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Brandon Russell – Model/Actor

Dream So BIG Only God Can Do It

I was born in Georgia and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina after moving there at age four. My mom stopped working once my brother and I were born to raise us while my dad was a regional salesman for Clarke Industries.  I was fortunate to grow up in a loving home and had parents that were involved in my upbringing.

I attended Appalachian State University and graduated with a degree in advertising and a minor in marketing.  It was during my freshman year that a small seed was planted by a professor teaching Introduction to Theatre and Dance.  He saw something in me I did not allow myself to believe. He saw me on stage and said I was meant to be in front of others to influence and inspire. Secretly, I saw that stage as well but I was not in control of what casting directors or producers thought was the perfect look for every part, and I knew, by working hard, the stage of leadership in organizations and clubs was something I could control.  Deep down, that seed was slowly establishing roots and continued to grow inside me. After graduating, although I was not in control of who casting directors would choose, after countless efforts from friends, I finally took a shot in the modeling world and it was well received.

For seven years, I traveled all over the United States and overseas modeling for the leading fashion brands, from doing runway, editorial, and commercial shoots modeling in magazines and catalogues.  I enjoyed it but something was still missing.  My father passed away at age fifty-six in 20o2.  I was only twenty-six years old at the time and it was a devastating loss for me.  I loved and looked up to my Dad so much.  He taught me everything I knew about homes, building and fixing anything that was put in front of him.  He was a Master Carpenter and could build and create just about anything.  He was an amazing artist as well, and that is where I believe I got so many of my skills and abilities.

After my father passed, I inherited his tools and it was a critical time for me to make life establishing decisions.  I needed to decide what it was I wanted to do with my life.  I decided to by a home back in Charlotte, NC and by using my Dad’s tools I inherited, I remodeled and renovated it while also starting a side business separate from modeling called Homecierge. My tagline was, “The concierge to homes.” Anything you desired for your home, sit back and relax while I made it happen.

Even though I started Homecierge, I continued to model and audition for various show opportunities. There was one audition that was looking for a model-type carpenter host. I auditioned and was told I was definitely going to get the position.  Knowing that they were auditioning in six more cities seeing tens of thousands more candidates, I respectfully said, I appreciate that but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  She reassured me that she had been doing this for years and I was definitely going to get the position.

Well, eight months went by and I did not get a single phone call or email about the show. To be honest. frustration set in and I was beginning to tire of auditioning.  I started letting the doubt I had thought might happen take over and was becoming discouraged.  It was not until I realized it was not me, but Satan that was holding me back.  The last place he wanted me to be was on a huge platform such as TV spreading my love for life, and people, and helping inspire and encourage them to be better in all they do.  I released my pride was what was holding me back all along. I was concerned about my image and protecting myself, and not putting my faith in God.  It was at that moment that I truly surrendered to God, giving everything to Him and trusting in His control. I promise this is true.

The next day I was called by my agent and he explained to me that I was the new carpenter host for Trading Spaces. It was the show from the audition eight months prior.  Not only did He bless me with my dream, but He blessed me with the biggest home show at the time. It was more than I could have ever imagined.

What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?

I believe it was the decision to completely surrender and relinquish all worry and doubt and leave it all in the hands of God.  Once I relinquished my pride, and broke down the barriers of worrying about what people thought if I did or did not make it on TV, I was willing to give everything I could to reach my dream.

What were the specific obstacles that you faced?

Sometimes your greatest obstacle is staring back at you in the mirror. I was my greatest obstacle for so long. I only wanted to win and never wanted to be seen to lose or fail. I only allowed myself to do the things I controlled. My faith was self-centered, not a faith centered in God’s true calling and purpose for me.  The irony is what I always wanted was also His calling of my purpose: To reach and inspire others.  But how could I uplift others and tell them to believe in themselves, when I allowed others’ judgment hold me back?

Location was also a factor. Unless you live in Los Angeles, New York, or Philadelphia, where they shoot so many of these unscripted show platforms, you aren’t considered for work because they don’t want to pay for the additional housing and travel costs.

Some producers have the idea that a model lacks the fluidity an actor must possess. If you think about it, models are creating a story captured in one still frame, requiring the audience to envision the emotion developing in a story using the set background, positioning, and look of the model. Television is quite the opposite. Your movements, interactions, the sound in your voice, facial expressions and reactions to the environment tell the story for others to see. It is the actor’s job to deliver the emotion and story by their performance.

Another obstacle that I found interesting is that if you are a model, you may be considered too handsome or pretty. It’s true. The production cannot risk upstaging the main star of the show by taking focus away from them because of your presence.  Not that I was ever considered too good looking for a role, but it does happen to some.

What helped you get through them?

In the case of Trading Spaces, being that it was a traveling show, location was not a major factor. It was not a negative if I lived outside of the major cities because they would fly the talent around to all locations. When I was filming my second show, I was already established, so the producers were more willing to pay for some of the relocation costs. I lived in Philadelphia for six months while filming.

Today it is much easier than in the past due to the advancement in technology. It allows for more personal interviews across states, countries, even continents with the use of programs like Skype. Skype allows the interviewer to see reactions and your personality, and they can record the interview to use in casting decisions.

Were there people that tried to discourage you?

No, I believe it was quite the opposite. I had people encouraging me all the time. I believe it was my own inner self that was questioning my decisions to model and act. Was I throwing away everything I worked so hard for with my degree and all the leadership positions I held?  I believe it is when you truly let go and allow your heart to lead you, the logical mind never stands a chance. You have to believe you can achieve your dream with your heart, and follow it. Once you let doubt enter your mind, it begins to fester and manipulate with fear that you will never reach your dream

How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?

I will do my best to describe it. It is a feeling hard to put into words. It was euphoric. I never understood why people cried tears of joy until I heard my agent say you have just become the new carpenter on TLC’s, Trading Spaces. It’s an amazing rush of emotions all at one time and such a surreal experience. The reason I say surreal is because it means: Marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream. It’s honestly hard to explain how good it felt from within. I believe it’s something you would have to truly experience yourself to honestly comprehend. All I remember was the next day waking up and thinking to myself, Was this all a dream? Realizing it was not a dream at all, but instead I will now be living my dream.

Just like in sleeping, you have many dreams. I believe there can be more than one dream in life. I never thought that, after all the success on TV, I would then be given even another platform to inspire and encourage growth from within until I was asked to publish my book, Building Faith Through a Carpenter’s Hands. Dreams in the plural do come true.

What advice would you give to others that are contemplating finally living their dream?

I live my life by this…Dream so big that only God can do it. If you can do it yourself, you’re not really dreaming big enough. It just means you’re lazy.  Something you can accomplish is a goal, a dream is much bigger than a goal. Whether you do it now or later, patience will build the respect for what you’ve gone through. Patience builds appreciation. Never give up and never give in.

Never give in to your own self-doubt.  If it has not happened yet, then just imagine –  if it has taken this long to prepare you for it, and prepare it for you, it is not only going to be big, it is going to be monumental.

Believe in yourself but always remember to be you. Don’t try to change who you are to try to get there faster or get it a different way by sacrificing morals or self-respect. Lusting for your dream will strip you from the love felt when achieving it.

To learn more about Brandon’s book, Building Faith Through a Carpenter’s Hands, click here.

 

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