Today we’d like to introduce you to Naiia Lajoie.
Naiia, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
My sister has a theory that names are a self-fulfilling prophecy. My last name is Lajoie (la-JWAH) which comes from the French Canadian side of the family and means “The Joy”. My first name is Naiia (na-HEE-yuh); my father named me after his Syrian grandmother. When I asked my Arabic-speaking high school friends what my name meant, they told me it sounded like archaic Arabic, closely translating to “The Mistake”. So that was my fate: The Joyous Mistake. Yes, I was a planned baby – and no, I do not resent my dad for selecting that name (though I do question his spelling). Every single endeavor in my life has been a “happy accident”.
Fate is a funny thing: supposedly while I was in utero, my mother used to watch her daytime soaps, rub her belly and say (in her Filipino accent), “You’re going to grow up to be just like Brooke Shields”. That may have solidified it right there, and after a near-death experience in 6th grade (I was struck by lightning – and survived true story) I guess my destiny was unstoppable. Shortly after, the family moved to the Middle East where my love for performing and the arts took flight. Dance teams, captain of the cheerleading squad, first soprano in the choir, lead in the high school musical… After high school, I returned to Canada and graduated from college cum laude with a B.A. Drama Honors, minor in Film Studies.
In 2009 I was browsing Craigslist and found a casting for a TV show (I promise you Montreal’s Craigslist is not as sketchy…). I went in, non-union and unrepresented, realized it was a full-fledged legitimate casting house, conducted my first ever professional audition – and booked it. That was for Spike TV’s “Blue Mountain State”. I worked in Montreal’s film industry consistently thereafter, until an opportunity arose in California. I worked a promotional modeling job in San Diego, fell in love with the state, returned to Montreal only to move my entire life two weeks later to Venice Beach.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
When I moved to the States, it was on a 6-month vocational student visa. I had to start at ground zero, could not legally work, yet I had to find a manager to sign me and help me obtain an artist work visa. I was attending an acting conservatory, and a classmate of mine asked if I would do a read-through with him for his manager. After the reading, his manager signed me.
I obtained my work visa and immediately began creating; working steadily as an actress, model, singer, got two really great side gigs as an automotive spokesperson/host and princess party performer, and then it came time to apply for my artist green card. Also during that time, the political climate changed. Immigration became more stringent, and it was not looking as if I would be allowed to stay despite working in the States for 3 years. So, my then boyfriend determined life would be much worse without me and proposed. He is now my husband and works as a set lighting technician.
The moral of the story is: despite the hardships – the gaining speed only to be met by a brick wall – I never stopped. I never stopped creating, I never stopped trying, I never stopped striving. Brooke Shields has had an illustrious career and if I am to do right by my mom, I really need to step my game up. But in all seriousness, to all of my fellow immigrants going through the arduous (and expensive) process of trying to obtain an artist visa/green card: Do. Not. Stop. I would say the same to anyone trying to make it as an artist in LA, but it is especially difficult for those of us who do not have home advantage. If we give up, it is an international flight of defeat we have to endure.
Before delving into the industry a family friend told me that actors only had a success rate of 10%. You go out on 100 castings, get 10 callbacks, and maybe book 1. I actually calculated mine, based on how many auditions I had gone to, self-tapes, callbacks, direct bookings… and found mine was 17%. To those not in the industry that may seem really low. I just became a full SAG-AFTRA member and signed with a commercial agent so for me, I like those odds.
We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
I truly do not believe that being an artist leads to a lonely lifestyle. Personally, I find it to be quite the opposite. I find art unifying, in that you are either telling a story which will ultimately compel a crowd or (whether you are aware of it or not) you are inspiring others. While working in the pageant world I heard a saying, “Use your crown as a microphone” – well the same goes for your artwork. Use it as a platform to promote what you have to express and draw others in. So long as your convictions are good and you are committed to your work, you will attract what you display. As Brooke Shields said, “Have faith in your own thoughts”.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I have been fortunate enough to make my bread and butter doing what I love; from backup dancing to international music videos as a recording artist, catwalk to billboards, TV to commercials, and films that have made it to Cannes.
My most recent endeavor is writing for WhenInManila.com; the Philippines’ most viewed blog with over 10m+ hits daily. As far as support goes, instead of my body of work, I would much rather direct people to the causes I contribute to, which ultimately drive me to do all that I do. As an ocean conservationist, I give back to Heal the Bay and Surfrider LA whenever I can.
I also volunteer for the cat rescue Beach City Kitties and contribute to the charity Operation Blankets of Love. Other than that, if you find yourself in need of a princess or mermaid, book through www.alohaprincessparties.com and www.elitemermaids.com respectively.
- Website: www.naiialajoie.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/naiialajoie
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/naiialajoie
Hubert Cheng, Mandy Pacheco