St. John's Confidential File
HOLLYWOOD—HELLO AMERICA! Through the years I've heard tons of stories from Hollywood newcomers about their transformation when coming to live in the world of cinema. Some believed it would be easy to get what they want; others were determined to play by the so-called rules, not realizing that these rules change with the climate. Diana Shinozaki simply arrived and decided to make things happen... and they did.
Q: How old were you when you became aware of the arts, especially the theater? And how did it affect you?
A: I grew up surrounded with classical music. When my older siblings started piano and violin lessons, I followed and began piano when I was eight or nine years old. My family couldn’t afford a babysitter so I accompanied my siblings to their music theory and master classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for many years. I was enrolled in music theory and solfege classes which I enjoyed very much. I distinctly remember not choosing to take up violin because my sister and brother’s violin teacher literally frightened me and taking violin would mean facing him. So I chose to take up cello instead and played for a few years in middle school. My first exposure to theater was in high school when I auditioned and got my first role as the dry “Lab Technician” in “Witness for the Prosecution.” Even though I had only two or three lines in the play, I remember being excited with the rehearsal process and being on stage.
“Once the show was over, I soon forgot the experience of it all, so it was a complete surprise to my family and especially for me when acting showed up again in my future during nursing school at Dominican University. At the time I decided to ask the financial office if I could work as an assistant in the drama department as my work study to receive financial aid for school. I ended up being cast in several productions and the acting bug set in. The timing was just perfect as I needed an outlet to express my independence and developing sense of self in an area apart from my siblings.
Q: What kind of characters impacted your imagination the most and why?
A: I hated dolls (especially Barbie dolls) growing up and any commercially popular toys at that time. I was so drawn to stuffed animals, small furry objects made of yarn and other material, and my mom’s hand-sewn pillows which I made into characters in a made-up world which I shared with my brother and sisters. I was a socially awkward child and spent most of my summers at home with my family creating this made-up world, helping my parents in the garden, and taking care of my animals which included birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards, mice and a rat. I didn’t enjoy reading as much as my sister and brother but loved ceramics, gardening, baking, painting and making my family laugh.
Q: What actors, generally, were you seriously impressed with and why? Did they make you feel energized or believe in yourself?
A: I am always impressed with the immense talent of actors such as Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchette, Kate Winslet, and Audrey Hepburn, to name a few, who display their chameleon abilities in a variety of roles with such ease and grace. At the same time, as if a reflection of my own personal challenges and evolution, I am drawn to bold, confident, and perhaps audacious actors such as Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and Eva Longoria. In addition, I love watching powerfully multi talented actors who perform well in comedy and drama such as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, and Tom Hanks.
Q: Since you’ve been in Hollywood, has the image of the place changed? Has it been tougher to survive in or have you been one of the lucky ones? After all, you’ve written and produced a show, something that most actors haven’t been able to do. Also, what did you learn from wearing the producer’s hat?
A: The idea to move to Los Angeles came out of a revelation I had in February 2002 when I visited my church pilgrimage in Brazil with my sister and church group. We were encouraged to pray for our deepest wishes at a sacred altar during our trip. My sister asked for a husband and met him shortly after we returned. I remember asking what my purpose in life was and what I should do and a bunch of questions but came back with really no answer other than the idea to move to Los Angeles to pursue acting. I had no set image of Hollywood when I arrived in May 2002 and so without any expectations of how things should be, I took each hardship as it came and somehow managed to overcome it. I was living with my trusted best friend, Jeff, who supported me while I was unemployed for six months before finding a consistent gig with Disney. I quickly learned that pounding the pavement as an actor was not my thing and through a leadership course in 2009, I found myself in a new space to write and produce a musical. Not having any idea of how crazy that would be made it easier to accomplish with the support of my peers. When I produced my musical in two venues the following year, it was a completely different experience with breakdowns that really awakened me in the areas of my personality that I needed to strengthen. Hollywood has provided me the structure, opportunity and network to create a new reality that I am currently living in today.
Q: What have you learned from your years of working at the Disney Studios?
A: When I moved to Los Angeles in 2002, I was fortunate enough to have had an opportunity to temp for someone on maternity leave for Disney Pictures and Marketing Finance, which I found through a friend of my boyfriend at the time. Over the years I managed to stick around Disney as a temp in a few departments before landing a full-time job in January 2005 for my current department, Disney Media Distribution Finance/Accounting where I am the contract administrator. During the massive lay-offs a few years ago, I really appreciate having to keep this job which not only has allowed me to pay the rent, but it has kept me in the conversation of entertainment, playing an accounting role in Disney’s expansion throughout the world, and giving me a sense of the bigger picture in what it takes to make things happen.
Q: Actually living and working in Hollywood: has it changed your feelings about the business or even your personal objectives? Has it made you more resilient or tougher?
A: [I’m] not sure if it’s Hollywood or just moving away from my family, but I know that in the 10 years I have been in Los Angeles, I have experienced a massive transformation in how I see and live my life. My desire to be a producer was not anything I could possibly imagine prior to my move to L.A.
Q: Do you more fully understand what you want your creative future to be like? In other words, what do you want to achieve most - does it hav to do with acting, writing, producing?
A: My emphasis these days are in the area of health, nutrition and healing. I am dedicated to exercising, eating healthy whole foods, and being informed about nutrition and health. My dream is to produce a cooking show at my mansion (in the future) where I will bring fresh organic vegetables and fruit from my massive garden to be cooked on the show to reveal how easy it is to live healthy and happy with nature.
Q: Today when you look in the mirror, who do you see? Does it make you happy or sad?
A: That is a really good question. There are many days where I feel disappointed and wish life worked out differently in many ways, but the plethora of experiences which include a lot of failures, has given me a newfound strength and a greater appreciation and faith in myself and in the amazing loving community of people around me.
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