Right before my last year of college, I found myself sobbing on a random friend's couch a couple days before I was going to head to Kazakhstan. I felt that all the clothes had been stripped off of me and I had been left with nothing but my own sad soul. For the first time in my life, I had finally come to the realization that I was alone. Society enables us to cover ourselves with material things, people and statuses to make us feel as though we are more than we are. But at the end of the day, each and every one of us is still just a bag of bones and a sac of flesh. At the age of 20, I had to accept this.
For years, I tried to fight the idea of being alone. I fought my hardest to try to integrate myself into families or even start families of my own. I knew how to love so I figured I could find someone to love me just as easily as I gave my love away. But, eventually, I found that most love was short term and only lasted a moment. This kind of love was beautiful in it's own temporary way.
I also found another kind of love. This love promised to last forever. It agreed to be family with no end in sight. So I gravitated towards. I fought for it. I craved it.
Today, I find myself sobbing for my current self. For the first time in my life, I have experienced true and deep unconditional love through the hearts of a couple of very good friends. When I had finally came to accept that I was alone, I found that I wasn't. However, if I had never accepted that I was alone, I more likely would have never realized that I wasn't. Learning to love myself as if no one else ever would unlocked the most real and true side of me. I suddenly found myself empowered and unstoppable. Dreams and goals I had for years were suddenly coming to fruition left and right. I started meeting the people I had only previously dreamed of meeting and had the opportunities coming into my life that I thought were impossible. Life was suddenly unlocked and I was finally unhindered.
It was in this moment, that I had people fight for me. Not because I was suddenly more valuable for my talents or because of who I knew. But because they had seen the most broken and worst side of me. They hadn't seen what I had been through, but they saw glimpses of the effects. Most people would give up on me as soon as signs of my traumatic past began to show. But for the first time in my life, I finally found family that chose to accept me and all my brokenness and flaws.
To those who have been broken, self love first and the rest will follow.
One of the most important things about being an artist, or a professional anything, is to find your own authentic self. For a long time, I struggled with dancing. I loved it, but didn't seem to flourish with it. It wasn't until one night at 2AM when I was asking my hip hop crew director how I could improve that he told me the most revolutionizing advice. He said I was too in my head. When I danced, he could see me thinking. Granted, the choreography was literally fourteen moves in one eight count. (For those of you who don't know dance, that basically means, incredibly fast). Trying to shut my brain off and just allow the music to move me seemed impossible.
It wasn't until three years later when I began burlesque dancing that I finally understood. I was new to the scene and had only begun burlesque dancing. Up until this point, I had never worn pasties. For awhile, I never planned to. But one day I came across an audition for The Damn Devillez, a rock horror burlesque company. I had a feeling that I could join the crew and be successful at it. However, they were notorious for being ranchey and I still hadn't even worn pasties. But, I decided to go to the audition anyway and see if dance-wise I was at least cut out for it. Sure enough, I made it in. However, the director instantly warned me that I had to be ok with wearing pasties, otherwise, the company was not for me.
Seconds before hitting the stage with the band, I sank deep into the back of my mind. For the first time in my life, I triggered my alter ego, Alicia Cirque. As a kid I was always shy, nervous and painfully modest. But I was always aware that I had a dark side creeping around somewhere in the back of my mind, I just never knew how to access it. It was that moment before hitting the stage that I found it. I was suddenly some one else and I took over the stage with a level of confidence that I never knew I had.
Most people from my hometown see me burlesque dancing now and take it as a sign of promiscuity or loss of identity. I had to deal with a lot of criticism for it. It bothered me at first, but as time went on, the comments ceased to bother me at all. What they saw as promiscuity, I knew was confidence. I felt more enabled and empowered to be myself and embrace who I was fully. Moreover, my artistry flourished and from that day on, people began recognizing me as a dancer. Not just because I was a burlesque dancer that wore pasties, but because I had the confidence to develop my own sense of unique movement that set me apart from the rest of the industry and allowed me to get booked on a numerous more jobs than most dancers.
Of course, you don't have to wear pasties to be successful. You just have to be ready and willing to accept and understand who you are and allow and your most authentic self to shine through.
One of the best decisions I made was to start my own company. After spending a solid year hustling my ass off and losing some nights of sleep, I had established myself as an LA dancer. This was a huge deal to me! Moreover, the amount of success I had in such a short amount of time was fairly unheard of. Again, it wasn't from an insane amount of talent or some crazy supernatural gift I had. It was only from working incredibly hard, non-stop, for a year. And that was were I found my great success.
As I came around to my anniversary of being a dancer and making it a part-time job that supplemented for half my income, I stumbled on an opportunity at Rainbow Bar & Grill. Having been married to a musician previously, I knew this was a worldwide famous spot in the rock world so I was pretty thrilled about the opportunity to dance there.
Starting on New Years, I launched my new project and had four girls dance at a new after hours spot that the band manager was opening up. We had a pole and fire going along with top notch gogo dancing. At the end of the night, I sat with the girls, all of whom were friends from past jobs and looked at them. I looked at Aly in the eyes (who was later to become one of my right hand ladies) and said, "I can start a company out of this." She stared back at me and nodded. I could see in her eyes that she believed in me just as much as I knew I could believe in myself. As soon as I knew she had my back, I was set.
It's been six months since that day and together with my amazing team, we've already established ourselves with two solid residencies, our own production, a tour to New York and getting booked at major events. It goes without saying, but time has shown me and proved to me that I was meant for this. So many little building blocks and steps along the way all tied together for the one divine moment that I would be given a chance to take advantage of the opportunity.
Life always has a way of preparing us for what we need to do. I once had a professor tell me that nothing was ever wasted in the economy of God. If we trust the process, everything always comes around in a full circle
One of the greatest challenges I had in building my career was finding the right people to surround myself with. It's a common saying that you are who you hang out with. I find this to be incredibly true. I was born into a world of pessimism. I was told that one in a million people became rock stars so you might as well not even try. But today, I live in a world where I'm surrounded by rock stars. It's made me realize that whether or not you become a rock star is not just contingent on your destiny but also on your decisions and tenacity to work hard to be that one in a million.
I grew up in a world believing it was impossible to build a living as a dancer, especially because I didn't start ballet by the age of 3. However, today, my entire income comes from dancing. The greatest key to making this happen was by letting go of everyone who told me it was impossible. I learned to stop surrounding myself with people who told me I couldn't and started finding people who told me a could. Once that happened, my entire world was unlocked.
Naturally, it was incredibly painful letting go of so many friendship and relationships. I had to go through a divorce and cut emotional ties with my blood family. Both things were painful and scary. I had spent my entire life fighting to not be alone. But at the end of the day, I had to CHOOSE to be alone for the sake of my own mental and emotional health. Coming to the point of realizing I was a struggling artist in LA with absolutely no safety net and no one who would always have my back was one of the most terrifying and soul crushing realizations of my life. And it was one that I had no choice but to accept. I stopped trying to fill the hole and allowed myself to experience the hurt that came with being alone rather than trying to find something (probably something or someone unhealthy) to fill it.
Only then did my new found family finally have the space find it's way into my life.
More often than not, it takes letting go of everything to finally find what was always meant to be. You have to be able conquer the fear of being alone and having nothing. By allowing yourself to be in that position, you naturally make room for all the good things that were always meant to be.
One of the most common questions I get is, "How?"
How did I become a full-time performer living in Bel Air, doing six to ten shows a week? Or in other words, how did I create my dream life? When I started out, I would have loved a handbook to guide me along. Instead, I had to follow my gut and hope that it would move me somewhere. Thankfully, it worked and often it's impossible to fail if you do follow your gut. However, I can make things easier for you tell you in five easy steps how to begin:
1. Go To Shows
2. Meet People
The more people you meet and the more friends you have, the more likely someone will remember you when they are trying to look for your kind of talent. When I started off, I began doing free or low-paying gigs. I found people I liked to be friends with and always tried to leave a good impression with whoever was in charge. To this day, I'll still get calls from random connections I've met overtime.
3. Diversify Yourself
When I began dancing, it was very clear that I was one of the worst. Out of all the people on my high school dance team, I probably had the least amount of potential to become a professional dancer. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was because I had no experience. My only competitive edge was that I could do flips. However, my aging body was already warning me that that wouldn't last for long. By lucky coincidence, I stumbled into the circus aerial arts and found my niche. To this day, I book more work than most of my friends who are technically trained dancers. The reason why is because I do fire, aerial silks, lyra hoop, and pole on top of regular dancing. This allowed me to make myself ten times more marketable than the average dancer.
5. Understand Yourself: Body, Mind, Soul
And finally, the most important things about being an artist of any kind is understanding yourself. You have to know what your body is capable of and what looks best on you. You also need to have a deep understand of yourself and who you are. An artist that doesn't know who they are and simply copies the moves of another person will never excel or be memorable past a certain point. The only way to make a lasting impression is to find your own movement and skill that sets you apart. This comes from training but also from reaching deep within and learning how to express your soul. And that is what will separate you completely from any other artist.
But it was at no small cost. As most dreams do, my dream required an awful lot of sweat, blood and tears. To this day, people ask me how I did it. How did I become a successful performer in Hollywood? How did I build my own company by the age of 24? I was also often asked why. Why did I spiral down such a dark path? Why was a straying from my religious background and becoming something that my hometown considered disgraceful? I did my best to answer the first set of questions. However, it's difficult to explain in a single text something that took a quarter of a lifetime to achieve. As for the second set of questions, I completely ignored those. The complexity of what I went through in life could not be explained in a single text.
Today, I decided that it was finally time to answer all the questions.
But the beauty of life is that they are not. People are allowed to change and flourish as life pushes them along. So here's my story, packed with plenty of tips on how to become a full-time performer and overcoming challenging odds. I hope it helps you along your own journey.