When I first started using social media, it was to obsess over all things Broadway and theatre. I took to the internet because my friends didn’t necessarily share my passion, or I’d already talked their ears off over Wicked and Newsies or whatever I had just seen, and I wanted to find my “found family” I missed having from my own theatre experiences. There is truly nothing like the family that a cast and crew can create, and I found an account that not only talked about all things Broadway, but was always a source of positivity when I needed it. I have been very fortunate in that all of my interactions on social media have been this way, but Laura Heywood set the bar for others pretty high. Online, she’s known as @BroadwayGirlNYC, and over the course of multiple exchanges, I knew I had to talk to her once I started this blog. We talk about her social media presence, how theatre came to be a part of her life, and where her endless positivity comes from.
S: Was theatre always in your life or was radio how you got started?
L: I come from a pretty theatrical family. My dad sings, and he got it from his mother. She performed professionally as a church singer. About ten minutes from where I grew up, there was a local theatre that does three musicals every summer. It was mostly Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and I was exposed to a lot of classic musicals that way. We had season tickets, and I got to see a lot that way. My grandmother also did some local theatre and we’d always go see her in whatever she was doing. Sometimes, we’d go into San Francisco to see the Best of Broadway series. I started doing acting classes in after-school programs when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until middle school that I really got into it. I found a commercial acting class for kids as a teenager, and I loved it. I took to it really naturally and I got to be a part of the end of the year showcase. Through that, I actually ended up getting a commercial agent. When I was 13, I came to New York the only time before I moved here and saw 5 shows in 4 days. I went to college on an acting scholarship, and I immediately immersed myself in theatre. I volunteered for productions and signed up for a lot of different classes in different levels.
S: How did radio come into your life?
L: When I was a sophomore, I ended up signing up for a radio show after not getting cast in a show. I had been interested in radio for a long time as a fan. I had a knack for winning radio contests. I thought I wanted to do a radio show based on a cappella music, because I love a cappella music. One of the people I interviewed for Build was Deke Sharon, who had performed at my high school, and he’s gone on to do all the arrangements for In Transit and Pitch Perfect. Before I left for college, he gave me twenty CDs that had been sent to him though the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America. Every college group was making CDs, and the CASA newsletter published my address to send CDs to be put on the radio show. Rockpella had sold out a show in Seattle, and gave me tickets to give away on my show and asked me to be the onstage personality for their show. I realize that hosting a show on the small scale of a college radio station was great practice for me. I loved doing radio because it was its own kind of performance, and it was a really nice outlet. I got a job in radio right out of school through a university connection, and that launched my radio career. Radio had become my thing, but I certainly hadn’t given up on theatre. I got on the press list for the Best of Broadway series through work. This was all in San Francisco, and I had experience in sports and music radio. But I always watched the Tonys every year with my Grandma, it was our thing, but I never imagined myself being in theatre. I liked the spotlight, I liked the attention, and it was a really comfortable place for me to be. Through freelance work, I got a job at Sirius radio and moved to New York. At first, I waited to see the big ticket shows of the season. It wasn’t until Spring Awakening came along that I started going to shows more frequently. I lived right by the theatre and could be in the rush line. That’s when BroadwayGirl started with social media.
S: I forgot BroadwayGirl was anonymous.
L: Yeah, for six years. It was kind of an accident, I just never put my name on it or said it was me. I didn’t think it’d be a big secret, or that anyone would care. Friends of mine started figuring it out. I realized it could be a fun gimmick as a social media convention.
S: In my district, Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck is required reading for staff. How did you find out about it?
L: I got into Mindset from Mark Fisher Fitness. I met him at TEDx Broadway, and he runs a gym in Hell’s Kitchen, and he’s spoken about corporate culture and how to combine two things you love into a new thing. This was right after leaving SiriusXM to focus on BroadwayGirl full-time. And I was going to go into social media consulting, and had been approached about that. He thought I’d be a good fit for his business. This place is a Growth Mindset factory, and they call themselves ridiculous humans. It was here that I realized I was seeing results based on their method. I learned that the credit I got didn’t matter, but the results of my hard work that was no one else’s meant everything to me. It taught me the benefit of progressing of working toward something that was hard at the beginning and became rewarding over time.
S: Is that how you came to start using language frames?
L: I’ve always loved words. Very early, I learned the technicalities of language. My dad would ask me questions like, “Do you know what time it is?” and I’d tell him. He told me that that wasn’t the question; his question was a yes or no question. The follow-up question would be “What time is it?” I learned very early to pay attention to the words people were saying.
S: You’re one of the few people I know who has been able to successfully turn her passions into her career. Is that a mentality you grew up around or is that a skill you developed over time?
L: I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where my parents had jobs they loved, and they had a lot of hobbies. They always did things that they loved, and I grew up seeing people that had the resources to do things that they were passionate about. I think the example was set for me that there was no reason not to do what I found fun. I don’t know that anyone ever told me to pursue my passion as a profession, but no one ever said not to do that. I didn’t see any reason not to choose something that made me happy. I’m aware that this is a privilege afforded to me, and that not everyone grows up in, and I’m am very grateful to have been able to grow up in a family that encourages me to do what I love.
S: Every week I challenge my students and readers to do something outside of their comfort zone. What would you challenge them to do?
L: I’ve been telling myself recently, whenever I meet someone who is different from me, be that in their life experience, their world views, the language they speak, that “You’re important to me because you’re different from me.” It’s easy to get stuck in confirmation bias, through social media and everyday interaction, in situations where everyone around you agrees with you. I find that I learn the most about myself through interacting with people who are different from me. I would challenge them to see people who are different from them as an opportunity for them to learn about themselves, and to see every human interaction that they have as a lesson.
I am very excited to see how my students and readers take on this challenge, and what they gain from it. I really enjoyed getting to hear about Laura’s perspective on life, and the history of @BroadwayGirlNYC. Hearing about her unique journey is not something I’ll soon forget, and I’ve learned plenty from her, be it through social media or her interviews Build Series. You can find her on all social media at @BroadwayGirlNYC, and I definitely recommend checking out her website at http://www.lauraheywoodmedia.com/. If you have yet to read Dr. Carol C. Dweck’s Mindset, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It’s a game-changer for sure, and I’m so glad it’s required reading for my district.
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP