Margot B. is finding her fit as singer, actor
It's hard to believe that Margot B. was once on the outside looking in ... at anything. But when she attended Chartiers Valley High School, before transferring to Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts school in the 10th grade, she felt out of place.
"I wasn't athletic or a gifted scholar at Chartiers Valley," she says, "which is kind of funny because I ended up going to CAPA and I was on high honors. It was really hard to try to fit in other than doing plays. And when I did plays, it was really hard with my style of voice; my style of voice didn't fit."
Now, she's fitting in everywhere. In the last year, her accomplishments included:
• The release of her second full-length album, "Two Thousand Mine."
• Supporting musician for Jason Mraz on his national tour.
• One of the lead roles in "My Destiny," an independent movie filmed in Clairton.
• A supporting role in "Love and Other Drugs," filmed in Pittsburgh and featuring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Her speaking role is listed as Maggie's friend (Hathaway's character).
• Coming oh-so-close -- nine callbacks -- to being chosen for the cast of "Spring Awakening," the Tony Award-winning musical.
A heady year, by any measure. Those who have worked with her think that 21-year-old Margot B., who now lives most of the time in New York, is on the cusp of brilliance. Not so much because of her talent, but because of the way she comports herself.
"I've worked with singers and managed artists," says Daryl Price, the producer of "My Destiny" and owner of the Rhythm House in Bridgeville. "They have that diva factor, which Margot doesn't have. She dealt with everybody the same way; she treated everyone great."
Reggie Watkins, a trombone player whose credits includes stints with Maynard Ferguson, Dave Matthews and Michael Feinstein, first met Margot B. with the Boogie Hustlers, a local band, when she was filling in on vocals. At her first rehearsal, she came in, sat down on the floor of the band's basement rehearsal space, and started taking notes.
"A lot of artists think they're more than what they are," Watkins says. "For her to have this sense of modesty, it will go a long way for her."
Modesty and manners, however, only take a performer so far. The overarching need is talent, and the daughter of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Craig Bingham has always exhibited an ability to sing, perform and write. When she was 13, Margot B. penned "In My Dreams," a song about Martin Luther King Jr. that is now performed across the country at tributes to the late civil right rights leader. A few years ago, she was selected by Armed Forces Entertainment to perform for U.S. serviceman at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At 17, she assisted in the planning of Pittsburgh's Hurricane Katrina relief benefit concert.
Sometimes, Margot B. admits, she tries to do too much. She had to take a leave of absence from Point Park, where she studied musical theater and entertainment management, in 2008 because her studies were suffering while she worked two jobs, played gigs on weekends and recorded "Two Thousand Mine."
"It was obvious I was trying to do a lot of things and wasn't succeeding as much," Margot B. says, noting she left school after talking to school counselors. "They were the ones who pushed the idea of really trying to hone in and figure out what I wanted to do. School is very important to me, in my life and in my career, and eventually I will graduate. But this whole entertainment business is so quick. ... You have your years and that's it; you never get them back. School, fortunately, you can go back to when you're ready."
Clearly, Margot B. has options. During the filming of "My Destiny," which also features boxer Roy Jones Jr., Price contends she was the best actor on the set. Her role is the title character, Destiny, a successful pop singer who returns home to Clairton after her mother is murdered.
"We had to get people to come up to her level," Price says. "I was extremely impressed by the way her character came across on film. ... She was extremely well-rehearsed, and she had memorized all her lines when other people were working off notes. Her work ethic is great; she's a natural actor."
Watkins, who helped Margot B. land the gig with Mraz, says it was immediately evident she was not in over her head, even during duets with Mraz on the song "Lucky."
"If you listen to her voice," Watkins says, "it's very rare that somebody of that age will have not only a command of her instrument, but also sounds very much like herself. There's some originality there, which is the real rarity. She's got a lot together; she sees the big picture."
"She's a great songwriter and great on-the-spot singer," says Sean "Rigs" Rieger, a guitarist with the Boogie Hustlers. "We had a nice collaboration with her. She adapted to what we did right away."
She also knows how to deal with failure. Margot B. not only came close to landing a role in "Spring Awakening," but also was selected for a Janet Jackson reality show that was, after many delays, canceled after the death of Michael Jackson. An agent in New York got her work going to industry parties, "just to be seen," as a way of networking. Unfortunately, she says most of the events were those where "people don't want to talk business, they don't want to know what you're about and they don't want to network with you; they just want to have a good time."
"You have to learn to deal with adversity," Margot B. says. "If you can't, in this industry, you're going to be in so much trouble because you have to deal with letdown after letdown."
But is Margot B. stretching herself too thin, acting, singing, auditioning for television shows (she's also interviewed for a VJ spot at BET) and writing• She doesn't think so, and she's amused by a reporter's question: God taps you on the shoulder, say's he'll grant you success in one field. What do you choose?
Margot B. laughs, then goes through a series of scenarios: If it's singing, she can still write songs and use her acting talent during live performances. If it's acting, she can sing on soundtracks and possibly contribute to scripts.
"No matter what I go into, I'm going to incorporate everything I've learned so far," she says. "I will continue to learn. I'm a strong believer you never really stop learning. I'm going to try to do everything. I think we live in a world where we really don't have to chose one thing. So I'm not going to answer that question."