"I didn't put my oxygen mask on before assisting others... and guess what? I ran out of oxygen. I couldn't breathe anymore. I missed myself. After that realization hit me like a ton of bricks and my head stopped spinning, I decided to do something brave, to help jumpstart the new chapter of my life."
TIFFANY SPLETTSTOESZER-HENDERSON has always been an artist at heart, so it's no surprise she's called both New York and Los Angeles home. Currently in LA, Tiffany works in the TV and Film industry and just illustrated her second children's book. But that's not all! She recently turned 30 (Happy Birthday!) and launched a "Finding My Voice" challenge after deciding to begin truly living for herself and her dreams.
We hear your voice, Tiffany! And it's beautiful :)
Every Ella: Tell us about yourself.
Tiffany Splettstoeszer-Henderson: I grew up in Minnesota with my mom and dad, and three younger sisters. I spent a lot of my time reading, drawing, playing piano, and riding my friend's horses. My parents were high school sweethearts and were young when they started having kids. We never had a ton of money, but I remember just how special my parents made everything for us, from the themed birthday parties, to the summer camping trips, to cutting down a Christmas tree up at grandmas, and the week long road trip family vacations (think Griswold Family vacations). I went to a small, private school, with only 21 kids, and pretty much had one best friend the first 18 years of my life. I was a band nerd and drama geek (proud of it!) in high school, where I received the "Student Art Award", as well as the "Most Artistic" in the Senior Class school yearbook ;-). I spent one year as an Art Major in community college, before I auditioned, got accepted, and moved to New York City to attend college for musical theatre. After New York, and a little bouncing around, I landed on the opposite coast, in Los Angeles, where I've lived for almost 8 years now working primarily in the film industry.
You’ve always been interested in the arts. What are you favorite creative hobbies?
I love anything to do with art or music! I love to draw in pencil and charcoal mostly, but have recently discovered watercolor pencils and I love them! Over the past few years I started working in acrylic paints as well, which I really enjoy. I also love playing piano (a huge stress relief for me) and my violin... and singing, especially jazz and show tunes. When I'm feeling cozy or down, I love to curl up with my puppies and watch some of my favorite movies, cause each time it reminds me why I pursued this career in the first place.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
Initially, a friend and I were supposed to move back to New York, but when she backed out, I decided to give Los Angeles a shot, as it was warmer and I wouldn't have to sell my car! So, I worked two jobs for a year in MN to save money, found a roommate on Craigslist, loaded up my car with anything I could fit, and drove out, without a place to live. I moved here with the dream most people have: to be an actress, maybe even a movie star. Plus, dodging the Minnesota winters was a bonus!
What has living in the city taught you?
First off, it taught me that all big cities are not the same. I expected Los Angeles to be a lot like New York, and in most ways it's very different. Second, it taught me just how important finding good, genuine friends can be. They really do become your family. And when you are surrounded by so many people that seem to have an agenda, or are very self involved (because let's face it, as an actor, YOU are the product), it's priceless to find the people that like you for who you are, not what you can do for them. Third, it continues to teach me patience (I'm still a work in progress), from having to sit in traffic on the 405 for an hour to go 4 miles, to just being patient with myself and my journey. Fourth, I guess it's really opened my eyes to the many different people and lives that are out there, and how fascinating it is how they all intertwine. Even after living in Los Angeles, there are still so many other people and cultures in the world that I haven't experienced. But I feel like I am a much better person for the small taste of diversity that Los Angeles has given me.
You collaborated with your aunt and illustrated a children’s book. What is the book about?
The book, entitled "What Would My Coat Say?" is about a boy and his coat, and the experiences he has with it. My aunt gets all the credit for writing it... I just put pictures to her words. It was one of her life dreams to write a children's book, and I was so happy to be able to help her accomplish that.
Was this the first book you’ve illustrated?
No, this is the second book. The first one, "Katie the Cupcake", I collaborated with one of my sisters, who is a second grade teacher. The idea came years ago when I was home visiting. Then last summer I finally finished the illustrations and surprised her for her birthday with a hard copy of the book that I self published. It was surprising the excitement that came from the community back in Minnesota after that happened. People started asking where they could purchase the book, and then the local newspaper interviewed my sister. Not long after my aunt approached me asking if I'd be willing to hear her story and try illustrating it. So I did!
What was the biggest challenge you faced working on the book?
Well, I think every time we do something, especially if we are new and self taught, it's a definite learning process. If you are able to learn something from the experience, then it's been a success. That being said, the learning process can be very frustrating and painful at times. I think the biggest challenge of the book was dealing with the computer aspect of things. I love art, and I love drawing the pictures, and I even think I'm pretty computer savvy. However, because I didn't do everything digital, when it came time to transfer everything from paper to files according to the specs that the publishing company was looking for, that's where the fun started to dwindle and the frustration started to set in. But even after working on just two books, I feel like I've already gained so much knowledge that will help me in the future.
Tell us about your “finding my voice” challenge.
I recently turned 30, and let me tell you, my 20's did not got out gracefully. They were kicking and screaming the whole way. But the day after I turned 30, I woke up with the realization that I had just lived the first 30 years of my life trying to make everyone else happy. Trying to keep the peace in my family and pick up the pieces that inevitably come with families. Trying to be the amazing friend who never says no. Trying to be the best girlfriend and wife even though I felt like my ideas and dreams weren't always being supported. I was so concerned with trying to be the person I thought everyone needed and wanted me to be, that I completely lost who I was. I didn't put my oxygen mask on before assisting others... and guess what? I ran out of oxygen. I couldn't breathe anymore. I missed myself. After that realization hit me like a ton of bricks and my head stopped spinning, I decided to do something brave, to help jumpstart the new chapter of my life. I've always loved singing. When I was little, my mom wrote in a Christmas letter that I was always singing, and that she had never heard a little girl sing on key like I did. In fairness, I got my singing gift from my mother, who is a beautiful singer.
Anyway, I realized that just like the drawing, and the music, I hadn't sung in a long time. Mostly because I had let other people's comments burrow into my brain and hinder me from doing something I enjoyed and thought of as a very important part of who I was. So, in the world of social media that we live in, you don't need to rent a theatre and get up on stage to be heard anymore. You just need to post a video. So that's what I did. Let me tell you, I could almost see the moths fly out of my throat, cause that's how long it had been since I really sang. It's a shame really, all the years I stayed silent, when only 10 years ago I was singing and taking voice lessons in New York City for musical theatre. So I started with "You Are My Sunshine". It's the song I share with one of my sisters, and it helped give me courage. As I was typing the description to go with it, I decided to label it the "Finding My Voice" Challenge, cause that's exactly what I was doing on so many levels. I've posted three videos so far. They are short, maybe just a verse of something that the 1 minute Instagram video allows. And they don't get that many views. But my friends are super supportive and kind, and at the end of the day, it just feels so good to sing again. My voice may not be as strong yet as it once was, but for the first time in a long time, I can hear it! And I'm proud of it.
Out of all of your accomplishments and experiences, what are you most proud of?
I had an assignment once, to describe yourself in one word. The over thinker that I am, I went home and tumbled a bunch of things around, like my life depended on this one word. I just didn't know. So I called my dad and asked him what he thought. Now, my dad is the definition of a father. He's always been the safe, level headed guy, in a house full of women. But I'll never forget when he told me that he thought "courageous" would be the word to describe me. "Courageous"?! Me?! And coming from my dad? I had no idea he saw me that way. I had no idea that was even a part of who I am. I'm sort of shy, hate confrontation, and I have the horrible Midwest habit of saying "I'm sorry" about everything. But in that moment, I felt so proud that my dad thought I was courageous. I guess I'm trying to say that I am most proud of having the courage to follow my dreams, first to New York, then to Los Angeles. And some of them haven't been places I could move to. Some have been things I've wanted to accomplish, and maybe didn't even succeed at, but at least I tried. I may not be exactly where I thought I would be, but I'm very proud of the woman I am right now, and the courage it took to get me to this moment.
What are your dreams for the future?
By this point, you all know I love art, and animation is no exception. My favorite Disney movie, "Tangled", can best describe my dreams right now. Rapunzel finally gets to experience her dream, to see the floating lanterns, and as she's waiting, a scary thought comes over her. What if it's not everything she thought it would be? Flynn tells her that it will be. Well, what if it is? What does she do then? And then Flynn gives the line that changed my life. "Well, that's the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream." Ideally I'd love to have success as an actress, the dream that brought me to Los Angeles. I'd love to continue to illustrate and possibly animate, something I never even thought of a year ago. I would love to have a job where I can make money being creative and doing something I love. I'd love to record a CD and shoot a music video! I'd also love to own a hobby farm with some horses, goats and chickens! But as I mentioned before, when I talked about my "Finding My Voice" Challenge, I'm really starting to discover myself again. And I think that includes having the courage to admit that maybe some of my dreams have changed, or maybe I don't even know what they are yet. But I'm excited to find them.
Name one woman who inspires you.
My sister, Jessica. Jess has been dealt a pretty rough hand in life, riddled with body and health issues. She is one of the strongest women I know. She can get through a day teaching a classroom full of rowdy 2nd graders all while having a killer migraine. She can be devout about her diet and going to the gym, to have nothing change month after month... yet she keeps going. She spends all her money trying to put a bandage on a disease that has already altered the rest of her life. Jess does all this not asking sympathy from anyone. She is a fighter, in every aspect of her life. Sometimes it can be so frustrating, cause I am too, and we can get caught in those sisterly quarrels. But at the end of the day, she is always there for me. She always knows just what to say. Just looking at her reminds me to never take my health for granted. Jess inspires me to be strong, like I know she is every day. Every day she saves my life.
What do you do for fun?
Like most people, I love hanging out with my friends! Disneyland is super high up on my fun list, as I'm a huge Disney fan. I've loved horses since I was a little girl and really enjoy horseback riding. I love to play board games and video games! I also really enjoy hosting themed parties, from my Christmas Wreath Crafting Party, to my Galentine's Day Tea Party and my 1950's Backyard BBQ! Sometimes fun for me is just plugging in my Christmas lights and wrapping up in a blanket with a cup of tea and a book by my favorite author, Mitch Albom. Or getting together with my girlfriends to watch cheesy Hallmark movies. Oh, and crafting anything!
What’s one piece of advice you would like to give other girls?
Love yourself. Even the parts that you don't like and that you think need fixing. Love yourself just the way you are. If you're having trouble with that, find the things you do like about yourself, and compliment yourself on them every morning. And if you can't do that, close your eyes and picture yourself as a fierce warrior goddess with your hair flying in the breeze as you gallop full speed on the back of a unicorn, because that is how strong and amazing you are. Learn to make peace with your imperfections, because those are what make you different from everyone else. The world is hard, and likes to remind us of all the places we fall short. Don't listen to it. I promise you, darlings, you're already perfect.