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How to be your own Best Actor/Actress

The Oscars have come and gone with another flurry of fabulous frocks, incredible upsets (!) and all around Hollywood awesomeness.

In the wake of the golden man comes a wonderful new book by Fil-Am actress and writer Shelene Atanacio, who is on a mission to help us normal people learn to better our lives and live out our dreams through the very techniques that our favorite thespians use.

Thecommich had a lovely chat with the pretty Pinay and found some interesting parallels between us — our traditional Filipino upbringing (where the “role” of Maria Clara – the meek, mild and self-sacrificing heroine/victim of our national epic Noli Me Tangere – is expected to be fulfilled by every woman), our desire to be strong mothers and independent businesswomen, and the confusion that results when these two poles of our identity meet. Luckily for me, Shelene’s done most of the dirty work and researched effective ways for people to break through the roles that life thrusts upon them, finding instead the real person they aspire to be.

Shelene’s book, Act from the Inside Out, uses the author’s own personal journey through the craft of acting to show us how to write our own life script, stretch our “acting muscles” to fulfill the roles we want in real life, and (for the ladies) tap into our inner Goddess.

Shelene only started acting about 9 years ago. “I always wanted to be an actor but I was always very shy so never wanted to pursue it… it was through acting and just getting out there that I uncovered a lot of hidden parts of myself.”

The process of acting not only led Shelene to discover her true talent, it also opened up the possibility to fulfill the other roles she wanted to play in her real life: that of a good mother and provider. “The way I was raised as a Filipina – where sometimes you can’t be as direct as you want – how does that translate into being a businesswoman? I’ve had to overcome that using different acting scenarios.”

A drama coach provided the necessary tools. “My teacher [has a technique] called ‘stretch work’ where he puts us into improvisational exercises; we work with other actors in strengthening the weaker parts of ourselves. So if it’s about being direct or being a strong businesswoman, then you set up those scenarios and keep ‘working that muscle’ ‘til you become confident and you can fly through it gracefully. Definitely great advice for people who find challenges in marketing themselves or asking for what is due them.

Another technique involves surrounding yourself with characters much like the one you would like to be. In the scenario of wanting to be a successful businessperson, Shelene advises you to “surround yourself with successful women and men, see the way they communicate, the mindset that they have, the challenges they overcame when they grew up and [use that to] help you learn from them as mentors.” By mimicking what successful people do in their day to day lives, you can learn to internalize the process and thus “own” the role – becoming a success yourself.

Of course, there is no magic want or single technique to becoming a better person. As Shelene says, “like acting, [your life] is always a work in progress, and as a craft that always needs to be refined.” But hopefully with this little gem of a book, that refinement can be that much simpler.

You may not win an Oscar using Shelene’s book, but maybe you can be the leading lady or superstar of your own life’s movie.