As I sat at the gate prior to my most recent flight to Los Angeles, enjoying a few moments of relative silence, a fairly attractive, boho-chic, 20-something woman began to strum her ukulele. Then, she started to sing. Seconds later, a young couple across the way decided to rehearse scenes from their script. Just as I considered moving, it occurred to me that neither the actors, nor the musician were merely honing their skills.
They were trying to get discovered. Right then. Right there.
You never know who's watching. Not to mention it was a New York City to Los Angeles flight. What better time to take a chance on yourself?
Even if 99.999 percent of people tune them out, or rue the day their parents encouraged them to stand in front of the family and perform their original haikus, it would only take one slightly connected, advocate, with a similar itinerary to ask "Where have you been all my life?" and make them a star.
I didn't like it, at first. But, I did respect it, greatly. There's something about putting yourself on display for praise and/or ridicule until it becomes natural, or just looks as though it is. It's deserving of recognition, if not admiration.
I quickly came to appreciate that moment for exactly what it was: an audition. A few would-be superstars stood in front of a room. They offered up their talents for judgment, analysis, and to basically be picked apart. All for the opportunity to be seen, heard, and discovered.
Not long after, as I was half-listening to the flight attendant's eerily deadpanned exit-row instructions and hustling to send my last few texts before the cabin doors closed, I had a "the difference between New York and L.A." epiphany of sorts: In Los Angeles people pray that, one day, they will be discovered. In New York City, people pray they never are.
Hold on. Let me explain.
In L.A., there's no shame in being an aspiring actor, singer-songwriter, comedian, dancer, something, or another. Actually, it's to be expected. Your goal is to be plucked from the chorus line by a power broker with the means to make your dreams come true. But in New York City, you don't aspire to be anything.
You are that thing, or you're not, even if you have to assign it to yourself. So in New York being discovered means something altogether different than it does in Los Angeles. It isn't to be found, but to be "found out."
As a New Yorker, I've become quite fond of the truth and efficacy of the phrase "Fake it, until you make it." I adopted it early in my New York City experience and I'm glad I did. I wouldn't have survived otherwise.
Because of my time here, I know something only other New Yorkers know: simply by coming to New York, we've already arrived. No one else can legitimize our talents, or our dreams. We don't require anyone's approval or validation. We don't audition for the part we want. We give ourselves the role. We never have to get into character, because we stay in character.
However, such an acknowledgement has begun to shift my California dreams and New York reality, just a bit. I'm seeing something much more genuine than I previously thought La-La Land had to offer.
After fourteen years of living this New York City life, I've come to appreciate how they yell "action" and "cut" in Los Angeles. There is something charming about openly identifying yourself as someone who hasn't made it, yet. There's something very attractive about coming out of character between scenes.
In New York City we act tough, busy and much more important than we really are. We act like we've made it. Then it's tagged as grit, authenticity and strength. But at the risk of being run out of town, I'll tell you this; a great deal of that is just for show.
At least in L.A. everyone knows you're acting. L.A. isn't trying to fool anyone. They are just trying to make it. While as New Yorkers, we are constantly trying to convince ourselves, and everyone we meet, that we already have.
But all that's a part of New York's brilliance and flavor, isn't it? The commitment. The hustle. The spin. The feeling that things are what you say they are, because you say so. New Yorkers call Los Angeles fake and get away with it. If L.A. called New York City fake, no one would even listen.
Gotta love New York.