She’s not only reppin’ Filipinos and Filipino-Americans, but she’s also reppin’ the LGBT community as this #bicon on-the-rise, Giovannie Espiritu talk vulnerability and finding your voice in this feature interview.
A: What do you want our readers to know about you? What’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet?
GE: I want the readers to make noise, to not be afraid of who they are because we’ve been so conditioned to be the quiet ones, the ones to not make noise and that we’re just so easy-going…
I want the readers to know that I’m going on the same journey with them. Even now, it’s hard for me to speak up. I feel like acting has been my way of healing.
I also don’t know how to promote myself with the elevator speech and that’s something that I’m learning. People in power are really good at those elevator speeches with “Yeah, I did this awesome thing and this awesome thing.”
So, yeah, I’ve done really cool things: I have a series on Amazon, I’m a teacher, I’m trying to inspire the next generation to find their voice.
I want people to know that I do awesome stuff and I’ve done awesome stuff, but it’s still hard for me to say that because we’ve been so conditioned to be humble about what our accomplishments are!
It’s even hard taking up that space to even say, “My ideas are valid! My point of view is valid!”
I’m learning that now and I am trying and it is hard.
My voice still shakes when I pitch something in the writer’s room and I don’t have the words yet to make it coherent. It’s still a process to find your voice. Just even taking that first step of saying “This is what I think” and “This is why I think it’s valid” is so brave.
A: Yes! Exactly that! The struggle of knowing the distinction between promoting and bragging!
GE: One of the people who I look up to, he’s a showrunner I don’t want to name drop or anything (laughs) but he said:
Talk about the thing like it’s a thing until it’s a thing.
That really kind of sunk in me because you know, we don’t do that enough; we haven’t been trained to have the confidence to be like, “What I have to say is important” and I think that’s why we’re seeing more of a rise in Asian AF at UCB and Crazy Rich Asians and all these Asian-American media going on because we’re starting to understand that we have a voice that’s been silenced for so long, you know?
Supporting one another is really huge too.
If you see somebody doing something really awesome, give them a freakin’ shout out, because it is hard.
It doesn’t take away from who you are and what you do to say, “Hey, this person is awesome, you should check ’em out!”
People have said that there’s crab mentality sometimes in the Philippines where you hold somebody down so they don’t get higher than you in life, that’s always never felt right with me.
I understand it because people believe in scarcity or scarcity is being forced on us…but I’ve actually found that if you amplify somebody that you think is awesome, it just helps all the way around.
A: Yes! So true!
Can you talk a little bit more about your journey to LA?
GE: I only moved to LA about two years ago and I’m still figuring out the system.
I started acting around 2003, 2004 on a fluke, actually.
And this is kind of a weird scenario: So, I was in a cult for a really long time. Which is why I have a kid and my kid is old and people don’t expect that. I came out of the super-patriarchal, apocalyptic, doomsday religion where I was scared of everything.
The way that got me out of it–this is such a silly, strange story–but we were in the mountains and the only people from the outside world that I would talk to were telemarketers. I would try and keep them on the phone because I was so wanting a connection with the outside world.
One of them was like, “You have a really interesting voice, have you ever thought of voice-overs?” And I had no idea what voice-overs were so I looked it up on the internet with not very much information and I just sent in a recording (that was absolutely horrible) to one of the biggest agencies that I can find in San Francisco.
They actually called me in and going into my first audition and booking it the same day!
So, I thought that this is a sign from the universe that this is a good path and that I should be doing this and that I needed to get better at this.
I started going to an acting class–and it’s a very long story but this acting class helped me get out of an abusive relationship because I didn’t even know what I was going through was so weird–
–because when you’re in a relationship that’s bad, you don’t know what. I didn’t have the role models of a healthy relationship to be standard for me.
Acting was my savior.
I started in the San Francisco Bay Area market and I started teaching kids up there and I only moved to LA two years ago because they kept raising my rent (laughs)!
I used to be scared of LA, that it would be so superficial, etc. all these things that people tell you about LA, so I’m thankful for the UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) community because we’re all a bunch of dorks! (laughs)
It’s about the people who you surround yourself with.
If you don’t want superficial, surface relationships, you don’t have to have that. You can totally connect with people on a deeper level but it’s about the intentions that you put out there.
That’s been the really nice thing about LA: there are so many creative, awesome people who just do things here! Every day in LA, I am so inspired by the people who I’m around and constantly making stuff.
LA pushes you to hustle. LA pushes you to put your voice out there. Because you’re around people who are constantly doing that, it’s “If they can do it, I can do it too!“
A: You also founded your own acting workshop. You’ve been posting about your students’ successes on instagram lately. Can you talk more about your coaching background?
GE: I have been a teacher for almost 13 or 14 years but on my own, for nine or ten years. I used to teach at a couple of different schools and then I went off on my own and started teaching kids on my own.
I have two kids–Filipino sisters at the Life Hacks for Kids show with Universal/Dreamworks. One just got booked for 26 episodes of an animated series and another’s on General Hospital now.
So, you know, my students work. I do my best to teach them everything I know.
It’s really important to me that when I teach kids and teens, that the desire to act comes from them. Before, I take any students on, I usually talk to their parents to make sure that they’re not the ones forcing their kids into this industry just because they think they’re cute. Because that’s not good for them.
Acting is the most–you have to have a brave heart to be an actor because we show the emotions or the things that we don’t want people to see in our real lives on-screen. We make it OK for people to feel those feelings.
A: Can you tell us what you have coming up?
I just did a film with the director of the series that I did. She’s doing a feminist film called Solstice and that has a lot of great, non-binary, LGBTQ leaders.
For more on Giovannie, check out her instagram.
This interview was lightly condensed for time.