My Latest Acting Role — a Monologue About the Women’s March — and What My Performance Taught Me About My Personal Brand


Blog by writer, actor Brijana Prooker - KOTAW Content Marketing
Actress Brijana Prooker Women's March monologue

Brijana Prooker is proud to be a nasty woman.

“What’s wrong with a girl being competitive, assertive, ambitious?” asks my artist friend Sharna Fulton. Without hesitation, she answers her own question: “NOTHING.”

Society, of course, would like us to believe otherwise.

Change a single word in Sharna’s statement — specifically, replace “boy” with “girl” — and the only response you’re likely to incite is “DUH!”

So why does the word “girl” incite such controversy and fear? Why does being female and competitive trigger lackluster misogynists to crudely mumble “nasty woman”?

Most likely the same reason assertive Senator Kamala Harris was scolded for not being “courteous” while questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

And undoubtedly the same reason ambitious Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced from reading a Coretta Scott King letter on the Senate floor.

Sharna, the creator of the Chloe Pink cartoon and persona designed to inspire girls of all ages to follow their dreams, says girls will never reach their full potential if they’re “trained by society (moms, dads, teachers, classmates, media, etc.) to be more concerned about being ‘liked’ than listening to their own hearts and doing what makes them happy.”

The cherry on top of all these kick-ass and inspiring words?! Sharna uses ME as an example of a strong woman who unapologetically follows her dreams.

Acting the Part

Quick confession: While Sharna’s eloquent and fierce statements above sound like they were lifted from a TED Talk or interview in The Atlantic, I’m actually quoting her from a Facebook conversation she had with my mom, Katherine Kotaw.

These words in particular not only inspired this blog, but re-ignited a spark in me that propelled me to take the most marvelous risk: “Bri has one of the biggest hearts around as does her mom and sis. But she is also a talented actress and theatrical artist. She is a true Chloe Pink girl because she always follows HER dreams.”

Puh-leez do not call me sweet. I am not bubblegum - Chloe Pink

Original Chloe Pink art by Sharna Fulton.

Reading Sharna’s words brought tears to my eyes for several reasons:

  1. Since re-commencing my social media presence a year and a half ago, my focus has been on promoting animal adoption, spreading Pit Bull love and sharing my writing for KOTAW. And of course sharing all the other KOTAWesome-ness that is KOTAW Content Marketing, the brand storytelling and creative marketing studio my mom, sister and I founded together four years ago. That doesn’t mean I haven’t written about being an award-winning actor and filmmaker, or about creating WOOF Productions to donate film proceeds to animal rescue groups and charities. That has definitely come up because it’s part of who I am, and I’ve also periodically posted acting scenes I’ve done and even entire short films, but it’s probably been at most 10 percent of my posts (the other 90 percent being stories/pictures/videos of the furry members of the KOTAW Girl Gang — Ivy, KOTAW’s Pit Bull Brand Ambassador; LuLU, our Poodle Doodle-marsupial hybrid and Doosis, our magical kitten-cat fairy… mixed in, of course, with exciting writing and updates from the human members of the KOTAW Girl Gang!)
  2. Since a really scary summer of multiple ER visits and hospitalization three years ago — which led to me being officially diagnosed as disabled from debilitating autoimmune conditions I’ve had since I was a child — I had yet to find a way to safely fit my love of acting into my current lifestyle (which includes dozens of medications and at least one long and painful doctor appointment each month — which I’ve often only just recovered from when it’s already time for my next invasive and soul-sucking appointment).

Enter a 10 minute play inspired by the Women’s March that was sent to me six months ago by brilliant playwright and screenwriter Amy Fox, who wrote Equity, the first female-driven Wall Street film.

After reading her play, Good Results are Difficult When Indifference Predominates, I knew it would be the first acting I would do since my disability diagnosis. I just didn’t yet know how powerful the experience would be.

Can’t Take That Away

What my latest acting role - a monologue about the Women's March - taught me about personal branding by Brijana ProokerAfter much rehearsal and character work, I recently filmed myself doing a monologue from Amy’s play, and even though I’m my very toughest critic, I absolutely loved my performance. Which is saying a lot.

Despite my mom frequently reassuring me that it wasn’t possible to lose my gift for acting even if I wasn’t “regularly exercising my acting muscle” — to use an annoying drama term — I was never quite convinced.

But as I watched all the takes of my monologue, I couldn’t help noticing I had the biggest smile on my face — even though the scene itself was very dark, raw and emotional. Which meant I had to concede my mom was right: My talent is not something my disability can take away from me.

Center Stage

I would like to thank Sharna Fulton for seeing me as a talented actor — just like my mom always has — even when my disability forced me to take a long break from acting. And I would like to thank Amy Fox for writing such a powerful monologue that inspired me to take the leap to act again.

Working on her monologue — about a woman knitting a pussy hat for the upcoming Women’s March — was cathartic for me. It gave me a way to channel my seemingly never-ending loop of anger-sadness-horror, a side-effect of the misogyny that’s become front and center on a daily basis — cue Alanis Morissette circa 1998: “I’m in the front row, the front row with popcorn/ I get to see you, see youuuuuu close up” — ever since Donald Trump gave men permission not to hide their women hating and pussy grabbing.

It also re-ignited a spark in me from acting that I really missed.

After showing the monologue I filmed to my family, my mom said she desperately needed to go eat ice cream and my sister kept mentioning how haunting my performance is and how painful it was to see me in such a state of emotional anguish.

It was a bit hard to reconcile the fact that doing the monologue made ME overcome with such effervescent JOY — I could actually feel the cells in my body waking up and doing a happy dance — with the fact that it was so traumatizing for my mom and sister to watch. But that really just means the big smile I had from watching my work was justified because every second of the monologue was real and the anguish was palpable. Meaning, I did my job.

And I have to say I feel stronger since working on Amy’s monologue. It was very healing. It gave me back confidence I had lost from being sick that I hadn’t even realized I’d lost. And somehow my confidence came back more powerful than it had previously been. I know this because I didn’t once ask my mom or sister if they thought I was a good actor or did a good job. For the first time I can remember, I just inherently knew I was good.

In Celebration of the Women’s March

In honor of the six month anniversary of the Women’s March, I invite you to watch my monologue. Here’s what you should know: In the midst of sewing a pussy hat for the Women’s March, my character is read a 1949 excerpt from The Singer Sewing Book:

“…Never approach sewing with a lackadaisical attitude… Never try to sew with the sink full of dishes or bed unmade…When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible…Keep a little bag full of French chalk near your sewing machine where you can pick it up and dust your fingers at intervals. This not only absorbs the moisture on your fingers, but helps to keep your work clean…Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on with care. Looking attractive is a very important part of sewing…you can hope for better results when you look your best. If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing as you should.”

Maybe there should be a big bold “trigger warning” above my monologue — seems that’s the catchphrase for most things these days. We’re living in a world where good people simply can’t turn on their TVs or glance at their phones without being “triggered”. Being triggered really just means feeling something — and hopefully being propelled to use that feeling to do something good. That’s what art is for; and I hope watching my monologue inspires you like it inspired me.

Plus you have the bonus of knowing that the actor who performed that monologue watched it and smiled.

BACK ON THE CLOCK

If your personal brand is interesting at all, it’s not just one thing. Just like women can (gasp!)) be kind and competitive, caring and assertive, funny and ambitious; your personal brand can and should be a myriad of things which, combined, make you who you are. And if you do a good job sharing your brand story, your audience just might know you well enough to remind you who you are and inspire you to re-kindle a part of yourself you missed. And by “tell a good brand story” I mean quality over quantity. Yes, marketers may point to some version of Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s “Rule of Seven” — that your audience needs to absorb the information you’re selling seven times in order for it to sink in — but that doesn’t mean mindlessly auto-sharing the same post. I mentioned that probably only ten percent — at most — of my social media posts in the past year and a half have been about acting, but that part of my story must have made a strong impact on my friend Sharna for her to so intrinsically associate that with who I am. And that’s what brand storytelling is all about.

I’ll keep my call to action simple: Please watch my monologue and let me know what you think. And please do something good today that makes you happy, be it acting, singing, painting, writing…If it makes you smile, consider it a rousing success.

Comments

  1. My sweet, wonderful, superbly talented first born.

    Every syllable is brilliant.

    Reading this, I was able to celebrate what I have long waited for:  your KNOWLEDGE of the brilliance of your acting.  You have FELT the impact of your acting before, but you now KNOW as well as FEEL the power of your talent and how it imbues your essence.

    And you not only share your heart and talent, you offer this inspiring call to action:  “And please do something good today that makes you happy, be it acting, singing, painting, writing…If it makes you smile, consider it a rousing success.”

    The thing that makes me happiest — and proves the above — is that you DID NOT ASK for MY approval or Kelsey’s.  You DO NOT NEED IT.  And I don’t think you ever will.  You KNOW.

  2. Bri Prooker says:

    Thank you so very, very much, Mama! Thank you for telling me I was talented for so many years when I did need to know how you felt. It gave me the confidence to get where I am today, being able to unequivocally state that I’m a talented writer and actor. I think it’s important for me to boldly state that I’m talented because so many women think it’s bragging to say they’re good, to say they’re talented (even if they truly believe it). To achieve gender parity, I think women need to stop downplaying their strengths and loudly declare to the world how amazing they are. Just like Sharna says girls should focus less on being “liked” and more on following their dreams, Glamour Editor-In-Chief Cindi Leive says “Let’s resolve to redefine likability to include women who want things, badly, for themselves and for others.” This quote always replays in my head when I need a little dose of bravery. :)

    Thank you for always believing in me and inspiring me, Mama, with both my acting and my writing. I love how this blog is all about women supporting women. And it all started with you! :) I love you with all my heart.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I love Glamour’s redefinition of likability. More important, though, I love that YOU define likability for yourself. And that is a gift I am honored to give you, the freedom to define you — and all of the adjectives that accompany the definition — on YOUR terms. With love today and always, Mama <3 <3

  3. Krithika Rangarajan says:

    WOW……

    The excerpt from The Singer Sewing Book took me back to a breezy summer evening last year.

    It was 6 pm and my husband had just left work.

    I was sitting with my very sweet in-laws on my porch and drinking chai when my mother-in-law looked down at my untidy toenails and said, “Darling!! You need to cut and paint them….you also need to wash your face and comb your hair before Nikhil gets home. You know, my grandmother used to drape a beautiful sari and paint her face before my grandpa came home after a long day at work.”

    My mother-in-law is extremely sweet and sincere….and she was only (half) teasing me on the porch. But I gasped because her comment reminded me of everything girls in particular have to do to ‘please’ others.

    Why should I paint my toenails for Nikhil? I will do them for ME.
    Why should I wash my face and comb my hair for someone else? I will clean up to FEEL good within…..

    What’s sad is girls (and women) are still judged — and WORSE, compared — based on their housekeeping skills, cooking skills, laundry skills…..

    A bachelor pad is EXPECTED to be messy – messiness is, in fact, THE whole definition of a bachelor pad.

    But a woman who lives alone must puff every cushion and clean the kitchen every night..not a single speck of grime must tarnish her bath tub…not a single finger smudge must taint the fridge doors…not a single dish must be left unwashed. It’s the same for married women too, especially in my culture.

    It shames me to say that I play along – and lend gravitas to such sexist attitudes. Whenever someone comes home, I clean my house from top to bottom just to make sure no one criticizes me (threw my back cleaning the bath tub for my uncle :P ). Fear drives my actions.

    (My two doggies, however, remind me of what is important. Stroking their fur is more important to me than maintaining a sterile home with no dog hair on the floor ;) )

    Which brings me to the fearless, fabulous YOU!!

    Darling, your performance was haunting. The scream, in particular, is going to resonate with me for days to come. #HUGSSSS

    You know I loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee my #KotAWEsome gang……

    I love that you are each unique and yet UNITED as one.

    As one, you traverse the most daunting challenges, the most daring adventures, and the most delightful experiences.
    As one, you create the most beautiful memories, the most decadent goodies ;), and the most breathtaking stories.
    As one, you spread love, speak up for those who cannot speak, and, most of all, shine FOR each other.

    Entirely individual and yet eternally interwoven – like a mass of flaky and cozy snowflakes!

    I love all of you AS ONE…and each one of you as YOURSELF! #HUGSS

    Never stop acting, Bri. Your mum is right – as ALWAYS. You are talented…so very talented. Best of all, you are PASSIONATE about this art form….

    Can’t wait to see more of YOU — and each one of you <3

    MUCH LOVE
    Kitto

    • Bri Prooker says:

      Kitto,

      Thank you for your beautiful book of a comment that means the world to me. I’m glad the except from the 1949 Singer Sewing Machine manual reminded you of a conversation you had with your mother-in-law, as it led to a great story (and some great storytelling by you!)

      LOVE this: “I gasped because her comment reminded me of everything girls in particular have to do to ‘please’ others.
      Why should I paint my toenails for Nikhil? I will do them for ME.
      Why should I wash my face and comb my hair for someone else? I will clean up to FEEL good within…..”

      I wholeheartedly agree. I paint my nails for me (or rather, Kelsey paints them for me!) I choose the bright colors and whimsical nail decals to make ME happy — not a guy and not anyone else either — and that’s how it should be.

      But it’s eerie how the manual from 1949 isn’t so out of date today. Surely Singer wouldn’t print something as openly sexist and misogynistic today, but you’re absolutely right: women and men alike still have underlying (and for the Trumps of the world, OVERT) notions that women are put on this Earth to please men. Which is why Amy’s monologue is so eerily relevant today — things haven’t changed as much as we would like to believe they have. Feminism is needed now more than ever.

      I love how you point out the fact that “a bachelor pad is EXPECTED to be messy – messiness is, in fact, THE whole definition of a bachelor pad.” I also love how you share with such thoughtful honesty how much cleanliness is expected of women in your culture.

      It goes back to the whole idea of women existing to please others — and that’s something I believe is (sadly) desired in all cultures. I too have hurt myself cleaning for company. I wonder how many men can say the same.

      A big KOTAW “Here Here” cheer to this: “My two doggies, however, remind me of what is important. Stroking their fur is more important to me than maintaining a sterile home with no dog hair on the floor.”

      I couldn’t agree more!!!

      I would much rather forego cleaning and spend my time out in the dirt with Ivy, LuLU and Doosis! That’s pretty damn evident if you look at our (charmingly) messy house!

      Thank you so much for watching my monologue and for all you said about the KOTAW Girl Gang. Your writing is beautiful as always and touches my heart immensely. It makes me want to write more and more just for the possibility of getting to read more of your writing in the comments section. You are very talented too and I hope you will keep sharing your gift with me — and the world!

      Love you — and thank you again! xoxox

      Bri

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