I’ve certainly debated internally about sharing about this topic for a long time. Honestly, I believed no one would really care to hear about a portion of my life that has played a huge part in my passions. However, I am gradually finding myself without a sense of care; equipped with a more prevalent sense of reckless abandonment to the opinions of others…
…which is exactly how I approached blogging so many years ago, funny enough.
However the contrast lies in a more lived approach, not just simply with how and what I write. Anyway, I digress.
I want to share a bit about myself as a voice talent (or voice-over artist, for those who may be more familiar with that term). Transitioning from being strictly cast for male roles to having the confidence to audition for female roles while still taking advantage of my masculine range was very tricky. Even more so, transitioning professionally from being known as my dead name to Nina was a strategic exercise wrapped in hope and faith.
For this post, I’ll just be talking about the former.
Given that I had been casually creating characters for much of my youth, then started doing amateur/unpaid work for about 4-5 years, then moved to indie/paid work in the following 2-3 years was already an advantage. I was also privately practicing creating feminine characters pre-transition and began daily training of feminizing my voice two years before I came out publicly. Despite there being all this experience, the difficult part was two-fold.
- Figuring out a comfortable, natural, sustainable range of vocalization and
- Believing myself.
With formal theatre acting training under my belt & coming from a once active singing history, I absolutely needed to believe that a female was speaking in my ears. And to do so without discomfort for at least a couple of hours. Without thinking about it. I had been listening to all different kinds of women, mostly my mother, for as long as I can remember. So I highly recommend to really listen to the nuances of how different women speak and approach different situations.
If this sounds simple to you, please google “voice feminization” to see all the offers & resources that have appeared to help trans women who are not in touch with their vocal range. This is one of the most prominent struggles of many trans women, yet I was fortunate enough to be able to self-train in a matter of a year through daily practice in any situation possible. Whether you have a voice coach, a recording, or attempt to find your own way, always remember these two things: 1) Avoid falsetto until you know how you talk naturally and 2) Never feel ashamed if your pitch is lower than the kind of females you’ve admired. What matters most when finding your tone & pitch (which adds up to your unique voice) is breath support, nuance, and cadence.
Once I reached that point of only thinking about my breathing the majority of the time, believing myself simply came from putting it into practice in real situations (not just the safe ones) and, in my case, character auditions. Personally, once I embraced and fully acknowledged my whole self as female, believing myself and standing up for my identity supported my vocal confidence. I’m now at a point where taking on a masculine manner of speaking takes effort!
With regards to my voice acting auditions, I had to figure out what character types worked for my female range. This is still under scrutiny and experimentation, but that has not stopped me from auditioning for a wide range of female (and male) characters. Being lucky enough to expand from animation and video games into audiobooks has given me the freedom to experiment with all different types of female tones, dialects, and accents. Thankfully, my work has been praised by the authors I’ve been paired with and my unique, believable sound offers a special kind of listening experience. There’s still difficulty with competing with so many other talented cis female voice actors in my speciality, some of which are my friends, but that’s how it goes in acting. Honestly, I feel very blessed to have had people think of me to audition & just as grateful to those whom have given me a chance.
Knowing who you are inside will undoubtedly reflect outwardly no matter whether you’re taking a business call, meeting a new person, or cursing someone out for cutting you off. I can’t tell you how many times strangers have complimented my voice in person, which is still a shock to me. Just like with living authentically as a transgender person and learning how to avoid giving off awkward vibes, believing your voice is the gateway to finding a bit more peace and assurance amidst threats and prejudices that could befall us.
If you are interested in hearing samples of my voice-over work, please visit my official website: ninasumter.com