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Meet Gracie Lacey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gracie Lacey.

Gracie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am in my early 20’s. I grew up in Santa Ana, CA with my mom and grandma raising me. My mom used to take me to live theatre performances and I fell in love with the stage. I loved singing and used to say I can sing Oprah and not Opera. I always had vibrato with my voice even at seven, I remember auditioning for school performance and kids my age hearing me and making fun of it, saying I had a bumpy voice, though that wasn’t even close to the worst of the remarks about me. I ended up getting the only solo in school and that just fueled the fire for bullies. My teachers used to pull me aside and asked that when I dropped my first album if I could come back and sign it for them. A few years later, I auditioned for an art school in my area called OCHSA. I got accepted in and it started to shift my life. I started to feel like I didn’t have to fight the world, I started to relax and learned how to express in a healthier way. I loved getting to belt my heart out on stage. Years and many musical theatre performances later, I found a showcase program where I got to work with Disney stars and show my craft to agents and managers. The first meeting I remember performing for Phil Lewis (Mr. Mosby on the Suite Life of Zach and Cody) and I sang as well. He smiled and jotted something down on his note pad.

As I was leaving he said, remember me when you are famous. I got a call the next day that I was their top pick for the program and they wanted to offer me a scholarship. I met with Adrian Armante (Esteban on Suite Life) and he said Phil really talked me up so I had big shoes to fill. The week before the showcase was so exciting and informative. Our performance night went seamlessly but as soon as I got off stage, I knew something was wrong. Sure enough, my gut was right and I only received one callback which didn’t go anywhere. I was only 16 and I had too “general” of a look, I was told finding work for me would be too difficult. I wasn’t going to give up so I interned and came back at 17 but once again no success. I had added pressure from family to go to college so I dropped acting for five months, got straight A’s, came out and cut my hair off. I was really finding myself away from the people-pleasing, theatre mask I was wearing my whole life in order to be loved. I heard the call again to go act. Repping my LGBT pride on my chest, I did the program over the summer, something finally clicked internally and externally. I got six callbacks from different agents and managers. I ended up finding the manager of my dreams who really believes in me and we have been working and booking awesome projects together for the last four years.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Much like how elementary schoolers thought of my voice, it has been a very bumpy road. I am a child abuse survivor, no one believed me or helped me when I came forward so I became aggressive and was bullied for pretty much everything about me. My hair, skin, voice, nails, smell, kids used to call me mustachio and uni because I have extra dark hair on my face (much like Kim Kardashian at my age, though kids don’t care about that). This just heightened the feelings or frustration and hopelessness. I didn’t have a Dad growing up and so I played into the liar narrative and used to tell people he died in a fiery motorcycle accident, I think I saw that scene in a movie and just started using it. I felt unworthy, unlovable, desperate for validation and craving attention yet not wanting to be seen. I had an improv class my first year at OCHSA which really helped shift my life. Our teacher Ms. Dorian had us do an exercise where we sat in a circle and told our biggest trauma.

That was the first time I ever told a group that had no connection to my family about the physical abuse that I endured at the hands of my babysitter in my first six years of life. I told them about how she would push me downstairs and slammed my head so hard into my high chair one time that I had to get staples in my head. I told them how she used to give me cold showers and beat me with belts and wire hangers. One time she got so mad that she ripped me out of the shower and slammed my head into the wall, twisted my arm so far behind my back, she snapped my bone. She told my mom I had fallen bike riding. I remember I was crying too hard to finish so my teacher came up and put her arm around me and said, “Thank you for sharing, I know how hard this is. Now look up, you are no longer in that place anymore, you are here and you are loved.” I started figuring out how to put my energy into different roles. When I could escape into different character’s experiences, my own life seemed less volatile. Unfortunately when I turned 13, my hormones kicked in and all my unresolved past trauma came forward and kicked my ass. I decided to push really hard my freshman year instead of skating by, I did really well until I got bronchitis and missed two weeks.

When you are in a school that has you learning from 8am- 5pm plus a mandatory musical theatre performance, meaning night time rehearsals… well, let’s just say I fell asleep at the dinner table literally in my food more times than I would like to admit. When that bronchitis hit and I tried to catch up but my mental health plummeted. I felt like I was in a hole I couldn’t get out of. I ended up on the bathroom floor with a bottle of pills next to me and my family finally understood it was time to leave the school and get help. The next few years I spent in therapy, teaching myself through an Independent study program in order to graduate and doing theatre at night. At 19, right after I signed with that manager another trauma was right around the corner. I was on a hike in Laguna Beach with my mom and a Mountain Biker going way to fast collided with my mom. His bike and his body smashed her head into the gravel, I saw blood from her the back of her skull, kept her awake and called 911. There was a jurisdiction fight on scene between the sheriff’s department and police department. The police chief was getting in the way, claiming she needed to go down in the fire truck and I turned around and told him to shut the f— up and let the sheriff’s paramedic help my mom. She was helicoptered out and when I made it to the hospital, I was told she had a seizure when she arrived and had one epidermal hematoma and two sub-dermal, I had to sign last rights so they could get her into emergency surgery.

If the police chief had his way, my mom would have died en-route to the hospital. The next few days consisted of my mom in a coma, my family having scattered visits filled with their own insecurities and personal drama, our RN literally scolding my crazy family and putting them in their place on behalf of me and my mom (one of the best moments of my life not gonna lie), seeing my mom open her eyes and recognize me, teaching her how to walk and eat again, having to restrain her because she is a tank and immediately started incoherently babbling about needing to go back to work for her clients. The next few months into years were the hardest on us. She was technically disabled from the accident which was a huge change that she didn’t take well. She was always at the top of her class, the smartest in the room, now she had her career she spent her entire life building ripped away from her in a second. I struggled with PTSD, I wasn’t able to be in LA like I planed so my reps wanted to drop me but I begged them not to. I found a therapist through an acting class that changed my life. Every Tuesday, I would weep about my childhood, my rage, my grief. Some sessions, I was completely dissociative because the pain was just too much to handle. My soul wasn’t in the room. I learned I had been disassociating since I was a kid in order to survive but it wasn’t necessary anymore.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Right after the accident, I fell in love and started asking my partner for a lot of massages. I was carrying all my stress and tension in my shoulders and felt like I was in pain 24/7. I found a massage school less than a mile from my house called National Holistic Institute. My first love and I separated and my best friend and I had a falling out a month before I started classes. I was feeling so isolated and lonely and the potential to be bullied here, even in a space with all adults, was looming so I had my fair share of panic attacks. Every night we did a 20-minute meditation with the class and then a lecture and performed bodywork. I call this my healing year. Giving and receiving 800+ hours of bodywork with the intension of no judgment, grounding and relaxation helped heal not only my body but my soul.

We are trained to have awareness over our bodies and emotions to help others do the same. In a society that feels fast-paced and full of stress and fear, being able to facilitate a nurturing space for those who may not have ever experienced that changed me and my classmate’s lives. The constant massaging and being of service helped in my acting career as well. I booked more than ever before, my energy finally started to balance out and I was actively getting out of my own way. I started to feel what true happiness and peace felt like. Now I am still auditioning and happily booking, I love my private massage clients, I am writing a book and I’m getting my EMT certification. If I am of able body and able mind, I want to give back as much as I can and gain as much knowledge in unique way since my path was never black and white anyway. I want to make a difference and help change this world one film, one person, one smile at a time.

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Image Credit:
Jxpaz, Jack Lue, David Caldera aka Fattographer, Brian Chuck, Chris Evan

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