I was born and raised in South Hill, Michigan. When I was 13 or 14, I finally convinced my mom that I wanted to pursue the arts, and she was going to drive my brother and I to an acting and modeling showcase for people under 18. But about halfway there, she changed her mind and we didn’t get to go. I went to an all Catholics boys high school and was playing three sports, and it didn’t offer much in the way of arts.
The whole idea of modeling/acting didn’t come back to me until well after college when I was living in China when I was around 26 years old, and playing football semi professionally and coaching in Chongqing. It was there, in a city with 20 million people, where basically if you were a foreigner and had a look, you could get hired as a model. So I did a couple of jobs at Chinese boutiques that were selling French clothing and was able to work as a model at the store. I was modeling and trying fun abstract art pieces. It was a way to sort of work one day and pay the rent for the whole month.
So I built a small portfolio, and after moving to LA, I used those images as a portfolio and started my modeling career here.
I didn’t really know. There were things throughout my life that I can reflect back on now and say that whenever things scared me, I shied away from it. As I’ve gotten older, and from reading many books, I’ve realized that those butterflies that you get when you’re about to do something that you don’t normally do, is a way to make you feel alive. And that’s how I began to look at those kinds of feelings.
When I was in 6th grade, I was one of the only boys in a dance class because it was one of the only electives left, and I didn’t want to take it, but got stuck in it. And some of the other boys and I did a football dance sketch, and the teacher loved it. She asked us to come back in the 7th and 8th grade. We didn’t really want to, because we thought it wasn’t masculine enough.
I grew up in a house of boys, and there was no one there to reinforce the idea that if you want to take a dance class, that that was okay. So I always took what I thought were “manly” things, like sports.
I had done so many things from the ages of 17-27 years, like businesses that I owned and managed, and other jobs, and basically, by the process of elimination, fell back into this.
I believe that when you’re young and you have an idea to do something, if you don’t act on it, it will stay with you forever.
With performing arts, it fell out of my hands based on my own circumstances, rather than my own decision-making. And I didn’t really start making my own decisions until I was 26.
Coming from a psychology background, and studying the mind at the University at Michigan, reading books, and developing my own curriculum, I decided that you can make your own decisions when you’re twelve years old. When you’re 11-13, it’s when you start saying, "Hey, I wanna do that." And if someone supports you and your gifts, then you can develop into the person you’re meant to be at a younger age.
I believe that at some point, you will revert back to an idea you had when you were younger, or something that’s been simmering in your unconscious mind. And that’s what acting and modeling were for me.
It took a lot of work to open my heart, and tap into the unfiltered version of myself. If you grow up shy, and you reinforce that idea of shyness, you build more barriers on that wall, and you make it more difficult to break down, by making it a more dense wall.
For me, anything that is unfiltered now, is because I’ve challenged myself in hundreds of different ways to break them down, and to allow myself to speak through my heart, without worrying so much about what other people say.
My parents divorced when I was young, and my brothers and I raised ourselves, while my mom was at work, and my dad was taking care of his other family.
Between 6th and 7th grade, I grew five inches and lost forty lbs; it was an insane change. It was partially because of summer training for football, and also I stopped eating McDonalds and Burger King. We used to have both of them walking distance from my house, and I stopped going there. I just decided that I was going to stop spending my money there. It wasn’t even that I wanted to lose weight. It just happened naturally, within like a 30-40 day time frame where I stopped eating junk food, grew five inches, and my metabolism picked up.
So when I went back to school in 7th grade, I was a completely different person. People either didn’t recognize me, or thought, “Wow, Jacob’s hot!” All these girls were suddenly giving me attention that I’d never gotten before. I had no idea how to handle it. Because in my mind, I was still a fat kid, and now they viewed me in a different way, and it was so new.
It was something I never stepped into, until maybe my early to mid twenties, because after 8th grade, I went to an all boys catholic high school. We didn’t have a computer at my house. So I didn't really have contact with women until my junior year of high school, when I got a car. So I was super shy until my early mid twenties.
As soon as I wake up, I go straight outside and get on my knees and pray for anywhere from 2-15 mins, depending on what type of prayer I want to do.
I also have a gratitude practice, which is an all encompassing process, like an open thought process, like a prayer and thankfulness to each individual human being that I’m thankful for in my life.
After that, I drink 3-4 glasses of water, and if I’m hungry, I eat. Then I go to the gym and get my body moving.
I’m one of those people that in order for me to have a good day, I have to get my blood flowing, and I have to pray. If I don’t get my blood flowing, then the whole day is off. So I try to work out, or do something that gets my blood flowing within the first few hours.
I like to activate with coffee, or some sort of caffeination, which is a hack, but it’s definitely something I enjoy indulging in, as I’m pretty disciplined outside of any other substances besides caffeine.
It’s also good for an actor. I read from Uta Hagen that reading aloud is necessary, especially for theater actors. If you’re not working, not auditioning, you have to do that.
I’m really not a morning person, and I feel like I’ve done more of my thinking and working at night. But recently I’ve been training a professional fighter, where I do mobility and flexibility work, and myotherapy on him. So I’ve been waking up during the week at 6a, which is great, because by noon I feel extremely productive, like I’ve already annihilated the day.
And, what else, go on Instagram? Haha.
I’d experienced death before, but it was just older family members. Having someone die, whom I was so close to in age and personally, took me into a downward spiral of existentialism and not caring about my body and people in my life. And I kind of used it as an excuse to go into a dark time in my life.
I suffered a lot of things from it. My health took a toll, because of it. I began smoking cigarettes, drinking more, and getting into some other drugs. I lost a business of mine, and got heavily sued for certain things that went on, because of neglect both in my life and business. I still have some debt from it, which keeps it kind of a reminder of it all.
But at the same time, I was able to come out of it all, and at some time, maybe over a year and a half later, acknowledge my wrong doings, and value life a little more than what I was valuing it before that. That potentially had something to do with my decisions in pursuing my passions, versus just doing what was available based on my skill set in Michigan.
You come out of it, you get so burned, you realize your behaviors, you’re in debt now, you got issues, and you lost a business. I paid a lot with the neglect that came with that.
I learned about myself, and about the truth - that I actually value life, health, and living a quality life. I think everyone has their own experience in their own way. That was just its own learning experience at the end of the day.
Everyone has their shit storms they go through, and I think it’s more advantageous if it happens to you young, because then you’re like, "What else bad can happen to you?" There is more bad that can happen, but at the same time, I think each tragedy expands your heart a little bit.
Kahlil Gibran says that as much as you can feel sadness, is as much as you can feel happiness. Your experience with being devastated will also create a larger spectrum for you to experience happiness. Your depth as a human being has a lot to do with that spectrum right there. And the most interesting people you meet in life are the people that have a very extreme range.
One is, "shut up and listen," which means, "become a really good listener." Because not only in the acting world, but in real life, people love people that are good listeners. The most talented, coolest, and even funniest people I know in the industry, are the best listeners. They listen not just with their ears and eyes, but with their hearts. They create a level of connection that you can only get from a really good listener.
Another piece of advice would be that if I could go back to my 12 year old self and say something to him, I'd say, "Try and define who that inner voice is inside of you and really trust that voice."
Along with listening, begin to be that good of a listener to that voice inside your heart, mind, and conscience. That way, you can live the life you're supposed to live faster, rather than figuring out years later that you should've been listening to that voice all along. That voice is so mystical, and comes from a different energy. It's like your subconscious mind, the truth, and your heart is speaking to you.
The human mind is an exceptional piece of machinery, and with the power of concentration, you can master multiple things in your lifetime.
For me, it's going deeper into the body and fitness, and myotherapy. It's not necessarily a backup plan; it's an expertise in something other than the performing arts, other than acting and modeling for me.
Don't come to an industry that is considered the most difficult industry in the world without having something else to offer. Be an expert in something other than acting and modeling. That's the standard that you have to create for yourself in an industry that's so competitive, and that has so many aspects to it.