Most 8th grade girls wanted clothes and CK1 for their birthday. I wanted an agent.
My biggest dream at thirteen was to be on a television commercial. Since birthdays were a kid’s only bargaining chips for unreachable needs, I begged my mom that summer to gift me with an agent so I could get on TV. My friend had an agent and got hired as an extra in a Six Flags Fiesta TX commercial. I called her several times that month; she was way less enthused than was warranted in the face of this golden ticket. I grilled her for details. I don’t know, she said...it was fun? I gripped my tire swing in jealousy, cordless phone wedged between shoulder and ear.
I bought a book with my babysitting money called Acting in Television Commercials. It was delightfully instructive; I practiced all my different “beats” should I ever be called upon to sell yogurt convincingly. I dragged my mom to an open casting call for extras for the second Ace Ventura movie that happened to be shooting in our area. After hours of standing in line, we discovered we did not fit the profile for the “tribal” extras they needed. I glared over my shoulder as we walked away. Those fools missed out on my ACTING.
I didn’t get an agent that summer. You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need, and I guess I needed years of social awkwardness and being “weird” to, I don’t know, build character or whatever high school is for. Life went on, the dream was buried, but like my middle school penchant for telling light bulb jokes I didn’t understand , it didn’t die.
Flash forward to my post-college working girl years. I was employed as an office assistant at a mission organization, and over our lunch break, my coworkers and I would gather round the Youtube to watch funny videos and giggle into our sandwiches. One day, they pulled up Bon Qui Qui and Anjelah Johnson’s Nail Salon routine. This comedienne had blown up on the internet and was now the spokesgirl for our regional taco chain, Taco Cabana. Those videos became one of our favorite lunchtime diversions. So when Robert, my taco-loving coworker, got an email about TC’s first ever Talent Contest, he forwarded it straight to me.
“You have to do this,” was all he wrote.
I scanned the email, and the 8th grader in me started belting Mariah Carey into the limelight that was now descending around me (being Mariah was also an 8th grade dream, though somewhat less reachable). “Win a year’s worth of free tacos and shoot a commercial with Anjelah Johnson! Tell us, in 2 minutes or less, why you should be the next ‘face’ of Taco Cabana.” Oh yes, I breathed. I will TELL you. This here's your face.
I decided, naturally, to rap my reasons. I had developed a latent skill of composing cheesy raps during college--more a function of my sense of humor entwined with my nerd grasp of language than my street cred. At one point I’d recorded my own version of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” as my voicemail greeting.  My friends would call me just to hear it. So I had that real world experience.
I found a beat online and got that thing wrote. Now I just needed to shoot it. I had learned video editing working in the A/V Department at my university (in my bid to be a filmmaker if I couldn’t be an actress. I’ll just make movies and cast MYSELF), and I was about to start a new position in the Creative Department at my church. I very hesitantly approached my friend and Operations Pastor, himself very adept at graphics and video, and asked if I could, you know, maybe borrow the church studio and he could maybe shoot my project, and I’d take care of editing everything? I promised him tacos if I won. He agreed with alacrity.
We shot it, I edited it, and we submitted it. And I won it. A couple of months later, I went to Austin to shoot the commercial. I had a blast meeting Anjelah, then had a panic attack and barely squeaked out my one line in a forgettable commercial. I guess the universe knew I wasn’t meant to be an ACTRESS. (But it also never gave me a real shot at being Mariah, so I have some beef with the universe’s decisions. I’m still looking for its Complaint Box.)
Here’s the link to my submission video so that you may gawk at its awkward splendor. Still signing autographs, btw. If you can find me, since I never leave my gated castle on the private island I bought with all dat change on account of all dat fame.
 How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the light bulb has to truly WANT to change. (I get it now.)
 “Y’all act like you never left a message before, jaws all on the floor, lookin’ worse than before you first made the call, ripped the phone right off the wall, expectin’ me to be here y’all?”