited I just got to New York City and here I am at my first audition. After a few callbacks I got the lead in “Splatter University.” Wow! This was my first audition out of college, and I land the lead in a feature film! YES! Now, the irony of this feature film was that we also had to live on location and we lived on peanut butter and apples. I think the whole production was made for under $50,000 dollars. I was so excited and so nervous that I memorized the entire script. It was great that I did because when our production manager quit three quarters of the way through the production, I took over his job, too. We finished the production, and I couldn’t be more proud of my first feature film.

So now I’m off to my second audition. Talk about being blessed! I did my first movie and here I am being called back for this SAG (Screen Actors Guild) film I auditioned for. It was a Rock and Roll movie at the time called “Spy Beta Rockers” or “Splitz” as it became known. I was up for the bad girl, Lois Scagliani. Now a small problem arose, since this was a SAG film I needed a union card. In this business you need a union card to get a job or you need a job to get a Union card. Hmmmm, the chicken or egg, I remember them giving me a hard time about not being in the Union. Since I had done my first movie I had applied for it, but I hadn’t received it yet. I kept stalling the casting team by saying something about my agent finally calling and saying “You’ve got your Union card.” (Keep in mind that I still hadn’t gotten an agent from the first film.) And just like that I landed a leading role in that film.

Now, I thought that because I had the lead in two films, the flood gates would just open with opportunities. I was beaming and silently saying “HI! I’ve arrived!” Well, getting an agent is not that easy, and I didn’t have any idea what was in store for me. I do recall one of my agents from a major agency whose primary interest in me was to chase me around the desk. I didn’t really understand the game, and nobody taught me the game. Well, I did learn quickly, and one of the good lessons I learned is that I love the back door principle. Very few people have this story…

They used to have a thing called “the breakdowns,” which denoted the pecking order. First was a casting director, next an agent, and last—the actors. Well, since every actor wants every part, there needs to be some sort of a funnel system. This means that the casting director reads the script, puts down the character roles and descriptions and sends it to the top agents. Once the agents receives the breakdowns they then respond with, “You know, I’ve got a couple of people for this role; a couple people for that role and a couple of people for the next role.” Mostly they had their favorites, and if you were new you were at the bottom of their list. But these breakdowns used to live on yellow pieces of paper that you couldn’t photocopy, so people had to be hired to hand deliver them. And it was a big secret – a really big secret.

One day I was hanging out at a local place and met this guy. I asked him a very original question: “What do you do for a living?” He said, “Ah, I deliver the breakdowns to talent agencies.” I’m like, “You do? Hmmm. Really.” A light bulb went off in my brain. I continued the conversation with him and found out he was looking for a place to live. Yeah, so I jump at the opportunity. You know, it’s funny, I’m also looking for a roommate. I live in this four story walk-up over a Chinese restaurant in Hells Kitchen.” I didn’t tell him that it was a really weird railroad apartment full of cockroaches. So he looks at me and I’m really cute and he said great when do I move in. I said, but here’s the deal. I want to be able to look at the breakdowns. He’s like, “Oh, You want to see what?” After think about it for a minute he said, “You have to promise that you won’t ever tell anybody. I will lose my job. You can’t ever tell anyone,” he repeated. I was like oh, ok. In retrospect, I wish he had mentioned that he was a raging alcoholic, but oh well… I had an in.

Remember that “dream it believe it” thing? I had an idea that if I went through hell with this, that I was going to get something life changing. Well, actually I did. I was looking through the breakdowns every day… And by the way, you can’t even submit yourself to these auditions, but you can somehow surreptitiously put in a picture. One day, a breakdown comes out. It’s a Broadway show, Circle in the Square, opposite Christopher Reeve—The Marriage of Figaro. And I’m like, “Oh I don’t really read music. I don’t sing. Oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s the play version of Marriage of Figaro.” They’re looking for someone who is classically trained as an actress and can roller skate. Bingo! Oh my God! I am the world’s greatest roller skater. I have actually a history of performing professionally. I grew up roller skating every weekend with my sister doing shows. I’m like, Ahhh! This is me, but they don’t know me. Then I began asking myself, well how do get myself into this audition? They don’t know I’m here! So I called my agent—yes, I finally managed to get a C Level agent to take me on), and I said, “Hey, I found this Broadway show, and I need you to submit my picture and resume. I am classically trained (meaning: I’ve been studying for years in New York City), and I can roller skate!” which are their requirements.

Their response was an unenthusiastic: Yeah, that’s nice, but you don’t have big enough credits. I responded with a canned, “I’m really sorry,” and hung up the phone. But, that didn’t really work for me. I’m not giving up—this part is for me! So, I got my picture and my resume and headed straight to the casting director’s office, which by the way, is forbidden. I went up to the receptionist, and belt out, “Let me tell you something. I’m the best roller skater you’ve ever seen, and I’m also a classically trained actress. Take that!” and I hand her my headshot and resume. Well, they’re always looking to fill roles, so she takes it. I walked off with a huge, satisfied grin, not knowing if I had actually accomplished anything or not. Except, a few days later I get a phone call to go in and audition. There the bombshell dropped: the character I’m up for is a fifteen year old boy with raging hormones. That’s why he’s on roller skates. No matter. I’m still very excited, and tell myself that I can play a boy—no big deal. I’m standing in front of Andrei Serban this crazy Hungarian director auditioning for this Broadway show with Christopher Reeves – Christopher Reeves! good grief, he’s Superman!

I auditioned, and I gave it everything I had. I even hired a coach, because I really wanted this role. I was so excited and nervous, but it went great. The casting director said, “You’re amazing. You’ve got a call back. Go home and practice your roller skating and I’ll see you in a few weeks.”

Time ticks by, and I’ve been waiting, not so patiently. I was kind of tired of New York, and I’d been beating my head against the wall at this point waiting for this callback. I decided to get an airline ticket to go to LA for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I’m hanging out at my parents’ house and practicing my roller skating. Two days before I’m due to leave, I’m sitting at my mom’s table and I told her, “Nobody’s called. What do I do? “ Mom promptly replied, “Well call your agent!” So I did. “Hey, you know what? I got a call back for this Broadway show can you check for me?” He replied, “Honey, if they wanted to see you they would call you.” I was ticked off. I’ve always had crappy luck with agents. So I look at my mom, who’s not from this business, and I said, “What do I do now?” And she calmly replied, “Call the casting director.” I was horrified and said, “Mom! Actors don’t do that!” I mean, it was bad enough that I just showed up and handed him my picture. Her reply was a profound, “Well, have a nice life in California.”

Dammit, I had to do it. I remember being really nervous as I picked up the phone. “Hi. I was told in the audition that you guys wanted to see me again and that I had a call back. I hadn’t heard from anyone. In two days I’m leaving for California and I’m not coming back.” That did it. He responded “Hang on a second. Hey. Can you come in tomorrow?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He went on to say “Bring your skates. Be prepared to – you know – do the role and skate.”

I go back to New York City for the audition, and I wanted this part—I knew it was for me. But I did something unusual for this audition. So often well-meaning people give you advice, and it often goes something like: “Just be yourself.” I said to myself, “Don’t just be yourself.” I’m a little chatty, and sometimes I talk my way out of things. I’m really nervous and I really want this—it could look desperate. Be someone else.

I’d just seen the movie “Roman Holiday,” and I thought, I’m going to pretend I’m Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday,” a princess and nobody knows it. That’s all I thought about. I took my roller skates in and all the while, in my head I’m thinking, “I’m a princess, I am elegant and confident and focused. I’m a princess, but you don’t know it.” Then the other part of my brain that I am trying desperately to stifle is going: I’ll be performing in Circle of Square Broadway Theater; holy crap! I had just seen “Arms and the Man” there, with Kevin Kline and John Malkovich, and I was totally freaking out!

So I walk in to the audition, and it’s all men that are auditioning. Andrei, literally asked “What are you doing here? I’m only seeing men.”

“I have an audition for Cherubino,” I said.

Andrei beckoned, “Come here! Come here! No, no, all the way down on the stage.”

I’m carrying my skates, and he tells me to put my skates down and do the scene. I do the scene. “Very good,” he said. “Alright, now go upstairs and put your skates on. Let me see you skate.”

Well, upstairs is 51st Street. If you’re not familiar with it, the sidewalk is a pebble concrete sidewalk. Put your skates on? Really? And now, the other thing is that time is ticking—it’s getting later and later. I had an 8:00 concert to attend! Okay, so it’s a dream audition, but remember, I didn’t have much of a social life in high school or college, and so this is my first concert in my whole life, and it’s Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, something like 20 blocks away!

Anyway, I put my skates on. It’s rush hour, and the commuters are going home, and they are all bumping into me. Worse, they look at me and they think I’m a street performer, and some are looking perplexed, wondering where are they going to put their dollar tip because I’m spinning and doing this skating thing. I try to ignore it all, and I keep auditioning. Andrei comes upstairs with a couple of people, and says, “Very, very good! Come. Come downstairs.” What do you mean come downstairs? In roller skates? I tiptoe down the stairs very carefully. “Now I need to see you act and skate, all at the same time.” Here? I’m thinking, but the skates don’t move on the carpet., and I’m trying to be this fifteen year old boy. Ughh!

He asks, “What happened? Why are you not doing what you did?” I’m burning inside, and I thought, okay, fine. At this point my head is screaming I’m not going to get it anyway. I never get what I audition for. So screw it. And out went the princess Audrey Hepburn, and in came this fifteen year old wacko kid on roller skates. And I finish.

Andrei and the casting director start yakking. And as much as I hated to do this, I was out of time to make my concert, and I blurted out, “I’ve gotta go to a Bruce Springsteen concert. I’m sorry.” In my head I’m hoping that they just say no to this part so that I can leave. After all, I’m the only girl, and you’re not going to give it…

Just then, he looked at me and said the words I’ll never forget: “Baby, you got the part. Go to Bruce, Go.”

The next thing I remember: “Borne in the USA” is playing! And I called my Mom: “I’ve got the Broadway show with Christopher Reeves!”

And I went off and did that role on Broadway! That’s a great audition story. How did that happen? So what am I left with? Since typical auditions never really worked for me, I did what typically does work for me, and I went through backdoors. I overcame obstacles, and I took a detour to get to all of the best places I’ve been.

As an actress, I finally moved up to a B-level agent. One of things you learn quickly in this field is that if you think you’re very talented, and you are, it doesn’t actually matter. It’s this middle person (the agent) who is always the challenge. You can pay a PR person or a publicist, and they’ll do work for you. You can’t pay an agent to work—they just take a percentage of what you make, so their incentive to work for you is a little backwards. You want to hire the best agent around, but they don’t want you because you’re not at the level that it has been proven that you will make them money. The system doesn’t seem to make much sense in benefitting the talent. So, what do you do? You have to seduce them and prove that you’re better than they expected.

There are other ways of getting an agent, of course. One common way is to be the daughter, son or other family member of somebody who is already famous. It worked for Kate Hutton and, it worked for countless others like Julie Roberts’ brother Eric who I happen to know. Little things like that actually give you a huge advantage. I’m always surprised when some actor like a Shailene Woodley happens to break through, and you kind of go, “Hmmm. Not connected. How did she do that?” Because every once in a while, talent wins. And we all rejoice!

One of the biggest auditions I had was with “Chicago Hope,” the hottest TV show on the planet at that time. It was pre “ER.” I walk in to the room and there’s an entire bank of people waiting to audition. At a certain level it’s not just the casting director, it’s all the executives that you get to meet. I was wearing very high heels, and I wanted this part badly. Adam Arkin was the director of the episode, and I knew one or two of the other people in the room. These were important people, and we were shaking hands, so I lean over a table. It seemed that everyone somehow wanted to shake my hand. So I lean all the way over to clasp hands with the executive producer, and I’m still kind of half-standing there, so that when I went to sit back down, I missed my chair and fell on my ass. Wow, that’s a very serious part that I’m supposed to be playing and here I am making a fool of myself. I dusted myself off and I’m feeling much more than awkward. I did, however, make an impression—good or bad. I’m not sure what I said; I’m certain that I made some sort of joke. I pulled it together, auditioned, and I got the part!

Unfortunately, I already had a job lined up for that very same week, and I couldn’t take the part. That was my biggest problem in this career. People said, “You want to be an actress or a TV artist?” I’m like, “You guys can’t work fast enough for me. I just want to be working. I don’t really care what it is. Help me out here.” And, so in between my twenties, doing movies and television, it never became the hit career in New York, even though I did a Broadway Show. Even though I dated Neil Simon. Even though I have great stories like when I met Mathew Broderick. Something just didn’t click, and for me it really boiled down to that agent.

So, I embarked on a new journey, and off I went to work at Club Med. Well, I suppose it was working. It seemed more like scuba diving—we had a lot of leisure time. I was an entertainer, I coached performers, and I played. This seemed like a great idea for work! So, I replicated it. I created Santa comedy shows at ski resorts so I that could go skiing for Jose Cuervo Tequila. I loved this great life I’ve designed. I’m performing, studying and I’m acting. I’m kind of, you know, in the middle of everything here.

With acting, there were a few odd patterns, like it seemed every time I would get a part, it was for the role of “reporter.” I played a lot of reporters. I don’t know why that is—maybe because of my hair. Maybe it’s because of the way I naturally interrogate people, I don’t know. But when people ask me the million dollar question: “How do you break into the business?” Sometimes you just keep working by putting enough eggs out there that statistically, a big break has to come your way.

For instance, my gig at the ski resorts with Jose Cuervo Tequila—well, I was at a particular ski resort doing what I do, and ESPN2 comes to make a half hour special. I had a blast with the football players and with the host of the show. We played together in front of cameras all day, and I got to meet and hangout with all of the ESPN cast. One year later to the day I get a phone call, and the voice on the other line said (paraphrased), “Hi. This is the lawyer for ESPN. We’d like to offer you a job. You’re going to be the host at the X Games. We’d like to pay you an obscene amount of money. Almost 6 figures.”

And my response was unscripted: “Who the hell is this? Really? Are you one of my friends?” He sounded confused.

“Excuse me?” he said.

And I responded, “Basically, what are you doing calling me? Basically I think this isn’t the way to do an audition.”

“No audition,” he said. “You did this show for us a year ago, and we couldn’t find something for you. But, you’re just wacky and crazy enough to do this thing that no one had ever heard of called the X Games, and we’d like you and Stewart Scott to be the hosts.”

How crazy is that? Detours and obstacles! So, let me give you my opinion about Virdition, virtual auditioning for the entertainment field, or as we call it virditioning.

Through all of my experiences with auditioning and agents and the unique relationship between the many moving parts that inevitably link a talented actor with a great TV, film or stage role, “Virditioning”—the virtual audition and the capacity it can build on all sides of the entertainment industry is a valuable concept. First, I see Virdition as being a couple of useful tools. Whether it’s an “on television” kind of reality-TV type of audition (which didn’t exist when I was growing up) like American Idol or any other types of more traditional auditioning, the idea of having access to such an automated, virtual and highly accessible platform is just awesome.

Think about it; the idea of not having to go somewhere and be in a room with strangers videotaping you will naturally allow you to have a more confident performance while also answering all of the complex barriers that come into traditional auditioning such as booking travel, matching schedules and even child care, etc. Virditioning brings a new, innovative solution to the industry. As an actress, I love the idea of virtual auditioning, because now I don’t need to show up. It’s that simple!

Today more than ever, actors are faced with global auditioning situations that could require lengthy and expensive travel. Auditioning virtually is just phenomenal! Plus, it greatly expands the potential reach of the auditioning experience. For example, I have over half a million Facebook Fans, and I have national exposure for a product that I launched because of Facebook. E-entertainment at Forbes Magazine profiled my fitness company because they saw me on Facebook, and deduced that I was a multi-millionaire. This resulted in me being a part of a huge television special for the network.

The internet and social media has changed everything in the land of publicity and public relations. What’s changed the most for everybody, is that now you’d be wise to be your own PR expert, because you have more tools at your fingertips to market and publicize than ever before, and whether you like it or not—it’s out there for all to see. Eight years ago, after all of those years playing just “okay” characters, I was offered the lead in a TV series pilot. How did that happen? I had been doing lots of movies, like the one I did with Michael York in Italy, and all sorts of other great stuff, but I hadn’t moved to the really big level yet. I had an amazing hosting agent, and because of that I had a national talk show and a game show. I also had fifteen different TV pilots. All of that happened because I could host. However, my acting agent was at a low level, so I was offered small parts here and there. It was very frustrating.

But I’m incredibly enterprising and driven, so I said to myself—go make your own opportunities. I got honest with myself, asking how good an actress am I? Am I worth a creative solution if I truly think I understand the problem? Yes! So, I opened up my own management company called “Creative Management Artist.” Fronted by a woman named Lindsay Maxwell, who had a wonderfully interesting British accent. I used to get the breakdowns, and I had all these other actors chip in, paying for the breakdowns that we used to submit ourselves. What was the result? It turned out that I was right! Now that I was running my own agency, I’m being called on to do a lot of work, because I am as talented as a thought I was. That’s a true story. But, today, with all of the tools we have in technology available, I could only imagine how much more successful my efforts would have been.

However, my efforts, were highly successful. As I mentioned before, I landed the lead in a TV series called “Fashion House.” FOX was launching my network TV, and I finally did it! In my role, I am the absolute Diva. If you’ve not seen it, it’s so worth watching. We shot the pilot, it cleared the entire country, and I couldn’t have been prouder. With 65 one-hour episodes and then somehow, FOX decides that my name is not important enough, and they should give it to a woman named Bo Derek. So, I was replaced. Just like that the carpet was pulled from right under my feet. But that wasn’t the worst thing that happened. The next thing I know, my agent at the time called me and said, “You know what? You’re really talented and that’s unfortunate because you’ve never had a failed TV series. So you’re spending all this time getting minor guest star roles and getting a role in a major regular series seems to be eluding you.”

My agent basically told me that I wasn’t profitable enough to be worth his time. He said, “I don’t want to spend any more time doing this at 10% of your career. I’ve got soap opera stars making ten grand a week. You know what that is for me? A thousand bucks!”

And I said, “But I’m going to have to leave the TV series!”

“I don’t care,” he said. “Here’s the thing, see, I want to retire out of this business and I made lots of stars. My son is 20-years-old, and he doesn’t want to be bothered anymore with people over 22. So we’re going to let you go. Anyway, you make all this money doing infomercials. Why don’t you brand yourself and if you still want to act buy your own movie.”

So I cursed him out, completely in my head, of course. Brand yourself? What does that mean? I know, Coca-Cola is a brand, and McDonalds. Years ago people weren’t branded so how do I go about getting branded.

I came out here to Los Angeles from QVC, because that was my day job—selling stuff on television. And by the way, how smart was I? While all of my friends were waitressing and acting here and there, I really thought it was a good day every day the camera was focused on me, and I was getting paid for it. I didn’t really care what we were doing. Not porn of course. But everything else was good this way, and so the first time I got offered to do the home shopping network, the person who offered me said, “Look, you understand fitness, you’ve got all this background. I have an elliptical glider. The girl who had it went to Philadelphia six times over the last couple of years and every year she made seventy grand a year.”

So, here I am thinking: I can do sixty to seventy grand. Really? I’m there. I showed up, and on the first show made $210,000 dollars. I tripled her sales! I come home with these huge checks and my waitress friends would go, “Ah. You’re a sell-out. You’re selling crap on television!”

I’m like, Yeah, But… I’m earning money in front of a camera. It didn’t matter to me that I was selling crap on television. I put up with a lot, and home shopping wasn’t really cool back then like it is now. There were no A-list celebrities, rock stars and super models strutting through the halls.

Fast forward 25 years later and I’m tripping over Jay Lo and Queen Latifa and Shaq, and Keith Urban. I can go on and on. People are selling their brands. I was also there at the moment that infomercials happened, helping to pioneer the filed. I hosted 142 national infomercials. Soon, I decide to move my entire business and family out to HSN, down to Florida. I said, “Screw it. You know? I’m going to build a brand. I looked at Tony Little, and I looked at other people like that and said, all right, you have to put your name on stuff. You’ve come this far, and you have to do this. I said goodbye to my acting career, which just broke my heart, but I knew I was going in the right direction for me.

Moving to Florida was a big step for me, but what is interesting is that Atlanta is going to become the new Hollywood. And, today, there are casting directors everywhere all over the country. If you can record yourself, you can brand and market yourself completely online. In fact, I can pull up nearly my entire career on YouTube and show it to anyone. We couldn’t do that 30 years ago. Today, there is so much more opportunity to break through traditional barriers and forge your own way, creating your own opportunities. But, what you need to have is a clear understanding of yourself, and you have to know how to survive in this new interactive world. Most of all, and this is important, you need to develop your own personal branding.

I took a class on branding with a guy well-regarded in the field. One of the exercises was that we all had to go to the airport and pair up with a long list of words. Words like: smart, wise, foolish, sloppy… over a hundred words. I stood on one side and my partner would stand on the other end, and I would walk up to people in the airport saying, “Hey, we’re doing this little psychological study for USC. Could you just look at that person over there and just circle all the words that you think apply?” Then that person would survey my partner. Then we would change their clothes. When the next person approached, I’d ask them to circle all the words that apply.

Well, here’s the interesting thing. Does personal presence matter? Absolutely—it’s huge, actually. And then he would take all of those words, synthesize it down, and figure out that you were this, this, this, and this. This is your personal branding at least the visual part. Whatever you wore. It didn’t matter if you wore a suit or homeless clothes. Yes, you still look smarter than a homeless person. Well that may be your quality, your essence and the biggest thing that people need to know is what is it that separates them from everyone else. So the lesson was to play to those qualities that define you. He also talked about essence a lot. We’d look at celebrities, and I remember that one of the greatest things that I learned was to be able to distinguish their essence. What makes Kevin Costner different from Mel Gibson? Well, Mel Gibson is a leader of men. He thrives in movies like “Brave Heart.” He didn’t really do as well with “Mad Max,” where he played a loner. Then take a look at him as a hero in “Patriot” where he excelled. On the other hand, look at Kevin Costner. He excels as a loner. Check out his movies like “Postman” and “Dancing with Wolves” where he excels completely alone.

This was a valuable lesson. I gave up my entire career—the career that I wanted more than anything since I was a child. However, I do make a lot of money, and I did brand myself. And there’s something very satisfying and interesting about that. I still have a lot of actor friends who are still waiting tables and doing the “essence thing.” For me, I was honest with myself, and this hosting thing really is my essence. It’s why I got all those reporter roles and no one really teaches you that. Actors like Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson learned that was how you survived. Julia Roberts always plays Julie Roberts because she isn’t really good at anything else, and she really excels playing vulnerable characters. We don’t need Jennifer Aniston to be anything other than herself. We don’t need to see her in a wig. We don’t need to see her doing accents. Meryl Streep does accents because that’s her essence. Her essence is to disappear and we expect her to do that. That’s how people win their Oscars, when they play into who they really are.

Today, this is the new thing, and you must figure it out on your own—what are your obstacles and detours and where have they lead you to a deeper authenticity, and what is your essence? When you have those answers, then you can brand yourself, do your own PR and let the world inside to see all you have to offer. It doesn’t do any good to use Virdition if you don’t know who you are. Think about all the untalented people who think they are good enough to get on American Idol, and then stand there and embarrass the hell out of themselves. They don’t understand who they are—they haven’t been paying attention to and learning from their obstacles and detours.

At the beginning of success is knowing yourself. I used to teach acting and hosting at Barbizon School of Modeling. I’ve had people come into Barbizon School of Modeling who are 5 foot 2 and declare that they want to be a model. First of all, even if you’re seriously cute, you don’t have a shot in hell—you’re too short! So you need to be honest with yourself.

Next, you need to understand the categories that pertain to you and where you want to be—your goals. Categories like, you might be short and cute. Well, short and cute gets to do a certain things, such as great character roles. Two feet tall and funny, well there’s a place for that in the industry. Dramatic actors well that’s ok. Figure it out. Don’t fool yourself with the statement: “Well I can do everything!” No, you can’t! Don’t waste your time, your energy, your talent or your money pursuing the wrong category that doesn’t fit you. It’s never going to happen. “But I can be a model!” you say? Yes you can, but you might be a commercial model, music videos, promotional models, etc. That’s what I did. If you enjoy being in front of the camera then at any age you can become a commercial model, because there will always be a need for pretty moms, older moms, dads, character parts, whatever.

Of course, though, there are always exceptions. Whoopi Goldberg broke every rule in the book—no one wrote a role for a woman with dreadlocks. Sometimes talent wins out. Now I can name one Whoopi, and 900,000 other roles. Don’t bet on being the next Whoopi. She is extremely talented, and she did her own one-woman show. She was THAT good and was lucky enough to get spotted by Spielberg. He offered her a very specific role playing a black woman in “The Color Purple.” That’s lightning in a bottle luck. If that’s what you’re shooting for, it’s dumb. It might happen, but what are the odds? If you ask actors what they do, they’ll say “everything.” That’s not completely true. Everyone has specific talents, gifts, a look, an essence. Figure out what that is for you, and then find that place that needs it.

You might want to sign up with an image consultant to help you hone in on those traits for yourself. My image consultant story goes back to 1992-1993. I was 32-years-old, and I broke my knee in a skiing accident. I had to have surgery, and I was in a great deal of pain. Plus, I was broke and living with my boyfriend, who is now my husband. We were squatting in a million dollar mansion that one of our friends couldn’t sell. I felt like my life was over—like I was trapped in a universe that I couldn’t escape. I was miserable all the time. The physical pain was terrible, and if I sat too long, when I tried to get up, my knee would buckle. I was talking to a friend one day, and he made what I thought was a bizarre recommendation. “You ought to see an image consultant.” He said. “You’re falling apart.”

My only response was “What?”

He said, “Yeah, you know? An image consultant.” And he recommended someone.

After giving it some thought I agreed. Well, I had to do something, and what I was or wasn’t doing clearly wasn’t working. It was $75 for the hour. I didn’t really have $75 to burn, but I got the money together and called this guy who told me to send over my videos and my photos and to meet him at his home.

Okay, so, I go to his home. Remember the Keebler Elves? This guy lived in a Keebler Elf kind of house in Laurel Canyon, CA. Out comes this 5’4” wiry haired, 70-something year old black guy. This is my image guy? He probably looked at me the same way as I wasn’t wearing any makeup and was dressed in a white t-shirt and a pair of shorts. The first words out of his mouth were, “Don’t ever leave the house without makeup. You’re not Julia Roberts! I get the image you’re trying to project is more like Sharon Stone, but put some makeup on!”

In my head I was whispering: Dude, I don’t like you. Overall, I found him to be very offensive. We sat down, and he looks at my pictures, and says, “Alright, here’s the deal. Get out a pen. You need to get your hair cut and colored, it’s too dark for you. Your lips are sorry! You don’t know your makeup. Here’s this person that will tell you all about how to do your makeup. And you don’t know your colors. You need to get your colors done. Gold and silver works and what kind of green? You’re an Autumn. A Fall…”

I had never heard of any of these things before, and I certainly didn’t have the money for all of those consultations. My head was spinning. And then he threw out the big one and says that he doesn’t like my name. What?? That’s my name! I really didn’t like him at all. My name is Francine Forbes. There’s alliteration in that. My mother named me Francine after her aunt. In the Jewish religion we name our children after the people that we love the most that are dead. And it’s a big deal. And by the way, Forbes means a lot to me. My grandmother was Jewish and couldn’t get my uncle into engineering school, because their last name was Feinstein. She looked at a book, and said, “Forbes!” She named my dad Barry Forbes. I started to explain how I got the name Francine, but he really didn’t care. It turned out to be a very tough hour and to think that I had actually paid money for it. Now he started throwing out the questions… “So what street did you grow up on? What’s your dog’s name?”

I said, “Snoopy Arrow.”

He said, “That’s a pretty crappy name.” Next he asked, “What’s your boyfriend’s name?”

And I said, “Riley.” “Ah, that’s it. Forbes Riley. Now leave.” The door slammed behind me.

I am confused and pissed. I go home to my 26-year-old, 6’6” blonde boyfriend, Tom Riley, who was a Notre Dame football star. He wanted all the details of the meeting. I didn’t know where to start; my head was reeling. I began with the part where he told me all kinds of stupid shit, like he said that he didn’t like the way I dressed. Tom said, “Well you have a cute little figure, but you always wear those big baggy dancer things. You ought to figure that out.” I continued and told him how my makeup wasn’t right either. Tom replied, “You know, your eyes are always dark and your lips are always red. And I don’t…”

I exploded and yelled out, “Dude! First of all you could have saved me a lot of money, and are you gay?!” Then he talked about getting my colors done, and Tom agreed with him again! I looked at Tom in shock. I’m his girl, and I thought he would side with me. After all, he was my boyfriend. I couldn’t help myself and blurted out, “Asshole! He also thinks I should take your name. He thinks my name should be ‘Forbes Riley’”

Tom looked at me and said, “That’s exactly who you are.”

“I’m sorry? What?” I said. “It sounds like a law firm. It doesn’t sound like a person.”

Long story short, I did change my name to Forbes Riley. After all, it’s what the studios have always done. Imagine if Marilyn Monroe had remained Norma Jean or Cary Grant had remained Archibald Leech. The list goes on: Tony Curtis, Angelina Jolie, etc. They all had their names changed. I did everything this wacky guy told me, and I found out I’m an autumn. I found out that my skin is very yellow. I look good in olive green and brown, which I really don’t like wearing. But apparently when I do, people are more drawn to me. I got my clothes done. I got my makeup done. Oh my God—I didn’t understand it.

And then one day I went to this casting director class where you meet casting directors. I will never forget this. There was an entire room full of people, including Shannon Monahan, head of the casting directors. I’m wearing an asymmetrical olive green jacket with a big belt, short skirt, high heels, and makeup done. I have my new pictures that say Forbes Riley. I’m sitting there, and I don’t know what to do. I’m freaking out. My knee is finally better, though, so at least I’m not in pain. And I know I can do this.

It’s funny how the Universe happens. I was asked what my name was. I promptly responded, “Forbes Riley.”

She said, “I’m sorry. What’s your name?”

I repeated “Forbes Riley.”

Her response was too cool—she liked my name and asked me to remain standing there for a second. It was straight out of a movie. What came next just floored me. She was using me as an example and said, “That’s the way you want to look. She looks professional, put together, kind of sexy too – but it’s not too… I like that.” I read a scene from “Body Heat” that night, the one with Kathleen Turner.

Shannon Monahan is still one of my really good friends, and she even offered her home for me to get married in. Forbes Riley was born that day, 24 years ago. And to this day, people comment on my name almost every day. The name is big, better, and different. In short, it’s memorable. I don’t know how you create all that. All I know is that I’m living it. Names are important. I had a cute little model come up to me. Her name is Shane Mekuhi. I’m like “Shane Mekuhi? First of all it looks like Shane Mekuly.”

“No, no, it’s Mekuhi,” she said.

I asked, “What’s your maiden name?”

So Shane was her real last name, so it’s CJ Mekuhi.

“Hmm. You ought to do the CJ and mix it with Shane.

She said, “Really?”

I said, “Yeah. Trust me. CJ McShane is really cool. And it fits you, plus it’s easy. Because Mekuhi is not going to work for you.” Actors need to hear these things. They need to hear these stories.

When I got the role in the TV series 24, it was because I had finally figured it out. I’m articulate, I have short hair, and I look like a reporter. Another character I played had her sexiness together, was just vulnerable enough, and powerful. I figured out that’s who I get to be—that’s the “Devil wears Prada” character.

I’ve come a long way from those days but I’ve also often been cast as “the bad girl” or “the bitch.” It seems that has been my essence all along, and I didn’t even know it! Had I recognized that at the start of everything, well it would have been fun to play that to the hilt, because it’s hard to find a woman like that. Look at Christine Baranski—she nailed it. She figured it out. A couple of the actors at that level have got it, and you know not everyone can play that jerk convincingly. That essence was one of those things that I kind of eventually figured out, maybe a little late in the game to use it for all it was worth.

And this is why Virdition matters. I had to bypass my agents to get what I wanted, I learned far too late what my essence was and how to brand myself, but Virdition

Opens up the opportunities for you. It eliminates the need for an agent. If an agent doesn’t see in you what you see in yourself, then become your own agent and market yourself. Virdition’s platform creates a place for you to do just that. Your job is to hone in on who you are, your essence and what your brand is as you build your career. Virdition allows you to get yourself to auditions virtually so you can audition more often which translates into more opportunities. Using the right formula with Virdition allowing you to be in the right place at the right time more often, the more chances you have for success. The time you save by not having to travel means you are able to schedule virtual auditions right from your computer. The more places you are, the more right places you could be. You can save a lot of time and money while still getting the essence of auditioning without physically being there. Things would have been a lot different if Virdition had been around when I was in the beginning stage of my career—I’m a little envious.

No one liked the traditional casting system. Ask a bunch of casting people how they felt about it, and they’d respond by telling you what a chore casting is. Now we’ve got technology, and that took things from being snail mailed to email. This next generation presents you with virtual auditions. How great is it that you can contact a casting director and participate in a group read-through in real time with auditioners from around the globe. No one has to physically be in a single place at the same time. It’s a new world and a new way of managing talent. There was nothing wrong with the yellow pages, but Google came along and we haven’t looked back. Auditioning was the old way. Now virditioning is here, so you ask yourself what’s better? Two auditions in a week or 10 Virditions in a week? The more you’re out there, the better your chances of landing that part. You might even get an obstacle or detour that could shortcut you to achieving your ultimate success.

2 Comments

  1. Anton June 25, 2016 at 8:29 PM - Reply

    I’m an actress and singer and virdition looks amazing where can I get more info??

  2. Regan July 8, 2016 at 2:44 AM - Reply

    Virdition sounds genius I’m gonna follow u

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