Putting on a ball gown is hard. In the Cinderella story, it’s easy. The Fairy Godmother appears, and poof! Cinderella is off to the ball.
In real life, that transition can take years. Or it never happens at all. Most of us stay content with sweeping cinders and crouching in corners because going to the ball is infinitely more scary. Somehow we have learned that our deepest desires are wrong, and to follow them means sure ruin.
Growing up in Orange County, California, I was always told not to want too much or dream too big. Because money is hard to come by and artists are crazy. So forget your silly artistic dreams, get yourself a good, safe job and stash your money away. And you’ll be happy someday.
So, I tried that. I tried to behave and follow the rules of whitewashed suburbia. Because I was an A+ student, my father encouraged me to be what every middle class parent wants for their child: “Be a doctor or lawyer!” he said. But the artist I was born to be could not be contained. And yet, I wasn’t ready to defy everything I’d ever been raised to believe.
So I thought: “Ok, if I’m not going to be ‘crazy’ and run off with some figurative circus, what can I do with my life that is creative and yet will make money?” For a while, I was stumped. Until one day my sister – who was a professional dancer and for whom I had designed many costumes – said, “Let’s start a dance costume business.”
And we did. Suddenly, we were off to the races – and it was a success! It wasn’t long before we had a thriving business, and we were costuming dancers all over the world. My designs also began appearing on television. So You Think You Can Dance, Dance Moms, Raising Asia, and Ex-Wives of Rock all came a-calling.
I was happy. My parents were happy. Life was good, and I had achieved a balance of art and commerce that seemed to be the golden ticket to happiness.
And yet, why did I still feel like I was sweeping up ashes and forgoing the ball?
Well, because there was this little pesky dream of being a rock star that had haunted me since I was a child. Haunted me because I’d always refused to let it see the light of day. Given my upbringing, there was no letting this ugly monster out of the closet. Instead, I let it roam the far recesses of my mind like an angry demon in the attic.
And when the rumbling and wailing upstairs became too loud, I finally had to listen.
And so, here we are. I’m about to launch my first EP, and I just shot the music video for my first single, “Just Enough Rough.” Am I excited? Beyond a doubt! But the monster I released from the attic is now roaming free, and I’m scared…
Days before filming the “Just Enough Rough” video, I stood in front of a mirror in a half-finished ball gown – a Cinderella dress I designed and was having made for the shoot – and I thought: “Who do you think you are? Your seamstress is on the floor cutting your hem and you are standing there like some entitled princess! You should get on the floor and cut your own hem (as if this were physically possible). Or better yet, get out of the gown. The gown is scary. Just go back to cutting other people’s hems, and give up this rock star nonsense.”
When we finished the fitting, I took the dress off – and felt safe again.
Later that night, I felt even safer as I put the dress on my mannequin and began applying appliqué and rhinestones, while I listened to Eddie Trunk interview my favorite band, Skid Row. How familiar! How many hours have I spent doing this? Making costumes for other people, while I listened on the sidelines to my favorite rock stars talk about living their dream.
And isn’t it funny that here I was, about to step into that dream myself, and I was faltering. I couldn’t believe that this beaded blue gown on my mannequin was for me. For ME? And do I really want this gown? Of course I do. But aahhhh!!! Am I about to step into some unknown black abyss that the monster in my attic has lured me into?
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Evening is coming, and I stand in my blue ball gown in the Mojave desert on the day of our shoot. The last embers of the setting sun will flicker on the horizon before giving way to the half moon. My giant tulle skirt, dragging on the ground, has now picked up all manner of desert flora – brambles, twigs, and thorns – as we shoot take after take of me making my way across a barren landscape of yucca trees and cracked earth.
Suddenly, strangely, I know that I have arrived. This dream is meant for me. Unlike a mirage in the desert, this no longer seems like some glittering ephemeron, but rather something more real and lasting than the suburban American Dream I was raised on. This dress feels good – with all its tatters and brambles. And it suddenly feels like home. Made by me, for me. And alas, the monster in my attic seems not to have led me to an abyss, but to real water in the desert – and to what I hope will be a lifetime of going to the ball.
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“Just Enough Rough” music video will launch November 15, 2015. Starring Kelly Maglia, Windu Ben Sayles, Alex Williamson, Jess P. Tzimas, Jason Lobell, and Dave Plesh. Story and concept by Kelly Maglia. Directed by Veronica F. Nichols. Director of Photography: Joseph Hendrickson. Costume design: Kelly Maglia. Editor: Matt Zane. Producer: T Keaton-Woods.