17-18/52 Produce & Act In A Play
Our first meeting took place at The Costa Coffee on 4 Great Portland Street. As I drank a cup of coffee that was way too big (seriously - their coffee comes in soup bowls) I was amazed how one simple sentence “Let’s put on a show!” was the catalyst for this. That’s all it takes. Words followed by action. Little did we know the journey we were about to embark on. It was originally going to be a one or two night show in a small space above a pub but after visiting the space the director and I discussed the project and we asked ourselves “Why restrict what we’re capable of doing?” So, we followed our instincts to create something bigger. We stepped outside of our comfort zones and as a result ended up creating a fully produced show which ran for an entire week at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Soho. On top of that we sold out all 6 shows.
One of my strengths lies in seeing beyond what other people think is possible and normal. Being realistic - to me, is a waste of time and to be frank, not how I want to live my life.
Ever since I was a kid I was a dreamer. I think part of that was because I always felt disconnected from my surroundings. I rarely felt understood or like I fit in. From moving to Canada from Switzerland, the US from Canada, Belgium from the US, the UK from Belgium - stability was and is a foreign concept. I’m not patriotic. I don’t feel Canadian, I definitely don’t identify with being Belgian and well, the Swiss refused to give me a passport. My mom is originally Dutch, my dad originally Croatian. But I suppose we live in a world where this is more and more common.
I feel a lot of my life has been a search for belonging.
As a result, over the past 6 years I’ve been pretty pro-active at trying lots of different things, failing at lots of different things and being open to the random paths that have presented themselves. From hosting a radio show, learning parkour, auditioning for drama schools, getting rejected from all drama schools, creating & managing my own EP release, giving up, managing a band, having Rebel Wilson record a video on my phone giving me permission to pick up her passport, organising a music industry attended showcase, hanging out with Jeff Goldblum on set, working at CAA, climbing the music industry ladder, going to raves in abandoned churches, meeting one of my idols at Universal Music, attending after parties at private members clubs, travelling solo through Asia, going freelance, free diving, riding a motorcycle through Vietnam, launching a startup, stumbling through said startup, feeling lost and alone, shaking Richard Branson’s hand, producing a podcast series, embarking on Project 52 and sharing my inner thoughts, producing & acting in a sell out show at Tristan Bates - It’s been an ongoing trajectory of new experiences, unexpected moments of surrealism and lots of discomfort.
And - the truth is, throughout all this, there’s always been that underlying fear. A voice that fills me with insecurity and doubt. A voice that tries to make me believe it can’t be done, that I’m gonna fuck it up or someone’s gonna realise I’m blagging my way through it all.
Life is like a video game. As I write this I’m sat in a cafe by the Southbank and around me is a world in which I find myself in. I can choose how I’d like to interact with it. Those insecurities and moments of fear holding you from being exactly who you want to be are ridiculous. Seriously I can’t be the only one to see this. Just look around you. You’re the driver. You’re the one who gets to call the shots. Like, how awesome is that!? How much fun do you want to have with this opportunity? We’ve been gifted these powers we can use for either good or evil or, as most people do - for nothing at all. Successful people don’t have any magical powers the rest of us lack. They just have vision and work fucking hard. They get what it means to sacrifice. What it means to develop oneself. They take this video game to the next level by being curious about the different corners of it.
Quincy Jones said: "I teach musicians I mentor to become themselves. To know themselves and to love themselves. Thats all I care about. Know yourself and love yourself....Your music can be no more or no less than you are as a human being."
We become more interesting people by living our human lives. By exploring the world, trying on new identities, questioning our limits and being open to what the world has to offer. I truly believe we are all capable of doing exactly what we want while we’re here on this planet. Some are happy to live simply and I commend them for that. By no means do I think everyone needs to become Oprah. Everyone has their own magic to share in their own way. But it is our duty, I believe, to figure out what that magic is.
Some may say, “That’s so idealistic Nina.”
Yeah? Good. It happens to be one of my best traits.
I’ve found that the best thing to do when you have an ambitious plan is to act immediately. No hesitation. Just go. Do it. Make something happen. Stumble through it. Transform the need for perfection into a need for exploration and experimentation. A need to test your own capabilities.
I’ve also learned the importance of becoming the masters of ourselves:
“Nina, I know you want that cigarette but I love you too much to let you smoke it.”
“Nina, I know it’s 5:30am and this bed is warm and cozy but I love you too much not to make you get up and live that dream.”
“Nina, I know you don’t want to feel these moments of vulnerability but I love you too much to keep you from experiencing true connection.”
That is how I talk to myself these days. Yeah I talk to myself. What do ya want?
Developing our inner confidence & mastering our bodies is the foundation. It’s where everything begins. If you can master the inner demons, the outside world that will try to bring you down won’t have the same power over you.
When people asked me about our sold out show at Tristan Bates I’d downplay it and catch myself saying "Yeah it was great. We sold out. No idea how that happened!"
And now I gotta call bullshit.
Because let’s be honest, I know exactly how it all happened. It was fucking difficult and time consuming. Of course it was also fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. Even the days when I wanted to pull my hair out were great - because, at the end of the day I got to do something I loved. It demanded attention every day and threw a handful of curveballs our way on a weekly basis. No success every just happens. There’s always calculated thought behind it. All great musicians and actors have strategy behind them. They’re also business people.
There’s a great quote by the software executive & engineer Qi Lu on luck that goes as follows:
“Luck is like a bus. If you miss one, there's always the next one. But if you're not prepared, you won't be able to jump on”
So, do the work. Make stuff. Prepare.
Finally, transformation is key in life. The ability to let things change when it’s time for them to change is a lesson we all need to learn. Letting go of things and people that no longer serve us, as well as the stories we tell ourselves about who we are or aren't.
And - part of transformation is the art of elimination. The focus you bring into your life towards the parts of you you’d like to see grow.
I’m not saying Project 52 is over, I’ve just got other things that need my attention right now. Project 52 will remain open until it’s finished. It just may take me longer than a year. Perhaps I’ll feel an impulsive need to add something over the next month. Perhaps I’ll stay away for the next 6 months. Perhaps I’ll only reach the end in 7 years. Regardless, it’s here. An excuse to experiment and share when needed.
The main take away from all this so far?
For years I was waiting for a man in a suit with a fancy job title to come along and tell me they believed in me. That I was good enough. That I was worthy of creating. Now, they’ve arrived and it turns out that “man in a suit with a fancy job title” was me all along.