From NYC dreamer to Hollywood new leader: ‘Life is beautiful no matter how hard it gets’

The author: ‘A desire for something more, something better, something mine’

The author: ‘A desire for something more, something better, something mine’

By Tiara Camille Teruel

When The FilAm asked me to write about my experience being named “One of Hollywood’s New Leaders” by Variety Magazine, I could not help but think about the pain, the sacrifice, and the reality of what it took to even be recognized. What it took to be able to accept it and the relief of knowing it’s just the beginning.

I am very grateful, proud and blessed to even talk about this right now, but the first thing that came to mind was how much my life has gone through so many changes. How much I miss my mother and how often I’ve dreamt about being able to stand on my two feet. Just even “surviving” was something I had to figure out before, and now, it seems, after actually surviving some pretty hard times, I finally am experiencing the “light” and the “hope” that I once was only able to speak about.

I normally would not write an essay about how I feel or what it means to me especially as a Filipino paving my own way here in America. I know there are many of us here now making a big difference in many industries. Many of you can relate to the hardships of being away from home and trying to make it on your own in a new country. I used to feel like it’s such a narcissistic thing to speak about the experiences that make us great, but there is something so beautiful about sharing experiences with your community. Especially our community. I have a favorite saying, “Rising tide raises all ships,” and that’s how I feel about our Filipino-American community excelling.

The Variety magazine article is a huge deal to me and I want to be able to put my story out there in hopes of shedding light into the reality that dreams do manifest and life is beautiful no matter how hard it gets.

Snapshots of Tiara’s mother: ‘My growth really started when my mother passed away.’

Snapshots of Tiara’s mother: ‘My growth really started when my mother passed away.’

The article means so much, firstly because last year at around the same time was when I wrote my very own first article for The FilAm about wanting to be a leader as a way to honor my grandparents’ legacies. So, you see, to be called “a new leader in Hollywood” is quite rewarding. I was in a different place then, a very different state of mind and I had not even thought about starting my own agency, let alone actually what kind of leader I want to be. And the other reason – the main reason it holds so much weight for me — is that it was exactly 20 years ago that I was asked at an open house at my grade school in San Francisco, “What will you be in 20 years?”

They had us make fake business cards and introduce ourselves to the parents as whatever professional we chose to be – and mine was an Agent and Owner of a Modeling and Talent Agency! Call it destiny, call it fate, call it Magic, but nothing was more amazing than seeing it come to fruition 20 years later.

I was fortunate to come from a place where I did not do without. I had every luxury and as much love during my childhood. Sure there were times I was not happy, but overall, I was very much catered to like a princess. My growth really started when my mother passed away. When she had a stroke, my whole world crumbled in front of me. Being only 15 at the time, I could not even comprehend why and how I was about to live key moments of my life without my mother with me. My heart shattered when we had to say goodbye, and when she was officially pronounced dead I immediately went into shock. They had to put me in the next room and sedate me to calm me down. I suppose it was the idea that the worst has happened, that I would now be able to face anything that came my way, that really gave me the courage I needed to move to New York at such a young age.

When I arrived in NYC – well, it was Poughkeepsie/ Hyde Park in Long Island — that I really touched down on first, I had two suitcases and nothing but a longing for opportunity. A desire was in me for something more, something better, something mine.

I remember my first few jobs. The times when being disowned by my family was too painful to think about. The times I felt so alone and cold in a strange city without the money or the relationships. There were so many memories of having to save and eat canned veggies or dollar pizzas in order to survive. Times I had to walk all over the city at night just praying I do not get robbed or raped. My feet would hurt from wearing such high heels as I worked long hours at restaurants and nightclubs. Memories of eventually getting smarter with how I survived and even having to use my looks in order to get into the nightclubs to stay warm and be at promoter dinners in order to eat. It was even worse to think I left a life of luxury back home just to prove something to myself and be able to make it all on my own.

One memory that I will never forget was when I had no money to go back to Poughkeepsie where I was staying after a job interview in NYC and was stuck crying at Grand Central Station. It was the middle of winter. I was freezing and seemed hopeless. A man approached me and was probably the only person who cared enough to stop and ask me what’s wrong. Long story short, it was by chance he stopped and he gave me the change I needed to get on the train. He said to me “I was once in your situation and someone helped me out too. I hope that one day you won’t need this money anymore and you can help someone in need of it, just as much as I don’t need it now.” That will always stick with me and is my motivation to be able to help others as well.

From the hard times to the moments I felt so lonely – to the odd jobs and the crazy people I encountered. There were so many stories of surviving, and how different life was for me then. There was also the strength I developed, the tenacity and determination, the mindset that made me and molded me into such a diehard New York dreamer.

So now, years and years later after putting in my dues and slaving away at long hours for this industry, I am in L.A. and I am here as a new leader. I did not always know what I wanted to be but I always knew I want to be in this industry. I want to tell stories, make a difference, and help shape lives through what I do. I can’t even accurately describe how I feel and what I’m experiencing without tearing up. I am thrilled and reluctant as I know I have so many more obstacles to face.

My agency is new and I have so much more to learn and do, but it’s starting to feel like a sweet victory already. Our team’s past experience is its strong anchor, and it feels like a fresh beginning. I definitely celebrate it as a milestone and a start to an amazing new chapter in my life.

Tiara Camille Teruel is a Talent Agent and Managing Partner of TWM Talent Agency in Los Angeles, which she started in July of 2015. In October 2015, she was featured in Variety Magazine as one of Hollywood’s New Leaders. She was born in Manila and she is also a regular contributor to The FilAm.

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