February 24, 2022

#48: Cast Inc: Founder & CEO Julia Samersova

Hosted by Fran Racioppi

Talent evaluation is difficult in any industry. We make decisions every day on performance that not only affect people’s lives, but also affect their emotions and often their physical and emotional well-being. Effectively operating in the world of talent management  requires both empathy and a high level of emotional strength.  

For this episode, host Fran Racioppi traveled to the heart of Brooklyn to spend the day with Julia Samersova; Founder and CEO of Cast Inc. – the leading casting company for kids who have what it takes to star in commercials, advertisements and shows. Julia is trusted by the fashion industry’s most iconic brands like Maybelline, Calvin Klein, Gap and Carter’s.

In definitely our most relaxed episode to date, Fran and Julia talk casting, entrepreneurism, talent management, helicopter parenting, the impact adults have on kids and how we can be the best parents we can be.

Listen to the podcast here:


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About Julia Samersova

TJP 48 l Cast IncJulia Samersova is a leading casting director specializing in children and children fashion brands. Raised in Brooklyn she entered talent management spending time working at some of the world’s most iconic agencies like Ford Models, Next Models and Elite Model Management. In 2008 she launched her own company, Cast Inc, where she now identifies and sources talent for the fashion industry’s largest players including; Maybelline, Calvin Klein, Gap and Carter’s. She is the proud mother of three and loves to cook. Learn more at www.castincnyc.com or on INSTAGRAM at cast_inc_nyc.

Cast Inc: Founder & CEO Julia Samersova

In this episode, I traveled to the heart of Brooklyn and spent the day with Julia Samersova, Founder and CEO of Cast Inc., the leading casting company for kids who have what it takes to star in commercials, advertisements and shows. She is trusted by the fashion industry’s most iconic brands like Maybelline, Calvin Klein, Gap and Carter’s. Her job is to translate their vision into the on-camera image of real people with real feelings.

Julia grew up in Brooklyn and has three kids of her own. She entered talent management when her high school guidance counselor challenged her to make something of herself. She transformed her kitchen into the Jedburgh Podcast studio as she made a pretty amazing farro and bean soup. In this relaxed episode, we talk about casting, entrepreneurs, talent management, helicopter parenting, the impact we as adults have on kids, grit and resilience, and how raising the next generation of leaders is the most important impact we can have on our children.

Julia, welcome to the show.

I am so excited to be talking to you.

We’re sitting in your kitchen and I’m going to put this out here for all of our readers that this will be probably the least restrictive episode we’ve ever done. If that’s the term, I’ll say the loosest episode and the most informed.

You’re calling me loose already and we just met. We just started and he’s shaming me on my looseness. What’s going on?

We are sitting in your kitchen. For a while, I’ve watched you make soup. We’re going to test that at the end of this to make sure because you’ve claimed that it’s going to be phenomenal. When we had this conversation and sent me a text saying, “Should I make this soup?” My first inclination and I texted it to you was, “Is someone sick?” It’s because I’m Italian. When you’re Italian and someone says, “I’m making soup,” it always means someone is sick.

If you’re a Russian, you’re making soup every day of your life if you like to stay warm. I make soup daily. This is my first time making this one. This one is an ode to your Italian heritage. It’s a farro minestrone with parmesan rinds to give it that flavor. This is going to be a cooking show now. This became a cooking show about how to make soup. This is the soup show.

TJP 48 l Cast Inc

This is going to be a show about a lot of different things because not only is it going to be a cooking show, our first one in someone’s house, in the kitchen and talking about cooking, but we’re also going to talk about talent management and evaluation in a context that only a few people can get right. It’s sensitive to a lot of folks and I’m talking about kids. I work in talent management. I have talent management and organizational conversations all day long about performance, but you’re evaluating children in your world.

I’m evaluating adults. I have a whole career of being around grown men who have to be told that they either made it or they didn’t. A lot of times, when it’s negative, it affects them for their whole life. I can only imagine what it’s like when those decisions come to you and you have to deal with kids and not only the kids themselves, but the parents, so I want to get into that, too.

That sounds juicy. I feel bad for you having to deal with so much adult male ego, but at least I’m not dealing with that.

I’m sure that there’s plenty of it. Let’s start from the beginning. We’re here in Brooklyn. You went to high school and grew up here. You’ve been here your whole life. Talk about what New York means because now you transition into fashion. I asked you this question because when I was driving into the city, I often said, “I hate going into the city,” and we lived here, so I understand it and I know it, but it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been in the city. When you drive and enter the city or see it in the distance, it does have an aura around it.

Tough conversations can end up being the ones that are so impactful. Yet so many people shy away from them. Click To Tweet

It’s like nothing else in the world. I have to tell you that I’ve been here since I was five years old. We immigrated here from the Soviet Union in the late-‘70s. There’s a part of the Gowanus where you’re driving from Brooklyn into the city to get on to either the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge and there’s a part where it’s open where you can see the entire New York skyline. It’s where the Brooklyn Promenade is, but it’s Gowanus where the cars drive.

Every time I am in a car driving in that one specific place to this day, since I was a child, it’s mesmerizing when you look out on that skyline. It takes my heart or breath away every single time, even though for so many years. There’s a magic here that I’ve never experienced in other cities and I’ve been to other gorgeous cities like Paris, for example, but I’ve never felt my breath leave my body for a second.

It’s one of the cool things that a lot of people don’t realize. They say, “I’m going to come to New York. I’m going to spend time in the city. I’m going to live in Manhattan.” When you live in Manhattan and you’re in Manhattan, you don’t see the city. It’s when you get to the other side like Brooklyn, Long Island City, or even on the West Side when you go into Hoboken. You look at the city and you say, “Wow.”

Long Island City has the sickest views. When you’re in the belly of the beast, you don’t see the beast, so you have to be outside of the belly of the beast to see the beast. If you’re on the Brooklyn side or the New Jersey side, it’s amazing. One of my favorite things to do that a lot of New Yorkers don’t do for some reason is taking the two-minute ferry from Brooklyn to Governors Island. Once you get to Governors Island, that view is like, “I could touch the Statue of Liberty from here.” People need to invest some time in Governors Island. It’s a free ferry and no, this is not an advertisement for Governors Island. It’s one of the places I took my kids during the pandemic because it was like, “Where am I going to go?” It’s outside and it’s awesome. New York is amazing

You said that New York is the epicenter of a lot of things. It’s the epicenter of finance. It’s also the epicenter of fashion. You went to high school here and took an internship at a talent management agency. That changed your life. Why did you jump into that?

You have to also put it into the context of when I was in high school. I was in high school from 1989 to 1993 and those were the Golden Era of supermodels. Linda, Cindy, Christie and Kate. It was supermodels. It was these Amazon women. My mother was a hairstylist her entire life. She always brought home Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and I would sit there for hours.

I did read them, too and immersed myself in fashion. I knew all the models’ names, who they dated, who the designers were and the stylists. I knew who did the hair and the makeup. I was obsessed. I never knew that this obsession was going to go anywhere as a little girl. My favorite thing to do was cut up magazines and make collages out of supermodels that my mother still has in her house.

By the time senior year rolled around, I was this kid in the early-‘90s. New York City clubbing, clubs were amazing. This is pre-Giuliani when New York was the bomb. There was a lot happening at that moment and I didn’t know what I was going to do. After all these years, I went to see my guidance counselor, Mrs. Graham, who I wrote a letter to thank her, but I don’t know if she got it.

What did you thank her for?

She gave me this crazy opportunity. She called me into her office. She was like, “There are six months left to senior year. You didn’t take your SATs. You blew it off. You are a great student but you haven’t applied to any colleges. What are you doing?” I was like, “I don’t know.” She’s like, “What do you love?” I said, “I love fashion. I love models and designers. I am obsessed.” She pulled out this little pamphlet from this little brand new modeling agency in SoHo called Company Management and she was like, “They’re hiring interns. It’s a modeling agency.”TJP 48 l Cast Inc

I was like, “Get me there.” I went and got this job. I remember walking into that. It was in SoHo in 1993. It was this cool, gorgeous, and modern office. I felt like I was on a TV show. It was insane. I remember my interview, what I wore to my interview, what I was asked, and what I answered. I remember the whole thing so clearly.

I wrote her a letter to say, “You changed the entire course of my life. You’re my high school guidance counselor.” I couldn’t find her anywhere on social media, so I sent the letter to the principal of Edward R. Murrow High School, which is where I went to school and they said they were going to forward it to her and it’s up to her to respond to me or not. I think about her almost daily.

This woman changed my life. I don’t know what would have happened to me had Mrs. Graham not sat me down and been like, “You’re a loser. What are you doing with your life? What do you love? What’s your passion,” and sent me off to this little agency where I ended up working for seven years. I owe it all to Mrs. Graham.

It’s interesting that those tough conversations can end up being the ones that are so impactful. Many people shy away from those conversations. They say, “We’re going to have a dispute or it’s going to be argumentative,” but you can approach those things with compassion, guidance and a path towards the future. How are we going to solve the problem? We can talk for a second about how we got here but let’s not examine so much about that. Let’s talk about where we go from here and what the options are.

She was like, “Your options are limited, but I’m here to tell you that maybe they’re not as limited as you think. Life is not over. Here’s what I have for you,” and she offered this shiny red apple to me.

From there, you ended up at Ford Models, Next Model and Elite Model Management. These are the top model agencies and you decide to go off on your own. Why? That’s a big step. We talked about entrepreneurship all the time. We talked about building businesses. A lot of people have great ideas. Few people find a way to execute on those ideas and have the courage to overcome what Colin Beavan calls limiting beliefs, the belief that you can’t do something.

I have to go back to my mom on this one for a second because this woman made a lot of mistakes as a mom, but the one thing she always did right to this day was she always told me I was the smartest, the prettiest, the coolest, and that I could do anything. Coming from a communist country, bringing her only child here to America where anything is possible, she instilled in me that I could do anything. Don’t waste this opportunity. I grew up hearing that every single day. What happened is I spent about twelve years being a talent manager. I’m going to be honest with you. It was interesting and great. I got to travel. It was an amazing experience.

I was sixteen years old when I started. It was glamorous and awesome, but I didn’t like being a talent manager. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to sell women over the phone to a client. It always felt like I was begging. It wasn’t in my heart. I always think of it as a stepping stone. I met all the right people along the way, so when I decided to transition to this other career, I had the contacts to do it. I didn’t blindly jump into this other world. This world is still in the fashion industry. However, you’re on the client-side, so you’re not doing the begging. People are begging you. Maybe a part of it was a little bit of an ego thing where I was like, “I’m tired of begging. Let somebody come and beg me.”

First, let’s define a casting director. You start casting. In your words, what’s the role of the casting director?

TJP 48 l Cast IncMy role as a casting director is to be the person that facilitates. I’m the middleman between the brand and the talent that they hire to represent their brand. I’m the one who goes and sources what the brand is looking for. At this point in 2022, that could be anything. We were asked to cast anything and everything under the sun. It’s an amazing and diverse world we’re living in which was not the way it was when I first started.

I want to ask you more about that because you cast kids and you have a quote here that I want to read because it’s important. You said, “I personally love casting kids, especially when we have to go out in the streets into the playground, soccer fields and look for kids. It’s an amazing moment to walk up to a parent or to a kid and say, ‘You are special. You have something.’” In this quote, you’ve gone on to say that you’ve changed somebody’s life when you do that. Why kids over adults?

I cast everything. I still cast a lot of adult things. Kids happened to me in 2009. I was casting and there was this market crash in 2008, as some of us remember. I had my daughter in 2009 and the adult casting was drying up. I saw that money was not coming in the way that it used to, so not only did I have this child, and all of a sudden, my interest turned to children, but I also realized that it was a totally untapped market in the casting world. Everybody was casting fashion shows, editorial and advertising campaigns for adults, but I didn’t know anybody that was casting kids, so I was like, “I’m going to pivot because it’s already saturated in the adult world, but there’s barely anything going on here.”

It’s a $1 billion industry. Most parents will always spend their last dollar on their child over themselves. Not to be judgy. I was like, “This is a multibillion-dollar industry. It separates from what I’ve been doing all along.” I went out and I started a street-style blog for children because there were all these street-style blogs blowing up for adults, but nobody was doing kids.

A lot of people have great ideas, but only a few people find a way to execute those and have the courage to overcome limiting beliefs. Click To Tweet

My husband, at the time, was a photographer and we went out on the streets. We would stop kids that we thought were cool or had something in them and we would photograph them and put them on this blog. The producer from H&M called, who was a friend of mine, Jenny Friedberg, and said, “I’m casting H&M.” She was casting H&M for millions of years and she’s like, “I don’t want to do the kids part. Do you want to do the kids part? It’s such a pain in the butt to do kids dealing with those mothers and fathers. I don’t want to do it. Can I farm it out to you? You’re already on the streets looking for kids for your blog. Can you do it?”

I was like, “Sure.” The money was great. We did it and I fell in love with it. To be honest, it opened up a cash cow for me because, after H&M, it was J.Crew and Gap. It snowballed. What I found out is most people don’t want to cast kids because of their parents. It became a whole beast and I was like, “It was smart to pivot that way.”

What are you looking for in the kids? I want to ask you about the parents too, but we’ll start with the kids. We don’t only talk about the good on this show. We have plenty of lessons learned. How do you learn from the bad and apply it? The kids first because that’s probably good. What do you look for when you’re casting these kids?

It’s probably the most asked question in the world. It’s like, “What are you looking for?”

“It’s mostly so I can train my child and bring them to you.”TJP 48 l Cast Inc

First of all, you have to understand that it starts with a client coming to you as a brand and saying, “We’re looking for X, Y and Z.” It’s my job to go and find X, Y and Z. That X, Y and Z can be anything from, “We want adaptive kids in wheelchairs or down syndrome babies.” It can be anything, but you’re talking about more star-quality stuff.

Only the characteristics.

There are no characteristics because it comes down to the thing where it’s specific to what you’re working with at the moment, what’s required of you. We get a breakdown. I did something for ZARA Kids where they wanted cool punk kids. They didn’t say anything except they had to be cool. You’re out there looking for cool, but what is cool? “Any cool kids out here?” It means Brooklyn, so yes. You go out there and you look. I know it’s the most cliché answer, but I know it when I see it.

I am paid basically for my eye. If I see a kid who is cool, I’m going to approach that kid. It could be energy, the way that they’re playing on the playground with their friends, a haircut or an outfit that you could tell a girl put together on her own with her own eight-year-old swagger. It could be anything, but I love a child who feels unique and doesn’t look like anyone else in the world. I love that.

There’s charisma behind kids. It’s hard to define. We talk about adults in every conversation. As adults, we break it down. We say, “These are the character traits of performance in an adult. These are the attributes that you need and this combination of attributes creates this character.” You look at kids, and they haven’t developed their attributes and character traits because they don’t know what their attributes are. I like how you’ve framed it in that way. You got to look at it and there’s something, an aura around it that says, “That’s somebody who fits.”

I’ll see a kid skateboarding with crazy confidence and I’m like, “That’s a cool kid.” Without even seeing them, you can tell when a person has that certain Je ne sais quoi. I love a confident kid and also, the thing with children is that they’re so honest. When you’re dealing with kids that are under a certain age, not teenagers, but kids there’s no makeup. Nothing’s artificial yet. It’s all raw. There’s a lot of honesty there. It’s the honesty in the kids that’s attractive to me.

When I meet a kid who’s already been trained from a young age to act a certain way or be a certain way, I’m totally turned off. I want that honesty. There’s so little of it in the world that when I see it, it’s almost like, “Let me drink in the youth.” You want a piece of it. You want to be close to it. It’s magic because we lose it so quickly. That’s what I’m looking for.

That brings up the parents, the other side. I’m a parent and you’re a parent. You look at your kid and you’re like, “That’s the best kid.”

I don’t do that. I don’t know what world you’re living in.

Usually, you think that, but there are a lot of times also in the day where you’re like, “That’s also the worst kid.” How do you balance that? In some respects, you’re there to analyze and assess the child, you want to be fair to the child, but I would expect that, and you can certainly elaborate, that there are a lot of times where there’s a difficult parent to deal with.

It’s funny because I’ve been doing this for a while. It’s been quite a few years and I have to be honest with you, as many horror stories you hear are as cliché as momagers are, you do come across the pushy don’t take no for an answer. Think their kid is the bomb and the best thing that’s ever happened and you’re not seeing it.

“You’re the casting director. You don’t see my kid the way that I see my kid. You don’t understand. You don’t get it.” No, I get it. It’s that pushy parent who keeps bombarding you with emails. They email you and they’re like, “I want to update you.” I’m like, “I’ve never booked your kid for a single job. It’s been five years. It’s not going to happen. You need to be realistic. It’s a business like any other business.”

This is the thing that parents don’t understand. It’s a business like any other business and not every child is going to be successful in this business. It’s like how not every adult is going to be successful in their chosen field. Sometimes a parent turns you off so much that the kid could sometimes be something that you want, but the parent pushes you to reconsider that. I hate to say it, but they cock block their own child’s success by being so aggressive.

What’s the advice to parents then?

If you’re dealing with a child who’s of age to walk into a situation by themselves, let them go by themselves. You don’t have to be hovering or do helicopter parenting. Let your kid do his magic. I love those parents, who are like, “My kid got this.” At a casting, they’re waiting in another room. They know their kid got this and they let them roll. You can’t do that with a toddler or a baby, but the parents whose kids are 6, 9, 10 years old, let your kid shine. This is not about you. You’re vicariously living through your kid. Get out of here. Go sit in another room. Let your kid shine for a minute.

Let the body of work speak for itself.

Kids usually do better when the parents are in another room because they’re not that nervous. That’s what I have to say about that.

We interviewed Andy Towers a couple of times. He is one of the greatest lacrosse players who ever played the game and now he’s the coach of the Premier Lacrosse League Chaos team. They won the championship. He talks about this, about the parents who come in and tell their kids, “If you don’t like your amount of playing time, go talk to the coach.”

His perspective on this is to never do that. Never tell your kid to go talk to the coach. Let the body of work speak for itself. The coach is there to play the best player and not the one whose parent is the one who’s telling the coach to play the player. He has had to make that differentiation, too, between how do I evaluate the kid without looking at them? When I see the kid, I see the parent yelling at me to put the kid in the game versus letting the body of work speak for itself.

Walk away from things that don’t sit right in your heart. Click To Tweet

I could not agree more with that sentiment. That’s exactly what I mean. I’m sure there are parents out there who are also vicariously living their sports dreams through their kids.

I would love to be able to go back and play another lacrosse game from my high school. My daughter’s doing it. I try to back off.

Are you one of those parents?

No. I try to back off. I let her go.

I go to soccer practice with my son and I sunbathe on the bench. I don’t even pay attention to the game. He doesn’t care and the coaches love me. There they go, “There’s the suntanning mom on the bench.”

I want to ask about the entrepreneurial journey that you’ve been in this business. You talked about having to pivot. You talked about the market shock of 2008 and 2009. I was reading an article and it said, “The life of a podcaster can be difficult and lonely.” I started laughing because I was like, “That couldn’t be more true.” I looked at my wife was like, “This describes the last several months of my life.” Can you talk about the journey of building a business?

That’s all I have to say about that.

Some days you’re on top of the world and some days, this is the best thing ever and other times, it’s like, “Everything sucks. My work sucks. Nobody wants to work with me. Nobody likes what I’m doing.” Those can happen multiple times in a day.

Working for yourself and only other people who work for themselves can understand that you have the freedom to basically “do whatever you want anytime you want. You don’t have to answer to the man.” “Freedom.” You’re not answering to the man and you’re not working for the man, but you’re working for the man 24 hours a day. I have a couple of points to make about this. First of all, it is lonely because you’re alone most of the time. I’m alone with my laptop all the time working by myself. Unless I am on a casting set in a studio.

The Jedburgh Podcast in your kitchen.

What do you mean kitchen? This is my office.

Office/kitchen.

You’re here, but if you weren’t here, I’d be sitting here alone on my laptop working.

I moved your computer to set up the microphone.

This is where I would be sitting, drinking coffee and listening to ‘90s or ‘80s hip hop and working. There are days when I don’t say a single word out loud to another human being. I don’t know if you know what I’m talking about. It’s crazy. Somebody will call you on the phone and you’ll be like, “Hi.” I used to go to SoulCycle just to interact with other humans for an hour because I was lonely. That part is lonely and the other part that is lonely in a way is that nobody else is responsible for your success. It’s all on you, every single part of it. Everything that happens that comes out of is on your shoulders. There’s nobody else. The accountability is all you. There’s nobody else you can blame.

If you didn’t get that job that you wanted, that’s on you, but also, if you did get the job, it’s on you. It’s always this double-edged sword and you’re always walking this fine line because on the same day that you could lose a big client, it could be the same exact day that you gain a new one. It’s a roller coaster that you have to learn how to sit back, chill, relax, and go with because you’re not in control of so much of it. Much of it is dependent on somebody else making a decision even though you’re your own boss, and somebody is hiring you.

TJP 48 l Cast Inc

I have a lot of moments where I didn’t work for a few months. It was crickets and I was like, “What am I going to do? What’s my second career going to be like? Am I opening up a restaurant right now because I love to cook? Am I going to be the next soup queen? I love making soup. What’s my second act going to be because castings are not happening?” It’s the pandemic or maybe I’m not the cool casting director anymore. There’s always somebody else.

It’s that evaluation that you’re constantly going through. That’s what gets me. You wake up and it’s the first thing you think about. Harris Glaser was on an episode and they have a company called Midnight Express. They make ridiculous powerboats down in Miami. It’s so nice. It’s my dream to have one.

He says this, “When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s the first thing you think about when you wake up is the last thing you think about when you go to bed.” Throughout the day, it’s primarily almost the only thing that you think about. It’s that constant evaluation where I’m like, “Was it right?” You send an email and you’re like, “Was that the right thing to send? I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t.” You start looking at when they are going to respond. You’re like, “How long is it going to take to respond? Why didn’t they reply to my text right away? Did I say something wrong?”

I’m way past that now. It happened to me in my 40s when I was like, “I know my worth. I know what I bring to the table. I know how I work and I know that I work differently than everybody else that’s doing the same thing.” Maybe this is the thing that my mom did to me where she told me I was the greatest every day. I’m like, “I know that I’m good at my job.” When I don’t get hired to do something, I’m like, “It’s their loss.”

That’s where I am now, but it took me so many years to get here where I don’t feel like an imposter or I’m like this little sixteen-year-old girl in Paris who’s like, “What am I doing here? Why am I here? Who hired me? Is this a joke? Am I going to wake up?” You get past that and you go into the hole, what you described. Somehow you get up one day and you’re on the other side of it going, “No. I’m good at this. People are lucky to work with me.” That’s how I feel now.

Going back to my original thing. Work had dried up for me for a couple of months. I was sitting around telling my boyfriend, “I need a second act. I don’t know what I’m going to do. No one’s calling. I know that things are starting to shoot again.” He was like, “Hold on. One more day.” I swear to you on anything, 48 hours after that breakdown conversation. I got five jobs in one day. It was like, “This one called.” All of a sudden, I’m busy and juggling. I was like, “Can I take on five castings at the same time?” You’re like, “Of course, I can. I’m me. I can do this.”

They’re lucky that I’m available. It’s feast or famine. You go through total feasts or total famines and you have to learn to ride that wave without going, “Screw this. I give up. I’m out,” because there have been moments in 2012-ish when I was also having a hard time. I remember being like, “I need to pivot. Something’s going on.”

Nobody else is responsible for your success. It's all on you. Click To Tweet

One client came through for me. When you think, “I’m giving up this. This ride has been good, but it’s over.” Something happens and you’re like, “This is why I do it. I love what I do and I’m good at it.” If you’re good at it, you love it and you’re like, “I love to work.” You will never hear me say, “I’m so busy.” I wake up in the morning and I’m like, “Get the kids to school, come back, drink your coffee, workout and I’m psyched.” I’m psyched to start working. I will always love it.

I talked about this in another episode about how I had begun to shutter when someone says to me or I said to them when they asked me how I am or I asked them and they say, “I’m so busy.” I don’t like that phrase anymore. I don’t know why necessarily, but it’s for a lot of the reasons you said it. You have self-efficacy. You have a choice in what you do every day. Nobody’s forcing you to wake up and execute at a high level and get things done.

When we talk about entrepreneurship, it’s always this balance between perseverance and patience, drive and patience, and there’s also courage in there. Do I have the courage to keep on this road? Do I have the courage to reach out to that person that I might not want to? You have to blend all these things but then understand when am I going too far? When do I have to pull back? When do I have to wait? It’s like what you talked about.

It’s like walking on a balance beam all day long.

Am I busy? Is it busy or are you working towards something? If you’re working towards something, does it matter if you’re busy? If you’re not busy, then you’re probably not doing something right. That’s what I would challenge.

I have a whole issue with busyness. People wear it as some weird badge.

It’s like a badge of honor. It’s like, “I have 45 meetings today.” What did you achieve?TJP 48 l Cast Inc

Also, are you happy? To me, it all comes down to that anyway. At the end of the day, did your busyness produce happiness for you? Whatever you’re busy with, did it produce some satisfaction? Are you satisfied, content? Are you on your way to being content? If not, what are you doing it for? That’s the big question.

I found this amazing Instagram account called The Nap Ministry, where they talk about rest as a revolution. I’m not going to go on some anti-capitalist rant here because I love making money but it’s this whole busyness as a badge of honor thing. No. What’s amazing is if you rest. People are forgetting that rest is the badge of honor. If you can work on a level where you get to also rest and enjoy your life, that’s the badge of honor that I’m interested in. We need to rest.

There’s an entire line of effort within health around rest as the driver of performance. WHOOP is a massive company. We talked to Kristen Holmes, the Head of Performance Science at WHOOP. WHOOP is a band that you wear on your arm that tracks a lot of your vitals including your heart rate variability and a number of other factors that then tell you the amount of rest that you need based on your exertion. The secondary effect is that it tells you what your workload can be based on the rest you had.

I need this in my life immediately.

You can order it online, but it took me months. It’s like my daughter who’s constantly like, “Leave me alone. I’m relaxing.” What are you relaxing about? This isn’t relaxing. I want to ask about your kids. We were talking about it.

You and I could talk about a bazillion topics.

We were swapping some stories about having to raise preteen children. We talked about entrepreneurship, but parenting is the toughest job that we have and it’s something that I’ve come to understand and know over the last years. I’ve talked about this a little bit to others in the past, but not too much. I wasn’t there for the majority of my daughter’s life.

In the first 4 or 5 years of her life, I was in Special Operations and I wasn’t home. I was gone. I was deployed. I wasn’t there and I spent seven-plus years separated from my wife and my daughter. My daughter lived with her and we had totally separate lives, different relationships, different priorities in our lives. We’ve subsequently come back together over the last years and it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Now I’ve come to appreciate, as we’ve had our son over the last couple of years, how much I missed and how much there is to be a parent and what it takes out of you, the good and the bad. Even at the worst times, they’ll go to bed and I’ll sit there and be like, “That was pretty cool.” You have three kids and as we’ve talked about dealing with kids all day long. Talk about that balance and talk about what your kids mean to you in your life.

I did not set out to be a mother of three. I come from a long line of only children. My mom and grandmother was an only child. I always pictured myself that I would have a kid. I always wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I made a lot of decisions in my love life leading up to her birth about this. I was on this mission to have a child, which I did and the other two were twins which happened as a total surprise to me. I passed out

1 to 3 is a big jump, too.

Twins is a whole other ball game altogether. Here I was with 3 kids, 2 marriages, and 2 divorces. I could talk about that also, but that’s a whole other episode. The takeaway for me has always been to walk away from things that didn’t sit right in my heart. That’s where I’m going to go with that, but my children are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I would do those two marriages over again if I had to so I could have these three humans in my life. I feel like I gave birth to my children and ultimately to these three unique humans who are also my best friends. I always say that I gave birth to my besties. I can’t believe that.

I’m a single mom and it’s so challenging. I always say, as a joke, that going to work is the break for me because being at home with them and managing their emotions, their growth, their needs, and all the things that parenting takes, that’s real work. I’ve never been so tired in my life. For me to go to a casting for 12 hours with 500 kids and screaming parents, that’s my break. Going to work is my break.

TJP 48 l Cast IncSitting at home alone on a computer for eight hours straight doing a job, that’s my break because as soon as they’re home, it’s chaos. This is my only parenting advice in the world. Kids are exactly what you’re going to put into them. That’s it. You’re going to get out what you put in. It’s the truth. The more you put in, and I’m talking about attention, time and if you connect with them, you are going to raise some awesome humans.

I want to ask you about the difference between when we grew up and kids now. This has come up a little bit in the past. It was a different time. When we grew up in the ‘80s, you didn’t wear helmets when you rode your bike and there were no cell phones. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was a senior in college and that was the flip phone, so there was no texting, there were no social media. Facebook and Myspace came out, I was already in the army in Iraq and I remember talking about, “What’s this Myspace thing? I’m never going to have that. I don’t want anything to do with it. That’s going to go away one day.”

It’s changed the complexion of how kids are raised and how parents parent. When my son was two, he knew the word iPad when he wanted to go play on the iPad, play games, or watch something on it. It’s so different today. A big part of it, too, is that a lot of parents have become risk-averse and you deal with certainly many more parents than I do but you talked about helicopter parenting. How do we bridge that gap? When we were kids, you felt it if you fell off your bike. I fell off my bike once I scraped the whole side of my body. My arm was bleeding everywhere. I remember I ran into the house to talk to my grandmother, and she’s like, “Go rub it off in the shower. What’s the problem? You’ll be okay.” Now that’s the end of the world. How do we bridge that gap?

I cannot tell you how many hours of my life my boyfriend and I talked about this. He doesn’t have kids, so he came into the situation and he was surprised. He’s also this kid from Brooklyn who grew up in the ‘80s and he’s always like, “When I was your son’s age, my mom was letting me take the bike and go from Ocean Parkway to Greenwood Cemetery on a bike and come back.” I’m like, “I would never put my seven-year-old son on a bike by himself. Are you insane? I don’t even let him cross the street to the deli.” We’re the last analog generation. My son can do things on a computer that I don’t even know what he’s doing.

Some days you go through total feasts, while others are total famines, but you have to learn to ride that wave without giving up. Click To Tweet

The divide is so insane to me the way that you and I grew up. We’re never going to understand how different these two childhoods are. Every summer, I used to go to upstate New York with my grandparents and I would take my bike and go biking through the hills of Monticello by myself into the darkness. I wouldn’t dream of letting my daughter do that today. Not in a million years.

As a society, and this is something that came up with my son’s teachers, we’re always like, “You’re on the iPad too much. Read a book.” His teacher said to me, “He doesn’t want to read a paper book. He wants to read a book on his iPad so let him read on his iPad.” We have to shift the way we think about the way that we’re parenting. We put iPads in their hands at two years old. What did we expect that was going to happen? We did this to them and now we have to change the way we think about how he doesn’t want to read a paper book but knows how to read because he’s reading on his iPad. We need to change the narrative around that because at the end of the day our kids are going to read. Not maybe paper books.

I’ve changed my behavior in some ways to that. I’ve stopped reading paper books because I found that because I’m on my phone so much that I can read the books on the Kindle app so much faster. The people who read these regularly know that I read every book that some of my guests write. For some guests who’ve written multiple books, I’ve either read multiple books in preparation for the conversation or I’ve had to pick one and focus on that conversation. I’ve screwed myself a few times where I’ve had to read multiple books a week to get these done. I have found that because I spent so much time on my phone, making the transition back to a paper book almost triples my reading time.

Have you noticed how hard it is to focus with a paper book in your hand? Isn’t that insane? I always tell my daughter, “When I was your age, I was going through books. I couldn’t get enough of.” I see her struggling. Sitting down, she struggled so hard to get through a book and I could see it because of her attention. The brain is being wired in a different way. We’re talking about thousands of years of evolution of man and all of a sudden, this is so insidious. It’s everything. It’s everywhere. It’s all of us.

I can’t even say anything to them because they’re like, “You’re on your phone, too.” You’re right. I am on my phone, too, and they make it so interesting for them to be on their devices that it’s an all-day dopamine hit. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to have to change the way that we think about it because telling an eight-year-old they should read a book doesn’t work. We need to change the way we think about it versus changing the behavior because it’s too late for that. They’re the digital generation.

I’ve asked my daughter a couple of times when I’ve said, “Put your phone down.” Within 30 seconds, it’ll be like, “What do I do with myself?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Go outside. Go play.” I don’t know what to do outside.

Without her phone to take a picture of the outside? No.

She’s like, “I don’t know what to do outside.” I’m like, “Go call the neighbor’s kid. Go play outside.”

It’s crazy. I’m sure that back in the day in the ‘80s, our parents were complaining about us doing some crap too. Every generation complains about their kids’ generation so I’m sure we put them through a different type of hell. This one’s different because it’s not going anywhere.

I like that advice. We’re going to need to embrace it and need to think about how we incorporate it into their lives, ours and find the positive.

We have to. We don’t have a choice now. I can’t tell you how much of my life I spent feeling guilty about my kids’ amount of time in front of a screen. It’s exhausting. I feel guilty about it right now as we speak about it. It’s an awful feeling. We need to change it. We need to change what’s on the devices and create things that are different. I don’t have the answers for that. I’m not here for that. I wasn’t put on earth for that. That’s somebody else’s job, but I’ll do the ad campaign and cast it for you.

What’s next for you? I was looking at your Instagram feed and it has diverse content that comes through that Instagram feed. I saw Maybelline, Calvin Klein, and a couple of projects there. What’s on the horizon?

I will be humble enough to say this. I will stay in the casting industry for as long as it will have me. I know that eventually, new blood will come along and be better than me, faster than me, digitally literate than me, do things cooler than me, and be cooler than me. As long as this industry will have me, I would love to be in it. I love it. In the small, big picture, I want to keep doing what I’m doing. This is going to sound so cliché. I know we joked about it earlier, but I want to move to a farm in Connecticut and make soups for people in a soup restaurant or have my own little soup stand. I want to cook. I want to feed people.

I also don’t want to work when I’m in my 70s. I do want to chill at some point, but I would love to stay in the business that I’m in for as long as I can because I still have a lot to give in that way and I love what I do. I love to find a new kid on the street who maybe has no confidence, is being bullied at school and all of a sudden, two months later, he’s up on a billboard in a ZARA campaign and his whole life has changed. Nobody at school is bullying him anymore because he’s the cool kid. I want to make more of those little moments happen for a bunch of kids. I do want to make soup. Maybe salads. Salads in the summer and soups in the winter.TJP 48 l Cast Inc

Julia, as we close out, the Jedburghs in World War II had to do three things as core foundational skills at a high level every day. They had to be able to shoot, they had to be able to move and they had to be able to communicate. If they did these three core tasks with the highest level of precision every day, then they could focus their attention on other challenges that came their way. What are the three things that you do every day in your world to set the conditions for success?

The first thing that I do is wake up at the same time every day. I like to be up early before anybody else is up, maybe at 6:00 AM or 6:30 AM and have that moment where it’s me, my coffee, my thoughts and trying to figure out what the day is going to look like for me. I know this doesn’t come across this way, but I wake up every day and am so grateful for this day. I’ve come to this age in my life where I truly understand what being grateful for every day means or maybe it’s this pandemic, but I was always like that. I’ve always been like, “I’m so lucky. I don’t have to be here. I get to be here.”

Waking up every day early and have a moment to realize how lucky I am. It’s important not to procrastinate. A little bit of this might even be part of my OCD, which a psychiatrist truly diagnosed with in 2012. I do have OCD for real, not the way people go, “I’m so neat. I’m such an OCD freak.” I have a diagnosed OCD and that OCD makes me not procrastinate. When I think of something, I do it. I have to do the dishes. I have to take out the garbage. I’m going to put in the laundry while I go to Peloton. I have a sense of urgency all the time.

That might not be the greatest thing, but I am a high-functioning person because I feel like I get more crap done. It’s like the army. Before 6:00 AM, most people do all day because I’m functioning without this procrastination of, “I’ll get the laundry or food shopping later. I’ll finish this job later.” No. Do it now. Cross it off and move on to the next thing that you have to do. That way, at the end of the day, you can chill. I tell my kids, “Do your homework as soon as you get home and chill for the rest of the night.”

That’s two things. There’s one more. Rest. I give myself at least one day a week where I don’t maybe even get out of bed, to be honest with you. Straight up, you need to recover to function at that level. You have to rest. I come from a home where resting was looked down upon. It’s an immigrant thing. We’re like, “What are you doing?” You’re like

TJP 48 l Cast Inc

“Resting.” “What is resting?” I had to teach myself how to rest. It’s the craziest thing.

I don’t have the twins on Mondays and Thursdays, so Mondays, as soon as everybody’s at school, it’s my day off where I sometimes don’t

get out of bed. I’ll Peloton, I’ll take a shower, and I’ll get right back to bed. I’ll binge on a show. I’ll read a book or whatever. It’s that kind of rest. Not rest so you can be productive the rest of the week. It’s real soulful rest, so you can function on that level around the clock. You also have to exercise every day.

I’m laughing because my daughter was saying, “I’m relaxing.” I’m like, “There’s no relaxing. You need to get after it. Do something.”

No. Don’t teach her that.

Now, I’ve got to go back and retract it.

Entrepreneurship is always this balance between perseverance, drive, patience, and courage. Click To Tweet

Teach her that rest is good. It sounds like she’s straight-up chilling and resting.

It was completely not getting anything done that she needed to.

Is she resting to get ready for something?

No. She’s resting because she doesn’t want to do anything else.

That’s a whole different story. Our generation was taught that rest was not okay or that you had to rest to be productive. Rest for the sake of rest is probably one of the most important things that I’ve had to learn. I had to teach myself because otherwise, you can burn out and who wants to burn out? No. Those are my three things. I have another one. I have a fourth one.

We’ve never got a fourth.

I am not too proud to beg. If I have to get on the phone or an email and grovel for something that I want, I’ll do it any day. I am not too proud to beg. That’s my parting thought. I have done it.

Wake up at the same time every day and don’t procrastinate. I like that sense of urgency all the time. Three, rest and recover. Your fourth parting thought is not too proud to beg. I’ll say fight for what you want. I’ll rephrase that for you. It ties into drive.

I’ve had to humble myself for people who reach a certain level of “success” in whichever way you want to define it in this world. I’ve been knocked down a couple of times. I had to humble myself to be like, “Make that phone call to that person who you don’t want to call,” but you’re like, “I am struggling. I need some work.” I’m not too proud because, at the end of the day, I have to feed three kids.

I look at it in terms of, you don’t have it now and if you don’t ask, you don’t put yourself out there, you’re not going to have it. What’s the worst that could happen? Until you know where you are from, where you’re at right at this moment is the same as that place.

Ego could screw with you. You could be like, “I’ve been working for 25 years?” Nothing is guaranteed. It’s a whole new world out there. Sometimes you’ve got to ask. That’s where I’m at with being too proud.

We talked about the nine characteristics of performance as defined by Special Operations forces. That is one of the driving factors behind this show. Drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, team ability, effective intelligence, and emotional strength. All high performers exhibit these characteristics in varying degrees based on the situation that they’re in but they have them all. I take one, and I look at my guest, and I say, “This is what I think of you and when I think about our conversation, this is the one that I would use to define where you’re at.”

For you, I got to give you one and I’m going to throw in another one here. It’s more of an attribute but emotional strength is what about when I talk to you. The reason why is because you deal with a sensitive world of talent management that takes a high degree of emotional strength to manage chaos, manage confusion, manage people’s emotions. It also requires empathy and it requires you to identify with what people go through. That is exhibited in how you tell your story, talk about wanting to impact people’s lives and kids’ lives, and change the direction they’re going in.

That goes back to where you came from and the teacher and the guidance counselor who came to you, and showed both emotional strength and empathy, and said, “Where you’re going isn’t the right place. Maybe this will work for you,” and you have the courage to act. Since you made that jump, you had that courage, you’ve exhibited all of these characteristics, at some point in your life of everything that you’ve been through. You continue to do it today. You’ve welcomed us into your home. I’m excited for this soup.TJP 48 l Cast Inc

If it sucks, we’ll caveat the rest of the episode like that, but I appreciate your time. I’ve loved hearing your story and sharing it with our audience. We have so much to learn about so much of the way that we conduct ourselves. I walk out of here a better person than I did when I walked in. I thank you for that and thank you for joining me.

Mind blown. I never made the connection before. You said, “I’m sorry. I need a moment.” I never made the connection between what I do and what my guidance counselor did for me. I would have never put those two things together in my entire life. You blew my mind. I’m sitting here trying to understand what you did for me. That makes a lot of sense. You’re good at this.

I spent days telling my man that I don’t know why you’re coming here to talk to me. I don’t know if it’s imposter syndrome, but he had to talk me off the ledge because I looked at all your guests and I was like, “These are incredible people. Why is he coming to talk to me? Who am I?” I don’t feel that special enough to be spoken to by you and be part of this, be one of your guests. I was like, “I’m not good enough for this. Why is he coming to talk to me? Look at all these people he’s had on. He had generals and CEOs and I’m this little dinky casting director in Brooklyn.” You’ve made me feel like $1 billion.

I do have a hard time accepting that I am deserving of this. Thank you for making me feel this good and for connecting my story that way. I never saw it that way before. Thank you for driving to Brooklyn just for some soup. You’re driving into the city. That’s what we used to call it when you go from Brooklyn to Manhattan. It’s like, “Mom, go to the city.” Nobody says Manhattan. No. I am humbled by you being you’re talking to me and making me feel like what I have to say is worth anything. That’s dope of you to do that for me.

Thank you. We tell the story of modern-day Jedburghs, those who have gone out and changed the direction of society, the world, their industry, and whether you believe it or not, you have changed the direction of the casting industry. You sit at a prominent position leading and innovating in that space. That is something that has made the lives of many people far better.

Thank you. If I wasn’t on this much soul off, that would be crying. I’ll cry sometimes but thank you. You might possibly make me cry, so thank you. If I even changed one kid’s life or made one kid out there feel special for five minutes of their life, then it was all worth it, honestly. I’ve met some amazing people on this journey and I hate saying that word. It’s so Millennial and I’m Gen X. I feel like maybe there are a couple of kids out there who I’ve made their day brighter by making them feel seen. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway, to be seen for a second? Many people walk around feeling unseen. Thanks for acknowledging the genius in me.

Time for the soup.

Thank you.

Thank you.

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