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How One Actor is Navigating Hollywood: Personal Branding in the Real World

Updated: Jan 8

Happy New Year!  For 2020, I am changing up this newsletter to not only focus on offering advice based on my own personal experiences, but to also showcase how personal branding comes into play for other creatives in the real world, in different sectors and career levels.


I recently had the opportunity to connect with USC (University of Southern California) theatre graduate and actor Akshaya Pattanayak.  I wanted to know what kind of experiences he has had to date learning about and using personal branding to promote himself in Hollywood, as well determine any takeaways that I could share with you. 


Provided by Akshaya Pattanayak

The Good


A key aspect of USC’s program, according to Pattanayak, is personalization.  “The entire point is to go deep in yourself and not hide”, he said. “You have to learn most about yourself, before other characters.  No other character is deeper and more defined than you.”


This is a key aspect of personal branding, understanding what is most unique about you. 

I know that in the case of this program, the reason to understand yourself is to become a better actor, but I think we can all benefit from this type of insight, because it is an important means to marketing ourselves too.  The more you get to know yourself, the better you are able to assess your most marketable strengths as a creative.


USC specifically focuses on self-promotion for its students during the third year of its program.  


Pattanayak participated in the following exercises:


-Determining the impression that is created when you walk into a room (since opinions are immediately formed when going to auditions and casting offices)

-Asking strangers to tick off a checklist of adjectives to describe oneself


Whether we like it or not, it is a proven psychological fact that first impressions are created almost the moment  that you meet someone. Rather than fight this reality, consider doing these as exercises with friends and family.  Make sure they’re honest with their assessment. Then ask yourself, are you happy with that assessment? Is there anything you could improve upon in terms of body language and wardrobe, that better aligns with the impression you would hope to make?


Provided by Akshaya Pattanayak

The Bad


USC, one of the most reputable universities in the U.S., doesn’t help its students look at how to use social media to position themselves.  Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and now Tik Tok are completely changing how actors are hired for gigs. These free content and distribution platforms offer an opportunity to create and post your own videos, showcase your unique voice and develop a following.  Producers in turn are paying attention; sometimes a high number of followers can be enough to stand out from the competition.


The Ugly

Since graduating in May, Pattanayak has been going out on auditions; with his Indian background however, he is often asked in for stereotypical roles, like doctors.  He has also been asked by producers to play Arab characters and has adapted accordingly.

This is so disappointing to hear, although not surprising.  Even with all the conversations about diverse representation in Hollywood, the reality has not yet caught up.  I want personal branding to empower artists and creatives to carve out their own niches and tell the stories that are unique and specific to them.  This is a major challenge that we face, on how much to cater to the game and standards set up by the mainstream industry and where to step back and write our own rules.  



Provided by Akshaya Pattanayak

Back to The Good


In order to be able to play against type, Pattanayak has been doing theatre work, which offers more variety to actors.  He’s also doing stand up, working on indie film productions and making his own Tik Tok videos, to show a different side of himself.  His goal is to work on quality television programs, in shows similar to Fleabag or The Marvelous Ms. Maisel.

And that’s what brings us back to the essence of personal branding: How is the external world currently defining you?  Are you happy with that characterization, does it align with your goals? And if it doesn’t, then what are the values you would like to put out to the world?  What are the different platforms available to you to express those values? And then being consistent in your self-promotion.


I hope you found this latest newsletter update helpful!  If you’re a creative and would like to be featured here on how you use personal branding (or self-promotion) in your day to day, drop me a line.

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