We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Bernard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The most important factor behind my success and my brand is patience, persistence, and perseverance. NEVER GIVE UP!
I have learned and grown so much over the past 25 years, being in the entertainment industry, and pursuing my dreams in Hollywood. So now, through experience and life lessons, I appreciate every single audition, opportunity, and networking connection as a stepping stone on a much wider and longer path.
I live for small wins too, as they lead up to BIGGER wins, that are more validating. These acknowledge that all of the hard work and effort I put into my career on a daily basis, are in fact, paying off in the end, in a more genuine way too.
I have also learned obstacles are detours in the right direction. The 5000 No’s I have heard, make that 1 YES more validating. I have become incredibly grateful for everything and everyone who crosses onto my path. Every lesson I am supposed to learn from a situation or a person’s presence in my life at a particular moment in time, I now live in gratitude for their gift of knowledge, lesson, or opportunity they bring.
Meditation has also played a part in my success as well. I have created pages and pages of positive affirmations, specifically geared towards my life, love, health, family, friends, and of course, my career goals. Many of my friends and family have started to call me, “The Master Manifester,” as almost everything and everyone I want to come into my life, has or does. I continue to pray and meditate every single day, having my peaceful time in the morning with G-d and the Universe. I have received so many wonderful signs over the years too, so I know they are truly listening and I am being guided to receive miracles and on a path to greatness.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started modeling at the young age of 15 in Miami, Florida, where I was born and raised. My uncle, who is a CPA, had a school picture of me on his desk, and was doing the taxes for a big modeling agency in South Beach. They said I was gorgeous, asked who I was, how tall I was, and did I ever think about getting into modeling? My uncle called my dad later that night, and here I am, more than 25 years later, still working…
I booked my first job from my first casting, a runway show at a mall in Plantation, Florida, for Wet Seal, Express, and The Limited clothing stores. I was SOLD, I loved every minute of it! I did a couple photo-shoots in high school, but mostly building my portfolio, nothing really from other bookings. Then, in Tallahassee, while attending Florida State University, studying English Creative Writing with a minor in Computer Science, (FSU- GO NOLES! And RIP Bobby Bowden) I met a woman who changed my life forever, and still continues to follow and support my career, Marsha Doll. Marsha owns and operates one of the biggest modeling agencies in not only Northern Florida, but also in the other surrounding southern states, “Marsha Doll Models.” Through Marsha, I began to embrace and appreciate the changes my body was going through from flat-chested runway and editorial print model, to curvy and beautiful commercial print model. Through Marsha, I gained the confidence to model bathing suits and lingerie, for runway and print, and also began shooting with top quality photographers, making my modeling portfolio strong and competitive. I started to win awards at modeling competitions in the South-East region, and was making enough money to feel like this was something I could pursue professionally once I graduated from college.
When the movie wrapped in May of 1999, I moved to New York, where yet again, another modeling agent changed the game for me! Bob Dean at “Click” opened doors to photo-doubling, look-a-like work, and doing stand-in jobs, portraying some of the most beautiful and famous red-heads in the world. I started working with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz and learned about blocking and pre-lighting for big photo-shoots. For her famous “Vanity Fair” covers, Annie would set up her studio for 2-3 days in advance before the celebs even walked in the door. Through bookings with Bob, over the years I would double for Julia Roberts, Sigourney Weaver, Susan Sarandon, and Julianne Moore. And here in Los Angeles, more than 20 years later, I am still blessed with this kind of work. Susan Sarandon doubling led to a music video for famed group “Above and Beyond” recreating “Thelma & Louise” and doubling for Julia Roberts led to 2 “Lancome” campaigns. This also led to working with other big celebrity photographers such as Josh Olins and Robert Ashcroft.
Being in the right place at the right time, and always saying YES, led me to book 2 Recurring roles on Prime-time TV as well. I was invited to read for UDK Casting, a huge casting office in Hollywood, in March of 2018, for a new pilot they were casting, and I ended up signing in on 1 too many sign-in sheets accidentally. This led to being in the WRONG room at the RIGHT time! I ended up doing a cold read for a new Ryan Murphy show, and low and behold, 3 years and 5 seasons later, I am beyond grateful to be on “9-1-1.” I thank Executive Producer and Writer Tim Minear for the opportunity, for changing my life and career, and his continued support in general! I am also Recurring on “The Rookie” which just got picked up for another season as well. So to say I am grateful and humbled is an understatement. I pinch myself every day for these incredible opportunities.
None of this was easy though. For this interview, I have simply edited out all of the struggles, tears, hardships, and heartbreak along the way. There was a period of 13 years from when I moved out to LA from New York in 2003, that was filled with restaurant jobs, waiting tables, bar-tending, catering, working for event planners, private chefs, being a nanny, a personal assistant, doing everything and anything I could to pay bills, put a roof over my head and clothes on my back, until my real dreams started to manifest. I joined clubs, unions, guilds, academies, attended events, networked, and hustled. I pounded the pavement, literally and figuratively, taking head-shots and resumes door to door to casting offices, spending thousands of dollars on postage and printing, sending out mailings, looking for work, and trying to get in the door, any door, for someone to give me a chance, an audition, anything. I was grinding and persevering, day in and day out, with no win in sight. But, I had a dream, and the more no’s I heard, the more doors that closed in my face or were locked, the more I wanted it. I was determined to succeed.
I wanted to get back into acting class too, but just couldn’t afford it. So I started to submit for theater and I booked 7 shows over an 8 year window, basically creating a scene study class for myself, while getting a small stipend to perform. I kept track of every event I attended, collected business cards, kept a log of every audition, every callback, and every booking. I was relentless and organized. I created and emailed mass newsletters, continued to update my website, and tried to stay relevant in an industry that changes every 5 minutes. It is an uphill battle, that I still fight, every single day, and will continue to fight, until my dreams of winning an Oscar manifests into my reality! My dream is my life and I will never give that up.
I have documented my life and journey as well. As a Christmas gift one year, my college boyfriend gave me my first journal in 1998, and I have been writing ever since. I am now on my 37th journal, almost 22 years later, and I am turning them into my first novel. It is hard, humbling, reflective, and validating all at the same time to be writing my first book. I am reliving all the moments and people who have led me to this particular moment in time, even up to being interviewed for this magazine right now. It is all surreal, but so worth it for me!
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?
When I have friends and family come into town for a visit, I do my little “Hollywood Low-key Tour” with them. I start in Hollywood, driving by Paramount Studios on Melrose Avenue, then driving up Gower so they can see the “Hollywood” sign in the hills as we travel north passing Capitol Records. We stop to walk up and down Hollywood Blvd “Walk of Fame,” check out “Musso & Frank’s Grill” for cocktails and bites, then the Dolby Theater, host of the Academy Awards, and then The Roosevelt Hotel. Then I will drive them up the 101, heading into the valley. I will take them to the Hollywood Outlook which is atop the Hollywood Bowl, and has a view of the entire cityscape and is perfect for photo ops. Then off the Barham exit to Lake Hollywood for close-up views and photos of the Hollywood sign, driving down the hill passing Smokehouse Restaurant, Warner Brothers Studios, Disney ABC Studios, then into Burbank, by the Garry Marshall Theater, stopping for more photos in front of Bob’s Big Boy, and finally venturing over to North Hollywood for pictures in front of the Television Academy EMMYS statue. If weather and time permits, I am a big lover of Topanga Canyon adventures. Dining for lunch at “The Inn of the Seventh Ray,” shopping in the boutiques, and then heading to the Equestrian Center across the way, makes for a beautiful afternoon. Malibu and Zuma areas are my favorite beach spots, and “The Sunset Restaurant” has a wonderful Happy Hour.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
No one, anywhere in the world, can accomplish goals, dreams, or success, without the help of others, even in a small way. I am surrounded by the most amazing group of friends and family anyone can ask for. I have been encouraged and supported by the love of some of the most incredible human beings on Earth, and I am so grateful for all of them!
I have had so many friends since I was in elementary school, and all throughout high school, college, and then living in Miami, New York, and now Los Angeles. These incredible and amazing humans have supported me through everything. This loving team of friends I have managed to create for myself along the way, that continue to support and encourage me every single day, in every single way, for every endeavor and outlet of my creative feats, is humbling, to say the least. I can call anyone of these beautiful people laughing, crying, and sharing both wins and losses. Either way, I receive advice and support for the not so good news, or cheering fans and congratulations on wins and accomplishments. It is humbling and validating to be loved, feel loved, and give love back to them in return.
My father, who never wanted to see his little girl fail or have heartbreak, for many years, always encouraged me to have a “back-up plan” other than side hustle from waiting tables or catering, in case acting didn’t pan out. But then, when I had a super successful run of a play in the beginning of 2017, he flew out from Florida to LA to see my show. At the end of his visit, he had an epiphany that changed our relationship for the better. Seeing me on stage, sitting next to big celebrities in the theater, being a part of the standing ovation, and then watching and beaming proudly as fans approached me at the end of the show to chat, congratulate, or to take pictures with me, changed his perception of my career for the greater good. At the end of our incredibly wonderful week together, my dad told me that he finally “got it” and understood my love and passion for my craft. He told me he would now be the first to encourage and cheer me on when I had a bad day or didn’t book a job I thought I was a shoe-in for or desperately wanted. He said he would continue to support me until I reached all of my goals, and he was proud of my perseverance and persistent nature to continue to shine brightly, even when there was no light.
Other: IMDB: https://www.imdb.
Shandon Photography Albert Ortega