Rachel Griesinger is a New York City Actress and Feminist Activist and we’re going to talk about growing up as a woman, being an actress entrepreneur, and her new play that she’s working on!
Watch her interview here:
Listen to her interview here:
Full Transcript here:
Alice: Hello, everyone. I’m Alice. I’m the media manager for Jubilance. Today, I’m talking to Rachel Griesinger. Rachel is a New York City actress and feminist activist, and we’re going to talk about growing up as a woman, being an actress, entrepreneur, and her new play that she’s working on. Welcome, Rachel! Thank you for joining us.
Rachel: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Alice: Yes. So, we want to start off with some kind of more fun questions to get us going. Okay, champagne or beer?
Rachel: Oh. It really depends on the situation. I actually– champagne of beers, Miller High Life. I’m going to go there.
Alice: Oh, okay.
Rachel: When I get off work, honestly, that’s what I want.
Alice: Perfect! That sounds nice. Okay, chocolate or cheese?
Rachel: Ah! Alice! These are too hard!
Alice: I mean I just say both, but–
Rachel: I always go cheese. I’m a savory gal.
Alice: Okay, great. And what about tampon or pad?
Rachel: I actually was using The DivaCup for a long time and now I don’t use anything because I have an IUD, and I don’t really bleed.
Alice: What? That’s amazing.
Rachel: Yes, I’m a huge fan of The DivaCup. I was using tampons before that.
Alice: Oh, okay. What IUD do you have?
Rachel: I have the generic of the Merina and I got it for free at Planned Parenthood, just saying. I’ve had it for a couple of years now.
Alice: That’s amazing!
Rachel: Yes, I don’t really bleed.
Alice: I would love to never have a period ever again. That’s great.
Rachel: Yes, yes, yes.
Rachel: But, yay, DivaCups too.
Alice: Amazing! Can you talk about where you from? And what made you move to New York City?
Rachel: Yes. Where I’m from is– as you may know is a slightly complicated answer but I moved around a lot. I was born in Indianapolis but I only lived there until I was like four, I’m not– I wouldn’t say I’m from there. So, I lived all over and before New York, I was in Chicago, which I kind of say it’s home although I have no family there. And then I got into grad school here in New York. I always knew I wanted to move to New York. I think I felt like I was, maybe it sounds kind of corny but I always felt like I was a New Yorker before I was ever in New York and it turned out to be a good fit.
Alice: That’s wonderful. What’s your favorite part about being a New Yorker?
Rachel: Bodegas? My 24-hour bodega. Yes, it’s hard to put your finger on it, right? Because there’s so much but I just think it’s like, I really enjoy the pace of this city. I enjoy being able to come back to where I live. I live on the border of Brooklyn-Queens now. And it feels neighborhood-y and home but also I can go into Manhattan. I just think that there’s a lot of opportunity to be had here.
Alice: That’s wonderful. Part of your background is I know you grew up in Brazil for your high school experience. Can you talk about some cultural differences that you see between the United States and Sao Paulo?
Rachel: Oh, sure, yes. Sao Paulo, yes. I lived in Sao Paulo from 2000 to 2005. My mom’s job moved us there and it’s– the cultural differences are huge. I think probably, for me, the biggest one is there’s this– I can’t really– there’s a term in Portuguese that’s not really translatable, it’s about the person’s way of being. And there’s this sort of passionate, very open quality that Brazilians have, that I feel like most Americans don’t, and that’s not negative, nor positive, it’s just the difference. And for example in other European countries too, as soon as you see someone– like when I would get to high school in the morning and there would be all my group of friends, we’d all be standing there, and before I could start class I would have to go around to every single one and give two-cheek kisses.
Rachel: Yes, every single person, I’d have to go around. And so little things like that where people are very much– physical touch there is very different than here. But also being older and wiser and “woker,” sometimes that was problematic. Like I think about, “Oh, wait, was that okay?” But I think that people are very– the culture is even more sexualized, I would say actually.
Alice: Really? Wow.
Rachel: Than here.
Alice: How so?
Rachel: I mean, even in just things like “Carnaval” like, the Mardi Gras essentially. It’s really normal to just have naked women on the streets. And I think women’s bodies are still more overly sexualized there? But in a way that it’s integrated into the culture. That isn’t here. Also, there were always billboards for Playboy or– nudity and things like that weren’t so–
Alice: Yes, taboo in a way?
Rachel: Yes. They were just, it was just, I hesitate to say normal. Because I also think that there are problems with– in the culture in that way, in Brazilian culture, but it’s just more integrated, it’s just more inherent, sort of, if that makes sense.
Alice: Okay. Yes.
Rachel: People are so friendly.
Alice: That’s great!
Rachel: The most friendly, yes. And they’re amazing, they’re amazing, I love and miss Brazil, every day.
Alice: Wow. And can you talk about your step-by-step process of how you’ve gotten to be where you are, now in Brooklyn and an actress, and you were telling me before this about some projects that you’ve just been working on? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Rachel: I’m not a very step-by-step person, so I’ll start by saying that, I’m very much like, not like I’m completely disorganized and all over the place but I definitely could plan more than I do. I studied theater in undergrad too, but it hasn’t always been my whole life. I think what’s really important about being– any kind of artist but being an actor is– doing, having as many other experiences as you can that aren’t theater-based because I just think that makes you a better storyteller.
Alice: I completely agree.
Rachel: Yes, and I think that that’s really important too as far as empathy and understanding other experiences. I was in Chicago as a working actor for some time, about five years, before I moved to New York and I just felt like there was a feeling I was hitting there in a way and I didn’t think that I was going to really be actually be able to make a living doing things that weren’t– maybe not just acting but things connected to my artistic passions. So, I thought grad school was the answer, and I thought that that would be the best way to enter into New York, as supposed to just moving here. I now, having done grad school here, I don’t know that that is the right way to be honest because I have a ton of debt, but that’s the path I took and I got in and I saved some money, I worked in the restaurant industry for 14 years, so I worked my butt off at a restaurant, saved up some money and moved myself out here and started grad school. Been out of grad school for, gosh what is? Two, over two years.
Alice: Yes, pretty great.
Rachel: I keep reminding myself that this is the long game. I just knew I needed to get an agent, there’s so many, I’m like, “Ah, how do I?” I can’t concisely like– I did get an agent and started going on TV auditions.
Rachel: Yes. I booked a pilot six months out of my grad program, and I was like, “Wow!” Couldn’t believe it, like a recurring role on it too not just– and it was this huge production and had really amazing people attached to the project and it was for NBC Universal, and I got paid super well, and I had like a trailer down the street from the restaurant I worked at, I was like, “What are my worlds?” I was just so– I was like, “This is amazing!” And it went so well, what a paycheck, and then it didn’t get picked up, which happens all the time, but it really, feeling that was—I’ve become pretty used to rejection, you kind of have to be in this. You do 20 auditions and hope that you book one maybe, maybe not. It becomes really hard to know– that can really mess with your brain of like, “Is it me, is it this industry? Like, why am I not?” Anyways, it didn’t happen. I can’t get my footage; I still haven’t been able to see any of my pilot footage.
Rachel: Like, I can’t even get that for a reel, which for an actor is really–
Alice: That’s so crazy. I thought they would at least give you it for your reel.
Rachel: No, because the pilot never aired. NBC doesn’t have to.
Rachel: Anything, yes, I reached–
Alice: Because they own the rights.
Rachel: Everything, yes, I couldn’t get it.
Alice: I know.
Rachel: So, that was a huge bummer and I didn’t book any TV work until two weeks ago.
Rachel: It was a year and a half ago and I booked a co-star, a small co-star role on a new show that’ll be out next year, they’re shooting this season right now. So, I shot that last week, which was exciting, but it just goes to show how hard– it is no small feat just to book one line on a TV show. And in the meantime, I have to really keep all of my other passionate artistic endeavors going.
Alice: Can you talk about that? What are you working on right now? You have a show that you’re working on.
Rachel: Yes, I have a solo show it’s called, Woke Pussy. I’ve never done this before, I’ve never considered myself a writer or anything, but I have journaled my whole life. And I got out of a three and a half year relationship, a little over two years ago, and found myself in my early thirties in New York using dating apps for the first time, and dating, and I found I really enjoy meeting new people, and I’ll say I’m also a very sexual person and I’m very connected to myself in that way and I enjoy just sex and things like that as well, so I was sort of just looking out there for experiences, right? Not necessarily finding a relationship at the time. I started rubbing up against, like navigating my feminism. And how I feel about the tenants of feminism which, they’re personal. And dating, and men, and I’m straight, but I think that there’s– I don’t identify as queer, I have a tendency to be like heteroflexible because I am attracted to women, but I was mostly dating men, right? And I was just, I was becoming– I was having a lot of inner conflict and contradiction about my feminism and self-respect, and sense of self while dating. I started keeping a log, and I kept a log of every single person I went on a date with and it just began as me journaling.
Rachel: Really, it was just me journaling kind of to process my experiences and then it became– I realized I was, like, logging each one, like name, age, what the date was, like–
And I went back to this and then I started this silly thing on Instagram called “toilet time-time” and it literally just came out of like a random moment where I said, “toilet time-time”. And I started filming myself while I was actually peeing on the toilet, you could only see my face, don’t worry.
And I started talking about dating. People were into it. I started getting a lot of responses, I was like, “This is really funny” so I kept doing it, and I kind of integrated that. One night I just sat down and was like, “What if I just made this into a show?”
Rachel: And I wrote, I drafted a quick script, an honestly, half-ass script, and randomly submitted it to a couple of places, forgot about that, and a couple months later got an acceptance letter from United Solo Fest for this, but honestly, I panicked. I went, “Oh, I actually have to do this.”
Alice: That’s awesome!
Rachel: So, that’s sort of what– Yes, and I’m still in the process of making it, it’s November 6th.
Alice: That’s amazing. So, it’s kind of chronicling your time dating in New York.
Rachel: It’s like I want to say, navigating and sort of balancing my feminism. The dissatisfaction also, with the system, and really, I think dissatisfaction, it’s a term to use about how I feel about what’s wrong but– and then also, coming to a self-acceptance is sort of the journey of this character. She’s not quite me, she’s me but like, she’s not totally me.
Alice: Yes, that’s awesome. Wow. I can’t wait for it. So, I will be there. I just have to get my tickets still.
Rachel: Yes, I’ve been bad about promoting it, so I also-
Alice: Yes, send it to me. Can you talk about what is the most rewarding part of being an actress?
Rachel: Yes, that’s tough too. I love performing live. I deal with a lot– I feel like I’m a very high energy person and I can kind of go-go-go, and not realize that I’m burned out. Performing live which unfortunately isn’t something that you get to do all that often as a working actor. In New York, I feel the most like myself when I get to perform live, and I think there’s something really special about that feeling, and that connection of being live in front of an audience, and staring at them and having them stare back at you, and sort of seeing each other. And not– what also excites me the most about performing is my relationship with the people who are there to see the work. The feeling that I get from that is probably the most rewarding. And it doesn’t come often.
Alice: Yes, that’s amazing, Rachel. You kind of talked about this a little bit in that answer but how do you conquer those feelings? Of being a freelancer and just overwhelmed and not having work at different points. That’s just being an actress in the city.
Rachel: Right and, I mean, it looks a little different for everybody, but I think what’s really helpful for me to remind myself of is the overwhelmed and the blues, that kind of blues you can kind of get from after a gig but not having anything else, kind of sort of in-between time.
Rachel: It’s a unique experience to our profession as artists.
Rachel: And that’s the one thing that I have to remind myself of, it’s that when I get down and I get anxiety about it because, of course, I’m human, I do. I have to remind myself that this is not a unique experience for artists, right? And freelancers in general. I have a few things, therapy. I have it today and I’m really looking forward to it. I go to therapy once a week and I’m happy to share my therapy resource too because it’s a great place that has a sliding scale, and it’s just a really good community of therapists. But I do therapy. That for me is essential. So, whatever that looks like for people I think it’s really important for artists and for everybody, but I think specifically for the artist. My schedule is all over the place, I’m coming off of seven shifts in a row. I worked seven straight shifts at my restaurant–
Rachel: –as of last night, that is not normal. I normally do three or four days a week depending on– sometimes I have more income from other acting gigs and when I don’t, I pick up shifts, but everybody was sick at my work this week I kept getting called, I was like, “Yes, seven shifts straight!”
Rachel: For Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tues– over five days, I did seven shifts.
Rachel: Yes, and that’s really hard. And then today I have therapy, I have rehearsal for my solo show, and tomorrow is kind of a day off. And I think it’s really hard when you’re a freelancer and you– in our gig economy to actually give yourself a day off.
Alice: Yes, definitely.
Rachel: You’re always supposed to be looking for more work because I don’t have consistent work in my field. I’m a dialect coach. I just got to coach actually, the character, James Spader’s character on Blacklist has to speak Portuguese, and I speak Portuguese, and through some connections I made through grad school I was brought on set a couple of weeks ago and I got to be his personal Portuguese coach and dialect coach which was– and also an incredible way to be on-set to get to be behind the scenes in that way, and again, a great paycheck, but that came out of nowhere. I found out a week before it was going to happen and then it happens. So, anyways, therapy is huge. Finding a little bit of routine in your day, I try to run most mornings but when it’s raining, gray like today, I don’t. Gratitude practice. I’ve just recently– it sounds a little corny but the book I’ve been using–
Rachel: –it’s something I finally was like, “You know, I think I need something in the morning to ground myself right when I wake up so I don’t immediately go to Instagram” and be like, “Who watched my stories?” because I definitely do that, it’s an addiction.
Alice: Oh, yes.
Rachel: So yes, gratitude practice for me is really huge, that I’ve started just in the last month. And having really good people that you trust around you. And as I’ve gotten older that’s been easier to do.
Alice: That’s great.
Rachel: Yes, as I’ve gotten into my thirties, I feel like my needs and my wants really started to crystalize and boundaries, what important boundaries were for me? Which perhaps it’s really difficult for me sometimes to define, has started to crystallize and it became clear, “Oh, okay certain people, maybe I don’t really need in my life, or at least not so often or not in certain, not in this capacity” you know? But also, that all came through a lot of therapy.
Alice: Yes, makes a lot of sense. Can you tell me about your fall traditions in New York city?
Rachel: Oh, yes! Man, I love fall. Well, Upstate New York is not far away and it’s amazing and I try to get at least one trip in, during the fall, up there.
Alice: Oh, amazing.
Rachel: Yes, and actually a friend of mine and I, Saturday night, or it was more like Saturday afternoon went to Williamsburg where there’s like a big beer hall and we kind of, we did like a little Oktoberfest.
Alice: That’s so fun!
Rachel: Lots of beers and brats and things like that, that was sort of something that we wanted to do for the fall. So, I had to– I just like walk around the block, I just take, I just walk around and breathe in the cooler air and I enjoy it that way. But those are some things I like. Or like apple cider and definitely watching Hocus Pocus.
Alice: Oh, so good.
Rachel: I know, I know.
Alice: I just watched Halloweentown this weekend.
Rachel: I haven’t watched that in forever!
Alice: I love it, it’s so good. Yes. Getting into our subject on feminism and gender, what do you think it means to be a woman today? And I know that’s like an ever-shifting definition that can be different in like 30 seconds or tomorrow. But what do you think it means for you?
Rachel: Yes, you know, I’ll start saying that I’m a cis-gendered white woman. I identify– the gender I identify with is woman, the gender I was born with and assigned at birth. And I do think– it’s weird, this is where sort of like so many contradictions come in for me because I do think so much of it has been taught to me. What I’m supposed, how I’m supposed to be as the gender I am, as a woman, right?
Rachel: I’ve been socialized. I don’t think it’s completely inherent. Yes, I’ve been socialized like so many, you know, we’ve been socialized so we’ve been taught these ways, I don’t think it’s necessarily inherent. Yes, I have ovaries, that sometimes I feel I love every child I see. For some reason lately, I’m like, “Oh my God, baby!” but– You know, if we’re getting into anatomy does that mean I want a kid? Not necessarily, but I think like– shaving my legs and my armpits, I do that. I shave, I keep myself shaving, right? In my pubic region, in my legs and my armpits and I think that that’s like, sometimes I feel– I don’t feel, I’m like, “Why do I do that? That is something that’s been sort of taught to me that that’s what’s beautiful, that’s the standard of beauty and that’s what’s different than me and a man.”
Rachel: And yet I still do it, and I know that and I’m aware of that, and it doesn’t make me not a feminist, right? It doesn’t make me not care about women’s issues and trans women’s issues and gender issues as a whole but I think it’s still a standard of beauty that I’m adhering to that is a male standard of beauty. So, that’s sort of, I think being a woman today it’s how it was before too. It’s really hard, I think we’re still second-class citizens. I think how everybody navigates that is how they– it’s so personal. I’m a pretty dominant person in my daily social life and I– but also then when I’m with a partner, a romantic partner, I kind of want to be led sometimes. And what does that mean, you know? And does that mean I’m adhering again? I think it means constantly questioning, like, constantly questioning like what’s this– I know, which can drive you nuts sometimes and sometimes it’s like, “Just enjoy it” you know?
So, I think that that for me, it’s what it is, and I also have a lot of privilege being a white woman and I feel like I personally need to use that privilege on behalf of women who it’s not palatable for them to speak up, you know? Women of color, trans, queer women, trans women of color, you know? I think it’s a lot, it’s a heavy, heavy burden.
Alice: To be a woman.
Alice: It always has been.
Rachel: Yes, exactly! I don’t think and, of course, I’m not being pessimistic in saying that nothing’s changed but I don’t think that’s changed, you know? I think, yes–
Alice: What do you mean by being second-class citizens? What do you think are the problems that we face today as women?
Rachel: Well, equal pay is still not a thing.
Rachel: And I think that there are little, again, like little social things that are just socialized in it, like, I’m immediately taken less seriously. I mean and these are just things that are socialized that it kind of takes so much work for everyone to undo. I think it’s the same with racism, these things that we’ve been taught and socialized to believe and they’re so ingrained that it’s like, “We need to catch ourselves on them”. I think like– I guess by second class, I mean reproductive rights, health care. You know? That my healthcare is more expensive because I’m a woman.
Alice: The pink tax.
Rachel: Yes! The pink tax.
Alice: What do you think are some concrete ways that we can go about– I mean what you’re saying too is that it’s just kind of a constant battle both with society but also in our own heads of where we are as women at the moment or with our partners or what-have-you. Are there things that you do in your life? I mean, you have a performance all about this, that’s what we should be watching but–
Rachel: Yes, yes. I do think like I said, I think supporting Planned Parenthood, whatever that looks like for you if that just means just going to them or if that means donating a little bit of money if you can, I also understand how money can be very tight. I also– I donate a little bit, I’m a member of the ACLU and I think there’s so many causes out there right now and you just kind of have to choose one, or two, because, I mean, I don’t have money to just be donating to every cause that comes, that needs it, so I think, pick a couple that are really important to you. Then decide how you want to support them. Of course, protesting is great but I also think– I’m trying to think of smaller, and smaller ways, smaller like daily ways that we can-
Alice: Even just talking about it.
Rachel: Yes, yes, totally.
Alice: For so long we’ve been silenced or our voices hadn’t been heard and I think that just even by having this conversation, I think it’s a way to think about things a little differently at least.
Rachel: Totally, I think also reading about different experiences than your own, like I recently read Janet Mock’s who produces and helps directs Pose on FX, the show Pose. She is a trans woman of color. I think just prefers to go by “woman of color” but her book Redefining Realness is incredible and talks about her gender reassignment surgery and how she paid for it and all that, anyways, it’s a fantastic book and she’s a woman living in our world today and her experience is very different from my own and I think it’s really important and I don’t claim– certainly wouldn’t claim to be an expert on that experience having read that book and just also her experience, and she does a really good job in her book at saying, like, “This isn’t the definitive trans person, you know, woman of color experience, this is mine.” And it’s not a monolith, right? Not like white culture, white patriarchal culture, presents most of these things in place, in theater, in movies, like that experience of others is just like a monolith, right? And she– yes, anyways, reading books I think that just challenging yourself in that way. Pick a book like that and read it and understand an experience outside of your own.
Alice: I think that’s a great idea, Rachel. Thank you.
Alice: So, if a woman walked up to you and you had 30 seconds to give them your best piece of advice, I mean, we’ve already gotten a lot from you, what would you say to them? It could be about anything.
Rachel: I’d say, go get yourself a pedicure today.
Alice: That sounds great.
Rachel: Yes, maybe that or maybe just, I don’t know, pat yourself in the back. It depends on who it is, really, like the context of who’s asking me, you know.
Alice: That’s true.
Rachel: Again, as I’ve said, as a white cis woman my experiences are so different so I think that answer would depend on who is asking me.
Alice: Yes. That makes sense. Rachel, what is next for you and where can we find your next shows and all of your information.
Rachel: Yes, so my website is www.rachelgriesinger.com R-A-C-H-E-L G-R-I-E- singer. It needs a little update but mostly if you really want to see what I’m doing in my Instagram @Fotosbyrach, photo with an F, F-O-T-O-S-B-Y-R-A-C-H. You can see my toilet times there. And more info about my show Woke Pussy is in a month. Hopefully, you’ll see me on an episode of something soon. I’m auditioning. I play a tour, a show as Anne Frank, as well. It’s another one of my jobs. So, I’ll be around doing that, yes, maybe you’ll see me walking around.
Alice: Great. Yes. Is there anything else you’d like to add for our listeners?
Rachel: I’m proud of myself. I’m 32 and I just finally downloaded a budgeting app, so–
Rachel: Anxiety about money, which I think is a pretty normal for our generation. Yes, I think, be tender and kind to yourself when it comes to things like that because we’re dealing with a lot. But also hold yourself accountable, how can you help?
Alice: Thank you so much, Rachel. Thank you for being on.
Rachel: Yes, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure and I got to see your face! I never get to see it.
Alice: I know! It was great! Amazing.