We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Chloé Hepner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie Chloé, how do you think about risk?
Fear feeds me every day. As a society, I believe we are indoctrinated to play it safe, to stay within what we know, to fear the unknown… and to me, that’s why a lot of us are bored with our routines. If we add curiosity-driven risk into our routine, as a habit, then we are intentionally rejecting the hamster-wheel.
Risk comes into play in every aspect of my life: ever since I started taking creative risks when acting, the jobs and opportunities started to abound. On the business side, every time I HAVEN’T followed my curiosity because an opportunity seemed “too risky,” I’ve regretted it. The cliché holds true to me: “I’ll regret it if I don’t.”
I was raised to take mitigated, educated risks, and to distrust everyone and everything. This is not a shortcoming on my parents… they lived different realities than I do as an adult.
Risk to me does not mean deliberately getting out of control and being reckless, possibly harming myself or others, but it means LETTING GO of control. Letting go of trying to control outcomes, letting go of being consumed by a result. I would rather be consumed with curiosity. Nowadays it sometimes feels like a risk to even leave your house. And anyone who feels this way, I beg you to give yourself grace. To embrace small risks like sending that text, showing someone you care, wearing THAT shirt, and even smiling to a stranger. The idea is not to go crazy overnight, but to take smaller risks, assess how you feel, and know that you’ll be okay.
This has led me to travel the world and even get to live in beautiful places and meet wonderful souls:: from Buenos Aires, to Italy, to Mexico, to NYC, to California… and I am sure more incredible destinations are in the cards. Risk to me means being OPEN to receiving the curious impulses and allowing myself to follow them, and not succumbing to the fear and the ‘play it safe’ mentality that the corporate ladder has instilled upon us. Someone who left a big mark on my life would always tell me to look up, to not look just at the pavement I’m pounding. Up is limitless. Up is risk. Up is ready to be conquered. And when you’re flying up there, lead by example and bring others up with you. Even if it’s for a short ride, to show them what they, too, can be.
One of the most meaningful business partnerships I’m currently in started off because I responded to a Tweet. It was risky! I didn’t know this person, Twitter is public! What if they don’t even acknowledge me, And here we are, many Zooms and coffees later, producing multiple international films together. I’ve learned to make the phone calls, book the flight, crash the party (always be dressed to crash a big party!), say YES and SHOW UP in the face of fear.
When I feel fear about a social setting, a work decision, or even sending that email (let’s face it, we all do!)… I journal. I ask the fear what it’s trying to tell me. What is this fear–of failure, of rejection, of instability, of CHANGE– showing me about where I’m at?
And it will answer back, calmly. This is what thoughtful risk means to me. It’s about taking the plunge, making that BOLD acting choice, writing that raunchy, cringe-worthy joke, asking for that favor… because the truth is, nothing happens if we don’t take the risk. Nothing changes. And the nothingness is safety of what we already know.
What’s the worst that can happen if I risk asking someone out? Or investing *disposable* income into crypto? Or applying for that job that I believe, because of conditioning, I’m unqualified for?
YOUR FEAR IS JUST YOUR BRAIN SHUTTING DOWN YOUR CURIOSITY. And genius stems from curiosity. Genius happens because of asking questions and diving deep. If Albert Einstein, Katherine Johnson, Da Vinci, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Basquiat, Marie Curie, Shakespeare, Jason Robert Brown, Stephen Hawking, Daniel Day Lewis… pick YOUR genius…
If any of them had succumbed to fear of being different, the fear of being broke, the fear of being told ‘NO,’ the fear of pursuing their purpose to their fullest, where would we be?
Full disclosure: I had fear of answering this question and put it off for a few weeks! But this week, fear came knocking on my door multiple times… A day! In the past, also lived in fear of cutting certain people out of my life. Breaking what you think is your norm is risky, but I promise you, 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months, 10 years from now, you’ll STILL be thinking about both- the risks you TOOK and the ones you DIDN’T TAKE.
Make a list! What risks can you take today that you’ll be grateful you did? Mine was sitting down to write this, and having dinner with someone to start a new partnership later (Yes, I initiated the deal). I’m sure others feel the collective shift of appreciating every day, of not making ourselves small, of exploring beyond our comfort zones and being curious about the unknown. I have great creative teachers and mentors around me to thank. They’ve instilled in me a drive to take risks and know that nothing is permanent. This may sound pessimistic, but it’s actually healing. If you thrive, cherish it, savor it, embrace and love every single second it. And if you don’t, DO NOT FRET. It will be over soon, I promise. Failure after taking a risk is still a win. Because you went for it. And hopefully, you had fun and learned something in the process.
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.
As an actress, writer and producer, I’m super excited about the people that are stumbling into my life who quickly become collaborators. I’m surrounded by hilarious and talented comedians, visionaries, mental health advocates, brilliant business people, and I am so lucky they appreciate my creative input and producing skills. I fell intro producing almost by accident in 2018 when a beautiful feature film fell on my lap. And it was filmmaking bootcamp. I’m also proud of my TV pilot, Maybe This Time, that’s currently in pre-production and focused on women’s health with a hilarious twist, Because at this point, if we can’t laugh at the absurdity of modern living.. what do we have left?
I’ve recently starred in The Equalizer (CBS) and Law & Order (NBC), and being on those sets was rewarding, fulfilling and immensely inspiring.
NONE OF THIS IS EASY. Someone very close to me tells me all the time that it seems easier to become a working astronaut than to become a working actor… and while I don’t know the specifics of NASA training, I can tell you this acting game is hard. But every day I choose to be a storyteller and it continues to choose me. I wouldn’t trade this profession for any other. I get to PLAY every single day!
Some lessons I’ve learned are:
1. Trust yourself, your gut KNOWS.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask those in a position to help you.
3. Celebrate the small wins.
4. Befriend the blank page. Your first draft is just that. And no one ever filmed their first draft, so let it do what it wants!
5. You can only control very little. Breathe that in and embrace the unknown.
6. SEND. THAT. EMAIL.
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?
I’m fairly new to LA life! So far I’ve enjoyed- Malibu Canyon during the day, there’s a secret spot someone close to me showed me that I can’t name but I can point to on the map. The most stunning, quiet, breathtaking views. It makes you feel small and giant all at once. It stops time.
For a different type of hike, my best friend has put me on to “Secret Stairs of LA…” their hidden staircases with historical meaning all over town!
Biking from Santa Monica to Venice is always fun. Dinner at Hikari which is a tiny neighborhood spot with delicious sushi, drinks at Bar Lis, then head to Grandmaster Records or Bardot for dancing. Clifton’s in Downton BLEW. MY. MIND! Go at least once. The music scene there is intoxicating. If you want live jazz and getting away from pop, have a night out in DTLA. Morning smoothie recovery: Body Energy Club.
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?
Cait Madry – Clearheaded Podcast