We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Lawson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, so before we jump into specifics about your story and work, let’s start higher level. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
I’ve learned that pursuing your creative endeavors with an entrepreneurial spirit is incredibly important because it is ultimately up to me whether I’m working or not. Not an agent, or a manager, or anyone else who professes to have influence over my career. It doesn’t matter whether you want to work in theater or run a major studio or production company. Creatives who know how to collaborate and build their own projects from the ground up have a stronger grasp of what it takes to make things happen, and develop skills that can be useful across multiple platforms. Critical is knowing when and how to pivot when one approach is no longer serving you. It’s about not buying into the narrative that only 1% of people actually make it the entertainment industry. It’s about figuring out what you need to do to keep your passion going. It’s challenging, but possible, and requires a hungry seeking spirit to continue finding fulfillment in your life. If things aren’t working….pivot don’t quit. Also, as a producer who entered the industry as an actor, I saw how empowering it is to have some knowledge about every facet of your career. Just like they say directors should always take at least one acting class to understand the point of view from which they are directing. Actors should experience script development, directing, writing, budgeting, etc. in some way to have a sense of what it takes to build the work they’re auditioning for.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am attracted to narratives that fall on the opposite side of the spectrum from my life experience. When I started out as an actor, I wasn’t inspired by opportunities within my “niche” or “brand”. Developing stories I was passionate about as a producer was where I discovered my voice, and learned that a theme of advocacy always found its way into my work. I am motivated by impact, not necessarily entertainment which could be seen as the complete antithesis to wanting to be in the entertainment biz. The challenge will be to have impact without talking AT my viewers, and instead engaging them in dialogue and a change of perspective somehow. Now with more platforms embracing content developed directly by talent the industry model has become much more promising. We have creators like Lena Waithe, Issa Rae, Phoebe Waller Bridge, Ava DuVernay who have been truly inspirational for me. Artists, particularly women of varying demographics are changing the narratives on our careers and are changing the world by offering perspectives that are no longer oft-told.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One thing that sold me on moving to Los Angeles was having access to the beach year round. My favorite place to go for a swim is Hermosa Beach. Close by on Pier Avenue there are great restaurants to go to after a long swim. The Source Cafe has a great menu and is my favorite go-to. I love to go hiking as well. There’s that song “Nobody Walks in LA” by Missing Persons. Great song, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! I find hiking to be the best active meditation there is. My favorite spot is Bronson Canyon. Staycations are also what makes the LA life so great. If you want desert, you can go to Palm Springs, if you want to be by the water, there’s Malibu, Santa Barbara, and anywhere in Orange County. We relax in Lake Arrowhead and just discovered how charming and quaint IdyllWild can be! I eat primarily vegan so I find myself a regular at places like Sage in Echo Park and Crossroads Kitchen in West Hollywood. For some great down-home vegan eating try The Compton Vegan. You can find them @comptonvegan on Instagram.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost, I am grateful to my parents, who have been incredibly supportive of my path as an artist. From the day they took me to my first Broadway play, and bought me my first piano, to supporting my dream to go back to NYC, where I was born and attend NYU to be a trained theater actor, they gave me the chance to live my best life. Of course, my husband, Leonardo Lawson, whose expertise as an entrepreneur in the fashion industry has taught me valuable skills in understanding collaborative relationships. Also, my PLURAL OF BLOOD TEAM which includes writers Sylvester K. Folks, Kiki-Lambden Stout, writer/director Mary-Lyn Chambers, and Super Producer Roxy Shih, and all the cast and crew. We all collectively came together to create a beautiful story that has gone on to win awards and has potential for further development. There’s an amazing book that has shaped my perspective on entrepreneurship titled Firestarters: How Innovators, Instigators, and Initiators Can Inspire You to Ignite Your Own Life by Kathy Palokoff, Paul Eder, and Raoul Davis. This book provides great insight into the crucial difference between people who make things happen and those who only think about making an impact. My Buddhist practice with the Sokka Gakkai International whose mission to cultivate capable people through mentorship has kept me grounded. It has helped me visualize myself as a creative person in terms of service to others, and even guided me towards participating in creative writing programs for kids at 826LA . Collaborating with children and helping them find their voice through storytelling is the best way for me to pay my journey as an artist forward.
Personal photo by Matt Morgan Ashly Covington BTS and Stills Photography for The Plural of Blood Amandala Photography for BTS of 826LA’s Tell Me A Story Event