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In the glitz & glam of Hollywood, success stories often seem like they’re ripped straight from the script of a fairytale. The guy gets the girl. That one dude wins the Oscar… again. And nobodies become somebodies overnight. Post-Award Season depression doesn’t help.

Being waterboarded with others’ success can blind you from their failures, too. The logical side of us knows there is no success without failure. But those little gold men make it look so picture-perfect. It’s crucial to remember that behind every nomination is a journey rife with struggle and sacrifice.

To honor these stars is to honor their wins, their losses, and every practice in between. To remind ourselves it did not and could not happen overnight.

Take my story, for example. We already know that being the son of a prolific film producer wasn’t necessarily a walk in the park. That aside — I started working in the CAA mailroom while I was finishing my studies at UCLA. There’s nothing I can tell you about the mailroom that you don’t already know (or the book by David Rensin didn’t cover). Then, I went to ICM to work for Ed Limato. And then Inter-Talent, where I was fired. Yes, you read that right — fired.

You might assume from my background that I’d be the golden child, but no one is untouchable. 

After picking myself up, I went to work for Dolores Robinson, where I met my now business partner Erwin More in the elevator. I worked for him until we started our own company in 1991. It took some punches to get to that point.

I’ll spare you the retelling of my hiatus from the industry for several years in 2005. The point is I’ve messed up and failed and had to start over many times in my career. Really, I think everyone starts over every day anyway.

Now for a few perfect examples we all know & love: Lily Gladstone, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Rachel Zegler.

Is it too soon to call Lily Gladstone a household name? I don’t think so. This Academy Award-nominated actress not only captivated audiences, but shattered barriers as the second Native American woman to play a protagonist role in the last 16 years. Yes — you read that right. Talk about having the odds against you.

And, yet, that didn’t stop her from walking the red carpet at the Oscars last weekend. She knew that moving to LA off the bat wasn’t right for her. She wasn’t “like all the other girls” she saw on television. Her path would, unjustly, be longer and harder than her white counterparts. Thus, Gladstone’s beginnings were in a humble Montana theatre, a touring theatre troupe, then a French film “Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian.”

And when she finally took the bullet and spent a week in LA during spring pilot season, “She auditioned for 16 roles, including a gypsy assassin, Nancy Drew, a lost millennial nanny, a hippy-dippy psychic who’s actually a witch and a futuristic Marine sergeant on Mars.” She went O for 16. But look where she is now. Despite the systemic obstacles in her path, Lily Gladstone is a beacon of hope for equitability in Hollywood.

Who was Lin Manuel-Miranda before he was writing rap lyrics for the ghosts’ of founding fathers? Well, as everyone is before stardom, he was a student. A thespian. An improv hip-hop dancer. A Bar Mitzvah party starter. And a substitute teacher. The majority of stars have lived many lives before they reached the spotlight.

Everyone knows the classic story of Manuel-Miranda drafting his first Broadway Musical, “In The Heights,” in his college dorm room. But let’s remember — there were 9 years between his Sophomore year of college and opening night on Broadway. Even then, the world did not know his name till “Hamilton” rolled around. It’s so easy to be envious of Manuel-Miranda’s booming success, but let’s remember he couldn’t even afford to go to a Broadway show growing up. Every moment leading up to stardom is important. The ones that make us embarrassed, anxious, and scared especially.

When Stephen Spielberg cast “unknown” actress Rachel Zegler in filmed adaptation of “West Side Story” (2021), the world saw her as an overnight success. But Zegler had been creating this life for herself from the day she learned to sing.

In high school, Zegler posted nearly 200 videos to her YouTube channel, biding her time till she could study professionally in undergrad. She wandered into the “West Side Story” casting call on Twitter (X) at age 16, launching her into a full year of auditions against 30,000 other actors. She was still performing in her high school Spring musical when she was cast. What a way to graduate.


The paths to “making it” in Hollywood are as diverse as the actors who dare to pursue them. Lily Gladstone, Lin Manuel-Miranda, and Rachel Zegler have little in common. Besides becoming household names NOT overnight, but through deliberate and resilient practice.

Succeeding is accepting to fail. Stardom is the work you do today. Your moment in the spotlight may be closer than you think.