When I first met Makenzie, she was 9 years old playing Bet to my Nancy in Oliver! She had unreal talent and all the presence in the world even then, but life called her other places. I pursued acting heavily, and her life took her and her family on different routes all over the world. She has since done something arguably harder than continuing work in the arts as a mother – re-starting work in the arts as a mother. We remained close friends since our first show about two decades ago. She was even one of the bridesmaids at my wedding, and one day – not too long ago – in the midst of texting me pictures of her two beautiful daughters, she made a confession: she was diving back in. She had always loved acting, missed it more than ever, and wanted all the info available for breaking into the world she once called home. For many, pursuing a professional acting career is challenging enough when starting from scratch. Starting from scratch and breastfeeding is another beast all together.
The heartbeat of my passion is seeing and hearing moms empowered to do everything they want with the art they possess. Whether that means keeping it small or blowing the lid off. In a very short time, Makenzie fought the fatigue and doubt and worked her way to getting representation, multiple auditions, and booked her first short film – and she’s just getting started. She’s doing it. Her words of wisdom and empowerment as a working actress and young mom with two diapered babes are going to be part of my mantra as I keep moving forward as well.
Name: Makenzie Hernandez
Status: 2 children ages 1 & 2
What surprised you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
When I decided that I wanted to begin my career as an actor I was a stay at home mom of a baby and a toddler. My family was on a somewhat consistent routine and my daughters and I spent all of our days together. I was nursing my youngest through the night and we were definitely used to a busy but predictable schedule. I knew that adding in “actor life” to the mix of “mommy life” was going to bring about definite changes; I just didn’t know what they would be. Honestly I think I underestimated what it takes to do both jobs with 100% effort and still I was nervous for how my husband and babes would adjust to this “new thing” that was making a grand, full-force, and quick entrance into our lives. Not only was I anxious for how they would adjust, but I was also wondering how on earth I thought I was going to be able to take another huge job on my plate. The life of a mom is about 20 hours a day, 7 days a week (if not more). Even though I knew that I was making the right jump by giving a career in this industry a try, I still found myself asking multiple times a day (mostly in the middle of a grocery store when whatever I just put in the cart was promptly thrown out by my toddler while my baby hysterically cried and pulled at my shirt for a nurse-on-the-go), if I was completely out of my mind for thinking I could do both. All that aside, I was determined in my heart to make it work without sacrificing home life or excellence in my craft. It’s a big dream and it’s an even larger work load to make it a reality, but as the auditions started to come in and especially once I started to get work I was blown away at how well everyone adjusted to these new time demands. I am learning that, yes, kids love routine, but they also have the immense ability to be flexible if you just do a little preparation. I also learned that I don’t feel any more drained emotionally despite the pressures and time constraints that I face now. Actually, I feel more energized than ever. This energy that is put into something I am so passionate about is providing such a creative outlet for me and as I grow in this area I am growing in others as well. I have joy in the relaxed moments and patience in the mundane moments like never before that equips me for the energy and focus I need for the fast-paced life I live outside of my home. It’s been so cool to see how things work out when you have personal passion, determination, and mega familial support. Anything is possible it seems.
What excited you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
The thing that excited me and that I still love most about being an actor-mom is the example I get to set for my girls. I want them to grow up seeing that it is completely okay to go against the grain, be the odd one out, fit in, not fit in, be a stay at home mom, be a working mom, cook gourmet meals every night, or just not starve. There are so many pressures on women to be a certain type of person who is a master at a certain type of skills and doesn’t let anything come between her and the clean toilet at the end of the night. I desperately want my daughters to grow up feeling the freedom to pay absolutely no attention to those pressures whatsoever. It is a struggle for me to live a guilt-free life as a working mom, and it is something I want to fight against daily so that we can one day have a generation of Mommas free from the guilt of exploring their time-demanding passions. I want them to know that it is not only okay for them to be who they are, but that it is necessary for a fulfilling life. I want to make sure that I empower them, not only verbally, but also by example.
What challenged you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
There are plenty of challenges that come with this life but I think the majority of the challenges I face are totally self-inflicted. As I stated above, there is a guilt I face that I am not doing enough as a mom or not measuring up. There are expectations I put on myself that my schedule just doesn’t allow for me to meet. Those expectations are baseline for some moms I know and for me, at this point in my life, they are just unrealistic. Coming to terms and being at peace with that is still a challenge that I am working on. There is also the reality of less time spent with my kids than what I was used to before. Missing them when I travel or when I am not home for dinner and bedtime is rough, but it has encouraged me to make sure that the time we spend is quality and that makes all the difference.
What you look forward to about having a child and working your performing arts life:
I am excited to see where this journey takes our family. I am totally the kind of personality who wants to know every detail of every moment in order to prepare perfectly for whatever is to come. Being a mom and being an actor both go against all of those tendencies. Everything seems to be improvised and spontaneous. It is going to be a glorious life-long lesson in how to be flexible and available; how to let go of worry and hold on to trust. I think these are invaluable lessons and I am thankful that my life is providing so many opportunities to learn them. I love that the things I love most are challenging me and stretching me every day. It is making me strong in weaker areas and showing me new strengths I might have never known otherwise.
What you think people should know about having a child and working your performing arts life:
To every parent who has put performing arts life in a closet, on a shelf, or even buried it deep in the backyard of another person in a country far away due to fear like I had, I encourage you to go pick it up off that shelf, or out of that deep hole. Dust if off and welcome it back into your life, with all of the love, and conviction you once had, and with an open heart. Fear is not the voice you listen to. It wont be easy, surely. Most things worth your life aren’t easy. But it will be a labor of love that is full of life and joy, and it is most definitely worth it. You are worth it. In the end, your babes will thank you for choosing to thrive in this life so that they could know firsthand that it is possible to do much much more than just survive.
My Favorite Quotes:
“The thing that excited me and that I still love most about being an actor-mom is the example I get to set for my girls…I want to make sure that I empower them, not only verbally, but also by example.”
– Makenzie Hernandez
“To every parent who has put performing arts life in a closet, on a shelf, or even buried it deep in the backyard of another person in a country far away due to fear like I had, I encourage you to go pick it up off that shelf, or out of that deep hole…Fear is not the voice you listen to.”
– Makenzie Hernandez
Reject fear, embrace your passion, love your babies. We’re all fighting for the right to do exactly that. Hope you can shake off those external pressures too – so your energy can be spent loving who and what matters. More interviews to come, friends.
More profiles coming soon!
If you are or you know a performing artist professional and mom who wants to share thoughts, answer these questions and shoot them to me at this contact form!