Rejection is probably one of the most unwelcome responses. It hurts. It’s devasting. And most often, leaves us incredibly insecure.
So imagine how much worse it can get if you are in the entertainment industry. With so many people vying to get into the spotlight, rejection becomes an inevitable part of the journey. Not only once, not only twice, but over and over and over again.
As cliché as it may sound, the road to success is indeed never easy. Here, Fil-Am Nickelodeon star Nayah Damasen reveals what it feels like to navigate the world of show business at an early age. The teenage Monster High: The Movie actress and singer shed some light on the importance of staying true to your dreams and enjoying every step of the way.
A Little Background About Nayah Damasen
If you’re an NBA fan, you must have been familiar with the girl hailed by Stephen Curry as ‘the little girl with the big voice’. Yes, Nayah Damasen was the 10-year-old girl who opened the Golden State Warriors’ 2015 and 2018 NBA Finals with her rendition of America’s national anthem.
Nayah Damasen is the epitome of perfection that a girl can truly dream of. Like many, she began her musical journey at the age of three—the age of Disney princesses, Barbie, and Barney songs. Seeing much potential in their daughter, her parents encouraged her to take some voice lessons and join school talent shows.
But of course, like most little girls, Nayah wasn’t certain yet of the gifts she was given. She admitted being really shy as a kid. It was only when she was five that she found the courage to join her school’s talent show and realized how much she loved and wanted to perform once again.
Upon moving to L.A., when she was about ten, Nayah started going to acting auditions with the support of her parents. However, unlike singing, she had to really work hard and take a lot of acting classes. But her perseverance paid off when she received her first live performance at the NBA finals. “That was televised worldwide, and I was about ten years old. And I did it again at 13.”
After that, Nayah made several TV appearances, including her first acting role on Grey’s Anatomy, where she played the role of Kimmie Park, a cancer patient who is very good at singing. She also appeared in Modern Family, Blackish, Disney’s Bizaardvaak, Little Big Star, Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger, and the films How to be a Latin Lover, DEADCON, Cipher, Do Not Reply, and the latest, Monster High: The Movie, where she portrays Draculaura, the pink vampire daughter of Dracula.
Navigating the World of Showbusiness
Nayah admitted to having entertained the thought of pursuing marine biology, as she really likes fins. But her craft has always gravitated her toward the performing arts. Hence, the passion for singing, acting and dancing. But navigating the world of show business is never an easy feat.
“I started going on auditions when I was ten years old. At a very young age, I realized how like cookie-cutter the industry can be. People could put you in the stereotype. They judge the way you look. And, you know, at ten years old, ten to thirteen, those were very pivotal years in most kid’s life. It’s when you’re just like figuring out your style, how you look, and being aware of other people around you. So, it was definitely very hard to come to terms with.”
However, Nayah also sees that all those challenges were prerequisites to what she has become right now. Everything she has been through was just a preparation for the grander things she was destined for. And Nayah is very much grateful to the people around her for making her feel secure about herself— for giving her all the support she needed.
Nayah recognizes the amazing support system given by her family and friends. With all the pieces of opinion and thoughts bluntly shared by people on social media, it can truly be devasting to deal with rude comments. “It’s definitely good to have people around you and know who you are like too to your core.”
Expectation vs. Reality: Dealing with the Challenges of the Entertainment Industry at a Young Age
Despite her achievements, Nayah confesses that she still finds herself in many awkward situations, like forgetting her lines and scrambling for words on what to say. Nonetheless, she feels grateful for all the rejections and thousands of auditions she went through. Those made her who she is right now. She also admits how critical she has been to herself, most especially during performances. “I’m always my hardest critic.”
Nayah also finds it important to push boundaries and embrace her ethnicity. “I am a Filipino and this is who I am.” When she was younger, she usually ends up getting the best friend role no matter good she is because of how she looks. At a young age, she already realized how stereotypical the world works. That’s why she worked harder to level up and prove to people that she can be the main character. Hence, getting the Draculaura role.
While Nayah has already etched her name in the industry, she remains humble, knowing that there is so much more that she can do. Instead of seeking tangible rewards, she finds validation from the feedback she receives from people. “I think the most validated that I felt in the industry is when every time young kids come up to me and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your music’. I felt so good listening to it. And you know, because Monster High caters to younger audience, I love hearing what they thought about it.” She admits loving when people get to relate to her character and the songs she sang. “But of course, I would love to, you know, with the Grammy, and like. But for now, the most validating is hearing young kids come up to me and be like, ‘Oh, you loved it!’”
Apart from dealing with criticism and stereotypes, Nayah revealed how traveling and not having a set schedule has taken its toll on her. As veterans put it: being in the industry requires you to be always on the go, always up in the air, and sometimes, you don’t get the schedule until the day before. That’s why it’s quite difficult for her to spend a lot of time visiting her family and friends.
However, all these demands and hectic schedules have also allowed her to make beautiful relationships and connections. Nayah takes heart knowing that her family and friends are always there for her—loudly cheering and always there when she comes back from her projects.
The Importance of Trusting the Process
Born in a digital world, Nayah acknowledges the two important sides of social media: the good and the bad. While some use it to attack people and say hurtful things, these platforms also allow people from all over the world to connect. “I appreciate social media in the way that I can really reach out to people and get my message across worldwide and share just the things that I love to do with everybody.”
With things available with a single tap and scroll, Nayah hopes that young aspirants will never stop learning. “There’s always something that you can learn—or get better at. The industry is full of nos, and you’re going to get that everywhere you go. You will keep getting nos. But if you trust the process, you will eventually reach a ‘yes’.”
Nayah takes the same advice for herself. She continues to learn and always tries to level things up to get better from where she already is. She hopes to someday experience more award shows and probably get some nominations as well. But most importantly, she also hopes to blossom in the music world, her first love.
With much love for in-depth songwriters, Nayah takes inspiration from 88 Rising and Olivia Rodrigo. She admires how their lyrics emotionally convey their feelings, and she admires strong women, such as Beyonce, who use their voices for good and spread messages of hope and empowerment.
With the success of Monster High, Nayah currently works with the team on the movie sequel. She hints at more exciting journeys and new music to look forward to. She dreams one day that she gets to play a variety of other characters, like a superhero.
With such a big heart, enthusiasm, and talent, surely Nayah will go a long, long way ahead. Come to think of it, she’s no longer the “little girl with a big voice.” She has now grown into a woman who uses her voice to inspire and empower. Beyond NBA, who knows where else she will champion.