When I was 16-years-old and going to high school in Minnesota, I was already into videos. I did the morning announcements at my school - not over the PA; ours were broadcast over all the classroom TVs. My on-air duties consisted primarily of reading the lunch menu on green-screen, including a particular occasion when I wrapped myself in green paper like I was a floating head, bobbing up and down as I read. It was fun.
On that little bobbing head, was a pile of naturally curly (admittedly frizzy) hair. At that time I was still learning how to tame it. (I finally feel like I have it down as of this year.) I thought I did a pretty good job, but looking back at pictures now I'm like, "Did I really think that looked good!?" I started cutting my own hair around that year because I thought I did a better job than my hairdresser. My cutting skills progressed to asking my friends if I could cut their hair. Once a boy from school let me, and I took the opportunity to shave really weird designs and words into his head. I don't think his mom was happy with me.
I wouldn't say I was a troublemaker but I was always stretching the rules, like when my friend Michael Jordan (not at all good at basketball) and I tested how long we could fly kites in the Mall of America before getting kicked out. Never let it affect my school work though, or my 4.0 GPA. One day when I was 16, my parents got upset with me for one reason or another and my mom said those fatal words: "Lenay Chantelle, go out and get a job!" (Chantelle is my middle name.) So, I went out and got my first official job at Menards — a Home Depot like store — where I worked as a cashier. During work I'd take "bathroom breaks" and stroll through what they called the lumberyard, but what I knew as the spot where all the tanned cute dirty Menards Boys worked. Because of me, that Menards now has a rule prohibiting guys from the yard hanging out in cashiers' lines while on their break.
On the topic of boys, I had my first official boyfriend that year. He went to a small private school with 10 people in his grade and lived on a farm with four-wheelers. He gave me a wild bunny on Easter, but I set it down and never saw it again. We lasted 11 months and when we broke up, we argued over who broke up with whom; literally like, "No, I broke up with you."
In high school, I was a little immature when it came to boys. If a guy liked me that I didn't like back, I'd freak out and ignore him just because I didn't know what else to do. I ignored one kid all through high school after he gave me a bouquet the size of my body, and I got scared. I apologized on the last day of high school for being immature and ignoring him. He said he didn't know I had been ignoring him. I also took a typing class in high school just because a cute boy I liked was in that class. Never worked out between the two of us, but as a result I can type really fast.
As you probably can already tell, I wasn't shy — I was very outgoing — maybe a little too outgoing at times. Like when my friend London and I would make friends at the mall or at Subway and bring them back to my house for sleepovers, complete with mom making us pancakes in the morning.
I liked meeting new people. I was friends with a lot of different people at school, everyone really including the "cool kids," but I didn't think of them as exclusive cliques. I'm lucky because I went to a school where all the 200 kids in my grade really got along with each other. I was friends with a lot of people outside of school too. One time on a cruise with my family, I made friends with 10 high schoolers from Ankeny, Iowa. I stayed in touch with them and my dad even drove me and my sis to Iowa so we could all hang. My parents were cool like that, actually, they were cool period. I liked hanging out with them and so did my friends. They turned one of the floors in our house into a party room, so my sister's and my friends were always coming over to our house. Even today when I'm in Nashville or NYC (I live in Nashville but fly to NYC every week for work), my friends will just stop by my house and chill with my parents when I'm not there. My family has always been close and I could and can talk to them about anything. I used to tell my stuffed animals everything too, when I was very very young! I still have some of my stuffed animals from back then, although I have since stopped telling them all my secrets.
Secrets aside, in school, I think I very much followed the crowd when it came to things like sticking to wearing popular name-brand clothes and the car I drove: a silver mustang. But even though I often ended up at parties where the other kids would be drinking, I never cared to drink and I never allowed myself to feel peer pressure. I was a confident kid; I knew I could do what I wanted, and also just didn't think it tasted good!
Maybe I was a goody-goody because of this fact combined with my marks but I also played sports year round (swimming, hockey and track), was nominated homecoming queen 2 years in a row (never won), took drama classes as my electives, and played percussion in the school band. Does that make me a jock, a priss, a drama kid or a band nerd? Guess the point is, what do those labels mean? I'm not sure what I was, or if anyone can really be defined as one thing when a single person has so many interests.
I think even after you graduate high school, life often imitates a high school scene. Whenever you form a community of any sort (high school, work place, a week at a summer camp) cliques will form. Cliques come with life, it's sorta like that one song "High School Never Ends" by Bowling for Soup: "Reese Witherspoon, She's the prom queen. Bill Gates, Captain of the chess team. Jack Black, the clown. Brad Pitt, the quarterback. I've seen it all before, I want my money back!"
I guess the thing is, when your adult, things don't change that much, so begin being who you are now. You're legally an adult at 18, right? Legally I'm an adult then. Am I a grown-up though? I don't know, but it's fun to joke about. I always joke that I'm a grownup now so I can do what I want. Like, "It's almost midnight right now, should I drink a caffeinated beverage and stay up and watch a scary movie?" Sure why not I'm an adult, I can do what I want!
The thing to remember in high school and beyond is: be yourself, because if you try to be like everyone else, you won't stand out and get recognized.
And, when it comes to worrying about the future, take it from someone who had no idea what they wanted to be when they were your age. You're allowed to change your mind. I couldn't decide between a pianist (I took 12 years of piano lessons), a pilot, an artist (everyone on my dad's side of the family is one), something with Spanish or culture, a therapist, an actress, or a psychologist. I actually went to college to be a Spanish teacher, I have my degree and even traveled around South America for 5 staying with local families. I love languages so much. But I love everything about television and production even more. It's my passion. It used to be just a hobby, and I had no idea I would be lucky enough for it to turn into a career — that's just the way it turned out in the end.
Most importantly, in high school and the future, keep having fun and keep video-taping everything!