It was not very long ago, although it feels like forever, that I was on the brink of turning twenty, and on the edge of changing everything about my life. A month earlier I sat my folks down and told them that I would be moving to the West Coast, and without a second thought I did.
I left the Midwest, I left my family and I left everything that ever laid a hand on my heart. I had a hundred and fifty dollars in my pocket, a suitcase full of clothing and a head full of the kind of certainty that only a kid on a mission could have. I knew that the only thing that mattered to me was a music career in Hollywood, and that nothing else could possibly make me happy.
I remember arriving at my apartment. I was there for fifteen minutes, and everything was exciting to me. The way the wind felt, the paint color on the walls— every little thing. California had every fighting chance to make me fall in love, because as a kid on a mission, I refused to not love everything about it, even the earthquake that moved my entire world within minutes of arriving. And trust me, I looked at that as a symbol that I was ready to shake things up and make my singer/songwriter dreams happen.
Now that I was in Hollywood, my first order of business was to book a photo shoot for headshots. When I arrived the photographer took one look at me and told me that I should be a model (I laughed in reply). But he was serious and a few weeks later I was at my first fashion shoot in LA with renowned photographer Tony Duran. For the next two months my phone would not stop ringing— so many agencies in Los Angeles wanted a piece of me, and I couldn’t believe it.
I also remember the day the phone stopped ringing and feeling the crush of realizing that as fast as things start to move in the city, they can just as quickly come to a screeching halt. I had been on top and convinced I had made it and just like that, things changed.
These are the moments when you decide to give up, or you decide to keep fighting. Bruised and battered, but not entirely broken, I kept my head high and my fight strong. I knew that the many moments of “no” could be easily swept away with one moment of “yes.”
At this point on my journey, I was working multiple (and by multiple I mean up to five at one time) part time jobs to sustain life in Los Angeles while my modeling career continued moving up and down. Although I knew I needed to work other kind of “day jobs” to simply survive until my dreams took off, I hated it.
I hated the feeling like I was spending time working on things I didn't care about, instead of devoting my energy to my passion. had to learn the difference in making a living and making a life. Making a living requires an occupation that earns enough money to cover bills, eating and extra curricular activities. Making a life requires chasing ones passions, and dreams. Both are important—do well at your occupation so that you can spend as much time doing what you really live to do, and one day hopefully the two merge and your passion becomes your occupation. I had to turn doing things that I did not want to do into a positive, reminding myself that doing so furthered my journey towards my actual goals.
It was tough to wrap my head around, but with my newly found open-mindedness, a couple years in LA under my belt and a new understanding as to what being human meant, I worked at living fully in every aspect, knowing that everything I was doing was paying off - the payoff just hadn’t come yet.
And then one day it did. I was on set for a modeling job and singing to myself as I usually do as a default to pass time (or to not think). My stylist overheard me and was impressed. She told me about her boyfriend who was a successful producer in LA, and that she would love to make an introduction between he and I. Mind you, at this point in time my singing was simply a dream that came to life in karaoke bars (so many karaoke bars). But I am a man of pursuit, so I agreed. I excitedly sent him the e-mail that I wrote and rewrote, and then anxiously awaited his reply. I waited quite a long time. One long year later, I got that reply, and we agreed to meet and see if there was a way for us to work with one another.
I have since released my own original music on iTunes; I’ve performed on major stages in Los Angeles; I auditioned and became a top 9 Kelly Clarkson finalist on ABC’s ‘Duets’; I co-headlined three major shows in Las Vegas; I have hosted shows for the Los Angeles Kings, Steve Tyrell, Ziggy Marley, The Grammy Museum, Club Nokia and several others; I have been published in several fashion magazines, and have appeared in a few major motion pictures and television shows.
By sharing my accomplishments, my aim is not to brag, rather to point out a majorly important part about pursuing a difficult goal—You can envision whatever dream you want, but you have to meet the vision with an action plan for creating it. You cannot put rules or limitations on your pursuit either. You must commit to doing whatever it takes to get to where you want to be; even if it means sacrificing and doing things that you may not want to do.
Trying new things, and giving them your all is not quitting on your main goal, rather allowing yourself new experiences that will help you sharpen the tools that you can use to build your dream life. If I hadn't taken that photographer's advice and started modeling, I never would have met the stylist who introduced me to her producer boyfriend. Every twist and turn on your path has purpose.
Above all else, love your story - every up and every down—and share that story with pride in knowing that you are the only one who can tell it the way that you do.
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Listen to his music on iTunes or Soundcloud
**Since writing this piece, Nicky has accepted a lead role in Blank Canvas Theatre’s 2014 production of ‘HAIR’ where he will bring to life the character of George Berger in the Midwest this autumn. **