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Meet Victoria Dunn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Dunn.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Victoria. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started dancing at five years old and began attending acting classes at age seven. I attended Atlanta Workshop Players performing arts camp at seven years old and attended every summer studying juggling, mime, stage combat, dance, Shakespeare and more until I became a camp counselor my latter teen years. while doing that I was deeply invested in the competition dance world. Dance consumed the majority of my life growing up.

Growing up I I was always immersed in a lot of activities and became accustomed to being busy. In elementary and middle school I modeled for department store catalogs, booked a few commercials and voiceover spots. I was a part of competition dance teams my entire adolescent and teenage years, juggling those rehearsal schedules, competitions and performances while simultaneously being a member of the dance company at my high school and cheerleading squad. I noticed the older I got the slower my acting career became and I focused more on dance.

In college, I dove deeply into dance and choreography and took a break from acting. I attended Berry College, took a choreography class, which I mostly did because I was required to in order to be allowed to choreograph. Honestly, I already knew the kind of work I wanted to create, the course felt like a caveat. I mostly choreograph from a place of feeling and improvisation, admittedly the course forced me to plan a bit. I learned to find the balance between what I intend and how it makes me feel. After graduating from Berry College I moved back to Atlanta and attempted to break back into acting. I got back with my agent who I had during my high school years, and things were pretty slow. I had always imagined I would have “made it” by the time I was in high school, so it felt humbling to have to feel like I was starting over.

I attended an acting workshop by casting directors and was seen by an agent who had known me since I was a child. She asked if I was happy with my current agent and asked if I’d be interested in switching to her and she’d get me work. I dropped my current agent and went with the other agency who saw me again at the workshop. Things started well enough but eventually, the same thing started happening. Auditions got slower and slower and eventually dried up. I kept asking what else I needed to do and I kept being told nothing and I was great.

Eventually, I was dropped by the agent that asked me to follow them because there wasn’t “a lot in my category”. I was hurt and felt like I’d failed. I dove deeper into dance where I found a dance studio that felt like home and joined the Purple Elephant Society, a dance crew my friends started. And there I felt comfortable, my creative outlet was being filled. I was at Gotta Dance Atlanta studio almost every night after work at my day job, True Colors Theatre Company.

After a while I grew restless, I worked my way up through my day job and did book my company’s musical, which only worked because it was the pre-professional show so rehearsals were in the evenings and weekends. But I grew restless, I was saddened to work at a place where I saw artists living their dreams and I’m helping promote the shows, while I wanted to be doing the same thing. I got an opportunity from a mutual friend to move in with some people I knew. I quit my day job, and a couple of weeks later I was on a plane with my cat Bogart moving to LA.

I’d be lying if I said the first year was easy. The relationship with the mutual friends who I lived with fell apart, I had to take my cat back home to my parents home in Atlanta, things were moving very slowly in my acting career and my grandmother passed away. I spent most of that first year in tears but still determined because living here was something I’d dreamt of since I was a kid.

I found some great friends at my day jobs, one that became my roommate and one I followed to another job, which is where I met my friend and now comedy partner, Kait Valdez. We spent so much time at work cracking each other up and laughing about the shitty movies I loved to watch and telling her about them, that she had the idea of us starting a podcast. We started recording TheEffIsThis?! and its readily available where you listen to podcasts, under the umbrella of our comedic collective Claptrap Comedy. That was my first comedic creative outlet since I’d been in LA and doing that podcast is a blast, if not sometimes draining because I have a problem saying no.

I want to do everything and have so many interests that I think I have enough time to do it all. There are moments I don’t leave enough time to prepare for the podcast and I’m so grateful to have Kait as my partner in that, she keeps it together and afloat. After doing that I wanted to dive deeper into comedy and began taking improv classes at UCB and just completed the improv track. I realized my love of comedy and from socializing at UCB I met Alan Jamil and had the opportunity to audition for Blackverse, a black-owned and run sketch comedy group that performs at the Pack Theater every second Thursday.

They gave me the opportunity to try out sketch comedy acting, a style I’d never done before and try my hand at writing. I’m so grateful to have a group who nurtures my ideas and gives me a platform and resources to try. With them I had the opportunity to write, act and direct for the first time something I created and it’s been the most exhilarating experience. I also have become a member of Good Soup, an indie improv group.

These experiences have given me the confidence to create more, I’ve been writing more projects, a web series, a short film, and a feature. I’d say from constantly taking hits in my career and seeing this is a marathon not a sprint, I want to be in charge of my race and my contribution to the entertainment world.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I would say it most certainly has not been a smooth road. The struggles I faced were plenty, but also I would say not unique to anyone pursuing the arts. Being dropped by one of the top agents in Atlanta definitely was a blow, because I thought that was going to be my big chance. Moving to Los Angeles and feeling like my career had stalled even more hurt. It took me years of trying to get an agent because I had the mindset and the ego of knowing I’d been at this since I was a kid and had been signed with top agents in Atlanta.

What I learned is the Los Angeles market is tougher, which I knew and had been told about, but experiencing it is a completely different beast. I believe in those challenges and obstacles are when you discover your own strength. I took a meeting with an agent in LA who was dismissive and condescending immediately during the meeting. I got the vibe right away that this was the quintessential Hollywood agent who blows smoke up his own ass and I began laughing during the meeting as he tried to tear me down.

This of course upset him more. He asked me what I thought was so funny and I said “this” and began to rise to exit, he followed me out of the meeting room and into the lobby and said for everyone to hear “complete waste of time; failure! Go back to Atlanta!” and at that moment instead of being broken by this man I turned around and became my most sarcastic self and put on a menacing girlish voice and said “Oh my gosh you’ve been sooooo great, thank you soooo much.” and stormed onto the elevator.

In the safety of my car, I cried to my mom, because in my mind I thought what gives that man the right to tell me I’m a failure and should give up. He didn’t see my monologue he’d asked me to prepare, he came in with pre-conceived notions about me based on my resume ahead of time. I wondered how many people he had done that too who had taken his advice and gone home.

I’ve also suffered personal blows in relationships and friendships that have betrayed me and temporarily derailed my progress. I think those experiences also are important in shaping you as an artist. I have to look at those moments through two different lenses, I had to allow myself to feel the pain of them and compartmentalize it for later use in my work as an artist. To go on that ride and feel that pain was staggering, but then the career-focused side of me was aware I had to dust myself off. I needed to remind myself that as lovely as it is to have strong friendships and a boyfriend, I didn’t uproot my life and move across the country for companionship.

I came to build something great and do what I hadn’t felt I was able to do back in Atlanta. I had to dust myself off and prove to myself that they can’t break me. I know a human is multifaceted and must have personal enjoyment as well, but the decimation of those relationships taught me to be stronger and to learn to remove the bad energy from around me. I’d like to believe I’m a better judge of character now for it.

Lastly, I find it important to share with my other friends who are artists because I think we have a crutch to crave companionship because this path feels lonely at times. You are embarking on a path different from the mainstream and tend to fall behind on the personal side, seeing your friends get married, have kids, build homes and families while you chase a dream. I think we have a tendency to fight for that affection, but I’m an advocate for not letting the need for love from another person make you lose sight of yourself and your own goals.

Alright – so let’s talk business. What else should we know?
I would call myself a work in progress, I have so many interests that it is hard to pinpoint one thing. For simplicity’s sake, I am an actor who wants to do it all and has an interest and focus on comedy as well as drama. I’m immensely proud of my work with Blackverse. I’m proud of my podcast with Kait, TheEffIsThis?! recording that is where I feel the most free because it is just me speaking freely with my friend and shooting the shit and it somehow turns out to be funny. I’m proud of and excited for what is to come from the projects I’m working on. I’m developing a production company that champions underserved voices and normalizes those that are marginalized in front of and behind the camera.

I’m honored of the work I have done since I’ve been in LA; my work at Casa0101 in the Brown Out IV festival was also a transformative experience for me. Besides the fact that I was essentially a guest in their world because the show was to tell the stories of and celebrate the Latinx LGBTQIA+ experience. It reminded me the importance of the arts and how stories provide validation of someone’s existence and share their experiences and when showing someone’s life to the masses you have to take care with the work.

That is what also helped inspire me to want to start a production company and create more; I want to be in charge of the stories I’m a part of. As actors so much of your career is left up to others, I’ve witnessed that after having been dropped from agencies or being a part of projects that have gone nowhere. But if I’m creating it, the failure solely lies on myself, I can be okay letting myself down, but I can’t if others who I deem experts in this field do it.

What sets me apart is my resiliency, work ethic and passion. Probably to my own detriment, I will work myself to the bone because I want so much for myself and am unwilling to compromise in my pursuit and accept less.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I would be remiss if I didn’t first thank my parents, they paid for all of my extracurricular activities while putting me through private school my entire life. They never balked at my ambition to be in the arts and basically toss my degree to the side after spending that much money on my education. They are the ones I turn to when I’m having a rough day on this pursuit and the first ones I call when I have wins on this journey. Secondly, my friends who essentially are an extension of my family. My best friends back home in Atlanta: Anna, Rachelle, Natalie, Amanda, Molly, Ashlyn and Lindsay.

They were the first people to celebrate my move and wish me the best as I started this new chapter. Also, my friends here who are too vast to mention all of them but specifically I want to spotlight Zelma, Kait and Joy. Zelma is my personal “Keep it Real” friend who is my ride or die! Kait is my partner with Claptrap Comedy and “TheEffIsThis?!” podcast but also an amazing friend and manager at work who moves heaven and earth to move my schedule around so I can attend auditions, along with Shelby, my former manager who did the same thing. Lastly, my friend Joy who is my artist sounding board. She’s someone who I know from Atlanta that is also a working artist and we mutually share the highs and lows of this life and keep each other sane.

I’d also like to thank my Blackverse family, specifically the producers Alan Jamil, Karli G and Joel Boyd who not only embraced me immediately upon my joining Blackverse but were my rocks during the filming of my first project and directorial debut.

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Image Credit:

Bruna Hort, Alexis Cabrera, Ed Krieger, Kait Valdez

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