Back when I was 19, after acting in a guest-starring spot on an episode of The Sopranos, a lot of things in my life changed very quickly.

Various successful individuals in the entertainment industry were conspiring to help me get representation to move my career forward. Joey Pantalone (who acted as my boyfriend in the episode) had called his agents at United Talent Agency. The casting director, Georgianne Walken (wife of Christopher Walken) had made calls to some big-time managers for me to meet with.

A month earlier I had been a cocktail waitress with no representation and not a credit to my name, now I was suddenly positioned to be represented by agents and managers that repped some of the biggest most successful talent in Hollywood. It was strange and exciting.

One of the managers that was courting me, per Georgianne Walken’s recommendation, was from a management company called Brillstein Gray. And that year one of his clients, Dennis Miller, was hosting the GQ Awards being held in a theatre on the upper west side. He and I had a meeting that went pretty nicely, and so he invited me to come to the GQ Awards.

Of course, I accepted. I remember when I accepted I had said “do I get to wear a pretty dress?” and He said “Yes!” So I guess he didn’t feel the need to reiterate to me that the dress code for the night was black tie. Also, in my naiveté, I didn’t realize that it would be filmed for TV and that it would be packed with famous people.

As a very recent college dropout, newly from the countryside of Vermont, I did not have the dresses nor the makeup prowess, nor the hairstyling ability to match the standard of such an event. I prepared for it according to my own idea of looking good: I wore gray wool pants that I had purchased from Urban Outfitters, some black boots, and an orange halter top that I got at a boutique down the street (god this sounds like a terrible outfit now that I’m writing it down). Hopefully I brushed my hair.

I got there late because I was nervous while getting ready. When the manager came out front to meet me and give me a backstage pass, my heart sank. He was crisp and elegant in a well-tailored tuxedo. He looked me over and, like a gentleman, didn’t say a word about my outfit. It only got worse from there.

He took me inside and backstage where I met Dennis Miller and thanked him for allowing me in his guest section. Then I went to my seat which was just a few rows from the front, in the center. Julia Roberts was in the row in front of me. Bijou Phillips, looking insanely stylish in a bejeweled dress with golden hair that was probably spun straight out of a loom in heaven, was just ahead of me. James Gandolfini and Joey Pantalone were behind me! Along with a shit-ton of other famous people everywhere I looked.

Giant video cameras on the shoulders of cameramen were zooming around and parking in front of celebrities. I was like: Fuck. I want. To fucking. Disappear.

Thankfully, the guy next to me was an old friend of Dennis Miller, there with his wife, and he was wearing a brown tweed suit. He too felt excruciatingly embarrassed, but I didn’t know that until we wound up on the same subway after the show and discussed our painful realizations. (We had sat next to each other on the subway too, but didn’t notice until a couple stops had passed that we were coming from the exact same awards show where he had just been sitting together an hour ago.)

The only other person dressed as casually as me was the lead singer of Matchbox 20 who performed. AND THAT’S BECAUSE HE WAS A ROCK STAR. His outfit still probably cost $2,000.

After the crowd disbursed, James Gandolfini came over to say “hi”. We had shot some scenes together and had a sweet connection. He just looked at my outfit and didn’t say anything. But we both knew what was happening. I wanted to make a joke, but the whole thing was just too uncomfortable.

Before going to the after-party I took the subway home and changed into a little black tube dress. It was cheap, but fine from a distance. By then it was too late though. The moment had passed. And I had been completely out of my league.

I tell you this story because it is glossy and Hollywoody so I hope it has gotten your attention, so that I might make a direct comparison to your process of awakening…

When a person has an experience of insight, a moment of realization, a “big break” in the spiritual sense… When they realize that they want to step onto the spiritual path, they often want to go straight to the top. They crave immediate epic transformation and want to suddenly be able to party with the radical spirits that have transcended much of the minutiae of everyday suffering.

After just one or two insights into their own true nature, they want to suddenly be invited to the cosmic GQ Awards and be flanked by awakened glitterati.

But this is neither helpful, nor appropriate for their unfolding process of awakening. If you go to the GQ Awards of spirituality too soon, you will realize that you’re totally out of your league, and wind up feeling more depressed and inadequate than if you hadn’t even been invited. This can undermine the delicate new path that is unfolding in front of you.

The point is, once you get your “big break” – your initiation into your process of awakening through an insight or revelatory experience – it’s then time to roll up your sleeves and do the daily work in your daily life.

The daily work is all the stuff that people who have just started out don’t want to deal with: It’s taking on the deeply embedded habits and patterns that feel impossible to change. It’s confronting your relationship with drugs or alcohol, and no longer using in a way that is toxic. It’s finding peace in your relationship to your mother. It’s getting out of debt and taking responsibility for your money situation. It’s making sure the foods you eat are fueling you instead of draining you. It’s figuring out how to sleep full nights. It’s rewiring your tendency towards anger, depression, escapism. It doesn’t feel glamorous.

There are a few examples out there of individuals who have launched from the depths of bondage into the heights of freedom in one fell swoop. Oftentimes those people have been in such intense suffering, that their entire reality breaks and they, almost miraculously, find themselves at the GQ Awards wearing a dazzling Badgley Mischka dress and Christian Louboutins with a perfectly elegant up-do and impeccable makeup. But none of us can, nor should, bank on this.

You must, once initiated, start to do the real daily work of making yourself fit to hold more and more of the divine. You must gradually learn the habits and rituals of this this new way of moving through life. Don’t try to leap ahead. You must start from the very beginning.

Follow this link for ideas on how…

2 thoughts on “My Embarrassing Night at the GQ Awards and Your Awakening Process

  1. The thing about being talented and 19 is that you get a pass … no one expects you to be perfectly turned out… in fact your hobo attempts at glamour are charming… and there is a kind of sexiness and power in this innocence and lack of polish… it’s honest and endearing and yearning… we have to all forgive ourselves for our years of unsophisticated awkwardness… and creative people especially never loose it… maybe hide it better as they get older, or have better handlers to help them present a polished front as they become more successful … but often they just don’t care about perceptions as they move along their path. I do agree though, that early and challenging success and attention can be overwhelming to the tender flowering of the soul… it happened to me… and it took time to make peace with it. It is the work itself that carries you forward. It is so much harder for women in the arts too…. many added layers of pressure.

    1. What a gorgeous comment Rene. Thank you. I agree that it’s actually totally charming – the oops! Hobo chic. I’ll bet you have some wonderful stories…

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