Here is the full transcript of Chase Masterson’s talk titled “How to Be More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine” at TEDxVienna conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: How to Be More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine by Chase Masterson at TEDxVienna
Best Quote from this talk:
“Every hero has an origin story, one that usually begins with doubt, powerlessness, and fear. Now if you feel doubt, that’s OK. That’s part of your origin story.”
Hey, my name is Chase. And I’m usually a pretty happy person.
But in 2005, I became a clinically depressed, alcoholic, self-destructive, ball of rage, due to an act of bullying.
You know, don’t get me wrong. Now before that, life had been pretty good. I was a lifelong actress, singer and dancer. I’d worked hard and been successful.
I landed a role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine which turned out to be the number one syndicated show in the world. I was also recurring on two other television shows at the same time.
So this is what the public saw.
But appearances can deceive. What the public didn’t know is that my life was being destroyed. I’m 12 years sober now. But what happened?
When I got the role on Star Trek, fans asked me what kind of charity I would like to support. Now all the actors had these charities and which one was mine: the answer was easy.
I’ve been a volunteer for caring for babies with AIDS, which is a house where these kids lived in Los Angeles, kids that didn’t have anybody else left.
So my fan club became their largest private contributor. Along the way I had a nice routine lunch with some fans in Germany. And we took pictures. And in the course of asking for those pictures, I made the mistake of giving one of the fans my home address.
This fan soon decided he wasn’t getting as much out of his fan club membership as he wanted. So he listed me on a huge international dating service without my knowledge or consent. He listed pictures of me and a list of my acting credits and sexual invitations.
He also listed the fact that I lived alone with my son, and he listed my home address. He also made up an email address where you could email me but he would correspond with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of men.
I subsequently received a fax in my home fax machine from somebody threatening to brutally stalk and rape me and kill my son. We were terrified.
I was not a rich actress. I was just recurring. We lived in a two-room apartment. We couldn’t afford to move. I couldn’t afford to hire security.
My son was afraid to go to school. I was afraid to go to work. We were both afraid to go home. We were terrified.
Matchmaker had posted this false information without having any proof that it was me: no signature, no credit card, no proof.
I filed suit. Matchmaker had no right to do this. The lawsuit lasted five years.
The opposing attorney admitted that he was purposely incurring extra costs so that I would drop the suit but I didn’t. I never wanted this to happen to anybody else ever again.
Their defense: free speech.
I contended that my home address in combination with disgusting sexual invitations to violence was not free speech.
The judge ruled that public figures are not entitled to the same respect as in regards to defamation as our private figures. So because of my job, it’s OK to enable people to lie about me and invite people to attack me in my home.
Then Matchmaker sued me for their legal fees, and won.
I lost everything, including crucial career momentum, and as an actress above 30 in Hollywood, I was shattered.
So, yeah… rage, depression, alcohol, shame… more than I can say.
During this time, a quote from Star Wars started echoing in my head. Sorry Star Trek fans, but it was when Obi-Wan says to Darth Vader:
“If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Okay. Somewhere in 2007, I got sober and my friend Judith said to me if you really want to feel better, go help people who have it worse than you. The only people I could think of who are as angry as me were actual gang members.
Conveniently I live in Los Angeles where Homeboy Industries is the largest program for gang intervention in the world where nothing stops a bullet like a job. Now these kids were born into gangs, raised in gangs, in circumstances you can’t imagine with their parents overdosing in the living room or in prison.
For Homeboy, these kids… this is not only their last chance. If you grew up like they did, it’s also their first chance. My friend Richard Blacker was a self-help author. So he and I volunteered to teach a class there to kids coming straight out of prison about how to get your life together.
What nobody knew is that I wasn’t there to save their lives. I was there to try to save mine. I didn’t tell them I was an actress. But every time I met a new homie I would have this look at me, like huh like my friend Marco here.
Okay I’m a little blonde white girl from West LA, what am I going to tell him?
I looked into their faces, demonized, despised, forgotten and all I could say was the truth. I don’t know why the world works the way it does, why you live in a war zone dodging bullets, half-jokingly planning your funerals while other kids get to plan for college.
I don’t know why some of us won the birth lottery. I don’t know why you didn’t.
But I know what it’s like to be afraid to go home. I know what it’s like to be so angry that I can… want to hurt other people and hurt myself. So let’s try to make life better.
And so we did.
And every time I would meet a new homie, I would say to him: “Hey listen, um, what’s your number?” Okay well and I would call him right then from my phone and I would say: Okay, if you need anything or you just want to talk, call me, okay.
And never once have I ever had my phone number abused and never once have I ever been afraid.
See, homies are so much more trustworthy than ordinary citizens turned out to be. Appearances can deceive.
One of those homies was Vance. I call him Advanced because he’s made so many changes. But before Homeboy, Vance was head of the Crips, both outside and then he earned that position in Folsom State Prison.
Now I never asked the homies what they did to get into prison, but I did ask them what got them started on this life of pain. And they all told me the same thing: they were afraid of rival gangs.
Vance and his friends got bullied on the playground so they formed a little gang to keep up with the bullies and the bullies grew and they grew and everybody’s tactics got worse. And they got absorbed into the Crips.
See, hurt people hurt people, and healed people heal people. And I realized that if rival gang members can end their bullying and violence at Homeboy, so can the rest of the world.