Today we’d like to introduce you to actress Sierra Nowak.
Hi Sierra, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Truly appreciate you guys having me. To dive in head-first, I grew up in a “low income” neighborhood, my mother suffers from a mental illness, my father is a disabled veteran, and my brother was born with cerebral palsy. While the odds may have seemed stacked against me from a young age, I now am able to use all my childhood and life experiences to bring depth to my work. I always knew I was an actress, when I was just eight years old, I started putting on plays in my neighbor’s backyard. I had a fascination for telling stories, and creating characters allowed my imagination to run wild; at times providing a brief escape from reality. Acting is truly my therapeutic outlet.
I began acting in school plays at the age of 11 and continued to participate in choir and drama club throughout high school. After high school, I didn’t really think acting could be a serious career for someone like myself. Also, I truly loved academia and knew I wanted to be the first person in my family to receive a college education (I could write a whole other story on the experience of being a first-generation college student).
University is how I got myself to LA, and while I came to USC for the Marshall School of Business, the film program innately caught my eye. I went to my guidance counselor and explained that somehow, I needed to do both, and after a rigorous application process, I was accepted into SCA as well. USC is where I fell in love with film and tv and the rest is history.
I truly believe in the multi-hyphenate woman, and I am grateful to have also studied business as I’ve used that knowledge to not only produce my own projects, but to start my own small business, Sanctuary Candle Co. Sanctuary is an organic and sustainable company selling essential oil-infused candles. You can check out the new collection now at www.mycandlesanctuary.com.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
While, of course there are the anticipated financial struggles, the amount of rejection and uncertainty we face can be a huge mental battle. Personally, one of the biggest struggles I’ve faced in my acting career is the quieting the voice of inadequacy. Will I ever be good enough, are my headshots right for me, do I need clips that showcase myself better, am I the right classes, am I networking enough, etc. It’s easy to “rabbit hole” as a creative, trying to justify the process instead of allowing ourselves to be in process.
Facing rejecting day in and day out can take a toll if you are not grounded in self-worth and purpose. That’s actually how I came to start my business. Sanctuary was created from my personal desire to create a space of relaxation and peace in my home. I began using aromatherapy in the form of a candle to meditate and to infuse my space with positivity. It became a business when friends and family started asking how they could get their hands on one of my essential oil-infused candles– the rest is history!
Having my own business outside of the entertainment industry has also provided me with a sense of balance. I think it is really important for actors to have hobbies or a life outside of their careers. Yes, it takes so much of us to be actors, but we also have to remember we are still human and deserve a multifaceted life.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am consistently in class exploring character and story, auditioning and networking. What sets me apart is my tenacity. Growing up the way I did, I had to learn quickly that I could not allow my circumstances to become an excuse and that to be successful, I needed to show up for myself. I hold tight to that ideology, especially when it comes to my career. I am willing to put the work in, whether that’s developing a new skill for a project or even developing my own projects to showcase my range and abilities, not to mention the pull of emotional depth my childhood has endowed me with.
From studying film at USC and beyond, I am equipped to direct and produce as well. I wanted to study film so I could be a well-informed actress on set, having a firm understanding of the overall process. I am currently developing my recent short film, NARC, directed by Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd and created with JIG Reel Studios, into a feature film. NARC has been accepted to over 15 festivals and thus far has won awards such as Best Microfilm and Best Acting Duo. This is a prime example of eradicating any “woe is me mindset” and showing up for myself. It is amazing how when we show up for ourselves, amazing things begin to happen.
With theater being my first love, I always return to the stage. I truly believe that theater keeps an actor sharp. While tv/film and theater are challenging in their own ways, there is no “cut” or “what’s my line” when you hit that stage, you must be fully prepared and immersed in the story. Most recently, I had the honor of playing Paige in the stage play, Misunderstood, written, and directed by Jorge Sanchez, and Executive Produced by Morris Chestnut, at the Matrix Theater on Melrose.
During the pandemic, I also founded my own small business, Sanctuary Candle Co. I strongly believe in supporting small businesses, shopping local and the power of entrepreneurship. I hope to empower other young women to take the leap and start their own businesses by providing them with the information needed to do so–I am currently working to develop my own non-profit focused on entrepreneurship for young women.
Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
Those who know me know I am a total bookworm. For acting, I recommend The Art of Acting, by Stella Adler and The Audition, by Michael Shurtleff. For life, I recommend The Four Agreements and Many Lives, Many Masters. I love reading about spirituality and purpose.
Anthony Meindl also has an incredible podcast that influenced me to study at AMAW titled, In the Moment. While this podcast is geared towards actors, it touches on various universal themes that anyone could be inspired by! That is my go-to when in the car.
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