- What do you do for a living?
I am a nurse working in a cardiac unit at the hospital, an actress, and a model.
- How would you describe what you do?
As a nurse, I never know how my shift is going to be, how many hours I will be working, or what kind of situation I will be walking into. Critical thinking, multitasking, quick decision making, and fast response are inseparable skills when it comes to my nursing career. Long work hours, finding my patient unresponsive when I walk into the room to check on him/her, burnt out angry family members trying to find someone to blame for losing their loved ones, tearful children staring at the door hoping someone walks out with good news, a patient holding my hands telling me how scared she is and doesn’t want to die, challenges my patience, strength, my physical ability, and my emotions.
As stated by Fred R. Bernard, “A picture is worth ten thousand words”. Delivering a message through my image requires detaching from my surroundings, choosing appropriate wardrobe, a suitable makeup, and the right hair style. Having a project in mind, I plan couple months ahead searching similar images I want to shoot and create my own. It makes everyone’s job easy in my team from photographer to makeup artist and hair stylist knowing exactly what to expect and they always appreciate it. Of course, occasionally my creativity changes direction and I completely surprise my team with a different idea from the original one they had in mind when I know that I am in trouble, being afraid to look into their eyes telling them about the change. I am very fortunate and thankful to my amazing team for being so patient with me and always show up fully prepared as they know what might happen.
There is a different story when I am not in charge of the shoot. Being on time is the first and most important quality I must have. If my photographer reads this, he will tell you how I was 4 hours late to our first shoot. Well, I have learned my lesson. After few hours being under construction by makeup artist and hair stylist, I’ll have to be all ears and fully focused on following photographer and director’s command. “Give me a welcoming face”, “Now happy”, “Switch to a serious face”, and this goes on until the shoot is over. And imagine if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before…, I better make sure that never happens.
With acting, is even more challenging as more people and more complicated technology is involved. When they tell me plan to be here all day, they are not joking, and it will take all day to shoot the scene most of the time if nothing goes wrong. I have also learned that the first time I was on set and don’t even ask me how. Living in a state with long cold winters, (MN) is another challenge if we must shoot an outdoor scene.
With all the challenges, it is fun being on set or the shoot as this has been my passion since I was 13 years old. The outcome is very rewarding, and I would not change anything about it if I had to do this all over again.
- What does your work entail?
As a nurse, training to keep my education and license up to date. Practice not to bring my work home to my children and leave it at the hospital before I leave work. Learn how to work as a team using an effective communication protecting my coworkers, my patients, and myself. Long hours on my feet, emotional and stressful situations, I must have a healthy coping mechanism to be able to continue without burning out. Learning how to handle an unhappy patient or family member to improve their satisfaction and to provide the best care to them. I found that working out is the best way for me to clear my mind and my body from toxins to keep me in shape physically and emotionally.
As a model and actress, staying healthy and fit is my priority as they say a healthymind is in a healthy body. Getting enough sleep, daily workout, hair skin and nail care, are essential factors for a model to succeed. As a martial artist, balance and training help me to stay focused on set or a photoshoot. Also helps me to train faster and do my own stunt work for a fight scene. I grew up in an army base back home in Iran and have seen it all when we were in war with Iraq. To response as fast as I could grabbing my little sisters and brother running into underground tunnels when the sirens went off. Running and walking fast stayed with me since then and has been helping me in my acting career. Depends on a role I am playing, studying my lines can be a challenge for me sometimes. English is my forth language and I am still learning it. A heavy dialogue with challenging words and tongue twisters (For example a lead role I played in a feature film called Unworthy as a witch) takes more time and longer preparation to get comfortable with. I divide each paragraph to few sentences and read them several times and never move on to the next until it becomes apart of my character.
- What is a typical work week like?
A typical work week, “Oh, let me answer this question Mom”, my daughter asked when she heard me reading this question at loud. Working three jobs as a nurse, modeling, acting, and being a full-time mom the best I can, all seven days of a week is a work week for me. My day starts at 6 every morning, packing my meal for the day as I don’t return home until my day is over most of the days. Depends on which shift I am working at the hospital as I schedule it based on my shoot schedule, after if I am working a day shift and before if I am working an evening shift, I change and off to set or a photoshoot. I eat in my car mostly on my way to my destinations which is not safe but that’s the only choice I have most of the times. Working out is next. I am very fortunate that my trainer understands my busy schedule and tries to fit me in between his clients when I call him on my way to gym. Whatever is left over from 24hrs of my day which is never enough, I spend cooking, doing dishes, calling or visiting my parents, laundry, talking with my children about their days if they haven’t fell asleep by the time I get home, check my voice messages and emails that could wait, and either writing my film or watching my favorite show depends on how tired I am. No matter how well I plan my week, the schedule never stays the same due to many factors involved in my daily routine and even a completely different story the days I am on call.
- How did you get started?
I had two dreams since I was thirteen. To become an actress and work at the hospital. Although I knew it would have never happened growing up in a strictly religious family, but I never stopped dreaming. After a long challenging battle for my freedom, I finally was able to leave everything behind and moved to United States with my two children in December 9, 2007. And my new life began then. I had to start over from nothing building a new life with empty hands and that’s why I couldn’t start my modeling and acting training right away. Started as a model with a local agencyin 2013 after I graduated from a modeling and acting institute. As I did photoshoots repeatedly, gained experience, got rid of my camera shyness, started creating my own concepts. Along working with agencies, I started my fan page on Facebook and spent lots of time and energy advertising my work, expanding my connections with individuals in the industry who showed interest in my work calling it unique and classy. It has been an honor to be featured in over ten magazines and two cover magazines in different states since I have started modeling. After four years of hard work and dedication, I landed my first role in a web series in Atlanta called Consequences in summer 2017. That was the beginning my acting career. Six feature films, seven shorts, and two music videos are the summery of my one year of my work as an actress which I am thankful for each and one of them. The most exciting and amazing project I am honored to be apart of is a TV show called The Vice Squad, a franchise including six states, which I will be playing Judge Farrah in NYC series. It is an intense very well written crime drama about human trafficking and a dedicated incredible team has been working hard creating it for over a year.
- What do you like about what you do?
I absolutely love everything about what I do, or I would have never started it. Meeting new people with different personality and skills, connecting with individuals in the industry, a great exposure opportunity in different cities and states, and many more advantages I like about what I do. I learn from every one of them hearing their experiences, as this is an ongoing learning process for me. Seeing the result of a great hard-working team on the big screen is the best thing about being an actress.
- What do you dislike?
As I mentioned above, I love everything about what I do. Every aspect of this careerchallenges my patience, abilities, skills, and performance in a positive way from long hours waiting on set to film only one scene sometimes to a completely new script being handed to me by director five minutes before filming my scene. Not only this industry but every other career has its own downside and negativity which sometimes is avoidable and out of our control. The way I always look at it is that I learn from others mistake.
- How do you make money or how are you compensated?
Money was never a reason I wanted to be a model and an actress. For me, this has been always the way I imagined delivering my message and telling my life story as I have gone through a very challenging life fighting for my rights and freedom. I work full time as a nurse with three companies. I book shoots and paid acting jobs through my agency and my fan page but as a new actress it is never enough to be relied on as a primary income. I am sure that will change in five years but for now I enjoy my job as a nurse.
- What skills are needed to do this?
Some basic skills that are essential to have as an actor. Our face is our money maker. We feel before we act and our facial expression especially in close ups, needs to be mastered to move the audience. To make them cry, laugh, saddened, happy, angry, and scared as our character does in the movie. To learn how to become the character we are playing is another skill is needed for an actor. My daughter told me once that she felt like she didn’t know me when I was practicing an intense scene for a horror movie I played a lead role in. That means success to me knowing that I was able to be my character and not Haleh playing that character. Knowing your strength and roles you play the best is another skill to have as an actor. With that being said, sometimes it is beneficial to challenge yourself accepting a completely different role than who you played before. It teaches you how to train yourself using different tools and resources to become that character. I never imagined myself playing a role in a horror movie as I never liked that genre. When the director offered the role, I asked to read the script and absolutely fell in love with my character and accepted the role. That taught me a very important lesson: never reject an offer based on the genre without reading the script. Also, never accept a role without reading the script.
- What is most challenging about what you do?
The most challenging factor about my acting career is to collect my footages to make or update my reel. One very important lesson I have learned since I started acting was that if you don’t have a reel or an IMDB account, you don’t exist as an actor/actress. I understood the importance of having them as I exposed more in the industry. That is the best way for a casting director to do research about my acting experience and to see my performance in front of the camera. Sometimes for any reason the production company I work with give me, I find it very difficult to receive my footage and it gets to the point that I will have to get my editor and his secretary involved to finally have them send my footages to me.
- What is most rewarding?
Inviting my family and friends to the premier to watch the result of my hard work, to make them proud seeing my dream is coming to reality is most rewarding about what I do.
- What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
If you chose this career to become rich and famous overnight, then this is not the right field for you. This might sound harsh and discouraging but it is a bitter sweet fact about this career. It takes years and years of training, auditioning, small unpaid or low paid roles, connecting with right people, investing in social media and agencies, and so on. Patience is the key to success in this industry. Expect to be rejected as it is going to happen many times. Audition, audition, and audition. I cannot emphasize it enough. Invest in yourself. Keep your social media clean and professional because you never know who is reading your posts. Be cautious about your communication and what you send through messages to others as it might be used against you when you advance in the industry. Your reputation should be very important. When I met one of my favorite Hollywood stars Patrick Fabian, I asked him for an advice. He said, “You never can control what a casting director like or dislike about your performance when you audition. What you can control is how well you prepared yourself for your audition.”
- How much time off do you get?
I barely get time off being a single mother and the only provider for my family. I am either working as a nurse, on set filming, or at the photoshoot. But I love all I do and my purpose for what I do keeps me going nonstop. “Create a life you don’t need a vacation from.”
- What else would you like people to know about your career?
I love what I do, and I live for it. My career and all I do is my everything after my children. I sacrificed my personal life for it and have been working very hard to get where I wanted to. No matter how challenging and bumpy the road has been for me, I never lost hope or gave up on my dreams.
- What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Once I received a message from a fan asking if I am a real person. That made me laugh and asked him what made him to think I am not and what he answered as a respond was very interesting. He talked about how people stop talking to friends and fans after they are advanced in the industry and make it big. They never bother even open a message or read it and ignore the fact that us as fans have been always supporting them. It made me realize that sometimes we forget how important it is to have others supporting and encouraging us through this difficult and long journey. Appreciating our fans and people who follow us admiring our work giving us feedback is one important key to succeed in this industry. Our talent has no value if no one wants to watch it.
Text: Saif Rahman Sozib