Jennifer Lawrence Dropped Out of Middle School to Pursue Acting

February 26, 2018

This weekend, Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence described how she dropped out of school when she was a teenager to pursue an acting career. She sat down for an interview with 60 Minutes and shared her thought process as a middle school student in Kentucky which led to her life-changing travels to New York where a talent scout promptly spotted her. She explains, “I struggled through school, I never felt very smart, and when I’m reading the script, and I feel like I know exactly what it would look like if somebody felt that way–that was a whole part of my brain that I didn’t even know existed, something that I could be confident in–and I didn’t want to let it go.”

Jennifer described how overwhelming her instincts were to essentially drop everything and pursue acting as she was certain she was “meant to do” it. But Lawrence was only 14 years old at the time, and so she had to convince her parents that pursuing this passion was worth sacrificing her education–at least for the time being–amidst them asserting, “You’re out of your mind!”

She must have made a compelling case; indeed, Jennifer succeeded in talking her parents into supporting her in her aspirations. Now the 27-year-old actress admits, “I dropped out of middle school, I don’t technically have a GED or diploma. I’m self-educated.” But she says she has no regrets, asserting, “I wanted to forge my own path.”

Additionally, Jennifer insists it wasn’t only her education that she put on the back burner; she didn’t allow anything to get in the way of her acting dream–even friendships. She landed her breakthrough role in the 2010 film Winter’s Bone when she was 19 years old … and presently this middle school dropout’s films have grossed over $5.5 billion worldwide!

Dropping out of school to pursue a career as a performer may sound extreme, but Lawrence is certainly not alone. While Mark Wahlberg graduated from high school, he would be 42 before he earned his diploma. About four years ago, the All the Money in the World star penned an article for the Huffington Post stating, “I never made it past the ninth grade. My circumstances were not unlike millions of other teens today who live in tough working class neighborhoods surrounded by drugs, violence and crime, and who struggle to stay on the right path without positive influences.” Wahlberg attended an online high school; he studied wherever he could, whether he was traveling, was on set, or at home. “Now I can look at my kids every day knowing I didn’t just do this for me–I did it for them, and I did it for all the other teens and adults who have inspired me by their commitment to graduate,” he wrote.

Other actors who reportedly dropped out of high school include Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Jessica Chastain, Seth Rogen, Ryan Gosling, Hilary Swank, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Downey Jr., Robert De Niro, Jim Carrey, Roseanne Barr, Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, and John Travolta.

Jennifer Lawrence and Adam Sandler on Negative Reviews

December 4, 2017

Criticism, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is, “The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.” Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Handleable. However, criticism can be a sticky wicket–so much so that both Jennifer Lawrence and Adam Sandler do their level best to avoid their own movie reviews. In a sit-down for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Lawrence and Sandler agree that negative reviews are just not worth the headache, nor the heartache.

Indeed, Jennifer says, “It’s not healthy. I’m not going to do it because if I read it, I start getting defensive.” Speaking of her widely panned horror-thriller film mother!, and her relationship with the film’s director, Darren Aronofsky, Jennifer says, “Dating the director was different because we’d be on the tour together. I’d come back to the hotel, and the last thing I want to talk about or think about is a movie. He comes back from the tour, and that’s all he wants to talk about. I get it; it’s his baby. He wrote it; he conceived it; he directed it. I was doing double duty trying to be a supportive partner while also being like, ‘Can I please–for the love of God–not think about ‘mother!’ for one second?'” 

For his part, Adam Sandler seems absolutely horrified by negative reviews. “When I did Billy Madison, I read some [bad reviews], and they hated it. I was like, ‘Whoa. What the hell is happening, man?’ I thought they were going to be right with me.”

The interesting thing about criticism is that, in one sense, it’s necessary. How can anyone improve if they are not challenged by insightful commentary and seasoned deconstruction? If you’re not willing to take an honest look at your shortcomings and failings, how will you know how to improve? And how will you know how you’re being perceived? On the other hand, if an actor is constantly trying to please and impress his or her audience or critics, it might be tough to be in the moment; to fully commit to the character or characters being portrayed. In fact, commenting on reading negative reviews with Lawrence, Sandler confessed, “It screwed up my thinking a little bit.” Negative reviews, as well as positive ones, tend to stoke up the ego and give the impression that it is all about the actor rather than the role. This can be an enormous distraction–not to mention a trip down a very dark road.

In any event, it’s hard not to be heartened by positive reviews and crushed by negative ones. But at the end of the day, whether you read the reviews or ignore them altogether, it’s all about focusing on the craft and pouring yourself into your characters. Giving it one hundred percent, moving forward, and trusting in the process.

How about you? How do you choose to handle feedback and, specifically, negative reviews? 


Jennifer Lawrence’s Rules for Success

March 31, 2017

Jennifer Lawrence is quite a success story. At the age of 26 she’s already been nominated for four Oscars, taking home one for her performance in Silver Lining’s Playbook; the star’s films have grossed over $5.5 billion dollars worldwide; her role as The Hunger Games‘ Katniss Everdeen has earned her the title of the highest grossing action heroine with the Guinness World Records; she’s appeared in Time’s 100 most influential people in the world; and her charitable organization, the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation has donated millions of dollars to numerous organizations helping children.

This Top 10 Rules for Success video is a compilation of interviews from over the years in which Lawrence speaks about some of her personal philosophies that guide her in life. Here are three of the philosophies mentioned.

Don’t consider failure

“I’ve always had this really gross, dangerous mentality of no consideration of failure,” she starts off. “If I want something I just go until I get it.” Growing up, Jennifer was “tough” like her two older brothers in Kentucky, she wouldn’t hesitate to ride untamed horses without a saddle, and was always active in sports. She suffered from social anxiety, but found that it melted away when she performed in church plays and school musicals. By the time she was 14 years old, she felt certain she wanted to pursue acting and convinced her reluctant mom to allow her to move to New York. “I knew, I felt so strongly. It feels insane to be a teenager and know. I knew [pursuing acting] was the right thing to do, that it was going to work out,” she reflected. “It was like this fire and also this like–I just knew it, so I eventually saved up babysitting money and went and did it.” She also graduated from high school two years early to begin acting.

Work very hard at the business aspect of acting

“Without gaining some sort of control over the business, I lose some control over the creative–which is most important. So, I used to stay out of it, ‘I don’t care. I’m an artist. I don’t need it.’ But this is my business now….And I respect my business,” Lawrence asserts. “I’ve worked really hard to build this, and I want to continue building it. And it’s my business–my personal business. So I don’t understand how people do slack.” Whether it means to be readily available to her agent or cutting members of her team to make sure she’s the one making decisions for her career path, she’s on top of the business end of acting.

Talk, Watch, and Listen

Lawrence’s propensity to talk was acknowledged in seventh grade when her class voted her “Most Talkative.” And talking appears to be instrumental in her acting approach as well. Indeed, she did not study the craft acting. Instead, she describes her thespian roots this way: “When I just started and I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know how to act. I just knew how to talk. And I think once I started understanding, I was like well I don’t want to learn how to act. I just want to keep learning how to talk.” Also, like most actors, she places a strong emphasis on observing people around her and incorporating what interests her into her characters. Elaborating on her acting method she once said, “To you it looks emotionally straining, but I don’t get emotionally drained, because I don’t invest any of my real emotions. I don’t take any of my characters’ pain home with me, I don’t even take it to craft services. I’ve never been through anything that my characters have been through. And I can’t go around looking for roles that are exactly like my life. So I just use my imagination. If it ever came down to the point where, to make a part better, I had to lose a little bit of my sanity, I wouldn’t do it. I would just do comedies.”

Jennifer Lawrence Pens Essay About Pay Disparity

October 17, 2015

Jennifer Lawrence, famous for both her talent and candor, recently authored an essay entitled Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?  for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter that has many people talking. With her distinct voice she expressed her reaction to the Sony hack which publicized that she as well as her American Hustle co-star Amy Adams were making less than their male counterparts Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale. Upon discovering the pay discrepancy, Lawrence wrote that her anger was not directed at Sony but instead, “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need.”

Shortly before American Hustle, Jennifer indeed had a box-office smash with X-Men: First Class, and starred as Katniss Everdeen in two Hunger Games films which established her as the highest-grossing action heroine as of 2015. She also went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in the blockbuster Silver Linings Playbook. With this extraordinary career momentum, she was clearly in a position of power. But Lawrence now admits that she dropped the negotiating ball for additional reasons as well. “But if I’m being honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled'” She likens this struggle to what other women in general experience, asking if females are “socially conditioned to behave this way?” –that is, in a way that tries not to “offend or scare” men. In contrast, she points out Bale and Cooper negotiated from a place of power, but wonders if their hard lines were seen as “fierce and tactical” largely because they are male.

Lawrence declared, “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! F— that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard.” 

The Sony hack proved to be eye opening for actors across the board. For instance, when the pay discrepancy was unearthed, Charlize Theron fought to receive equal pay as her male co-star Chris Hemsworth in The Huntsman. As a result, she pulled in a $10 million paycheck–the same as Hemsworth.

On the other hand, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress Rooney Mara told The Guardian that she finds the Hollywood pay disparity “frustrating”, but that she’s “grateful to be getting paid at all.” Elaborating on this, she stated, “I’ve been in films where I’ve found out my male co-star got paid double what I got paid, and it’s just a reality of the time that we live in.” She tries to keep a perspective on the issue by considering how much others are paid for their jobs. “It’s not fair, but I think how much teachers are getting paid, or other people who are doing jobs that are so much more important than what I do, and it’s kind of hard to complain about it.”

Have you ever second guessed yourself, wondering how you’ll be perceived if you ask for what you strongly feel you’re worth? And do you plan to fight harder in future negotiations?

The Latest on the Hollywood Gender Pay Gap

August 21, 2015

There has obviously been a disparity in pay between men and women in the entertainment industry since the earliest days of filmmaking, but one would think with the advent of women’s lib, and the equal-pay-for-equal-work campaigns, as well as the fact that this is the 21st century, men and women would necessarily be paid equitably.

But that’s definitely not the case. Top actresses certainly make a ton of cash, but they are paid well below their male counterparts. Let’s take the payroll of Jennifer Lawrence into consideration; the megastar profited $52 million in 2015. Now, that’s quite a chunk of change, but it pales in comparison to her male counterpart at the top of the heap, Robert Downey, Jr., who made a whopping $80 million in the same year. The second highest paid actress, Scarlett Johansson pulled in $35.5 million in comparison to Jackie Chan, who earned an even $50 million. And one of the hottest actresses on the planet, Melissa McCarthy accrued $23 million in comparison to Vin Diesel of the Fast and Furious series, who made himself a cool $47 million. And the disparity only gets wider as we go further down the list.

Many argue these discrepancies are the fruits of garden-variety sexism and discrimination, as the numbers are pretty clear. However, others argue that Hollywood is a business that exists to make money, and the powers that be are merely attempting to maximize stock for their shareholders. In fact, the studios now have mathematicians crunching numbers constantly to establish how much a given actor or actress will generate at the box office; this is a requisite principal of capitalism and a free market economy.

But the upshot of all this is that the audience ultimately determines salaries in Hollywood. As well, actors and actresses alike negotiate their salaries well before a frame of film or a pixel of video is ever shot. Therefore, actresses are within their purview to simply turn down an offer they believe is below their market value.

What’s your opinion on this matter? Is sexism just rampant in Hollywood and the metrics bear that fact out beyond debate? Or do women need to flex their muscles and negotiate from a position of strength and a better understanding of their power?


Golden Globe Actors Who Started in Commercials

January 12, 2014



“The only reason I made a commercial for American Express was to pay for my American Express bill.” –Peter Ustinov, English actor, writer, and dramatist

While it’s true, landing a role in a good commercial can make you some extra dough, it’s the exposure commercials grant that can make all the difference in building a successful career in the acting industry. Take for instance Golden Globe Best Actor nominee, Christian Bale. He was nominated for his role in American Hustle, and has already won countless awards including Best Supporting Actor in The Fighter in the 2011 Academy Awards. But his first acting jobs consisted of a role for Lenor fabric softener when he was eight years old, and a Pac-Man cereal commercial at the age of 9 in which he played a rock star. “I started my career without fans,” Bale once said. This is just another reminder that a career is built, and not preordained.

Likewise, Matthew McConaughey began his acting career in 1991 appearing in…you guessed it: commercials. Now he’s been declared the Golden Globes winner for Best Actor acknowledging his gut-wrenching performance in Dallas Buyers Club.

The much-loved Jennifer Lawrence just took home a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role in American Hustle. She can add it to her growing collection including the 2012 Oscar and Golden Globe award for Silver Linings Playbook. So how did she start her to-die-for career? She kicked it off appearing in commercials for MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.

Never underestimate the power of legitimate work. Okay, you may be selling fast food, insane video games, side effect-laden drugs, or some other farcical product; but, you’re gaining valuable experience and you’re taking the steps to become a more seasoned, confident, and nuanced actor. Commercial acting is not easy. It’s like any other form of acting, but it’s expressed in 30 or 60 second increments. It’s authentic work, and it just could lead you to the red carpet of the Golden Globes. And the money’s not bad either!


What Does Your Mother Think of Your Acting Dream?

May 13, 2013

Jennifer Lawrence and her mom

Indian spiritual leader, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, once said, “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.” All the infinite varieties of children are as vast as the shades and hues of the mothers who brought them into this world. And as every actor has a unique personal journey that leads him or her to the entertainment industry, likewise, every actor’s mother responds to his or her dream in her own way.

First off, there are the incredibly supportive moms like Hilary Swank’s mother who was determined to do all she could to encourage her daughter’s acting dream. She even moved with Hilary to Los Angeles virtually penniless, where they lived out of a car until she saved enough money to rent an apartment. Now there’s a mother who believed in her daughter’s potential!

Then there was Jennifer Lawrence’s parents who initially felt conflicted when their daughter quit school at age 14 to move to New York. Jennifer’s older brothers, Ben and Blaine, had to persuade their mother and father to allow Jennifer to risk failure in her attempts at following her heart. Jennifer said, “My brothers called them and said: ‘You’ve traveled all over the country with us, for baseball, football and basketball. This is her baseball game. You have to support her.’ So they were forced to, at that point.” So, even though they were reticent, they pushed all their chips to the middle of the table.

Jessica Alba, who signed with her acting agent at the age of 11, plans to encourage her own children to avoid the business altogether during their formative years. She would like them to finish college, live their lives, and then, “…if they want to get into the arts, that’s fine…I wouldn’t encourage them to work in this type of environment as children.” Similarly, Britney Spears was a Disney Mouseketeer at the age of 11, and has stated that if her sons desired to participate in the entertainment industry, she would, “lock them up in their rooms until they turn 30.”

What about your mom? When you first shared your desire to pursue acting, how did she respond? Did she remind you of her aspiration for you to become a doctor or lawyer? Did she start reciting the drawbacks like ruthless competition, loss of privacy, and the financial pressure commonly associated with the field? Or was she elated because, after all, she’d already spent thousands of dollars in pushing you to become famous–something along the lines of the moms featured in Toddlers and Tiaras? Or maybe your mom was genuinely excited that you had found something you’re passionate about and set out to support you in any way she could.

Please share how your mom encouraged or discouraged you in your acting dream.

Enjoy Your Food and Get Auditions

November 25, 2012

Jennifer Lawrence while surfing in Hawaii.

“Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.” –W. Somerset Maugham

So how was it? You know, the candied yams, creamy mashed potatoes, turkey smothered in thick gravy, two-sticks-of-butter stuffing, crispy bacon, and three different kinds of cheeses! And don’t get me started on the pies of every variety known to mankind. It was awesome, right? And afterwards you fell asleep like an old dog on a sun-drenched porch; absolute intoxicated bliss. Well…shame on you! You’re an actor! Don’t you know a slim, taut body is critical to your success? Do you see Jennifer Anniston or Mark Wahlberg stuffing themselves like swine at the trough?! How about Keira Knightley, Zoe Saldana, or Christian Bale? It could be considered highly irresponsible for your career to gleefully gather together with family and friends, and overindulge on a traditional holiday feast. Or, you just might be living a healthy lifestyle, filled with equal parts of discipline and indiscipline–which is sometimes known as “balance.”

Jennifer Lawrence, star of The Hunger Games, was quoted in the December issue of Elle magazine saying, “In Hollywood, I’m obese. I’m considered a fat actress.” She went on to comment on her toothsome bikini photos currently in hot rotation on the web, “I’m Val Kilmer in that one picture on the beach;” apparently referring to fellow actor Val Kilmer’s once-svelte, now portly physique.

Now, it’s important to note Jennifer is 22-years-old, and her weight is probably relatively easy to maintain. And it’s probably not far off to speculate she has a full-time personal trainer as well as a nutritionist to keep her healthy and fit for her upcoming roles in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and X-Men: Days Of The Future Past. But it’s nonetheless refreshing to hear an A-list Hollywood actress say, “I’m never going to starve myself for a part,” and concerning herself with the messages she’s sending to her young female fan base: “I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something that I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”

Touche, Jennifer for a healthy attitude towards food! And happy holiday eating to all of you!

Feast on The Hunger

March 25, 2012

“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” – Ovid

I told you so! To what am I referring? Last November, I told you there would be another Twilight phenomenon coming around, so keep preparing as an actor. At that time, it seemed impossible to imagine another movie reaching such frenzied heights from fans and the media. But, The Hunger Games not only set a movie presales record (advanced ticket sales eclipsed the previous record set by The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 by selling 12 tickets per second) but now the box office numbers are in, which officially place The Hunger Games’ opening-weekend profits above The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1. 

These epochs and epics of the Movie Industry don’t come along often, but they do come along–and seem to come along with increasing frequency these days. And as sure as there is The Hunger Games, there will be yet another franchise blockbuster that fascinates the masses and fills the pockets of movie studios with bricks of gold and silver…sooner than you think. The only question now is: Are you going to be a part of the next big thing? I asked this question in the earlier blog, and the answer’s still the same: Yes, you are! The people who star in these titanic films are not aliens, fairies, magicians, or super heroes. They are real people who had a dream and stayed after it. That is all. Don’t complicate your career. Get your headshots, get your reel, go on auditions, take classes, get in plays, learn classic monologues–go, go, go! And if you don’t star in the next Hunger Games, you career will regardless improve greatly. It’s simple: if you practice playing tennis two hours a day, you will get better, period. Take it a step at a time. The trick is to put yourself in a position to succeed, and then keep doing it. The cumulative laws of numbers will begin to work on your behalf. Jennifer Lawrence never took an acting lesson, but you better believe she went after her career with a vengeance. So resolute was her commitment and determination, I think it’s fair to say she would have starred in some mega something else had it not been The Hunger Games.

Wes Bentley, another star of the Hunger juggernaut, grew up in Jonesboro Arkansas–not necessarily a showbiz hotspot–and struggled to pay the rent working at Blockbuster and TGI Friday’s. Does this sound like someone destined for greatness? No! At that time, he was just another struggling actor; but he worked hard and put himself in a position to win. Can you not do the same thing? Are you any less deserving? Likewise, the answer is No! Go out and make your fortune, and don’t forget to have fun doing it!

Jennifer Lawrence Is Not Just a Lucky Star

March 14, 2012

“I look at Kristen Stewart now and I think, ‘I’d never want to be that famous.’ I can’t imagine how I’d feel if all of a sudden my life was pandemonium.” – Jennifer Lawrence

She’s 21 years old, was named one of People magazine’s Most Beautiful People in the World in 2011, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2010 for her stunning performance in Winter’s Bone, and is about to blast the doors of fame off their hinges with her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games…even though she’s never taken an acting class.

Who could be luckier than Jennifer Lawrence?

Well, while luck may have been involved, Lawrence’s road to success has been paved more so on ambition and determination. At the age of 14, she had such a conviction that her path in life was to be an actress, she convinced her parents to allow her spend a summer in the New York City in hopes of finding a talent agent. Her parents clearly were supportive of their daughter’s dream, and allowed her to leave her Kentucky home base. Once in New York, instead of finding a talent agent, a talent agent found her, that is, during a modeling shoot. The agent invited her to do a cold read to which Lawrence received high praise despite her only training being from church plays. She did end up staying in New York City that summer, and appeared in commercials for MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.  From that point on, Lawrence committed to her school work load, and graduated high school two years early to begin her career as an actress.

How many high school students do you know with this kind of determination? To label Lawrence as lucky would be to minimize all that she really brought to her career advancements. Her ambition has been unwavering right from the start. So what if that talent agent never discovered her that day? Do you think that would have stopped her? Of course not. According to Jennifer, becoming an actress “didn’t feel like a choice at the time, and it still doesn’t.”

According to a recent New York Times opinion piece, The Go-Nowhere Generation, a side effect from the slow economy has been for young Americans to become “risk-averse and sedentary.” This stuck-at-home mentality at a minimum prevents teens from getting their driver’s licenses, and at worst hurts the economy as young adults take fewer risks with their investments and job opportunities. Kids who grow up during tough economic times also tend to believe that luck plays a bigger role in one’s success, which breeds complacency. “Young people raised during recessions end up less entrepreneurial and less willing to leave home because they believe that luck counts more than effort,” said Paola Giuliano, an economist at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

The fact that Lawrence took risks and went to where she felt the work was, shows entrepreneurial grit. She once stated, “I like when things are hard; I’m very competitive. If something seems difficult or impossible, it interests me.” Let’s hope she maintains that positive spirit with her new mega-star fame—and all the pandemonium that unfolds!