Alright, my name is DaZell and I'm going to tell you a story about how I used my doubt to inspire my confidence based on my childhood upbringing. So I was born and rais- well I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but I was raised in Jackson, Mississippi. And um, for those of you who do not know things, about Mississippi. Which I'm assuming is most of you. It's very black and white. It's plain as day. It's like 80% black and then 20% white. And so when I was growing up in the deep south with black parents, um, they often tried to instill in me this type of like defense mechanism. And the best way I can relay it to everyone is that I'm sure we've all seen Marvel movies and we've all seen the movie "Iron Man." Well, you know how Iron Man has like this suit of like, like indestructible armor and it just has like a couple of flaws every now and again and a couple of mishaps. That's basically what it's like growing up as a black child. Like your parents try to instill in you like all these defense mechanisms. So that nothing from the outside world can penetrate you because they know how hard it's going to be.
So a phrase that um, my mother or father would actually say to me is that "Their words..." Meaning the white people in Mississippi, would often refer, um, "Their worst is often better than your best." Meaning that the best that you can do is the worst that they can do, which translates to you always need to try to do your best and go the extra mile just to get the same amount of like mediocre attention, hence the musical. Over the summer. Recently, um, this was last summer and I had just come back from Rome and I was also studying film while I was in Rome and I had the chance to direct and show three films while I was abroad.
And one of them actually showed in France as well as in South Africa. And so when I came back, I had on my suit of armor, like basically, um my, my head was very big. Like if you met me or something, I would say like, Hey, I'm DaZell, you'd be like, oh, I do this. And then I'd be like, "Hi international film director. Nice to meet you." Like, "Hi, I'm DaZell, I just directed three films abroad. Very nice to meet you." "Hi, I'm DaZell. Oh, that's cute. I've directed three films abroad." So, when I came back, I was very like, just excited. I was ready to get back into it. I really wanted to take off my, and like get back into acting. So I want to get my first professional head shots, which is a really big milestone for any actor. So I found this photographer who actually specializes in photographing black subjects.
Um, I got them back. They looked super cool. I was posting them everywhere and I joined this Facebook group called 'Talent Managers and Agents of LA.' And it's basically where actors talent managers and agents can get together in a Facebook group and you kind of pose questions to them to kind of ask, "Hey, are these good headshots? What do you think about this and that?" And they give you like a response, mind you, this is out of Hollywood so you can think of how the responses are. So imagine me, with a big head posting my headshots in this Facebook group only to have the first comment be, "These don't look confident, you need more confidence!" And I was just like, damn, okay. I thought I was pretty confident and that kind of like led into this spiral of like depression and anxiety that covered me for about a week, it literally painted the walls of my apartment and I was just on my couch and I was there just laying down and being like, 'Oh my God, I don't know what I'm doing. Why did I major in theater? I should have done something practical like communications or business like that would have made more sense.' And that kind of just kept going on and on in my head for awhile.
I just remember my dad always being the one to empower me to like pick myself up. And he will often say, "You don't ever want to think you're better than anyone else, but you don't ever want to let anyone else be better than you." Which means you need to try the hardest that you can do to be the best person that you can be. And once I remembered that and that clicked for me, it felt like the clouds opened up, the sun shined, the water flowed again. Everything was back again. I started like this new healthy eating where I wasn't eating meat before 11, I was like had snacks. I was like kicking ass in the gym. Um, I was like just on my shit. Like every day I would like wake up, drink a smoothie of acting. I would go to sleep and eat acting for dinner.
I picked up a feature film that I was directing that summer. I like realized I was also directing the fall play here and I had just got a fellowship through the Keck humanities, well through the Humanities Center through Keck, where I'm actually writing and designing a new musical now. So I was just like, maybe I am doing just fine. Um, so I kind of like wrote this little poetry thing that I'm going to do. I don't know, haven't done poetry in a while, but this is the best way I can put it into words. "It was a Thursday evening. Clouds filled my heart. The room seemed dark and my future dimly lit the night was long as though eternity had legs and ran faster than I could catch. The couch became my home away from home. It was in this moment that my hopes felt like there were cinderblocks holding it down, a feeling that stuck, that stuck with me for a week.
Monday morning, the sun shined, flowers continued to bloom, specks of light showered my room and brightened my day. It was mid day on a Wednesday when I stumbled back into my confidence, I felt that I could finally catch my breath. I put on shoes meant for walking and went running towards my freedom instead. It was in this moment that I found my confidence. I decided that my life had a continuous significance. My ideas possess brilliance, cries transformed into laughter, brought about a healthy mindset. One which allowed me to push harder towards my goals, allow me to produce my dreams into a nonfictional-picturesque reality. I thank the doubts because without them, I wouldn't have had the confidence I have today.