Getting to Know You - Student Spotlight on Nicole Ferguson
There will never be enough words to express how much we love and appreciate Nicole Ferguson, nor how incredibly PROUD we are of her! As she embarks on her newest journey as Ensemble (Understudy Lady Thiang & Anna) on The King and I Tour, we want to take time to celebrate her success all month long as a community! Something Wonderful is heading her way so we thought now would be the perfect time for getting to know all things Nicole.
Nicole, thank you for sharing your heart and stories with us, and for always embodying the true meaning of living life as an authentic artist. We love you!
When were you first drawn to the artistic community?
When I was little, I grew up in Hong Kong and there wasn’t anything in English, so I watched Disney movies. My parents would put out a mattress and a tent over us, and we would make our own “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and record it. As a little kid I would imagine myself on stage. Musicals were the only thing in English, so that’s where we went.
Can you elaborate specifically on what value the artistic community brings to your life?
Huge value. I mean it’s family, and unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, my entire life is somehow attached to an artistic person or an artistic situation. People I work for are a part of the community, my boyfriend’s a part of the community, my roommates are part of the community, my closest friends are a part of the community, so it’s my family.
What is your signature dance move?
My signature dance move is definitely the raptor.
And for those that don’t know you, what is the raptor?
Claw-like fingers hugging your boobs, and you just run around like a fool making sounds. It really gets all the men. (laughter)
How is movement incorporated in your everyday life?
In my everyday life, I work with kids. They’re the most physical beings on this planet, rolling around and having a good time. Also, I live in NYC. If you don’t move, you get trampled!
Do you have any unique stories about you and dance?
I can specifically remember being in a dance call for Merry Go Round. I sang, and they were interested in me for Sally in Cabaret. I was like ok if it’s Cabaret, I can get away with it. If it’s Liza’s Cabaret, then I’m screwed, and it ended up being Liza’s Cabaret. The first step was a triple, into a layout, into a cooter slam, and I actively thought of how to get out of the room. I was like you can faint, just punch yourself in the face and get a bloody nose, or I can suck it up and try. I tried, and my dignity is left in studio 5 in Nola, but you know, you do your best.
What are you most excited for on The King and I tour?
Oh gosh! So many things. Honestly, I'm excited to be on a sit down tour. So much of one-nighter tours is just conquering that specific lifestyle. I'm excited to experience being on stage every night, to learn from the amazing women that I have the privilege to understudy, and to do THIS show!
How did your experiences in “Sister Act” help to prepare you for this opportunity?
Sister Act was an amazing experience. It was one of the most vocally tasking/belty/fabulous/fierce shows I've ever been a part of. After that journey was over, I realized how much I missed singing Golden Age music. I used the audition season focus on that. I only belted when asked and would walk in and present a legit audition, every time, despite the show. I found so much power in that. Knowing what I wanted and being uncompromising. So, in conclusion, Sister Act gave me direction.
What was the most valuable thing you learned from your touring experience with “Sister Act,” that you are going to carry with you on The King and I”?
Be kind. Stay positive. Some people won't like it....oh well.
What inspires you?
My family and friends. I know it’s trite, but it’s true. I like surrounding myself with people that are driven and have direction. I specifically get inspired by people that aren’t a part of the community because it is something so different from what I know. Plus, I love to acknowledge someone’s success especially when I don’t understand it, because it can only be great. I don’t understand the nuances, so it’s just awesome.
Who has had substantial influence on you as an artist?
My high school choir teacher, Kay Maddox. My big and my littles, Elise Hearden, and Sophie Moshofsky and Brett Haynie. Dr. Herendeen, Dr. Ragsdale, Vicky Kelly, Kelli O’Hara, Bartlett Sher, voice teachers, coaches, Michael Rafter, Andy Abrams, Neil Harrelson, anyone that has helped me along my journey. A big one that I think I need to mention is Bob Durkin, the director of Thoroughly Modern Millie at OCU. If you really want to talk about the most impact it’s probably him, because he’s the one that sort of gave me my first shot in an environment that at the time really mattered. I’m a horribly self-conscious person that doesn’t give herself enough credit, and he gave me the permission to do what I thought I wasn’t supposed to do. I was just lucky enough that it was taken as a craft versus foolishness.
How would you describe your personal life balance?
Important, and unfortunately it gets ignored sometimes. It’s something that I’ve definitely had to work on, specifically in career, personal, friendship. When you first move to New York, you hang out with friends 24/7 because you don’t have a schedule, you don’t have a daily life, but it’s actually kind of lovely when you do get busy because that means you’re actually doing something. You have to make sure you’re doing the right things, but it’s important. Something I’ve had to learn is that you have to say no sometimes if it’s too much, and that really sucks, but sometimes you just have to. And when you say no, you can’t be pissed off at yourself that you did say no. You actually just have to enjoy your day. You have to be ok with not being everything to a job, to anything. You can’t be 100 percent for somebody, or something, because you still need a couple percents for yourself.
What knocks you off balance in life?
When I feel like people are having a negative experience and I’m contributing to it, I really hate that. I always want people to, even if it’s not per se exactly what I want or what they want, I want them to understand that nothing is ever from a mal-intention and that art is collaborative, especially in an acting job. If someone’s having a bad day and I’m contributing to it, that really sucks, but that also requires understanding from both parties.
What’s your ideal picture of a balanced career?
I want to be able to wake up in the morning and have a good breakfast. I want to go to a class, whether it be a dance class or a workout class, or do something at home for me that’s just for me. Then see friends or family or someone who’s important to me in my life, and then go to work and do my eight show a week job. That sounds really nice. It doesn’t even have to be on Broadway, just something that I’m really passionate about, that I feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life that’s sitting in 6H that just needed what we’re providing that day. I would very much like that.
What is your personal greatest success that you view as success?
Probably moving to New York. My family is in D.C. and it would have been really easy to move to D.C. But if you’re going to do it, just do it.
How has that helped you make your own personal definition of success?
Success is so many things. Success is, in horrible layman’s terms and probably not eloquent at all, grabbing life by the balls and not acknowledging failure as defeat, but as a stepping stone towards success.
Do you apply that definition of success beyond your career?
Definitely. My personal life, definitely, my relationship, definitely. If you’re going to be a strong female in life, in business, in anything, you can’t pick and choose when you’re strong. Be strong and go after what you want. Now, be nice to people along the way, always.
How important is success to you for personal and artistic fulfillment? Is success the aim of the game?
I think it just depends again on how you define success. I think success is what propels people to continue, because you have to have those feelings of gratification in order to feel like you’re moving in the right direction. It’s fulfillment, whether or not it be career wise. If success for the day is just having a good audition and doing your job, great, you can achieve that every day. Your day will be awesome if every day is successful. If your success is booking it, it’s going to be a lot harder. So I think you have to define success in your own terms, but you have to be intelligent in defining it in a way that’s not ridiculous.
What is a time in your life where you faced significant rejection?
There are two that stick out for me. One, was my transition from college to New York, and it wasn’t a simple, singular rejection, but I went to college and was playing 50 year olds, and while it was a lot of fun, it took a lot of transition to be like “I’m in the city and I’m 22.” You have to rediscover what you can do with that. Two: I had pneumonia for my final Sister Act callback in front of the creative team. We are taught so many different things, “Tell them you’re sick. No don’t tell them you’re sick. Oh no no no don’t do that, that’s audition suicide don’t tell them you’re sick”. I didn’t bomb it, but I definitely didn’t do a good job. But again, tying back to the definition of success, instead of just letting it be, I called the casting director and said “you know that sucked, I know that sucked, what are we going to do about it?” I’m happy I made that phone call.
You booked the job. Do you feel like those rejections, or any other struggles, shape you artistically, and how so?
Oh of course. If you don’t experience life, you can’t reflect it, and art emulates life. You can’t just be focused on the industry because you won’t be as well rounded of an artist as if you live your life in a whole, complete way.
What is your most joyful experience in your career?
I think for me, it was when I first got to perform in Japan, because I grew up watching international tours, and that provided inspiration, actually, for my entire life. Letting myself even go there for two seconds and thinking if there was some expat family sitting in the back row because it was in English, thank God it was in English, and you know if there was a kid back there, it just made me so happy that I was there. I’ve made a really big circle in my life and I was only 25, and it was kind of an accident. I happened to get an international tour, but it started out national, it wasn’t supposed to be that. It was one of those things where it was always what I wanted, and then it was like okay, well now what? Having goals and acknowledging that life continues beyond goals.
Can you identify a magic moment in life that opened unexpected windows of opportunity?
Yeah. I got the opportunity to have a “survival job” when I moved to New York that has opened garage doors to different people, different places, different perspectives that I think are very valuable to me. It gave me exposure to parts of the performing arts world in which we live in professionally that I just would not have been exposed to until a certain point in my own career.
What is one piece of advice that has always stuck with you?
Stick with it until you’re creatively fulfilled, and if you can’t learn anymore, go find education elsewhere.
Motivated Movers loves quotes. Can you introduce us to a new one?
I can introduce you to one except I’m paraphrasing so I’m probably going to butcher it. It’s about friendship. A friendship is like a plant. It’s only as strong as the storms it’s weathered. And that’s kind of like in any artistic craft. I’m only as strong of a singer as the storms that I’ve weathered, and they can be sun rain, it doesn’t have to be thunder storm, it can be a happy storm.
If you could share anything with the Motivated Mover community, what would you say?
Gain as much perspective as possible that brings you peace in your everyday life. It’s not even a business thing, it’s a people thing. People are so dynamic, but if you figure out a way to function that keeps you at your healthiest and your most stable, then do that and if someone doesn’t like it, they’re just going to have to suck it up. Also stop complaining and drink a beer.