If the title wasn't impressive enough, actress and screenwriter, Jenia Tanaeva, did all of that as a single mom to two young daughters. She is truly an inspiration to every woman across the globe.
Against all odds, Tanaeva has found her place in Hollywood after living out what seems to be a modern day Cinderella story. Moving to America from Russia with her two daughters, Anya and Alina, and transplanting herself in Los Angeles without a single friend in the city, she has emerged as a leading lady and is about to release a screenplay for a beautiful, heartwarming love story she wrote called See You Soon.
Tanaeva spoke of her life prior to leaving Russia. “I was born in my favorite city: Saint Petersburg, Russia. My early childhood was during communism, then that regime was taken down when I was still little. The early 90's were very tough. My family lived in a small three room apartment in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg. There were seven of us — my grandparents, my parents, my elder sister, my cat and I. I barely saw my mom and my dad — they were at work most of the time. Although my family always had money for food, the problem was to buy food. There was barely anything in stores. My grandmother used to spend her days standing in lines to the stores hoping that a truck with food would arrive and she'd be able to buy something. Sometimes she'd stand in one line and put me in another one. I was also doing rhythmic gymnastics on a competitive level for 4 hours a day, six days a week. Most of the time I was busy and tired. But overall I had a pretty happy childhood. I always had food, some clothes and a loving and caring family, which is the most important thing for any child. On the bright side, it was very safe. All the kids from the buildings nearby used to play together outside which was lots of fun."
Tanaeva and her two daughtersPhoto Courtesy of Jeniatanaeva.com
Despite the happiness she felt among the difficulties faced, Tanaeva knew that she needed to leave. She wanted a better life for herself and for her daughters, and she knew that having the career she wanted wouldn't be possible in Russia. “When we moved to LA [my daughters] were only three and five. I wanted them to have better life and more opportunities that I think this country gives to everyone. They knew they were going to be fine because they were with me and I always told them so and, of course, they were very happy with the California weather (such a huge change after Saint Petersburg). The uncomfortable thing for them was that they didn't speak a word of English."
"I was super excited about the new chapter in my life and about all of the plans I was going to realize in LA, and I think seeing their mom excited, they felt it too."
Fueled by her daughters' encouragement and a big dream, this single mom set out to make it tangible. She was soon challenged by the need to balance being a working mom, a writer, and an actress. “I believe that it's not as much about what's happening in our lives as it is about how we look at it and what we do with what we have. I started this journey with having two little daughters and a big dream, and while it was difficult at times to juggle quite a few things, having my girls gave me extra courage, purpose to everything I was doing, and mutual unconditional love. When you have people next to you who truly believe in you and tell you that you can achieve anything you want, it means the world. It's very important to prioritize my daughters. So first I always made sure that they were well taken care of, and knowing that, I could give 100 percent to my work. I also know that kids can't be happy if their mom is not happy, so I always took care of myself and made sure I was in a good place and doing what I love."
Settling in Los Angeles wasn't as glamorous as it sounded in her mind and breaking into the industry without any friends or “industry ins" wasn't just hard, Tanaeva shared that it was really painful, too. “When you have your idea, the story you love so much, and believe it's got great potential, hearing something like 'it's nothing special and I don't think it's ever going to get made,' is not easy to take," she recalls. "It's hard to move on from discouraging comments, especially after 10, 20, or 30 no's."
It wasn't long however, before she shrugged off the disappointments. "At some point I decided that when I hear something like that, the only thing I'm going to think is that my project is not for this person, nothing else," says Tanaeva. "It doesn't mean it's not good or I'm not talented, it just means that I have to find someone else to help me make it. I think it's the right way to take rejections, but I had to learn it with experience."
Molding her story, See You Soon, after her own life, the female lead is a Russian single mom, played by Tanaeva, who embarks on an unexpected journey of self-discovery and love. The male lead and love interest is a U.S. soccer star who suffers a career-threatening injury in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup. Tanaeva shares that “we read fairtales to our kids so they believe in good, in love, in stories with a happy end. And I think that big girls — single moms, divorced women, etc. — need that fairytale maybe even more than little girls do. I wanted to create a heartfelt love story to give hope and motivation to those women who are out there on their own, raising their children, or are maybe stuck in dysfunctional relationships. I hope that See You Soon will motivate them to take that first step towards a new life with new opportunities and to believe in themselves and be brave enough to start changing their lives."
Jenia Tanaeva and Liam McIntyre in "See You Soon" (Photo: jeniatanaeva.com)
“Many people told me that there was no hope, I would never film the movie, and that I should give up. Never give up. Remember, if you can dream it you can achieve it."
Tanaeva believes the key to achieving one's biggest dreams is to always have a clear vision of exactly what you want, and every single day, try to do something that pushes you one step closer to your dream, even when you think it's impossible.
WRITTEN BYAllison Cooper