Kristen Bell’s Commencement Speech 2019 at USC (Full Transcript)

I say this because if there is anything about my life that seems even slightly aspirational, hopefully, some of this will be helpful to you. And if not, feel free to slowly pull the flask hiding in your underwear out and just have it. I’m not your mom. You know what I mean?

If it’s not hurting anyone, great. Get yours, and you know what, maybe share some with your neighbors.

Now the tricky thing about finding someone who has what you want is that you also have to know what you want. Right? So that seems simple enough, but it’s actually very hard because our brains are arrogant assholes.

The brain thinks it’s running the show, but the heart is secretly pulling the strings. It’s very true. Our brains are the King Joffrey of our bodies, and our hearts are the granny Tyrell, right? Very true.

We think we know what we want, but we often have no idea what we need. And because of that, we often approach life with one goal, and we end up finding our real purpose along the way.

When I left New York, and I came to LA, I had the singular goal of becoming the lead on a TV show. I had gained some experience in New York, playing a naive weed, obsessed sexpot, and reefer madness. I thought perfect, I’m ready for Los Angeles. Surely I will be embraced immediately.

So I hopped on a plane. I arrived in the land where the streets are soaked in sunshine and self-tanner residue. I had the confidence of an overserved freshmen at a frat party.

I was like, here I am, and I began the process of auditioning, which it’s really just a condensed way to say driving back and forth to Santa Monica in rush hour traffic. But the feedback that I received was that I was always either too young, too old, too cute, too plain, too smart, too ditzy.

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It was as if goldilocks were every casting director and I just couldn’t nail it. And eventually, I started booking some costar and guest star roles, but my coveted lead eluded me, and I would go to bed negotiating with the universe.

I would say, “OK, if I could just book the lead on CIS and CIS: Miami, I promise I will decrease my carbon footprint by at least six in the next calendar year.”

So clearly I know absolutely nothing about the measure of carbon. I find it almost as confusing as the concept of the Magna Carta, but then it happened. I was cast on Veronica Mars, which was my first show, and everything I ever wanted was in front of me. I was earning a real paycheck. I was the lead of a TV show. I owed the universe all my carbon.

But once we started shooting, something very unexpected happened to me. Well, two unexpected things.

The first was Ryan Hansen who played Dick Casablancas: his hair. It was the exact, almost too accurate, too on-point shade of surfer bond blonde boy. It was like the kind that gives you PTSD from walking along. Then a speech, it was like, whoa. It was terrifying, and I loved it.

The second was that despite the recognition of my dream, I wasn’t happy, like at all. My arrogant little asshole brain could not comprehend what was happening. I was like, how was this possible? This is what I wanted and what I needed, right?

And yet I had it all, and I was lonelier than I had ever been. And it wasn’t until the boy with the surfer hair invited me to his birthday party after-hours offset away from work that everything changed. He wasn’t just inviting me to his birthday party. He was inviting me to his life party, to his community.

And I finally felt at home, and I made some of the best friends that I still have to this day. In retrospect, I know it wasn’t the role I was looking for. It wasn’t a paycheck or a titular character. What I really needed was friendship.

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So I want to stress to you, build your tribe. They will keep you alive. I’m also pretty sure that’s what Beyoncé would say.

Speaking of pillars of an American entertainment, it is now the portion of the morning where I remind everyone that life is Fifty Shades of Grey. I have to assume I’m the first speaker in an academic institution that has referenced the book Fifty Shades of Grey. But we have already established that I dropped out of college. I have no right to be here. So this is where we arrived. I don’t know what you want me to do.

In my life, there is only one concept that I have determined. It’s that everything is gray. Every person, every question, every tragedy, even every victory, they all have nuance. Pay attention to the nuance.

You all in this room, I feel like know that better than anyone. You know it in your bones because you’ve devoted your time to building stories, building people. It’s what you do. You are people architects.

You read a script, and you construct a walking, breathing human from the ground up. When we create characters, we are encouraged to make them three-dimensional, right?

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