With Freya Pruitt and Rachael Brook
R – “The more I allow myself to be me, the more I feel people can connect to me. I am a 100% true creative. It is like one facet is the provision for the other: The more I create the more my creative self increases.”
“From Lockdown to the Beginning”
F – You were in NYC when the Pandemic hit. NYC literally was closed – totally locked down. How did you deal with the city changing so radically?
R – The Pandemic gave me the opportunity to be locked down and into my creativity. I loved my NYC apartment, I loved the city – it inspired me.
I didn’t feel locked down as I was able to commit myself to my creativity 24/7.
F – The city is hard to describe as it has its own energy and charisma. I was born in L.A. and raised in NY, but always gravitated back to the city because of its community and magnetic energy; there is no other city like it in the entire world!
F – Where were you born Rachael?
R – I was born in L.A. but moved around erratically throughout my entire childhood. As a baby, I lived in Malibu where my mom owned Malibu Tropics – a celebrity plant care service. I often wonder if we’d have stayed in Malibu what sort of life I would have had. One day my mom just packed up the car and moved to New Mexico. After that, moving became an addictive cycle; we just kept moving and moving and moving, and we seemed to never stop.
My life was literally lived on the run. I came from nothing; from a family with mental illness, mood swings, drama, violence, and no sense of security. All I ever knew for sure was that we were going to move.
I was never going to experience being a child:
I was constantly being taken out of schools and friendships. I lived a life of starting over. When you are constantly moving from place to place, you have no feeling of home. I had to adapt quickly to survive. Because of the way I carry myself, people tend to think I must have been handed everything on a silver platter, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It is virtually a miracle I evolved into a stable and successful person.
“Survival, Violence, and Kidnapping”
F – How does a young child develop survival skills without any life skills?
R – I was always reliant on myself – even as a very young child.
Mom went through a separation from a violent relationship and during that period I was kidnapped by my abusive ex-stepfather who sent me to live with my “Godparents” (his friends) in Nashville, Tennessee.
I looked at my “kidnapping” more like it was saving me – I wasn’t afraid. I was relieved in some way. I didn’t question it because prior to the “kidnapping” I was always on the run with my mom. I bounced from one homeless shelter to another or found myself in her friends’ rundown homes where I never felt safe.
So instead of “kidnapping” being terrifying, it almost felt like it protected me. I got a glimpse of a different life. It was more like a fairytale to live in a mansion with a famous father figure, a Suzy homemaker mother figure, pets, and land In the country. I was given a nice big room to myself, toys and my second-hand clothes were replaced by Ralph Lauren.
The fairytale kidnapping became my new “normal” life and I actually felt safe at last.
“From Heaven to Hell”
F – What happened after the kidnapping?
R – Mom somehow found out where I was.
She pleaded and begged with my “Godparents” to send me back to her.
I cried and begged not to leave because I didn’t want to go back to such an erratic life. Sadly, I had no choice and ended up in Denver with her new partner in a small one-bedroom apartment with cockroaches and violence next door. I was terrified and began to call her by her first name; I guess to disassociate in some way – I guess to survive. I cried every night as I missed the life “I could have had.” But again, as a child, you don’t have a voice or rights; you just have to deal with the cards you are given until you are an adult.
Being forced to return traumatized me beyond words.
I couldn’t stand her new partner and was shocked when I met him. He was 11 years younger – and felt SO young! He wore Grateful Dead t-shirts, had long hair, and played video games obsessively. I thought of him as a child and was so upset at my mom. She escaped one abusive man for this guy. I just couldn’t believe or understand it! If I had to go back, all I wanted was for life to be me and my mom – with no guy in the middle ruining our chance to bond.
I was resentful for most of my life because I was forced to live with a negative, mean, toxic person I didn’t even know.
I believe my mom enabled his bad behavior. Life would have been so much better if he wasn’t around, but I had to accept him invading my home. It took time to forgive my mom because I felt she wasn’t able to give me a good life.
However, I didn’t want to abandon her because she needed me.
She needed me more than I did her. I felt like her mom.
“The Good Daughter”
I knew Mom wanted to be with me because I was her only daughter. I forced myself to move past my sorrow and become the “good daughter” she so desperately needed. I loved her and I could feel her pain and struggles. I didn’t want to abandon her because she needed me.
Somewhere, deep down inside of me, I knew I had a choice and that choice had to start very young. I may not have been able to live by choice, but I knew it was somehow there. I remember as a young child thinking I needed to find a way to have a better life.
I was determined not to live that type of life forever. I absolutely refused to live that way. As a way of coping, I took care of my mom as she was unable to take care of me. I made a decision with myself that if I ever had a child, I would never relive this life – ever.
Most of my childhood memories are trauma-related.
So many people let their circumstances define them; they either make or break them. But what I’ve overcome from my childhood somehow gave me strength.
Thank God I always had an inner voice silently speaking to me; advising and guiding me somehow. I remember a car accident with my mom where that inner voice saved my life. We were turning left and a voice said for me to move from the passenger seat to behind my mom who was driving. She was upset seeing me move seats but as we turned, a drunk driver in the shoulder lane collided with us. The passenger side was completely caved in. My mom didn’t wear a seatbelt, so she flew in the air and was injured. I only had a bruise on my knee. I feel like God has always protected me.
I truly believe I was able to get out of frightening moments throughout my life because of my relationship with God. I still strongly believe this is true today.
F – Much of your past seems like it was made FOR you. Did you always have faith in God even with all the violence you witnessed and the trauma you experienced?
R – Yes I did. My life was riddled with mixed and confusing messages. I witnessed my mom being hit and abused. She would finally leave but kept going back – again and again. She kept taking it and that made me begin to wonder if that was love. Was that acceptable? I mean, how does a child process that?
Not knowing HOW to process violence, I blacked out a lot of my life unintentionally – as a trauma response. Anyone who goes through acute trauma either relives it or reenacts it throughout their lives.
I guess I was blessed with “Holy Amnesia” as I think it protected me in some way. My Mom relives trauma over and over again to the point of no return. My mind just lets it go…I guess for survival. I guess I used that response TO survive! I refuse to keep that space. I refuse to retain those memories as the brain can only hold so much!
I refuse to occupy my brain with that negativity.
I choose to occupy it with beautiful things.
“Dreams On The Road”
F – What did you dream of as a child Rachael? What was your escape mechanism and did any of those dreams come true?
R – As a child, I dreamed of beauty. I yearned for lovely things, for comfort and home.
I spent my childhood dreaming those things would happen – but they never did. As a child, you have no control over your desires or dreams. You have no choices, you just have to go along for the ride. You just have to survive. Thank God, as an adult you learn you DO have a choice, you can make decisions. Some people might assume I would become hardened and unreachable in adulthood because of my childhood, but I am a sensitive person, my emotions are shared. I hope by sharing I can help someone else who is going through the same thing and gain some relief or insight.
F – Did you ever know where you were going to be – where you were going to live, to settle down?
R – I literally never knew where I was going to be.
We eventually left Denver and moved to Oregon. One day in Oregon, my mom closed her eyes and pointed her finger at a map, and said, “That’s IT! We are moving to Eureka California!” I said, “WHAT??!!” Instantly my life became a blindfolded, “point and go,” foreign destination; a roller coaster ride to nowhere. I just had to follow whatever my mom decided to do or where she wanted to go.
I learned to get on that roller coaster ride but quite frankly I rode it alone. But somewhere along that journey, I found my way.
“I REMEMBER MY LIFE LIKE IT WAS A MOVIE”
F – How would you describe the Rachael Brook of today?
R – I am propelled by my desire to reach my goals. I can’t sit still…I love to explore, to travel, to see different communities. I’m a deep thinker, but most see me as the sexy bombshell type and can’t imagine there are brains behind the image! I graduated top of my class at both high school and college, then went directly into Sony Pictures after graduation.
F- How would you describe your childhood in one sentence?
R- I didn’t feel like I was in my own body as a child. I witnessed everything going on around me but was untouched.
I wouldn’t let negative things affect me. I separated myself from reality; I just remember random little things. One very poignant memory took place in Tennessee. Escaping a domestic violence relationship, Mom took me out of our apartment in the middle of the night with just my backpack. As usual, I didn’t question anything.
The next thing I knew we were on a Greyhound bus headed to who knew where?
I think I was around six at the time but the following is probably one of the most powerful childhood memories I can recall. As we escaped on the Greyhound bus, we stopped at a McDonalds along the way. I remember sitting on the curb with my toys while mom cried as she counted her change. I put my hand on her shoulder as she cried, “I don’t have enough.”
I hugged her and said: “Don’t worry Mom, I’m not hungry.”
I wanted to comfort her at that moment…I didn’t want her to worry. As she kept crying, the bus driver came over and gave us both Egg McMuffins. What a beautiful moment in humanity – to gift us! That act of kindness deeply affected me. I had compassion. I was not angry or mad.
That was a powerful moment and I carried that memory throughout my entire life. I cry sharing this because I don’t have a good relationship with my mom anymore. All I ever wanted was my mom to be my best friend and have all the family members close. Circumstances, family mental illness, and isolation, maybe even jealousy, took that from me and made it impossible to have, even though I tried.
The rest of my childhood is a blur – a blur up until Middle School.
“The Great Escape”
F – Tell me what happened in Middle School?
R – Boy, did I gain a LOT of weight… looked like I ate myself! I looked like a balloon about to explode! Mom got very heavy too and was deeply depressed. Our family life consisted of food and depression so I happily found my new escape: Middle School!
My new escape was a positive one though! I put on a great big smile and became a cheerleader!
I began to lose weight, I had friends and was in a real community with an actual life! I got out of the house where I used to mirror my mom’s depression and isolation – this was my escape. And boy did I make the most of it! In my opinion, kids today lack activities.
Activities saved my life!
Today everything is a Play Station, just go play a game, get your Ipad, text on your cell phones…like non-human babysitters!
The most powerful learning tool is human interaction – especially with kids and teenagers. This experience changed my life and I was about to have another that would determine my entire future!
F – Wow! What happened that would impact your entire life and future? I can’t wait to hear this!
“My New Life”
R – We received a call from my Aunt one day inviting us to go live with her in San Antonio, Texas.
Both my mom and I were very close with my aunt throughout our lives and would often stay with her in between our travels! Mom said it would be good for us; little did I know it would change my life forever. I always missed family and always had that closeness with my Aunt, so I was excited to go. My Aunt sent us airline tickets and once again we left with just the clothes on our back.
But this time it was different: We were going to find our real home and my real life! We stayed with my aunt for a few months and eventually got our own apartment where I finished Middle School. After Middle School, I got a chance to audition for a great performing arts school. This was a magnet school for musical theater, film, editing, animation, broadway musicals, dance, and singing. Virtually everything is artsy!
This was NESA and everybody wanted to be accepted!
F – Did you always have a propensity – a leaning towards the arts?
R – I always was a ham!
I loved being in front of a camera, acting, singing, dancing – loved all of it. I remember showing up at the audition with my mom and my aunt – I was terrified. I didn’t want to go. I went kicking and screaming literally! I had horrible stage fright. I kept screaming, “I can’t do this – no – I won’t go!” I had such anxiety. I was so afraid. I thought I was going to throw up.
And then came the biggest defining moment of my life:
My Mom said, “You don’t have to go. If you don’t want to – you don’t have to – just stay home.”
My Aunt goes, “Oh No! You are getting your ass in there and you WILL audition! You WILL get into this school!”
My Mom kept saying NO. My Aunt kept saying YES!
“Yes you WILL – because you CAN! You will – because you can!!”
That kept going on for about five minutes as I kept sobbing and wanting to run out of the theater! That says a lot about who you can be in your life and that one defining CHOICE you make can change your life! I am not judging anyone here. I am just saying it is just plain sad that fear would hold someone back. Sometimes we all NEED that special person to push us into that defining decision…someone we trust and love – a mentor so to speak.
F – So then what happened?!
R – I forced myself into the audition!
I was terrified, my hands were shaking profusely. I kept looking at my hands and silently telling them: HANDS STOP SHAKING! I really thought I was going to faint! But even with all of that fear, I got on the stage, and in front of some very stern-looking judges, did my monologue, sang my song, said thank you, and went back in the lobby.
“THE LETTER THAT CHANGED MY LIFE”
I knew the judges were only going to pick 20 students and there were hundreds of students who came from all over Texas to audition. Apparently, they saw something in me because I got an acceptance letter in the mail. As I opened the letter, I remember thinking HOW did I go from almost walking out of the audition to being accepted into that VERY exclusive school?!
That was probably the biggest turning point in my life – my joyful turning point! I was now able to live my passion every single day. I went from being homeless to being in leotards every day, going to ballet and jazz lessons, going to acting classes and singing classes! I knew I didn’t have perfect pitch and was always nervous, but then I got character roles! I was Adeline in Guys and Dolls and just loved it. Somehow I learned to translate nervous energy into pure passion on the stage and into my new life. Sometimes, I thought I was in a dream!
That was the moment I knew I had to be in the arts – that was my soul’s purpose.
F – Did you feel you were forced to audition?
R – Well, I was originally pissed off as I thought I should have the right to not audition, but my Aunt MADE me! More people need to do that! Kids are not being forced anymore. Kids come out of school not knowing what they want to do because they were not forced to participate in growth-building skills! Kids graduate with no sense of self, no passion, no direction. You have to try these things to find out what your talents are.
You have to get out of your comfort zone to find yourself! I was only 14, but I found myself through that school!
F – 14 – That’s a very hard age. What do you think would have happened to you if you didn’t get into that school?
R- If I didn’t get into NESA, coupled with all the trauma in my life, I probably would have gotten into drugs, teenage pregnancy, and who knows what else? The driving force was provision for my life: saving my life. I discovered the real Rachael and achievement became my escape. I finally didn’t have to just go home and witness what was going on there.
F – How did finding the real Rachael change your life’s path?
R – In finding myself, I found purpose. I didn’t want to go back to my old life. I realized I found myself and could live MY potential not someone else’s life.
“My Authentic Self”
Before, I was my mom’s daughter. Suddenly, I became Rachael, and I was a student flourishing at a performing arts school! I earned a full academic program and graduated first in my class. I probably only slept 3 hours a night as I rehearsed late at night, then went home to do academic homework.
Every second of each day was filled with purpose!
F – You know Rachael, from birth until we leave this earth there is always room for a defining moment. Something in you snapped in a good way that allowed you to become who you really were. Facing a difficult moment and triumphing released you to become your true authentic self. You developed a work ethic that manifested into your adult life – you turned adversity into a skill.
R – Idle time is man’s worst enemy. It gives you so much time to get into your head and talk yourself out of doing great things.
Your brain can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With idle time and no purpose – your life just passes by.
F- You learned time management at a very young age. How has that translated into your business life today? Do you have a strict schedule to meet your goals?
R – I have personal goals I am determined to meet.
When I’m busy I feel like I’m me. When I’m not busy, that’s when the fatigue sets in. I want to be busy! After graduation, I left for L.A. and Loyola Marymont where I majored in television production. I graduated once again first in my class and never looked back. I am propelled and energized by purpose.
What I learned in San Antonio defined the rest of my entire life. Without that purpose, I would NEVER have walked the runway in Miami Swim Week as a curve model! Curve Model in a swimsuit at Miami Swim Week??? Are you KIDDING me?!
Nope, no joke…just another study in concurring fear and anxiety… just another chapter in becoming my authentic self, my real self, my grateful self. After all, what is being successful without being grateful for every experience in our lives? Without every single one of those experiences, Rachael Brook would not be the person she is today.
One of my favorite memories was when a little girl came up to me after a performance of Guys and Dolls and said; “Adelaid, I want to be just like you when I grow up.” I cry tears of joy to this day because I pursued my dreams and passions because of that little girl.
I think of me and that little girl who wanted more out of life, who had a dream. I want that little girl to know she can believe in herself, that she has control over her life and she can make her dreams come true.
I want that little girl to know she became Rachael Brook and that I stand in my own power; free and forever grateful for the extraordinary life I’ve been fortunate to live.
I want that little girl to know;
she can become her dream.