Banging Down America’s Dawes

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For a country with a whole lot of desert and not a ridiculously large amount of people, some pretty fantastic things come out of Australia. Our ‘can do’ attitude has put us on the map countless times as our humble hardworking charm takes us to all kinds of places on the international stage.

Monique Dawes is an actor and performing artist who is tenaciously working to take her career to the next level. Gold Coast born and bred, she now has been living in Melbourne away from her home and family for over five years and has a plethora of Australian stage and screen credits including Aussie tour of Hairspray LIVE! Arena Spectacular, International tours for children’s well loved shows Barney, Sesame Street, and Dora the Explorer, dancer for Kylie Minouge’s film clip and Logies Live TV performance and Australian TV commercials. She has now successfully gained management in Los Angeles; I had a chat to her about working toward that golden ticket – a green card, and being hired amongst the fierce competition the big bad U.S of A produces.

Can you remember the moment you decided to pursue this dream?
Hahah! I absolutely can. I grew up in a sports fanatic family. I can surf, skateboard, play touch football, netball, but the sport that I played for 8 years and played in the state classics for was basketball. One classics tournament I injured my shoulder very badly and ended up not being selected for the top team. I was crushed and felt lost, so my amazing sister grabbed me by the hand and told me to try something different that I might enjoy. I remember my first dance class, I was wearing my basketball uniform trying to learn the Charleston step. It gave me such an overwhelming feeling of fun, joy and passion that I felt compelled to not stop until I achieve my goals and dreams within the entertainment industry.

Aside from buying a ticket and sussing some Benjamin Franklins, what steps do you have to take to make the move?
Having representation there is vitally important. You have to know that you will be able to hold your own in their industry, which consists of the best of the best, and a manager or agent will be your guiding light but will also be your first American yes or no. If you are having a hard time securing American representation then I would say that’s a clear sign that there’s more work you need to do at home before you think about moving.

My American manager kicks my ass on a daily basis and has been instrumental in every part of my moving process to date. There’s a lot of paperwork, waiting and money involved but when you know that this is all you want to do for the rest of your life and you and your team are confident that you will contribute to the American industry it makes it all worth it.

In my last visit to America, a coach told me, “To be in this industry it takes a superhuman effort” and this I whole-heartedly believe. Even to be a performing artist in Australia it takes a thick skin, so to make sure I have ‘the goods’. I have created a Bootcamp style schedule that I do every week. It involves singing lessons, dance classes, yoga, acro training, stunt training, acting, Skype privates from Los Angeles, and daily accent voice training.

What obstacles have you come across?
In the success of gaining management in LA, I feel like I really have to literally start from the bottom again. Learning, researching and introducing myself to new people everyday and gaining the trust from American directors, casting directors, producers and showing them that I will provide what they are looking for.

For TV/Film auditions in America, 90% of the time I will have to go into the room with an American accent. I can’t give the panel any reason to say no. By having an Australian accent it could cost me an American speaking role, with this in mind training so it sounds like American is my first tongue is challenging.

It’s tough working 200% on my craft, but still needing to make money and finding a balance to fit my casual job to fit into my weekly schedule is difficult.

So no walking into auditions with a bright and friendly ‘Howyagarn?’ then?
When I can drop my American accent towards the end of the audition, the panel are always so pleased and love the fact that I’m actually an Australian. The representation of Aussies in the US is so awesome and we have so many icons to thank. We are a young country, but extremely hard working and will to go the hard yards to achieve our end goal. That is exactly how the Americans see us Aussies, which is so great. It is unfortunate how difficult it is to work there and also be supported through their government.

What advice would you this time this year give to you this time last year?
“It’s okay to fall, to fail or maybe not get the part you wanted. The most important thing to remember is that at this time in your life, your passionate about this career and no one saying NO or YOU WILL NEVER can take that passion away from you, otherwise you probably would have gotten on that plane and flew as far away from this career already. Enjoy working hard and the incredible journey and knowledge you gain in the process.”

Do you have any advice for any actors, musicians, artists, chefs, mixologists, makers who are thinking of making the move?
Save everything to a database. Everyone you meet, contact details, keep reviews, photos of shows and performances you have done. Just everything that states why you are exceptional at what YOU do. Oh and that Americans really are lovely and welcoming people just don’t stop to take a photo in the streets around Times Square. The locals have places to be… fast.

What will you miss most about Melbourne when you make it over there?
It’s not even what I will miss most about Melbourne, it’s what I’ll miss most about Australia. It’s my home and I will never forget that.

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