My love affair with voices began, probably, around the time I was 5 years old. Although there are no recordings or videos of me to prove this fact, (typical 3rd child syndrome) you’ll have to ask my family who could hear me through the walls of my play closet talking to myself. One of the family’s early favorites was my imitation of a hundred-year-old fictional character named Jane Pittman portrayed by Cecily Tyson in a TV movie. I also spent a lot of time in front of the bathroom mirror, smiling broadly as I sold Prell shampoo, Crest toothpaste or whatever products I could get my hands on in the medicine cabinet to ‘pitch’ to the fantasy television audience on the other side of the mirror.
I had a nutty imagination. But I never imagined doing straight voiceover work. Where I came from, a medium-sized town in Indiana, the words “voiceover acting” were not part of the lexicon. We knew about actors for tv and stage, but voiceovers? Sure there were cartoons but people who did those voices were not mortal. They were special people who were connected somehow to famous people at studios in a land far far away.
Cut to 11 years ago (2007). My husband, of 22 minutes, and I decided our marriage had run its course. So there I was, single with a nine-month old baby. (Yes. . . it was a long 22 minutes, and the divorce was even longer, but that’s another story.) I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to take care of my infant while temping during the day and singing at night. Taking him to day-care and finding a full-time day job didn’t make sense to me either. At 41, you understand things about time that you don’t know at 21. I knew that his childhood would be over in a blink, and that this was my shot at motherhood. I had to think and I had to think fast!
A few months prior to my break up, an acquaintance (David Rees) who knew me as a singer, called me one day to ask if I did voiceovers. He needed a female for a children’s educational app. I said ‘Sure’. In the 20 some years since leaving Indiana and moving to San Diego via LA and NY, I had, in fact, found my way into a few random voiceover sessions, which made me secretly giddy. I had also recorded music, worked in and on tv and stage productions, and even managed a post-production editing house for a short time, so I was very comfortable in studios. But I never came close to saying that I recorded voiceovers for a living.
Now, I don’t know if you can relate, but think about this. I LOVED doing voices as a child. I LOVED every single time I got to go into a recording booth. But in 40 years, I didn’t even stop to ask myself what made me so happy about those opportunities. I just kinda pushed it all below the surface. This ‘thing’ that came to me so naturally as a child was the LAST THING I thought I could do for a living. Because that would be too obvious, right? You have to work HARD for things in life. You can’t actually go for EXACTLY what you love! Absurd. And get this. . . ten years prior to meeting my son’s father I was in a serious relationship with a Disney VP who handled international dubbing! While in his office one day, I even got to meet the voices for “Mickey and Minnie”. I felt a mix of ‘Wow, how cool’ along with envy and quiet frustration. Oh, well! The ship had sailed. I was locked into another life and another career path.
During the next few months David called me a few more times. But now in a different position, I looked at what he was doing and how he was working out of his home studio in a whole new way. The lightbulb went off. I could do this too, for crying out loud! I spent years of my youth in a closet! I was meant to find fame and fortune in a tiny space.
I got busy. And I mean busy. Learning about how to get jobs, (voice123.com was my go-to auditioning site) setting up a studio, buying equipment, the whole nine yards!
I did this when my baby was sleeping during the day, and after he went to bed in to the wee hours. I worked round the clock. And then one day, not long after I put this into motion, we were at the nearby park and another tired mom asked me what I did for a living. In that moment, I decided I was just going to tell people that I was a ‘voiceover artist’. And that is what I told her.
She replied, “Oh, that’s funny, my husband produces radio spots and could use you.” That night, he sent me a radio job. It paid $30 for a few lines. At the time, I thought WOW, JACKPOT! And he probably thought, “I can’t believe I found another sucker.”
Within short-order I was consistently getting jobs from auditions that I submitted (and being paid appropriately, once I learned the standard rates). I started developing repeat customers. I voiced around 10,000 phone prompts for youmail.com, for instance. Friends in various industries began sending work my way. My ad-man friend, Harry Redlich sent me a spot to read for Ashley Furniture. “They were in a rush. Could I do it now?” Little did either of us know that would turn into two glorious and loud years selling furniture for the largest furniture retailer in North America. Harry also sent me a script for Florida Power and Light, which again turned into a major campaign. (I owe Harry a lot.) The voiceover industry was a bit ‘smaller’ back then and a bit easier for people like me who were just setting up home-studios. Technology was great at the time but it’s even easier today for people to submit auditions. And, it’s simpler for clients to cut out the middle man and hire talent directly for a bajillion new places where audio tracks are now heard.
Also in that same year (2007) David said to me, “Have you ever tried to do Hillary Clinton’s voice?”. Maybe do something on Youtube?” I distinctly remember being terrified at the thought, but I kept that to myself and went home and started practicing. I watched her. And watched her. And listened and listened some more. I bought a wig and a camera and chatted with my brother, constantly, for creative input. I created a Youtube and Funny or Die channel. I then posted my first live-action video of Hillary in a bathrobe praying at her bedside. In it she was asking God to make Barack go away as she put on some teeth whitening strips. The voice wasn’t perfect, but close enough, especially as there were about 10 women and 1 man imitating her at this point! People liked it. Funny or Die wrote to me to say they were featuring it on their home page. My Youtube page lit up. I was officially (in my mind) a Hillary Clinton impersonator. And THAT is how things start. When you just start them!
Having a specialty voice like Hillary’s altered the trajectory of my voiceover career. Since discovering her voice in my range, a whole new world of opportunities opened up to me as I honed more political and celebrity voices and expanded my buyer list to include television and radio comedy shows. I can only assume that my impression work may have helped me land an Outstanding Body of Work, Best Voiceover nomination at this year’s Voice Arts Awards presented by the Society of Voice Arts & Sciences. A lovely honor, although I’m no dummy. If I had won, I would have started my acceptance speech thusly: Thank you. Thank you. Please. Sit down. I know what you’re thinking. . . Rosema…WHO?????????????? What’s her name???? Who is she?????
But beyond any accolade, the most important thing to me about my VO career is my reason for doing it in the first place. Twelve years ago, out of my necessity to make a better life for my son Dexter, I was compelled to find a new road. And what an incredible partner to take on the road with me. Without him in this world, I may have died never actualizing my passion or God-given talent. As any stay-at-home mother will tell you, to get through the day with a young child means constant improvising to get
anything done. When he was as young as 2 Dexter would sometimes come into the recording closet with me to do a quick pick-up line or audition. Sitting at my feet, holding on to my leg, I would whisper, “Okay, quiet on the set’ and he would sit absolutely still, not making a peep! It is truly because of him, I found my voice. All of them. And I love him so much for the gifts he continues to bring me.