I love this time of year. In the entertainment industry the next two months are known as Award season. In that time frame, there are The Golden Globe Awards, the Critics Choice Awards, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, the Writer’s Guild Awards, The Director’s Guild Awards, the Producer’s Guild Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards and the granddaddy of them all, the Academy Awards. Packed into these two months are the celebration and recognition of excellence in film, television and music. Accompanied by each of these ceremonies is the famous Red carpet where fashion statements and designers, for better or worse, are also recognized so this time could also be dubbed the Fashion Awards.
When I was an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles, award season was highly anticipated and the pinnacle of the year. It meant award parties with friends who were also aspiring artists. It meant actors and actresses and musicians converging on LA so that chance meetings with artists from around the world was possible in every restaurant and bar. It meant binge watching films at various venues to make sure we knew who we thought should win. It also meant a lot of envy of those who had made it to the point of having an invitation to these ceremonies and being part of an A list or B list. Let’s just say I never made any list but I still felt a part of the buzz.
Often award parties were themed, cakes decorated with names not even on ballots but who we thought warranted recognition none the less. There were lots of drinks and food and bubbly toasts and of course our own ballots so we could predict the winning names. The energy of the city on award night was palpable. It was the night of a thousand stars and even more limos. It was the night we all hoped to experience in our careers. It was the pinnacle of success, the recognition of our peers. It was Award night.
It’s hard to explain to cynics what this kind of recognition might mean to an artist or to anyone for their work. In it’s simplest and most complex form, it is validation. I am what they say I am therefore I am validated. Every artist wants to hear their work is good. Every artist wants to know if their work has inspired or touched or made the audience laugh or cry. Was it the acting or the writing or maybe it was the directing? Or maybe the final symbiosis of all three? Unfortunately for many artists, and I confess to be a member of that camp, the validation of my art could only have meaning if it came from outside of myself.
At the heart of it all is faith and belief that this is my calling and I have been blessed with the talent and tools to do it. But that faith can be a fragile thing. An artist bares her heart and soul and it takes inner strength to withstand any criticism or negative feedback that goes straight to that bared heart. Some seem to handle that pain well. Others cover it with booze or drugs or risky behavior.
When my kids were young and playing on sports teams, it was customary to give the entire team a participation trophy at the end of the season so that no one felt left out and every child could be validated. It has been debated by many child psychologists and experts in the field of child development whether this was advantageous or detrimental to a child’s self esteem. Nobody wins all the time and we all need to learn how to handle defeat. On the other hand the one who is always winning doesn’t know how to handle losing. Their fragile heart lies in all of the validation and when it has been withdrawn, what is left? Experts espouse that rewarding process or improvement is more beneficial then winning or losing. It also allows for perspective.
There is no doubt that recognition and reward is a huge ego booster. After years of feeling relatively invisible for the work we were doing, my current work team was recently recognized and rewarded and I have to tell you it felt damn good. But I would have done the work anyway. Which brings me back to award season and the artist’s life. As incredibly amazing as it must be to walk the red carpet and have my name read at an award ceremony, the real prize was getting the work at all.
What I learned after I left Hollywood is that the need for validation never goes away. I’ve needed it as a wife, a mother, a college student, an employee. And others, especially my children, have needed it from me. Resilience comes from the inner strength to withstand hard knocks or criticism and from validation. And all of us can use applause once in a while.
As award season gears up, my DVR is set, my drinks and ballots are ready and I make my predictions with my old Hollywood friends. I still have dreams of walking the red carpet although if I ever did it would be as a spectator now. But more importantly I can look back at my life and appreciate how incredibly rewarding and rich it has been with love and life and people. And that is award enough.