Spunky actress and model Ariel (@arieldking) is our creative of the month. Born in Evergreen Park, IL and raised in Riverdale, IL, Ariel tells us about her career journey in her interview.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Evergreen Park, IL and raised in Riverdale, Illinois.
Can you explain your career journey that got you to where you are today?
My career journey began the moment I decided to audition for a play in high school, Cinderella. Before that, my parent’s thought I had some kind of quitter complex. I had made the cheerleading, chess and track team but none of them would stick. During the audition, which was a cold read I remember thinking I had the role of Cinderella in the bag, I’ll never forget the manager looking at me sideways and asking me to read instead for the role of the Fairy Godmother.
I was offended though I had no previous acting experience. I thought this supporting role was beneath me. I quickly looked over the sides and at the other girls reading for Cinderella. I chuckled to myself, I was going to tank this read and she’d have no other choice but to cast me in the lead role. I got up and proceeded to do the most animated daffy cliche British “Fairy Godmother” I could find in my body…about half way through my read, I realized the stage manager was absolutely delighted and I would not be cast as Cinderella.
My first experience of rehearsals was daunting, I thought oh God what have I done? I was bad on purpose, now I’m in the show? Fast forward to opening night, little eyes peering up at us on the stage, Cinderella was in tears, the lights went down this was my moment..With the wave of my wand, lighting cues and sound, Cinderella transformed. The children were astounded and cheered as the dress turned into a beautiful ball gown. Every show, new groups of school children hung on every word, burst into laughter as we flittered around on the stage. The moment I cast my last spell on Cinderella I felt a wave of true magic wash over me, we brought them joy in its purest form and there was nothing else I’d rather be doing than this.
High school was full of ups and downs with heavy stints of being bullied and the love I experienced in theater. Going into college decided to pursue it heavily and finally to transition to film/tv. I scoured the internet for how to find my way into the industry as we all know there is no sure path. While browsing and submitting relentlessly to agencies in my town, I came across a talent competition for the “The “Hollywood Discovery Award”. I was sure it was a scam but figured I’d submit until they asked for money. They never did, I ended up making it into the top 5 girls and was voted the winner overall on Yahoo Movies. It was complete madness, Carlos de Abreu called my mother to wish us congratulations. “You’re being flown out to the Beverly Hilton to receive your award at the Hollywood Film Festival Awards!”.
We still couldn’t believe our ears, even while on stage staring at members from the Casting Society of America and the rep from Yahoo announce my name…I just couldn’t believe it. The next day I met a talent manager, Vincent Cirrincione that wanted to represent me and the rest is history. I left my little town in Illinois and moved to Hollywood to audition for thousands of castings, book the People v. Oj Simpson on FX, win a pageant competition and finally start writing and producing my own independents. I am humbled by it till this day, this is the very short version of this long story with many many bumps in the road but I wouldn’t change them for anything.
What are some of the difficulties you face in the industries of modeling and acting?
A great difficulty is losing sight of what has already happened and being discouraged by what we wish to happen. This is one of the most unpredictable career paths in the world and few ever get the chance to rise to that coveted percentage of performers that are recognized on the world stage. Everyday, to avoid great bouts of doubt, you must remind yourself of where you have come from, what you have to be grateful for, the growth that has happened along the way and to stay encouraged because absolutely anything could happen. It is difficult to remain optimistic unless you absolutely without question love what you do.
Finding your niche and learning how to expand on your niche in the modeling industry is also a difficult aspect. There are many models that favor you and it is an ever evolving journey to stand out to book jobs. There will always be stints where work is dry and financially the life of an artist is on edge and unstable, finding ways to supplement your income is vital.
I love to change it up as far as my image and what I want to go out for as an actress, I have auditioned for every type you could think of and the investment on staying ready to get into a room and perform is heavy. The cost of doing the work far outweighs how many times you will book as an actor starting out, understanding the work that must be done and remaining consistent is something you must become comfortable with. This path will cause you to witness the best and worst of your character and work ethic and you must keep striving.
What's a valuable lesson you have learned?
A valuable lesson I have learned is that confidence is earned through rigorous preparation. You get what you earn and there are no shortcuts to where you are trying to go. Wishful thinking without action will only lead to disappointment.
Did Covid affect your work? How have you been able to adjust?
Covid greatly affected the industry and my work. There were less jobs and opportunities. Thankfully, brands and casting directors I worked with before were just as eager to get back to work and I have been able to stay afloat through that and surprisingly word of mouth jobs from a few models and photographers I’ve worked with in the past. I'd have never thought that would be a factor in a time like this but this goes to show another great lesson I’ve learned, it is easier to be kind and sometimes your kindness will return to you when you need it most.
A beautiful outpouring of opportunities from casting directors also happened over social media which I think is a first in our industry. I found myself prepping and auditioning for monologue slams and screenings for when offices open back up, they reached out to make sure we knew we were valued and everyone is looking forward to getting back to what we love to do. I will say that I had my moments of despair and confusion like everyone else, on the flip side I also had a deep well of enthusiasm and optimism that doesn’t seem to be losing steam, even in a pandemic, political upheaval and a questionable economy.
My favorite hobbies are definitely gardening, writing, listening to movie soundtracks and helping other artists express visions they have for their career. I absolutely love helping someone I believe in recreate themselves or expand on whatever makes them special. I get a kick out nourishing plants and people.
What's one of the most wild experiences you have had?
Wow, which one will I put here, besides how I ended up here in the first place,one of the most wild experiences I’ve had is meeting a model on set and ending up in Arizona in a cabin for 3 days with 18 of her friends two days later..that was a very interesting introduction to the West Coast spirit. Other experiences I will save for a memoir, when my parents have come to terms with my adulthood.
Tell us about a favorite project you have worked on.
The People v. OJ Simpson is a favorite project I’ve worked on. I remember being terrified and nothing being able to prepare me for the shock of my first onset acting experience. This was the moment I realized I had to let go and let anything I learned in acting classes and whatever natural talent I had fly. I was surrounded by the “creme de la creme” of acting talent. David Schwimmer was as cordial and professional as one could be, he connected effortlessly, Cuba Gooding Jr was hilarious but also raised the stakes of every scene he walked into, Sarah Paulson was focused and gritty, she impressed me as actress who could take on anything, the set was family like and I have absolutely nothing negative to say.
Everyone knew Sterling K. Brown was going to win an Emmy or few and everyone brought their “A Game”. It was amazing. Something that will always stand out to me was the moment I was entering into the waiting room with the high chairs, I saw those big names on them and the Star cast and proceeded to back out of the room, suddenly I felt two hands on my shoulders gently push me back into the room without saying a word but saying so much, it was Courtney B. Vance conveying to me that I belonged there as much as anyone else. Oh and his performance as the late Johnnie Cochran, absolutely seamless, riveting. I LOVED EVERY MINUTE!
Who are your role models and why?
Courtney B Vance because he saved me from a future of ever feeling like an outsider on set and he didn’t really have to, Oprah because no matter how successful she has been, she always gives back. My parents first and foremost because I have seen them help countless individuals who could never repay them, even in times of struggle and financial turmoil in our own lives, they have hearts that do not faint when it comes to giving.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
People would be surprised to know how much I enjoy the sound of silence and how spiritual I love to be.
What are some lessons you had to learn the hard way?
No one is coming to save you.
There is no easy path to success
Bad things happen to you no matter how good your intentions.
You are going to disappoint someone you care about and they are going to disappoint you.
Love and Time are the greatest commodities you will ever have.
If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Pizza, because I can customize it anyway I wish with any toppings I desire!
What is your spirit animal and why?
I believe my spirit animal is the horse because I don’t like being caged in, I like to think and live outside the box. They are also mischievous yet endearing and love to be free and experience new things.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Well, I definitely see myself with an effective charitable organization dedicated to bettering the lives of people who have struggled with addiction or homelessness and housing families who have fallen into hard times. I also see myself in a self sustaining community of people who support each other. I see myself winning an Oscar and dedicating it to my parents, buying them a home and helping them fulfill childhood dreams they sacrificed to raise a family.
What is your favorite quote?
There is no failure, only feedback.
Best advice you have ever received?
Your purpose in life isn’t about you.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Strive for perfection in all things though you will never reach it.
Favorite movie and book?
The Joker is my favorite movie, I’ve watched it 5 times and my favorite book is Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.