DIRECTOR, EDUCATOR & ADVOCATE
March 29, 2020
A = AUDTIONS
David Connolly (D) in conversation with Stacey Kay (S) for Matinee to Z,
a series of Instagram Live Master Classes developed in response to Covid-19.
D: Please welcome, “America’s Got Talent’s Stacey Kay!!!” I know Body Positivity is subject near dear to you heart Stacey, thank you for being here. For those of you who don't know who Stacey Kay is, I mean, I'm sorry. I suggest you go into a YouTube rabbit hole. She’s not only an unbelievable music theatre performer, recording artist and YouTube sensation, but she also is a motivational speaker who speaks on this very subject.
Before we jump in, for clarity, Stacey’s speciality is that she calls herself “curvy.” My lens in body positivity is to do with disability, which to me, is the same conversation. Body Positivity to me means, every-BODY belongs on stage. Every size and shape and way of navigating the world, including blind people and deaf people and people in wheelchairs, and neurodiverse people… Right?
S: Yes! I think that people are used to seeing roles being played by the same type of person but that needs to change. Just because the original creative team had one idea, it doesn’t mean we have to be stuck with that thought for the rest of all time. Can’t we update to reflect the times? If we constantly have new phones and new televisions and everything else updating so rapidly, why can't our ideas around what people look like on stage update too? What if the ingenue is a curvy girl or in a wheelchair? How cool would that be to watch?
D: Wouldn’t that be a better reflection of the people in the audience? That's our job isn’t it? To reflect the human condition of the people watching? To continue to push the boundaries of what people think is possible?
You're getting a lot of questions about confidence. Do you have any tips or tricks to get from that place of I don't feel worthy to the version of Stacey who we meet most of the time?
S: Once I started realizing that everybody cares way less than you think. We are all so self-absorbed and everyone is caring mostly about themselves in that moment and what they look like and nobody is looking at you how you think they are. You’re just not as important as you think you are in everybody’s brains.
Also too, I do a thing where I give myself a minute to be insecure, and then I say, “Okay, cut it out.” I can convince myself of anything in a negative or positive way. I know that the more I practice confidence, the more confident I’m going to get. That said, I have to acknowledge that I'm still gonna be insecure sometimes. Like, legit this morning I thought I think this shirt makes me look fat. Then I thought, OK, you can have 10 seconds and then we’re done. We’re done now. Like people are going to watch this and think, “Stacey looks fat in her tiger shirt and if even if they do, I DO NOT CARE.”
So A. People care less than you think and B. Give yourself a second to feel insecure and know that everybody else feels that way too - but no longer than ten seconds because you’ll start to brainwash yourself. And finally, just practice looking at yourself and saying “I do like that about myself.”
My Dad is a counsellor and he plays these games. Like, we’ll say three things that we like about each other and also say something you like about yourself. So my sister the other day, we played it, she's like... I like my collar bone. I said I like my lips. It’s good to practice these things.
D: My heart just exploded.
S: What do you like about yourself David?
D: I like that I know people like you and I like that we can all be inspired by each other when we let ourselves be. And when we reach out beyond what's in our heads, 'cause this can be a dangerous, dark place until you let some light in which today, is you. And you’ve given us our assignment which is great: to come up with three things that we like about ourselves. I think sometimes people confuse pride and ego. Do you know what I'm saying about that?
S: One hundred percent.
D: Yeah, people are afraid to own what they're proud of 'cause they don’t want to come off as egotistical and sometimes that dims their light from others who need it.
OK, so you are one of the most highly motivated people that I know in as far as creating work when it isn't there. You create out of dust and when everyone else is just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, or waiting for the opportunity, Every time I look at social, you've done another video or written another song. So tell us what motivates you to keep creating as voluminously as you do.
S: Okay, well a couple of things. First, that is the best compliment ever, and I appreciate that, but it's so funny 'cause yesterday was like “I don't wanna do it.” And it's okay to take those days but what I know is that every time I put myself out there, something positive happens from it. So, when I post cover videos on YouTube, it's like you can get a crazy amount of views or no amount of views, it just depends, if that song becomes successful. So that video you showed of Fergie watching my cover, the song that I picked was her and Nicky Minaj and there was a rap and I was so excited. That song didn’t become successful though so I only had a couple thousand views on that one. But one that I posted a few weeks ago got 600 000 views, not because of me, but because that song, a Sia/ LSD song, became huge in Brazil and because it hit in Brazil, all these people were looking for covers. So, I'm always rooting for the cover songs to become successful.
But my Fergie cover didn’t go worldwide and I thought, "Oh shoot, that one didn’t work out” but that was the one Fergie ended up watching. So it didn’t meet my initial expectation but then blew up in ways I would never have dreamed of.
The way I got on America's Got Talent is that I didn’t audition, I got scouted online. So, I did this video in my boyfriend's parents’ living room in London, Ontario stuck around a fireplace singing and that’s what the producer saw. They called me on April Fools' Day, and said, "Hey this is the Producer of America’s Got Talent and we’d like you to come be on the show.”
And I was like, "Okay Mom." But then I realized it was legit and had to call my whole band on April Fool’s Day and say, “We’re flying to Los Angeles in two days to be on AGT and they were like, Sure, Stacey!” It literally took me hours to convince them. And there we were, all because of that dumb video that we made in the living room. I just noticed in my life, if I just put myself out there, good stuff comes back.
D: So many hashtags. I’m going to get a full body tattoo of everything you just said.
S: Okay, I don't usually sing musical theatre or slow emotional songs. But I was pumped up 'cause we were doing this today and I recorded a song from Waitress. I never sing musical theatre songs on my Instagram and I never sing sad songs but before this interview I recorded, and I'm gonna post it. I was too scared but I'm gonna do it now that we've been talking, I'm gonna do it. But I’m super nervous.
D: Yeah but it's good to be nervous. I love everything that you said. You gotta take your shot. OK, here’s another question: How have you learned to deal with casting rejection based on your body type? It's something I struggle with and would love some advice.
S: Yeah, that's a really good question, because that is a thing. There are pros and cons because sometimes it's good, like, "Oh looking for the curvy girl who sings pop and I'm like, Hey!”
But I don't wanna just keep saying stay positive! ‘cause that does suck when that happens. I was just refused an audition because I didn’t have the ‘ingenue look’ and it sucked. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t alone and that there is a change happening and that if I don’t keep putting myself out there, the change will take even longer.
I heard you say in your live yesterday that it’s nothing against you personally and that’s something I really have to hang on to. Whether it’s me going into an audition or I’ll show someone a song and they don’t like it… Their rejection has nothing to do with how hard you worked to create that song or that moment. Would you agree with that?
D: 100%. It's actually true. It has nothing to do with who you are inside, or what’s in your heart. It has to do with someone's subjective opinion about what they think, which you have no control over.
A big theme of these talks is: what do we have control over and what do we not have control over? Once we identify those, can we let go of the things we can’t control and grab on to the stuff that brings us joy? And can we use this time to cultivate a nourish and water and fertilize all of the seeds of the things that we want to accomplish. Because the onus for change is on us too. Sure, it’s on producers and writers, it's on theatre-goers, but as artists, as actor/ performer/ creators, we need put energy into creating your dream situation, whatever it is for you. You just said you sang Jenna from Waitress. Great! Why wouldn’t we create, digital platforms where we're singing songs against “type” whatever that is. We can start a wave of conversation… through that lens, the story is completely different, and I like it 'cause it's more interesting and way more human. But we have to be involved in that shift. We can't just wait for Jordan Roth to change the world by himself... We can help them, we can help people who are spending the money to have a different view, right?
S: What I’m trying really hard to do in 2020 is not blame other people for what’s happening and know that everyone is going to deal with every situation differently. People are going to screw up and stand too close to you in the grocery store. I’m trying to be compassionate about other people not being perfect either. It makes me look forward to creating work that might help open the eyes of the very people who are driving us crazy these days. That we have an opportunity to raise the level of compassion in the world, that we could be the ones to do that gets me so pumped.
D: Yes. I’m really optimistic about the times we're going through because I think that deeper empathy is something that is going to be a result of our situation and that people will come out the other side, longing to understand each other better.
Okay we have a couple of questions. Jill is asking about body hair stigma for females.
S: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm talking about being real and I’m sitting here with a purple weave and full face.
D: Yes, and body positivity doesn't mean don't have a full beat with a weave and lashes. To me it means “you do you.” It's just my opinion, but my opinion is body positivity is not about anything other than be authentically you and Jill, I think that's my answer to your question. If you want to have body hair, then love to your body hair.
S: And know you’re not alone. I think people need to realize that there are always so many other people out there who have the concerns as you do.
D: Yeah, yeah. In my life, I'm only saved by people who have gone through things before me. My network is it's people who I trust and respect, who have gone through this thing, whatever it is, before me, that I can ask. So I guess Jill, that’s my advice - to find like-minded people and find out how they're coping. Like, Stacey’s telling us her strategy but that's not gonna work for everybody because we're all on our own path, we're just gonna take a little bits from wherever and create our own truth.
Here’s another question, "How can I stay confident during an audition after seeing everyone else there? How do I stop comparing myself to others?”
S: That’s a good question. Okay, so first of all, every other person is doing the exact same thing. I do not get nervous on stage anymore. I don't know why but in an audition, especially in musical theatre audition 'cause it's a little bit out of my comfort zone, I freak out. And it's okay to be nervous for sure, but the thing is, if you... So like we said before, everybody looks different, they don't want everybody to look to same.. So before, when I would be comparing myself, I used to go, “Oh my God, I’m the biggest one in the room.” I’d look around and try to find one person that was bigger than me and be relieved if there was.
But then I came to learn that it was great to look different than the other three girls who all look the same, because I felt I was going to be remembered that day. It's not a bad thing to look different, be identified as something special. I used to think, I don’t want my body to define me but I actually don't mind it anymore. If they said, “remember that curvy girl with the pink hair,” then great, I gave them something to remember.
Also, remember that everyone is just as nervous including the director and producer. They want everyone to be great, they want to find their person and giving them something out of the ordinary is a bonus. So don’t worry about comparing.
D: Okay, a couple more quick questions and then we're gonna wrap up. So there's one from Megan, who asks, “Can you talk about going into schools and the reaction you get from Youth?” There's a lot of youth on this chat.
S: Yeah, so it's so funny, I usually am there for a big pump up day, kind of assembly. The kindergarten to grade eights are so fun because they're young and they're like, "I don't care!” They're just like down to party. Then you get grades nine to twelve, where everyone’s in that phase where they need to be cool and not care about anything. I love getting those people in the audience who are like, furious with their arms folded and then by the end, they’re screaming with their hands in the air. It’s my favourite thing because you can change young people’s minds so easily to positive things.
D: I cannot let you go without telling us your Brooke Lynn Hytes story.
S: Oh okay, I also write songs for other people and one day I thought, you know what - I love Brook Lynne Hytes and I know that Drag Race Canada is coming soon so I’m going to write a song for her. I’m going to call it Queen of the North and…
D: Can I just pause you for a second. Is everybody listening to this? To the, “I don't know how this is gonna work out, but I'm just gonna do it because my heart says it's something that I want to do.” Stacey, not everybody understands that in the way that you do, you’re such a force. And here’s is the happy ending…
S: So, okay, so I was sending it to weird sources and I was like, "I don't know how they’re gonna get it. I'll send it on Instagram and we're gonna to find a manager I don't know.” So, we sent it and eventually got response… cut to Brooke Lynn came in and recorded the song. I was coaching her on how to rap and it was the coolest thing. Now, there’s a very complicated process of releasing songs and I don’t know what’s going to happen but the fact of the matter is, I had a goal and thought yes, this is crazy, but let’s give it a try and it worked out! It was all so much fun.
D: OK! I don’t want to forget to mention the Broadway Body Positivity Project which I a platform to promote body positivity and diversity in theatrical casting. Founded by Stephanie Lexis who’s insta is instagram.com/broadwaybopo. Stephanie is a girl who's doing incredible work trying to push the dial in the realm of accepting all body types on stage and backstage.
And remember, your assignment is to tell yourself three nice things and tell someone else three nice things. We have nothing be time now, right? Just spread a lot folks spread love. Spread the love.