The latest installment of our Baristanet Profile series, where we get to know the people in our neighborhood:
Name: Helen Laser
Where do you live? Montclair NJ.
When did you move there? Moved back after graduating from Muhlenberg College last spring with a degree in Theatre and English.
Where did you grow up? I grew up here in Montclair!
How do you make a living? I am an actor, primarily. I audition in the city and have done some videos for Seventeen Magazine, a few commercials including most recently a promo for the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (he’s very nice!), and I’m currently rehearsing to be Anne Frank for a show that’s through the Anne Frank Center of NYC. I also do freelance work as a writer/PR manager, as well as designing custom tattoos for clients and friends.
Coffee, tea or … ? Coffee if it’s iced, tea many times a day in winter.
What’s your idea of a perfect Saturday? Ooh a perfect Saturday. That’s tough! I would probably say taking apart and eating a pomegranate while watching a great movie, driving around the best parts of Montclair with my friend Ed, and walking around New York with friends (not necessarily in that order!)
What’s your favorite local restaurant? I think my favorite restaurant is Bonjour Montclair. I have really nice memories of walking there with friends when I went to Montclair High, so I associate really great memories with it—and the crepes are incredible!
What’s on your nightstand? My nightstand is currently a small chest of drawers that I’ve had since I was a toddler, and on it is a huge mess that is made up of: tissues, Zyrtec, a marble, a coaster, a jewelry stand made of wood pieces and dowels that my father made for me, some nail polishes that I have never opened, ribbon, a wooden box my friend Robin made me when I was 7 which now contains pearls my parents gave me as a graduation present, hair ties, scissors, sunscreen, lavender essential oil, lavender hand lotion, a sachet of lavender from my aunt’s garden (see a pattern?), a Swiss army knife, safety pins, and a Bumpit in the box—used once for a school play.
What are you listening to? Currently, I’m listening to the sounds of the radiators waking up and the creaky floors of my house as the cat pads over them, but music wise I’ve been listening to Lake Street Dive, my friend’s music that I’ve been collaborating on, and the song “Audition” which is featured in the trailer for “LaLa Land.” It’s Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and it’s coming out this December. I heard that Tom Hanks said it was one of the best movies he’s ever seen and so I’m excited to see it. The song is really bittersweet and beautiful, and sung by Emma Stone. It’s about actors, and it doesn’t paint us in a malicious light, as many people often to. It paints us as people who have big goals and work tirelessly to achieve them, and often have doors slammed in our faces but we foolishly persevere.
What are your current addictions? I don’t think I’m addicted to much. I think beauty. I can never get enough of beautiful things. Like that song I mentioned above, I have listened to it over 30 times in a row and I can’t stop because it is beautiful—the beauty, coming from something truthful about it. The most honest things are the most beautiful to me, even if it involves an ugly truth about life, it is so irresistible to me. Maybe because as an actor I am pursuing truth at all times. But, chocolate is pretty great too.
Talent you would most like to have. I would LOVE to be able to do math! I know that sounds so silly and I should have said the ability to para-glide or always keep track of my schedule in my head so nothing is forgotten (which now I wish I had said) but as a kid I was awful at math, and it made life difficult and it was something that always made me feel bad about myself. So being able to do math well would somehow comfort that part of myself from long ago that was struggling over equations and times tables in the dining room after school.
What’s the worst-kept secret about Montclair? I hope I don’t get heat for this one, but there are some not so great teachers at the high school. Now I backtrack: there are some AMAZING teachers at the high school! I had some teachers who changed my life there and made me love certain subjects beyond compare, but there were some teachers who made life unnecessarily difficult, who cared more about rubrics than students, and wanted 5s on the AP test more than their students to succeed and learn (especially at their own pace). I loved a lot of my time at the high school, but there were a few teachers over the course of my years there that made life pretty rough.
What do you hope they say about you at your funeral? This is tricky because now I am either revealing what I think of myself or what I wish people thought of me. Or both? I guess I hope that people thought I made a difference to them. That I was someone they felt they could turn to and who cared for them. And that I was a role model. I try to live in a way that allows me to look in the mirror and be happy with myself and the choices I have made. I try to work hard and accomplish all I see in front of me as a distant possibility, while still seeing the people and problems directly in front of me and giving my attention and energy to them too. So I hope people feel that way about me. They don’t even need to say it. More importantly I hope people don’t lie and exaggerate at my funeral. I’d rather their deposition be truthful and rough around the edges than a beautiful lie.