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10 Things I’ve Learned From “The Voice”

Helenna Santos-Levy The Voice

photo by Marc Royce

I’m addicted to NBC’s “The Voice.”  I tweet about it a lot and man, I am really really addicted. Like, there should be a 12 step program to detox it from my system between seasons addicted.

  **In full disclosure, this blog post that you are reading was originally written a year ago, but these lessons are still totally relevant so I decided to publish it here and share it with you, the Ms. In The Biz community…now back to it…

I usually dislike reality TV.  I’ve never been a fan of “American Idol” and I don’t watch “The Bachelor,” but “The Voice” has me completely hooked.

It is because of this obsession that I’m going to share with you the recent lessons that “The Voice” has taught me.

And so I give you…

10 Things I’ve Learned From “The Voice”

1) Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again. 

I was on the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica the other day (again…like a year ago…) and heard this incredible voice.  I headed over to the crowd and realized that it was Naia Kete who just had been singing on national television for millions of people and now she was back busking on the street and selling $5 and $10 CDs to make a living because she didn’t make it to the next round.

I couldn’t help but be incredibly impressed by her tenacity.  After all, it must be difficult to go from being in such a huge spotlight, back to what the average bystander would perceive as “the beginning.”

But Naia Kete “gets it.”  To me, what’s obvious from seeing her singing again on the promenade is that even though she is back there, she is still light years ahead of where she started because of the amazing exposure “The Voice” gave her.  She is taking advantage of the spotlight and using it to propel her further instead of feeling sad and sitting at home.  She really is “seizing the day.”

It was so inspiring to me to see a great example of the fact that you can always pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.  The great thing is that you’ll always be a few more steps further along in the journey.

2) Enjoy the moment like it’s the only one you’ll ever get.

In a recent episode Adam Levine brought up the fact that a number of the singers did the best job they had done so far now that their fate was really on the line.  They were singing for their lives because they didn’t want to be sent home.  He then went on to say that THAT was how they should have been singing all along.

I thought a lot about this and how it applies to me in my life and career.  Basically, I realized that I need to always seize the moment, really enjoy it, and rock it out because it might just be the last chance I get.

3) Don’t deny your past.

It’s been interesting to watch both the first and second (and now the third) season of the voice and be totally involved in each of the singer’s life stories.  Yes, everything is edited in a very specific way and crafted so that your heartstrings are really being pulled, but despite that, each person’s story is so unique and beautiful.

Our life stories are really important and make up everything about who we are.  I think we all should understand where we came from and embrace our backstory, it could just be what gives us the most strength.

4) Embrace who you are and figure out how to find a hook and to solidify your brand.

One of the most fascinating things to me has been how the hair/makeup/and wardrobe teams behind “The Voice” do such a great job of honoring each person’s individual style and then magnifying it.  They create a specific brand and feel for each contestant not by having them try to fit into some weird pre-existing Hollywood mold, but by finding the core of who each person is and amplifying that.

Because I’m an actor this is really interesting to me.  It got me thinking a lot about branding and marketing, and the fact that if it doesn’t come from an authentic place people can see right through you.  You have to be unique and an individual, but at the same time totally accessible.  You need to be able to sell the best parts of yourself.

5) Go and play in a different sandbox and throughly enjoy the experience. 

It’s always interesting to watch the moments when a singer has been given a song that isn’t necessarily something they are comfortable with or isn’t “in their wheelhouse.”   For me, the success of the performance is less about how well they sing the song, and more about how well they sell it to me.  Are they giving it everything they’ve got, or is their insecurity so obvious that it makes me uncomfortable.

By watching these moments it makes me think about being secure in who I am and staying confident when I enter someone else’s sandbox.  That believing in myself can be  what makes me belong.

6) Play the game in a fierce way, but always be nice.

One of the things I love about “The Voice” is that for the most part no one bad mouths anyone else.  Now Christina, Blake, Ceelo, and Adam have some pointed banter back and forth, (and in season 3 I LOVE the addition of Shakira and Usher), but aside from that the show doesn’t use negative drama for ratings.

My conclusion?  Love, respect, and passion are more interesting then hate and pettiness.

7) Confidence is powerful, alluring, and sexy.

To me there is nothing more awesome than seeing someone really comfortable in their own skin.  No matter what a singer looks like: tall, short, bald, thin, large, small, no matter what race; if they are confident, it’s alluring, powerful, and sexy. Confidence is King.

8) Stay humble. Stay grateful. 

I have to admit that there have been a few moments this season where a single sentence turned me off from someone.  I was really involved in one particular person’s story and then they said something that made them seem really stuck up and ungrateful for the opportunity they’d been given.  My opinion of that person changed rather quickly.

While it’s true that there is no way for someone to control how they are edited after the fact, we are all responsible for the words that we say.  It made me think that no matter what, it is always important to stay humble and stay grateful.

9) Grow a fan base. Yesterday. 

If you are in entertainment like I am, you need to be thinking about growing your fan base no matter what level you are at in your career.  In an age where Klout scores and the number of twitter followers you have can be as important as your skill level, we all need to embrace it.

For contestants on “The Voice” specifically, it’s a popularity contest at this stage in the game, and those people with pre-existing followers have an advantage.   Also, whether the contestants are new to twitter or already have thousands of followers, they are doing a great job of engaging with their fan base.  After all, (last year) Tony Vincent tweeted me back and that totally made my day.  So, note to self: engage with fans, they can help make or break a career.

10) You have no control over how others perceive you.

At the end of the day all you can do is lay your heart out on the line and do your best. No matter who you are or what line of work you are in, you have no control over how others perceive you.  Just stay strong and confident in yourself and love the journey.
xoxoxox helenna 
***originally published in Talk Nerdy To Me Lover, April 2012
Helenna Santos

About Helenna Santos

Helenna Santos is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ms. In The Biz. She is also an actor and producer with Mighty Pharaoh Films and can often be found on panels at conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con, and has been interviewed by major press outlets including CNN. Her work as a contributing writer has been featured in MovieMaker Magazine, Backstage Magazine, IndieWire and BUST Magazine. She has produced numerous award winning short films, digital series, and feature films. As an actor, she can be seen in CW's "The Flash," as well as ABC's "A Million Little Things" and "The Good Doctor", and the highly anticipated Netflix limited series "The Baby-Sitters Club". Her latest feature film as producer and actress "The Shasta Triangle" is now available via VOD.