On June 15, 2011, my best friend (and current roommate) Sam and I excitedly went to the El Rey Theatre to watch The Civil Wars’ show that night.
Poor decisions in hairstyling aside, it was an amazing night. While waiting in line for the doors to open, Joy Williams and John Paul White both came out and we were able to say hello to them. What followed, however, was even better, as the live performances of their music absolutely blew me away—I found myself smiling at Joy’s occasional sways, mouth gaping open during their cover of “Billie Jean,” and tearing up during the finale, “Poison and Wine.”
As we were driving back home after the show, I remember telling Sam, “I’m going to perform there one day.” I think I mentioned something about how pretty the venue was, with particular emphasis on the overhead chandeliers, but Lord knows what else I said (or sang) as we drove home.
It’s odd. It’s true that those words came out of my mouth—”I’m going to perform there one day.” It’s also true that after leaving the venue, I went into planning the launch of my YouTube channel, released a cover of “Someone Like You” less than a month later, auditioned for The Glee Project later that summer, attended callbacks in November, and finally received that Skype call from Robert, who informed that I had made it onto the show, right before Christmas and mere months after that show. But I don’t know if I ever truly believed the words that came out of my mouth.
Well, on July 1, 2013, I performed at The El Rey Theatre, opening for LeAnn Rimes and performing alongside Austin Brown, Frenchie Davis, and Dia Frampton.
With my dancers and pianist, I performed a four-song set, singing and dancing my ass off (sometimes, quite literally), for a crowd of hundreds, celebrating a night of love, friendship, and music. It was a benefit concert for The Friend Movement, which I am so proud to be a part of, and I opened the show.
Let me say that again: I opened the show.
If I were to be completely honest with you guys, this industry is so tough. It does not matter if you are the most talented person in the world. Looks don’t count for much when every other person in this industry looks like a model (or is a model). I don’t believe in luck, so that’s out the window. And ever since The Glee Project, I have been working so hard on a few projects (all of which are still in the works) and auditioning for many different television shows. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, whereas in many aspects of life, you can expect to see the fruition of your labor materialize within a given period of time, this industry could not be any more different. It could takes months. Years. Decades. A lifetime. But that’s why you have to love what you do in this world. If love doesn’t drive your craft, then you grow bitter, tired, and give up. Thankfully, I love what I do, so that’s not a concern whatsoever.
Having had a little bit of time to reflect on the past week or so, all present circumstances aside, I can’t help but be humbled, thankful, and encouraged. I can still taste the sweat that dripped down my face as I performed onstage earlier this week and the faces that I met as they shared some beautiful words of encouragement with me. Those words that came out of my own mouth two years ago—”I’m going to perform there one day”—keep coming to mind and I can’t shake them from my head. It really happened.
Like I said, I don’t know if I fully believed in what I was saying at the time, but somewhere deep inside of me—even with the voices inside my head telling me that I couldn’t do it and that law school was the way for me—I must have believed in it enough to give up what was in store for me to create a whole other walkway.
So tonight, I share these words with all of you and the rest of the world, keeping other words to myself:
- “I will create, write, direct, and star in a television show.”
- “I will see my face in movie theaters one day. Arclight would be nice.”
- “I will perform onstage at Madison Square Garden.”
- “I will release an album that is both critically and commercially successful.”
- “I will win an Emmy, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, a Grammy and a VMA. I know that a VMA seems to be the least of these, but it’s important to me, damnit!”
- “I will write a New York Times Bestseller.”
- “Through my art and activism, I will bring more exposure to those who feel disenfranchised and underexposed on television. In other words, I’m fucking sick of Asians playing the “Token Asian” roles and barely being represented in mainstream American entertainment and pop culture and I will bring about a change to that.”
- “I will be on GLEE. And yes, it still matters to me.”
Now that I’ve shared some words of intention with you, all of which I intend very much on happening (some sooner than others), what are some of yours?
Believe it, but don’t just believe it. Believe it so hard that you will fight for it, work endlessly toward it, and not stop until it becomes real. And along the way, never forget the humble beginnings from which you emerged from and the people who stuck with you along the way.
Thank you guys for cheering me on as I continue on this marathon. I love you so much for it and I promise to give you so much more to cheer about in due time.