When ringing phones were attached permanently to the wall, most people would walk, even run over, to answer them.
But Wendy Braun’s mother always delighted in sharing how her young daughter, in full performance mode, would dance across the kitchen to answer. “For as long as I can remember my passion for performing has been part of who I am,” says Braun who is in her 4th season playing Kathy on the Netflix hit comedy, Atypical.
Over and over, performing nurtured Braun, providing what she needed. At 13 when she was 5’10” and feeling like a fish out of water, she was cast as The Scarecrow in The Wiz. She was able to parlay her gangly awkwardness to bring the character to life and entertain. “It was magical,” she recalls. “I didn’t realize it then but performing at that age saved my soul and made me feel at home at a time when I definitely felt like an outsider.”
In 1994 she moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to pursue acting. Initially she worked mostly as a dancer. She booked a job performing for three months in Monte Carlo opening for headliners Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Natalie Cole and Earth Wind & Fire.
On the plane ride home she wrote in her journal that she was going to focus all of her energy on acting. She would only return to the South of France if she was in film at the Cannes Film Festival. Three years later she was cast as the lead in a feature film. And it premiered in Cannes.
“I learned how powerful it can be to state and clarify your vision,” shares Braun, an accomplished actress whose many credits also includes Grey’s Anatomy, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Criminal Minds. “Even if you don’t know how it will unfold.”
Along the way, she experienced her share of rejections, setbacks and struggles. Once she met with some top agents. Her boyfriend at the time happened to go with her. Braun wasn’t selected, but the boyfriend ended up getting signed with the agency.
“That one punched me right in the gut” she shares. “I remember getting the news sitting in my parked car and bawling my eyes out, I thought, ‘maybe I don’t have “it,”’ or ‘maybe I should do something else?’”
One force that kept her going was her late father’s guidance. “My father was my biggest cheerleader,” says Braun of the man who would pass away when she was 27. The last words he left on her answering machine were “keep going sunshine.”
“Those three little words helped me navigate so many roadblocks, rejections, failures and heartbreaks on my journey without letting them define or defeat me,” she shares. “It ultimately means that when you come to what seems like a dead end, trust that it’s actually a divine detour. Pick yourself off, dust yourself off and get back in the game.”
When dealing with all the rejections Braun would ask herself, “are you really going to allow one opinion to forecast your fate or derail your dreams?” The answer was emphatically: no. Eventually those rejections became the fuel that ignited a deeper fire within her.
Looking back at all the disappointments she can now see how they strengthened her purpose, expanded her courage and deepened her resolve. “If you really want to be a creative warrior, whether as an actor, artist or entrepreneur, you’re going to have to overcome obstacles without losing belief in yourself and your vision,” says Braun.
Braun discovered that key to succeeding was gaining a mastery of her mental game. “I started making the study of that a daily practice,” she says. She began to focus on living as if everything she desired was already happening for her.
“I ultimately found ways to believe in myself, even though the evidence might have been telling me otherwise,” says Braun. She focused on joy and possibilities. Even in auditions, instead of feeling a sense of desperation to be liked and getting the job, she came from a place of having the opportunity to share her art.
“Not everyone is going to get you, and that’s okay,” says Braun who has more than 80 television and film credits, has been seen in over 100 commercials and has been heard on thousands of voice-overs. “After decades in this business, I’ve learned that only seeking external validation can be detrimental to your well-being.”
Working on herself and shifting her mindset in such a deep way Braun noticed that her acting career began to soar. And she was profoundly happy in her personal life. As people asked how she built her success, Braun longed to share what she had learned to help others in meaningful ways. “In any business, focusing on giving rather than getting frees up your creativity, aligns you with your intuition and allows you to share your gifts,” she says.
In 2015 Braun founded ActorInspiration.com. “I wanted to make a lasting impact on the lives of other people and authentically share all the tools and processes that helped me achieve success while also finding more fun, joy and fulfillment along the way,” she says of her program that empowers creatives to overcome obstacles and discover success on their own terms.
She launched her first course, The Success Breakthrough Workshop, with just 12 people. During six weeks Braun laid out her inner and outer game approach. In her most joyful way, she fortified artists with the skills they need to thrive. She also offered guided meditations which she lovingly created.
“Every week students would share the personal and professional breakthroughs they were having, and it was mind-blowing,” she says. “My students were able to dream bigger, visualize with clarity and detach from the outcome.” The following year her class grew to 31 people. By 2017 she took her programs online expanding to students around the world.
Braun has since taught over 1000 students on six continents from Germany to Great Britain to Canada to Australia to Sweden to South Africa. Her students range from twenty-somethings to seventy-year-olds and everywhere in between. As one student shared, Braun’s work was a “North Star” guiding to the soul’s purpose. Braun says she witnessed so many creatives transform from feeling confused or playing small to being confident, limitless and achieving dreams.
For the past seven years Braun has written and recorded over 80 guided meditations with powerful topics like Making Space For Success, Joy and Abundance and I Allow My Light To Shine Brightly.
“I asked my community what their biggest challenges were and would write an audio that spoke to that theme,” says Braun. “In a sense, they have been co-created, which is why they’ve been so impactful.”
What Braun also discovered is that we all have challenges dealing with self-doubt, feeling overwhelmed and fearing failure. She is devoted to help demystify the idea that successful people don’t suffer from any of those things. “The reality is that to become successful, you will have to face each one head on,” she says. “To maintain success and reach new heights it’s an ongoing process of facing yourself and evolving.”
Braun continues to have a thriving acting career while bringing joy to others through her programs and meditations on Actorinspiration.com. “To help someone suffer less and know they can achieve success while having more joy and fulfillment along the way is something I wish I learned decades ago,” she says. “Now it is part of my life’s mission to share.”
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