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.
And I started thinking about the nature of bullying. You know if you’re being bullied that has nothing to do with you. That is always all about the bully.
And I realized that bullying is the same on every level, whether it’s in the kindergarten, on the playground, in the workplace, in relationships, in terrorism or gang violence or war. It’s all the same dynamic. It’s all oppression due to a power imbalance that doesn’t belong in human lives.
But we can all learn to change what we choose. I didn’t just think this up. I know it. I saw it. I saw it in the homies and they helped me see it in myself.
Meanwhile to make a living I’m still Chase Masterson, Star Trek poster girl. And the cognitive dissonance was real. Tell ya, on weekends I entertained at conventions where thousands of people would gather to celebrate billion-dollar Hollywood properties and there would be epic battles with fictional bullets flying.
Weekdays, I was working with disenfranchised but determined kids dodging real bullets, just half an hour from Hollywood.
I was struck by the disparity and I started developing burning questions like how can we use justice on-screen to make justice happen in real life? How can we harness… how can we harness the energy of these conventions and make heroism happen, help people who would be heroes if only given the chance?
The beginning of the answer came in the form of a little girl named Katie who you might have heard of.
Katie was bullied for carrying her Star Wars lunchbox to school. Now all the boys would follow her around and they would say “You can’t like Star Wars, you’re a girl!”
Well, Katie cried. She went home and she told her mom: “Mom, I’m not going to like Star Wars anymore. I just want to carry my pink lunchbox.”
And her mom Carrie Goldman said “Katie, don’t let anybody tell you who to be. You get to be you.”
But Katie was really upset. So Carrie posted it in her blog if anybody out there could please just encourage my daughter if you’ve been gender bullied, just give her a little support.
Well, Huffington Post picked up the blog and thousands and thousands of us gave her support. I was one of countless people that can said, “Katie, I’m a woman. I love science. I love science fiction. I love Star Wars. You get to be you.”
Well, Katie kept her Star Wars lunchbox and she also became a role model for other little girls. I introduced her to my friend Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca.
So now little Katie who was bullied in first grade is friends with the real Chewbacca: don’t mess with us.
Right? Carrie saw that bullying was an issue that I think we can all relate to. And so she decided to write a book. Bullied got great reviews and was critically acclaimed; it won awards and she asked my help getting it into Comic-Con and that’s when it all clicked.
I said yes: “Yes, but let’s do more. Let’s form a coalition and use pop culture to end bullying in all its forms.”
Look if people could spend $1.3 billion on Star Wars tickets in opening weekend, it’s because we love heroes. Let’s be those heroes in real life.
So I got off the phone and I was like, oh well uh…what am I going to do now? A coalition, I don’t even… I don’t know how to form a coalition. What do I need to form a coalition? Uh, the United Nations! They do that, right?
So I looked up the number online and I called the United Nations as you do. And I somehow got in touch with the President of the United Nations Association, San Diego.
And I said, “Hi, this is Chase Masterson from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. And I’m doing a coalition to end bullying at Comic-Con. And uh… well, you guys do that, right, with countries, right? So would you like to join us?
And she said “Oh my God! We’ve always wanted to go to Comic-Con.”
So there it began.
Pop Culture Hero Coalition is the first-ever organization to use TV, comics and film to end bullying and to support real-life heroism in all its forms over bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBTQI+ bullying, cyberbullying and other forms of injustice.
Along the way we have officially featured the United Nations, Amnesty International and no hate campaign and other social justice organizations at their very first Comic Cons, motivating kids and adults to become superheroes in real life. Thanks…
Well, we all are superheroes in real life when we want to be and that’s the point.
So here in 2015, there was a mass shooting in San Bernardino outside Los Angeles. And it was near an elementary school and the kids heard the shots and they were traumatized.
I called the school and I asked them who’s helping your kids with trauma and they said no one. Somebody had to do something. But what qualifications did I have? I was willing. That was it.
So we enlisted two Pop Culture fluent clinical psychologists and a woman who I had mentored at Homeboy to become a counselor and they went and they worked with those kids using Batman and Luke Skywalker because those characters had encountered severe trauma as children and they used it to make their lives better instead of worse.
Then we caught the attention of Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence and at the suggestion of their founding director we created a curriculum. We used those pop culture fluent psychologists. We teamed up with them to create the heroic journey curriculum which is officially now in schools.
It’s a 32-lesson plan that uses… thanks.
Thanks. It’s a 32-lesson plan that uses stories kids love to teach healthy identity both to the victims and the bullies. The curriculum was piloted with proven success at a UNESCO school right here in Vienna. And it’s being implemented all over the U.S. teaching inclusion, emotion regulation, conflict resolution, alternatives to addiction and ending discrimination and violence.
It’s even been used by a non-profit in Vietnam to help kids who have been rescued from human trafficking.
My dream is to revolutionize the way we teach in schools so that kids can learn the super powers of empathy and resilience and other crucial skills early on in life. And yeah, make this a world where we can all live long and prosper.
A Wonder Woman said it is my sacred duty to defend the world. But if you look at her life or Batman’s or Harry Potter’s or Black Panther’s, you’ll see that not one of them was fully prepared when their journeys began. Oh, we teach this in the curriculum and it applies to our lives.
If you told me when my journey began that I would ever even be OK, I wouldn’t have believed. If you told me that I would find joy and meaning in Homeboy, or that I would find purpose in founding the Coalition, or that I would be here in Vienna and that you guys would care so much, I would have said it was impossible.
And I’d have been scared to death. That’s the thing.
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.
I hope hearing mine helps you realize that you can change lives, including your own with your superpowers. Maybe you’ll even join me. Maybe you’ll work with the Coalition. Maybe we’ll team up.
Okay. Yeah, the world can look dark and hopeless sometimes. But appearances can deceive.
In rising to our challenges, we find our superpowers and then yeah, you can become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
Download This Transcript as PDF here: How to Be More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine_ Chase Masterson (Transcript)
Resources for Further Reading: