Rachele Brooke Smith:
By Shirley Craig
Rachele Brooke Smith is a renaissance woman. An actor, dancer, fitness guru, social activist and writer, Rachele is an empowering and optimistic person who shines light on all those she encounters. Founder of Unbreakable Dreams, we spoke to Rachele about her dreams and goals and how she is determined to help others and leave her mark on this world. Reap is very happy that Rachele will be blogging for us to help you maintain your fitness goals. See the link to her first blog at the end of this interview.
You had a busy day today. What were you doing?
I was shooting with Reebok, the fitness company. Today was a dance aerobics day and then tomorrow I’m shooting with them for their yoga stuff and I think next week we’re doing CrossFit, so it’s a big workout week for me.
What’s your personal fitness regime like?
I like to do everything. I’m really obsessed with yoga because of just how much it changed my body, my mind…And because I have so much going on all the time it’s really helpful to center me and calm me down and get me ready for auditions and just puts me in a really good place. I do a lot of biking, hiking, martial arts. I've been studying kung-fu a lot lately and I do a lot of sparring and a lot of dancing. I grew up a gymnast, so I think a lot of that comes from me growing up a gymnast. I've been into this workout called Cardio Barre recently. It’s like a dance workout where you do strength cardio exercises, but really I've been working a lot on creating my own workouts that I've been filming. I’m just starting out as a thing on my web show, doing short clips of it, but I’m actually working with a company…and we’re creating workout videos to compete with Beach Body and P90X right now and they hired me. They brought me on as the main girl for it for all my creative workouts and bringing that personality to the workouts.
You grew up as a gymnast?
I did. I grew up a gymnast and I was super competitive and I was a very stressed out little girl. But I’m so grateful for it because it gave me such an amazing work ethic and time management and determination and perseverance; all these great qualities or skills at such a young age.
When did you stop being a gymnast?
I was about 14. I was competing Level 8, and at the time I used to get so nervous either I was going to hurt myself or get yelled at by our coaches, because they would yell at us, and I was always such a perfectionist. I couldn’t handle not being perfect all the time, so I used to get so nervous I would throw up before every practice and it just got bad. And then it ended up I was winning this whole competition in San Francisco and I was supposed to win the whole meet. Then on my last event, I did a back handspring pass on the beam and I shattered my hand. I could hear the cracks and they said, “Rachelle, sometimes knuckles crack. Your team needs you.” And I was just crying. At the time, I was 13 and I was like, “Okay, I’m going to try.” So I tried to do a cartwheel on a completely shattered hand and I fell on my head and my other coach saw it happen and pulled me from the competition. Later on I had to have surgery and have six pins in there.
It was a really hard time in my life because that was just my life, my world, and I was trying to figure out what to do. Finally, I actually saw this dance film called Center Stage. It was the first dance film I had seen, and we were sitting in the theater afterwards, everybody had left and I just sat there and had this overwhelming experience. I just cried and said to myself, “I’m going to do that.” So I just sat there and closed my eyes and saw myself doing that and went outside and told my Mom and she was like, “Okay, sure you are.” And then years later, when I was 18, I moved to L.A. on a performing arts scholarship program.
Which scholarship program?
It’s called Edge Performing Arts Center. I got picked out of hundreds of people. They picked 18 kids a year and I ended up doing that program for a year. It was just mainly dance but they also had acting and singing in there as well in the program and I did that all day every day, like eight hours a day for a year. Then after that year they had a big show, and I got signed to an agency. Literally my first audition that I saw they were casting on the wall was a call for Center Stage 2, the sequel to that very film where I was like, “I’m going to do that with my life.” Six auditions later…I ended up booking the lead role in that film and it was just a really crazy surreal experience for me to really live my dream, especially at such a young age.
So how old were you, about 18?
I think I was 19 at this point.
What age did you start being a gymnast?
I started gymnastics probably when I was like five. I was so young. I was five or so.
I assume that you probably had aspirations to be an Olympic gymnast.
Oh yes, I wanted to be Kerri Strug.
But, tell me how did you know at age five that this was what you wanted to do?
I think my parents put me in a little class and I loved it. You just get kind of hooked so fast. I've just always been a performer and I think the real aspect that I love about gymnastics is performing. I really loved the floor and the beam because you could perform. Gymnastics led me; it was my first stepping stone to lead me on my path to being a real performer. So that’s why I’m just so grateful for it today.
But now your goal is to concentrate primarily on acting?
Yes, my main goal is acting, but I feel very blessed to have been given a lot of different talents and skills. I try to live my life every day waking up asking myself, how can I use my gifts and talents I've been given to make this world a better place, to inspire, to motivate? Especially after I had my experience with what happened with Center Stage and booking that role and everything, I really learned the power that I found in myself that I believe everybody has to really kind of realize their dreams and do dream big and not be scared to dream big. So I created Unbreakable Dreams.
Tell me about Unbreakable Dreams.
I created Unbreakable Dreams because I always wanted to be a positive role model for kids because, looking around when I was younger, I never really had that, other than watching movies like Center Stage—somebody that I could really watch videos of or look up to that was a celebrity, and I just always wanted to do that. I saw how much influence that people had on the world and I just wanted to use that for good. I also realized that so many people in this world never get told, “Have a dream” and the power of having a dream; and that there’s so many different tricks and techniques you can use to really live a happy life and stay positive through challenges and create the life that you dream of.
So give me a couple of tips. What would you—?
Yeah. One of my first things I always tell—because I teach Unbreakable Dreams workshops around the country where I do motivational speeches, I always combine dance and fitness and even acting exercises into those workshops because I have found that when I had been to different speakers, I had realized the power of exercise and when you hear inspirational talks there’s a power that comes with you hearing that. When your endorphins are high and you’re feeling amazing, there’s just this power and this rush of energy you feel when you’re doing exercise and fitness; you feel on top of the world and feel like you can do anything. I really tried to merge the inspiration and goal setting with doing fitness and I've just found that can be such a life-changing experience.
So my tips would be… The first thing every day that I do that has completely changed my life and helps me stay positive and motivated to keep going, especially when I’m in an industry where you get hundreds of nos for every one yes, the first thing I do when I wake up is I watch something that inspires me. I look through YouTube or different things like Ted Talks or I Google inspirational speeches or motivational videos and while I’m getting ready in the morning, I listen to them and it just really sets your day off right. Then I write five things that I’m grateful for for that day. When things start coming into my mind throughout the day—I really kind of think illogically sometimes because you can have one hundred things that are said to you that are nice and one person says one mean thing, you’re going to focus on that negative thing unless we really train our brains and our minds to focus on the positive and be open to looking for good.
Our mind, I think it’s just a big computer and whatever questions—this is another big one I teach a lot—is to always ask, “What can I do to make this situation better?” Instead of what I think when bad things happen to us, automatically our mind goes to: “Why is this happening to me? This is so unfair.” And people put themselves in a victim state instead of a place where you can actually do something about it. Whatever questions somebody might ask themselves, your brain, you’re going to search your computer and it’s going to give you an answer either way. So yeah, I would say watching something that inspires you every day, writing out gratitude lists, and always watching yourself talk and asking yourself questions.
I think that’s really terrific advice. You're also very involved in anti-bullying, correct?
Yes, I’m very into that. I saw the Bully documentary that was done, I think a year or so ago, and I was so inspired by it and I had no idea, I grew up, I got made fun of in high school. I used to be a huge tomboy and all the girls would pick on me because I didn’t wear girly clothes and I didn’t want to play with Barbies and I liked doing a lot of guy stuff. So there were a lot of times I would come home from school crying because I didn’t feel like I fit in or a lot of the other girls were being mean to me or they wouldn’t want to be friends with me and they would do a lot of those mean things to me, but I never had it as bad as some of the things I was watching in this movie, Bully.
When I saw that film, I was just like, I have to do something to help make this better. It took me a while to figure out an idea, but I came up with—me and my friend Chelsea Croft, we came up with the idea…Selfies are a huge thing in our society recently and now we have the un-selfie using un-selfies to help tell people’s stories and help encourage anti-bullying. We believe that the more people that are standing up against it and sending the message that it’s not cool, especially when you have people that are in the public eye that kids look up to, they’re going to realize what they’re doing and now think twice.
Before, when you were kids, it’s like people encourage it. “Wow, let’s go make fun of that kid.” And I think the more celebrities and people that the kids look up to can say, “Hey, this isn’t cool. Let’s love people. Let’s help each other out.” And my biggest thing is, you know, I took an un-selfie celebrating being different because I feel like that’s what makes this world so awesome is that we all have these gifts and talents that are all different and they’re all unique; and just because somebody is different than you doesn’t mean that it’s bad or stupid or weird. It’s like looking for the good in everybody instead of bad. So yeah, celebrating being different is kind of my big thing that I try to tell kids. What I was really excited about was that me and Chelsea shot this video encouraging all of our fans or people that saw the video to post either a quick testimonial saying what they wanted to do in their community to help stop bullying as well as take an un-selfie, holding a paper writing out a quote or something they wanted to tell the world about bullying.
Is this video on YouTube?
Yes, it is. It’s on my channel. It’s on youtube.com/UBDreams. It’s also on my website: UnbreakableDreams.com. I have a social good page where we put up all the different anti-bullying videos, as well as I’m trying to put up every un-selfie that they send in. And then I’m actually working with, this is a really cool thing; we’re working with Bully the movie now. I reached out to them and told them the story and how much they had inspired me and our idea, and we got on a conference call with them and now we’re doing a big campaign with them. They’re actually constantly posting every day on Instagram un-selfie anti-bullying pictures and stories that kids are sending in, and then I’m going to take all those images and we’re going to make a really powerful video with everybody’s images and stories that we hope will make a big impact.
Outside of the movie, Center Stage, what would you consider being the biggest influences in your life, people or movies?
I would say celebrity-wise…I constantly am watching interviews and features on different celebrities because I just think why I am an actress is because I think why I’m in the business of storytelling is I believe so much in the power of storytelling to inspire and change lives. And, for some reason, I’m kind of obsessed with Sandra Bullock and I just think she’s amazing. A lot of times before I go to bed at night, I’ll always look up different interviews or stories about different celebrities that I look up to. I've watched a ton of Sandra Bullock videos.
Who else do you look up to outside of Sandra Bullock?
I have to say I feel super blessed and super grateful to come from an amazing family. I constantly look up to my parents. My dad’s actually a brain surgeon and he actually just came out with a book. He practices at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
My mom had five kids and she was an amazing mother and always supported us. I think when I told them I wanted to come out to L.A., it was hard for them at first and they weren’t really that into it, but after I proved myself they’ve just been the biggest fans and biggest supporters of my career. Me and my Dad actually have done some different series for his hospital when my films come out. I used to watch him go do surgeries in the hospital and I think that’s really what gave me so much of my, I guess compassion and humanitarian side because I used to go to the hospital all the time and I would spend the night there and watch him do surgeries and I just felt so blessed to be able to be healthy and to be able to do all the things I could do. I just wanted to help people.
I hear you.
So I would definitely say the one person who has made a huge impact in my life is—I mean, my fellow actors or actresses that I really look to a lot are Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep. There’s a couple like Reese Witherspoon, Rachel McAdams, and Angelina Jolie I really look up to and I try to make my career a mix of all of those, because I could fall into this like ‘the sexy girl,’ but I really want to show people all different sides, that you can be silly, you can be funny, you can be weird and nerdy, and you can also have a real badass side to you and be powerful and strong as a woman.
There is this man, Jeff Hoffman. He actually was one of the creators of Priceline and he has done so much with his life and he’s been a big inspiration to me and somewhat has turned into kind of like family. I met him at an event I did at United Nations with this company called Impact and it was the top 100 entrepreneurs in this country and I got invited to go. And he does these motivational speeches around the world and he also is really into film and music. So it was just such a perfect meeting for me because I do all those things: motivational speaking, acting, music, anything to inspire, basically. I had met him and connected and he just gave me the biggest hug, and right away I hear one of his speeches and it touched me so much to stay inspired and keep going after my dreams. It gets really hard sometimes when, like I said I go on auditions constantly, and you just can’t ever—I guess I would tell myself and other people that your big break could be tomorrow and if you give up now, you’ll never know.
So just to never give up. And the thing I've found that helps me so much is to constantly be watching other people that are doing it and look at their stories. So listening to Jeff Hoffman talk, and then he came up to me after, and he was just like, “I want you to know, I believe in you 1000% and I want to do everything I can to help you make your dreams and goals a reality and I believe in the positive impact you can have on the world.” It’s people like that that really change the course of people’s lives and, as much as he has changed mine, I really want to be that for any fan or any young person I can and that’s why I constantly, along with my acting/singing/dancing career, doing videos and Instagram posts and workshops for people, so that they can feel like somebody believes in them and that they can go after big dreams and accomplish them.
Thanks Rachele! It has been a pleasure getting to know you better.