We had the good fortune of connecting with Kate O’Neill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kate, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
Giving up has never really been an option for me. I think when something is extremely important to you, giving up is out of the question. Growing up, my Dad always described me as someone who never gives up on anything – whether that be gymnastics or the tenor saxophone, I always saw things through until the end. 2020 really tested me, as it did a lot of us. I was faced with the possibly of losing my chance to move and work in the US. Two months before I was due to fly, Australia closed international borders and flights were grounded. I could either ‘give up’ and lose my Greencard, or fight for a way to keep my dreams alive. The rules changed daily – new border restrictions, flight cancellations, immigration bans and travel exemptions – just to name a few. People told me I was crazy for wanting to go in spite of all this – but I couldn’t just give up. I honestly felt that I was meant to be here, and that, if that were true, a path would reveal itself; and it did. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life (and continues to be), but I’m just not one to give up. People are always going to tell you to let go or to give up on things – ultimately they just don’t understand. To them (most of the time) it’s about keeping you safe. For a lot of us, giving up on a dream is like giving up on life. You have to know, and trust your gut. There will always be people telling you you’re crazy for moving to LA during a pandemic, or that you should give up on that career that isn’t gaining traction, but you just have to know in yourself that what you’re fighting for is real, valid, and important enough to risk it all. When you feel that strongly enough about anything, there is no way to possibly ‘give up’.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The last 12 months have been about self discovery – working out who I am and what I stand for. I think it has taken me a long time to really feel like I have a sense of who I am, and what sets me apart from others. Looking at myself today, I would say my work ethic, my resilience, my vulnerability, and my empathy set me apart. A year ago, I would have given very different answers! The achievement I am most proud of, would have to be moving to LA last year. It was the most challenging thing I have done in my life, and something I am extremely proud of! Recently, I have really started to believe in the universe guiding me to where I need to be. I believe I am meant to be here in LA. There were so many obstacles I faced in getting to where I am right now – however, in spite of everything 2020 threw at me, I made it, nonetheless. I would say one of the biggest things I have learned along the way is that a positive mindset is everything. Learning that it is ok not to be ok, and that there is nothing wrong with needing a little help from time to time. My story is only just beginning. I have so much more to learn, to do, and to achieve. I want to tell stories about people who feel different, who feel like they don’t fit in with their peers, and feel alone. I want to tell these stories, because I know the power we have as artists to help people, to instigate change, and to start conversations. To me, that is what art is all about – the human experience in all shapes and forms.
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 first thing I would do, is take them on a hike of Runyon Canyon – preferably late in the afternoon to see the sunset (LA has the most beautiful sunsets!). We would visit my favourite restaurants, and eat Cheesecake Factory at the Americana on the grass next to the fountain. You can’t come to the US without a diner experience, so we would have to end a late night night out with a visit to Noho Diner or Bob’s Big Boys in Toluca Lake. We would do the tourist things, like visiting the Walk of Fame and Griffith Observatory, and take a bike ride along Santa Monica beach. We would drive up through the hills, up to Malibu and end the trip with a day at Universal or Harry Potter World. I can’t wait! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family and friends have been my rocks throughout my life. They have supported my dreams emotionally and financially, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have such a strong support network. My parents (for obvious reasons) were not mad about the me moving over to LA in general, let alone in May of 2020 – however, knowing how important it was to me, and understanding what this move represented for my future, they encouraged me, supported me, talked me down from the many pre-move meltdowns, and loved me. I would not have been able to do any of this without them. I also wouldn’t be here without the incredible Jessica Orcsik. Over the years, Jessica has been my guide, mentor, teacher, friend, boss, and housemate. She has always encouraged me to be a better version of myself, and challenged me both personally and in my career. I never would have even considered living in LA if it was not for her. She gave me somewhere to live, a wonderful job working for the American Arts Film & Television Academy, and a friendship that I will cherish forever.
Headshots by Sally Flegg Photography.