We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Rookeward and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jessica, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
How I view my work ethic has changed massively in the last 5 years and even more since the pandemic. After college I had many learning curves due to finding my own path in America, a bi-coastal career, wrong mentors and learning where I am going to fit in this industry. I used to have the mentality of ‘go for everything I can and for every 100 jobs I audition for i’ll get 1’. This has changed as now I am more cautious and precise in my choosing of roles/jobs. Narrowing down my search and skills to perfectly fit and shape where I’m needed. I had a very unhealthy view and balance on auditioning that got me no where and even made me want to give up. This was due to listening to the wrong people and not trusting my gut. Learning my own rights and wrongs has only empowered me now to grow and be successful. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I had to shift everything. After taking months off due to depression, lack of motivation and unsure of when I would work again, it wasn’t until I made the move to LA that I found my drive and passion again with a healthier new mindset and a more peaceful balance between work and life. It took a pandemic for me to step back and see what was wrong. I am thankful in a way that this time has given me space to take a step back and look at everything clearly. I now know just how beneficial a healthy life/work balance is and the freedom that comes with it.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I moved to America when I was 18. Had just finished a production of Spring Awakening where I was nominated for two awards. I came over to America to study Musical Theatre at AMDA. I believed going to school was the best option to make contacts and to improve my skills. I wasn’t interested in the schools in Australia, I did have my eye on schools in London but something felt right about giving America a go. I graduated and went on my OPT (Optional Practical Training) and then got approved for my O1 work VISA. Being on the O1 has been one of the hardest things due to not getting a lot of jobs because of VISA restrictions. Getting down to the final few people and being told they were going to go with someone else due to not wanting to do extra paper work. I did however book some amazing jobs whilst on it like being a featured role in Little Women the movie as The Pretty Moffat Girl, working for the History Channel, recording original cast albums for new musicals, being the voice for new gaming/computer software, writing my first ever short film and staring in it, booking my first TV show as a lead role and more. I also have started getting into the stunt world as an Archer and also training people in archery. I have had to adapt and grow a thick skin because of the rejection and challenges of being on a work VISA. As hard as this as all been, I have pushed forward and worked harder than I ever thought I could to be seen as equal and worthy. I am also now a part of the ARTS FOR IMMIGRANTS as a team member and representative for Australians and other immigrants helping them on their journey. I believe I am where I am meant to be here in America, writing new stories to give voices to those unheard and to tell those stories as well. It is not easy coming here on a work VISA, for some it is smooth sailing, for others its a very rocky road but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For people out there who are thinking of doing an O1 VISA, do it, it is worth every cent. At least you are on the ground and pushing forward. Create art that pushes boundaries, make people question, ask important questions, never stop telling your story and never stop fighting for your own story. Because you never know if there is someone out who is like you, waiting for your story to be told.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The place to eat is Porto’s! An amazing cheap place to eat that we have fallen in love with. The food is incredible. Since we moved here during a pandemic, we haven’t been able to explore much or eat out so my food knowledge is limited but Pizzana and Dumpling Monster are a massive must! A place we love to go hike is Camino San Rafael in Glendale, a beautiful hike with stunning sunset views. If you ever want to come learn archery from me, you can see me at Woodley Park in Van Nuys. A great open park where we can safely socially distance. I haven’t found my little slice of heaven yet here but I am sure I will very soon. We have fallen massively in love with LA so quickly. As much as we miss New York, LA feels right, right now and I am excited to make it my new home.

Places I would recommend to people visiting LA: I would highly recommend Vasquez Rocks in Santa Clarity for a hike! It’s one of the most stunning sights I’ve seen and it is where they filmed Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and the Flintstones. Another great hiking spot is San Rafael in Glendale for an amazing sunset walk, it isn’t too hard just a few small inclines. Also, if you want more movie places then go to El Matador beach, it is truly stunning and never too busy it’s where they filmed the Notebook.
For food I recommend Porto’s Bakery, In-N-Out if a burger classic you can’t miss, Dumpling Monster in WeHo is incredible,  Miss Melbourne Coffee in WeHo or Little Ripper in Glendale for your Australian cafe needs. Lemon Poppy Kitchen is also a great cafe in Glassell Park. Verdugo bar is  probably my favourite bar so far as well!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the support of my Mum, Dad and brother who are back in Australia. They have never given up on me, never stopped believing in me and constantly support everything I do here in America. I also have my incredible boyfriend to thank for being by my side every step of the way as well. I definitely wouldn’t be here without him.

Website: www.jrookeward.com

Instagram: @littlerookeward

Youtube: Jessica Rookeward

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