Last Monday, VH-1 aired the series premier of a new competition-based reality TV show called Twinning.
The host: my good friend Angie Greenup.
I first met Angie at Western Michigan University where she studied Theater. We were both cast members in a musical about the life of Rosa Parks. Although our characters were scripted as enemies, fate would have it that we’d go on to become allies in the real world.
Angie was one of the first people to ever tell me that I was too serious and that I needed to laugh more. She said it in such a funny way, however, that she’ll go down in my personal life history as one of the few people who can get away with poking fun at my need to have a better sense of humor. I only have a handful of friends who can make me break character at the drop of a dime and she’s one of them. We all need at least one person in our lives who knows how to make us laugh even when we don’t want to laugh.
When someone from your inner circle like this makes it on a TV show, it’s a surreal experience. It makes you want to cry, celebrate, and call everyone you know at the same time. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. For the past week, her Facebook page has been flooded with all sorts of congratulatory remarks expressing how proud people are of her success. As awesome as it is to see everyone celebrate her newly cemented place in the spotlight, I feel a little protective of her story because there’s something about her journey to Hollywood that I hope doesn’t get lost amidst all the hoopla over her recent experience of being discovered. Here’s what I hope everyone remembers about her success:
Angie Greenup wasn’t merely discovered. She was rewarded for her commitment to entrepreneurial thinking.
Angie is where she is today because she stopped sitting around waiting for phone calls and she figured out how to signal her ability to perform by creating her own projects. She didn’t have a rich uncle. She didn’t have a built-in fan base. She didn’t have a background in writing or production. She didn’t have connections to Ellen DeGeneres or Jimmy Kimmel. She simply had the determination to take her career path into her own hands. Good fortune may have played a role, but her fortune was the effect not the cause of her decision to take creative risks.
Earlier this year, my colleague Isaac Morehouse penned a blog post called 10 Books You Should Read Before College. Instead of just making suggestions based on books he read, Isaac wanted to reach out to various entrepreneurs to see what books had impacted their lives. When he mentioned the idea, I immediately thought about Angie Greenup. She wasn’t just an actor or comedian to me. She was an entrepreneur through and through. When I asked her to participate, she happily obliged. Here’s what she shared with us:
The book that truly changed the way I think about my career, and how I approach it, was How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban. I work in the entertainment industry as a television host and voice over actor. My ‘business’ is ME. I’ve spent much of my ‘career’ sitting around and waiting/hoping for auditions and work. Meanwhile, I had a ton of time for watching TV, going to movies, relaxing, hanging out. That approach landed me some marginal success, but never anything substantial.
Then I read Cuban’s book, and it lit a giant fire under my ass to take my career into my own hands and spend basically every spare moment I had focusing on how to take my career to the next level. And like magic, it worked.
One of his points that still sticks with me to this day (and I’m paraphrasing here) is ‘you have no control over your customers, clients, industry, competitors, but what you do have control over is your effort. Don’t let the stuff you can’t control frustrate you. Focus on what you can control – how much effort you’re putting into what you’re doing.’ Again, that was paraphrased, but you get the gist of it. I will continue to take the lessons from Cuban’s book with me as my career grows and flourishes.
Angie realized that she had two options: 1) She could wait until luck offered her the opportunity to showcase her skills or 2) She could take advantage of social media, present herself to the world without going through a middleman, and try to build a fan-base on her own by using her talents to create value for others. Fortunately, she chose the second option.
Angie launched a show on YouTube called “Eat, Drink, and Be Skinny,” where she shared her wit and wisdom on eating fun foods in the healthiest possible way. Then she created a second series called “Love, Food, and Money.” In Stop Using Weekends to Escape Your Weekdays and Meaningful Work is Worth the Work, I elaborate extensively on my belief that if you want to get paid for doing something you love, you have to work like you love doing it before you get paid. Angie embodied that mentality to the utmost. Even though she didn’t have a contract from a major network, Angie showed up to provide new episodes five days a week. Whether people were watching or not, she showed up.
The world loves milestones, success stories, and big announcements. The arena is never more crowded than when someone is on the verge of breaking a record, doing something rare, or procuring a crowning achievement. We all love to partake in the fruits of labor. The downside of success stories, however, is that they often seduce us into equating success with moments of glory. The dirty little secret about success is that it is often preceded by the unglamorous, unsexy, unflattering reality of having to consistently do hard work without any guarantee of recognition or reward. Angie shared these exact words in a conversation with me last December:
Being an entertainer is as much about being an entrepreneur as anything else. If you want to be successful in the entertainment business, you can’t just sit around and wait for someone to discover you. You have to market yourself, work hard, and always be developing your talent. I have to think of myself as my own business just to have a chance at surviving.
Some people might read those words and feel inclined to say “Well, that’s easy for her to say,” but it hasn’t always been easy for Angie to feel confident about her ability to make her dreams come true. Last year, I did a candid interview with Angie about the value of failure. She was quite frank in expressing her insecurities, hardships, and vulnerabilities. Here’s what she shared with me during that conversation:
What I fail at is comparing myself to other people in the business who I feel like I should be at the same level, career-wise, as they are and they’re ahead of me. I get really frustrated when I see a girl who I run into at auditions all the time and she’s not any more talented than I am, but for some reason, she’s working more than I am and she has 50k Twitter followers. I’ve gone as far as unfollowing people like that on Twitter because I can’t stand to see their success. That’s so awful. Their success shouldn’t have anything to do with me, but I am guilty of failing at letting my success come from within or whatever I’m supposed to do.
Thankfully, Angie didn’t let her doubts get the best of her. Instead, she kept challenging herself to take initiative, create value, and stay persistent in spite of the internal and external challenges that beset her. I often make the distinction between being an entrepreneur and being entrepreneurial. The former is about owning a business. The latter is about taking personal responsibility for the results you want to create in life. Everyone can’t be an entrepreneur in the strict conventional sense of the term, but we can all approach our personal and professional lives with an entrepreneurial mindset.
More than any other realm, the entertainment industry is dominated by a common belief that success is impossible unless someone else gives you permission to create. Angie Greenup is one of many young entertainers who are providing evidence to the contrary. An emerging group of entrepreneurial entertainers are opening the world’s mind to a most empowering idea: The possibilities of life are not ultimately determined by gatekeepers and longstanding traditions, but rather by the radical and persistent application of creative thinking. Angie Greenup, thanks for being an example of this.