Shift Your Perspective From Getting to Giving to Get Unstuck Broadway star and number-one Billboard recording artist Shoshana Bean shares advice for entrepreneurs and artists.
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Broadway star Shoshana Bean has topped Billboard charts, sold out concerts and theaters and, like many artists, had a packed schedule before COVID hit. But when lockdown went into effect, she felt stuck, scared, and fearful.
She says that overnight, she had to decide how to keep her career going. She attributes her continued success to shifting her mindset from getting to giving and hopes to inspire other entrepreneurs to do the same.
Bean spoke with Jessica Abo about pivoting during the pandemic, why she's so excited about her upcoming holiday performance at the Apollo Theater and how artists and entrepreneurs can make the most out of this moment.
Jessica Abo: Shoshana, people who know you and know your career path might think that you were a success overnight. But can you tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are today?
Shoshana Bean: When I first got to New York, I was straddling the fence between auditioning all day long to try to get my big break on Broadway, but also spending my evenings down in the Village where I was just trying out or participating in these R&B competitions where you'd win fifty bucks or a shot to work with this manager or be signed to this label. It was all shady business, but I just feel like that's where I've lived my whole career, straddling the fence between being a performer in the theater and being a songwriter and singer and recording artist.
It wasn't too long before I got my first show, which was an off-Broadway revival of Godspell. My Broadway debut was Hairspray and then was Wicked. I sang backup for a big Michael Jackson concert, the 30th Anniversary at Madison Square Garden.
And I still was really maintaining a foot in both worlds, writing and recording. During Hairspray, I used to take the train to Philly every weekend to work with these producers that I was making music with, trying to get a foothold in the recording industry.
Where were you when lockdown went into effect, and what were your first thoughts about your career when that happened?
Bean: Oh, just complete, total fear and panic, because in a matter of 24, maybe 48 hours, my entire calendar for the year was wiped out, and the majority of my income comes from live shows. In my gut, I just did not think it would go on this long, so I didn't really think of how to maintain it in the long term.
I think immediately, I thought, "Okay, well, I have a show that's supposed to happen on Tuesday. We can make that virtual. I know how to do virtual shows on StageIt, so I'll just start by making that virtual."
And I guess I just kept my head down and was one foot in front of the other — first with the intention of making sure to continue to provide for my audience. And then second, really just because creating for me and performing for me is like air, it's like breathing, so more than anything, my livelihood aside, I was like, "How is my spirit going to survive this if I don't get to do what I do?"
And the only thing I ever know or knew to do was to sing and to connect as a human heart to heart and as a storyteller. I just started thinking about, What do I need? What are people asking for from me? How can I be of service with my voice, with my music, with my content?
I just made sure that, that the focus was more on, What can I give? As opposed to, What can I get? And it's interesting because I really do believe and continue to have proof that when you come from a place of What can I give, you always end up being fine. It really all does even out, but I've been diligent about coming from, What is my gift?
What advice do you want to give to artists and entrepreneurs at this time who are thinking about their career, thinking about pivoting or how they can even be connecting with their customer, their audience or their fan base?
Bean: I think the first and most important thing to do is to stay inspired. Take time to be still in the stillness because I think the instinct here is to pivot and make moves out of fear, and a lot of times those moves are not necessarily the most inspired or the most on track. I think any knee-jerk reaction can end up costing us more money in the end or not being super authentic and landing with your audience.
For me, it was like, I've got to get really still and be very clear about what the next inspired move is, and if that is authentically inspired by creativity and love, or is it inspired by fear because I'm afraid? And I have found that in that fear and lack mentality that there's a lot of either knee-jerk reactions that are ineffective and end up being a waste of energy as far as if you're looking for a return on them.
Keep asking questions about where your intentions are coming from, what the end goal is. Keep asking questions of other people, of your team, of people that you would like to work with. I think I've learned in this time to be really bold with my ask and really examine when I'm afraid of rejection or a no — to really examine those fears and move through them and pass them.
Someone I asked to direct my Apollo show said, "I don't have the time. My schedule's insane. However, I know who you need for it," which ultimately gave us the director we used for the show. And had I not been brave enough to ask him to direct, I wouldn't have been given the option of her. I think it's about continuing to ask questions until you get a yes.
Everyone has been craving connection during this time because we have felt so disconnected from one another physically. However, the upside to that is we've also been wildly connected virtually. It's been an opportunity to connect with customers, fan bases in a really intimate and unique way that we either haven't had the time or the space for before, or we haven't gotten creative enough to indulge in. And not only is it just a wonderful thing to be connected with other humans during this crazy lonely, isolated time, but it's also a really cool way to get to know your fan base or your client base better and for them to get to know you better.
What's next for you, and where do you hope to be in the next few months?
Bean: Pretty much the rest of the year is dedicated to getting this holiday concert out. We filmed Sing Your Hallelujah at the Apollo a couple of weeks ago and are streaming it all over the world on December 12, which we're very excited about because it was something that I did every year at the Apollo, and it would have been very sad to be without that this year. Gratefully, we found a way to pivot and make that happen.
You can focus on everything that we've lost and everything that we're missing and everything that isn't working or is tragic and terrible, which is very easy to do and very easy to find evidence to support that. Or you can look at all the beautiful little blessings and all the little miracles and all the amazing opportunities and creative ways we've come up with to connect and entertain one another and still manage to do what we love and be of service during this time. Even if it seems messy and painful and challenging, find the perfection, even in the mess.