Stacii Jae Johnson believes careers always come full circle—and mentally, you should start at the end point and work backwards. Few understood why after acting in shows including Martin and ER, and a number of films, Stacii took her current role as Director of Special Events for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. But Stacii knew better. “My life is always intentional, though I follow the natural direction and patterns that emerge,” she says. “If you allow yourself to flow into different things, it still gets you to the same place but you have a more interesting path and stories to share.” Case in point, she’s about to become the commissioner of Atlanta’s new Office of Film, Television, Music and Digital Media Development where surprise, surprise, all those Hollywood connections she forged 15 years ago will come in pretty handy. Here, Stacii shares three great lessons she’s learned along the way.
Act Like You Own the Room
To this day, I still use an acting tip I learned from Suzanne Batson [acting coach to the likes of Nicole Kidman]. You know how a room has four corners? When you walk into the room, visualize that you are stretching and shooting your energy out to each one of those four corners. I literally look in each direction—as if I’m shooting a web of energy like Spiderman. Then, I’m bigger than the room. If you walk in feeling you’re bigger than the room, you have more confidence and command your audience.
Follow through—and check your pride at the door.
Here’s how I got my first job as a production assistant on Martin: I’d call up the production coordinator to beg for a meeting, and she’d shoo me away and say call her back. So, I’d set my alarm to call her back when she told me to. 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes later, the next month. I always called her back. I never thought “Who does she think she is?” or that she was blowing me off. Eventually she invited me in for a meeting, where I talked non-stop about how much I wanted to work on the show. I got the job, and they later told me it was because they were amazed by my energy and just wanted to be around me!
Make Friends on the Way Up
When I started doing fundraisers for politicians like Hilary Clinton, people were shocked by how many celebrities I could draw to events. But these were people I knew from my days coming up. I can call actors like Taraji P. Henson and Martin Lawrence and say, “Hey, do you want to do this for me, please?” and they say yes because we’re friends, and they remember how we all were broke together. They remember when we went to Boston market and had to split a chicken dinner! It’s the truth. You might not know right now why you need a certain relationship. But know that as you get older, as long as don’t burn those bridges, those relationships will be the key to your career.