When Your Relatives Ask Why You’re Not Famous Yet

Ah, the holidays. Chilly weather, pumpkin pie, and relatives wondering why they still haven’t seen you on their TV.

“#tfw you have to explain to friends and family once again that “Yup, I’m still acting……and nope, I’m not famous yet…..” @_tonyrossi

When Chicago-based actor  Tony Rossi tweeted this recently, I could relate, and I thought you probably could, too.

Here’s the scene: You’re at a gathering with family, many of whom you don’t see more than once a year. You’ve got a plate in one hand and a drink in the other and you’re having a lovely conversation with someone (really!) when they change the subject and ask how the acting thing is going.

If there’s a lot happening for you work-wise, answering this question is super easy. If not, it can literally ruin your day as you try to figure out what to say while sparing yourself and the questioner from the feeling that you’re not living up to your potential. So here’s a guide to keeping a good perspective on our business and your place within it, no matter how you much or little work you’ve been doing lately.

  • Consider the source of the question. Most people don’t know how our business works. They think if you’re not in something they’ve seen or heard of, it means you’re not working. We know that couldn’t be further from the truth.


  • Success looks different for everyone. Achievements you might be proud of may not seem significant to others. That’s okay, but don’t let that devalue their worth to you. This is true for any career, in any industry. Would you care if your uncle hit a sales goal? No you would not, but it would still be a big deal to him.


  • Remember that you are not your career. They’re two different things. YOU can be doing just fine even as your CAREER could feel like it’s on hiatus.


  • Every acting career is a work in progress, even those of the people we think of as having made it to whatever level.


  • Speaking of that, there is no such thing as having “made it”. No matter where you’re at or what you’re doing, you will always be working toward a goal, and the goalposts will always be moving.


  • The road to success, however you define it, is paved with incremental steps. The ride is just as valuable as the destination (perhaps even more so).


  • This business is cyclical. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re not. Stick with it long enough and everything comes back around.


  • There are so many factors that go into whether any one particular actor gets any one particular job. You already know being cast or not is never about you, but the person on the other end of your conversation may not. It’s not your job to explain the business to them. It’s your job to ignore their confusion and be proud of what you’ve done thus far.


  • Don’t feel you need to justify anything to anyone. You know the steps to the career you want, and you’re taking them.


I always try to keep in mind that people who don’t know any better have no idea how much time and work goes into getting even the smallest career win. A friend of mine has an aunt who says things like, “Just tell them you’d be perfect in their movie!” As if that’s all it takes to get cast. We all wish it were.

But more than that, when it comes to your acting, you’re only responsible for your own satisfaction. You’re not responsible for making sure others approve of your booking rate. That’s their own issue.




3 responses to “When Your Relatives Ask Why You’re Not Famous Yet”

  1. Just had an early Thanksgiving and ran into a relative that introduced me to their industry professional husband as “a little actress.” I couldn’t tell if I was being ridiculed for having the audacity to call myself an actor. Her husband went on and on about his music industry days, which was all very impressive, periodically stopping to assess if I was keeping up with the terminology. I decided then that there’s clearly no middle ground to talking about your career when it comes to family. They either don’t get it and think you’re not successful, or they do get it and they think you couldn’t possibly know as much as they do.

    • I’m hoping they are not a close relative. Sounds like one to either avoid or tell off. Way to condescending “little actress”….. unless her husband is truly in a position to help land some great gigs…. then call me whatever you want ( lol).
      Sorry that happened.