Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fear Factor

For years, I've defined myself as the guy’s girl. I can eat like the boys, drink like the boys, talk like the boys, and certainly keep up with the boys. I live for the thrill of the wind in my hair, the rush of adrenaline through my veins, and the occasional bump or bruise I may get in the process.

But, I haven't always been this way. If you had asked my mother 10 years ago to describe her daughter, she’d no doubt come up with tons of adjectives: creative, sensitive, caring, selfless, introverted. But she'd have never come up with bold, physical, or daring.. And certainly not fearless. I was tentative about big presentations, speeches, playing sports.. You name it. Except for bowling, and music.

Aside from physical traits like my asthma and sheer lack of coordination that kept me from bending it like Beckham, I think the real barrier I encountered was fear. Fear of embarrassment, failure.. You name it. So I was constantly playing the role of benchwarmer and wallflower. I wasn't the girl that "got the guy," I was the best friend that just wanted them to be happy. It just felt safer. I was already an outcast at school, the type of girl the popular kids used for their personal amusement.. But that's another blog.

The past few years though, I've come to realize just how little I do in terms of pushing myself. I was so used to playing it safe I was depriving myself of life altering experiences. So one day I had enough, and decided.. If I've only got one life to live, I better do this right. I worked out harder, took chances, dared to be bold.. both emotionally and physically. White water rafting, stock car driving, the ‘bolder the better’ became my motto. And I've been pushing myself ever since. My two most recent fear factors were much more psychological barriers, but it didn’t make conquering them any easier.

I was recently cast in this horror film to be shot in and around NYC. The director is also an amazing self-taught effects artist that also happens to have a niche in cinematography. I took the role mainly because it’s a really well written script, and an extremely physical role. Lots of fighting, lots of gore, lots of running-- less screaming. I didn't want to play a victim that just sat there as she was disemboweled or gutted like a fish. Sorry Drew Barrymore. Instead, I wanted to play a fighter. A strong woman who uses her emotional issues in her day-to-day life as a way of combating the supernatural evils she encounters on when else.. Halloween.

And then, there were clowns. Ever since I was in second grade I have had a ridiculous fear of clowns, chainsaws.. and anything that went bump in the night. I think it stems back to my parents taking me to Halloween Horror Nights when I was far too young to appreciate the artistry that went into the scaracatures makeup, or understand that it was in fact.. Faker than Donald Trump's comb-over. Instead of enjoying the Halloween festivities, I spent the majority of the night perched on my dad’s shoulders like the lookout muskrat-- in charge of pointing out predators in masks waiting to scare unsuspecting park visitors. Pretty traumatizing experience to say the least.

So, imagine the shudders that went down my back when I arrived at set and my co star was already hours deep in the makeup chair. I had never met Sid (that’s his real name) before, and now the person looking back at me through bloodshot yellowed eyes.. Was “Art.” And boy was he a piece of it. Bloodied and bruised down to the fingernails, covered in scabs and cakey clown makeup we sat face to face. I won't lie. Taking pictures with him was downright painful, I even considered calling my therapist. And this was before we stepped foot on set. We still had to work together. It was going to be a long, long day.

Because of his prosthetic rotted teeth, Sid was unable to speak to me. There was no fun playful set banter. Just the creepy stares and even creepier smiles. As we wrapped for the day, Sid and I returned to our respective dressing areas to remove our makeup and costuming. An hour later, we both emerged our regular street clothes wearing selves. He was a simple kid from Brooklyn, with a passion for scary movies. But Sid was certainly nothing to be scared of.

My second round against my fears came early Thursday morning. I recently signed on with a major beverage distributor as a national spokesmodel. These roles are typically saved for big time baller athletes with sick dance moves and bad ass personas, but these guys chose to go a different route. They reserved the bad ass athletes for use in their particular regional markets, and instead wanted a strong bad ass sports-loving girl as their main face, the one they'd use in their commercials and all their nationwide print ads. And they chose.. Yours truly. I was beyond ecstatic and flattered and jumped at the chance to work with such a reputable and huge name like theirs.

Then, I got the call.

"Hey Jenn, we were wondering.. You're not by chance afraid of snakes are you?"

Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? I can deal with the dangerous, the poisonous, the sharp toothed.. But the creepy crawly??

My inner team player though agreed to put on my best gameface and give it a shot. Suit up Short Round. Were off on an adventure!!!

The next day I touched down in Dallas, and was ushered away to my photoshoot.

Apparently I wasn't the only one shooting my part of the campaign that day, as I was greeted by a few members of the Dallas Cowboys and an entire staff of hair and makeup and creative assistants. There in the middle of the room against a grey backdrop was linebacker Demarcus Ware, giving the camera his best mean face imaginable.. Which I found quite comical given the fact Demarcus was a remarkably polite and soft spoken guy. After tons of introductions I was sent to hair and makeup, where I was doused in more hairspray than John Travolta in drag. An hour later when I emerged, I was no longer Jenn Sterger ‘girl next door ‘in her tracksuit. I was Barbarella 2.0 with hair to match. Just when my nerves had finally settled, my co-stars arrived.

Their names were Aussie and Neon. Aussie was a Australian tree climber of some sort, while Neon was an albino boa. I watched as people passed them throughout the studio, and let them crawl and wrap themselves around their necks, arms, waists.. You name it. They seemed calm and relatively docile, but me? I still wanted no part in this. Damn it! Why I hadn't I put Valium on my Rider??

If there is one thing I pride myself on, it’s being a girl of my word. I promised them a bad ass snake picture and damn it. That's what they were gonna get.

I started with Aussie, figuring he would be the easier one of the two. But I soon discovered this was not so. Because he was a tree climber, he was not content just sitting there. He was constantly looking for higher ground. And for me that meant... In my face. I was fine with him around my shoulders or wrapped on my arm.. But my face?? C’mon man!!

I tapped out when I felt Aussie's tongue touch my cheek. So I asked we replace him with his other friend Neon, who by the way happened to weigh about 75 pounds and could easily have eaten my cat. I tried to zone out as they strategically wrapped neon around my legs and brought the rest of him up to my arms. Neon was much more content just chilling… for a few minutes anyway. Then, I felt his tongue against the inside of my leg. I shrieked.

“Um excuse me.. Neon! That's third base! I don't even know you like that... We're not on that level!”

2 hours of Britney Spears greatest hits later, we had our shots! Sexy, yet strong. And just the look they were going for.

I had survived my snake encounter, my face to face with a clown. But could I match my scariest opponent yet? My own feelings.

Many times I've found myself in certain scenarios that dare me to be bold, and while I may have become better at conquering physical fears, I still have not mastered my emotional ones. If you read my last blog, you know that I was in a state of turmoil over this friend of mine, Hmm Hmm, who I had discovered I had feelings for. After reading through all of your advice, it dawned on me that I was really scared of nothing. So what if I got rejected? At least I would know where he and I both stand. So.. I told him the truth...

But, again… that, is for another blog.

Sometimes we really have nothing to fear but fear itself. And we hype up all of these insecurities and flaws we have for no reason. For so long I was afraid to live my life to the fullest, but I'm working to change all that. I've learned so much lately, all because I was willing to take a chance. I learned that clowns are people too, just with really overzealous makeup artists. I learned that snakes are something to respect, but certainly not be afraid of. Unless it's the John Voight/JLo variety, in which case you’re on your own buddy. And I learned that sometimes you just gotta go all in and take a chance on someone. Sometimes you'll go belly up, but other times you'll take the house. Regardless though.. You took a chance, and showed your fears (and Tony Danza) who's the boss.

And that has made you all the stronger. I had conquered my demons... And lived to tell about it. Now, it’s your turn.


Mike said...

If Hmm Hmmm rejects you, I'll take you out on the town - but you have to promise that we'll play scrabble after.

Ryan Ullman said...

This is a very impressive discussion. I know I've had similar problems throughout my entire life, always wanting to be the go-to guy but a lot of the times falling short. Well you are very motivational Jenn! So thank you for writing things like this. It takes a lot of willpower to even express oneself forget about acting on your feelings.

Congrats on the shoots and the pics look great! I can't believe you did that with the snakes, unbelievable lol.

jw said...

So people actually read this?

Anonymous said...

If that Hmm Hmmm guy doesn't want you (and be completely retarded), I'll take ya babe.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jenn,
It's "Art." Awesome blog! but my birth name is not Sid it's actually Mike and i'm not a kid from Brooklyn, i'm actually a kid from Staten Island. I'm sorry if i scared you on the set. my bad. i'm just playing my role lol.
all i have to really say is you are the greatest co-star ever! see you this weekend. please dont be scared! it's just me!

Veritas said...

Hi there Jenn.
I personally admire this blog entry, because of the base theme “Fear”.
You revealed a truth that for incredible as it might seem isn’t understood by allot of people, fear can’t be destroyed, it can’t be ignored because its in our faces every day of our lives; a person can only deal with fear in two possible ways, submit to it or overpowering it, there isn’t a third way.
A person that tells you or anybody that he/she doesn’t fear anything is a 100% BS person.
We all fear something, my personal fear are people.
I know, it sounds crazy, right?! But believe me people scares me the most.
It isn’t knowing or being with people that scares me; it’s what they might do that many times puts me in a defense mode.
I don’t fear death, why should I ?! When a person dies there are only two outcomes, one you die and that’s it, the end, game over….two, you die and there is something beyond.
Who knows, right?!
Living?! I also am not afraid of taking chances and living my life to the fullest (without going overboard of course), in fact that is the only way I know how to live, I got some friends that say that every time I do skydiving that I’m throwing away my life in a stupid sport that may one day end up killing me; but like I tell them my life is my own no one but me can decide what is right or wrong and I’m sure that in that point Jenn we see eye to eye.
Afraid of scary movies?! Please, I watched scary movies with my parents before I even started going to school, to me scary movies aren’t scary they are just pure entertainment; I did voluntary work with the red cross I’ve seen real horror and pain, I’ve been drenched in real blood not Hollywood fake juice and I know it doesn’t matter how many times I take a bath that blood will always stay with me.
But changing to a less gore mode and commenting on what you wrote.
It’s good to see that the Hmm Hmm chapter is finally closed, about the photo shoot session I can only say “Well done and keep up with the good work”.
By what you described they were only ordinary snakes, and if Britney could appear on stage with Neon brother or sister I would be damned if you couldn’t do it too.
They wouldn’t bring an anaconda because least face it that would have been madness in so many ways that I’m only going to give one example why it would be madness; to lift an adult anaconda they are needed at least two grown man; I’m sure you can lift weights in the gym but I doubt you could lift an adult anaconda.
You said you were chosen to represent a major beverage distributor, it’s good to finally know to what you where referring to in your “The Subway and the Odyssey” blog entry or at least I think that is what you were referring to.
You said you changed allot from the person you were, but to me that is nothing new, ever since you started on this road of celebrity there was no doubt in my mind and I bet also in your family and friends minds that you would change with time.
It’s a natural process whether one is a celebrity or not, because least face it, we all change, and the problem with celebrities is that especially to the families, there is that deep down wish that the person they know doesn’t change too much.
You explained what adjectives your mother would have used to define you 10 years ago, but the real question in my mind is what adjectives would you have used?
I hope you could answer me that question.
One thing that surprises me and at the same time explains allot about who you are, is the fact that you said that in school you consider yourself as an outcast.
To me that really shed some light on that ever evasive question “Who is Jenn Sterger?”
You could be saying right now “From everything I’ve written you still haven’t figured it out?”
But the truth is, no one knows who you are, everybody that reads and writes on your blog or simply reads them; we only get an image of what we think you are but no one can say “I know Jenn Sterger” because the truth is that although you write your blogs and share with us parts of your life and your thoughts( which is one of the things I most admire about you) the truth is that you like me, and everyone that writes on your blog we hide our true selves, “Why?” you may ask, because we are afraid, fear never lets us be 100% truthful about who we are and what we think.
Like you said, the Fear Factor.

Jump and Jive said...


Cool post! Glad to read that you made it through the photo shoot, the clown and letting "Hmm Hmmm" know your feelings. Always best to be honest and live life without regrets. If you turned away from any of these opportunities, who know what you might have missed out on.

All the best!

Anonymous said...

Won't be long "Mike", she'll be doing you, and then writing about you on here!!