Sonia Satra is a guiding light for all women to incorporate purpose, a healthy lifestyle, and fun into their lives. We spoke exclusively with the actress and fitness expert about harnessing your power, her soap opera days, and envisioning the life you want—and getting it—by being in tune with your body and mind.
Sonia, how did you get your start in acting?
I was playing tennis with my mom when I was in high school and this photographer asked me if I wanted to be in a hair ad, which I thought was exciting. Then I started to study communications in college at Rutgers. I thought I would do part-time modeling in NY for cash and wound up at a commercial agency. I had beginner’s luck and booked the first commercial that I went out on. It was for an A&P commercial, and I wound up being a pregnant customer, although I looked like I was 15-years-old! I did all the fast food commercials, which seemed to be my thing. I took acting classes at Rutgers and in the city, and then my agent sent me out for TV parts. My very first part was for Guiding Light.
Were you into soaps when you were younger?
To be perfectly honest, we barely had a TV until I was 10! I was not one of those people who grew up on TV. We watched Jacques Cousteau and anything educational. I come from a very academic background, but my mom was very supportive. When I was in college doing auditions, it was fun. But when I got out to Hollywood, it was a rude awakening. It was really a business, and Hollywood is full of gorgeous people. But perseverance is key; you keep going. I think it was destined, though, because I screen tested 8 times before I got the part on Guiding Light and booked the role of Lucy Cooper. They auditioned 3,000 girls for that role.
What is it like having a soap opera career?
It’s challenging in that it’s every day. It’s a new show every day. You can get 50-60 pages a day to memorize, but you learn how to do it. It’s a great lesson in that you learn more than you think that you can do. On my 10th day, I was fried and I was sitting in a diner scene, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what my line was. But then words came out and I guess they were the right ones because they didn’t yell “Cut!”
Did you ever worry about being typecast?
I did at the time, because it was more like once you were in soaps you were in it, but it’s changed. There are so many people who have done soaps and broken out of them. It’s an amazing training ground; if you can handle a soap opera, you can handle anything. So much material, you have to hit your marks, and it goes fast. Sure, some of the material is a little dramatic, but you get to show a range of emotions on a daily basis, so I think it definitely didn’t hinder me at all. I remember doing a movie and the other actor was worried because he had 4 pages to remember, and I thought, “Try 54!”
Do you miss soaps at all?
You miss the family of it. The joke is that it’s a soap on the set and off the set. You go through marriages and children together, so you do get to know people on a very close level. Guiding Light was a very close set; we were very tight and it was a lot of great people and the camaraderie. Here, people really wanted to be on the soap, and we would run lines until it was time. It made you feel like you were doing your best work.
We were talking earlier about the future of soaps.
It’s so sad; I think ultimately they will go. I remember being on Guiding Light and them talking about canceling it. 75 years on the air; that’s a testament to what it was. Reality TV took over, though, and that’s the new soap opera.
I remember coming home from school and watching Days of Our Lives. But I think that our lives aren’t the same anymore; our lives are so much faster and our culture has changed.
I think there was an attempt to adapt and not drag story lines out over 6 months, but it didn’t necessarily work. Reality TV is now the new soap opera, and we know that reality isn’t always reality. It’s drama and less real than what people would want to believe.
Would you be tempted to go into reality TV?
It would depend. I never say never.
Let’s talk about what you’re into now. Fitness is an important part of your life.
It’s fitness and mindset, and I would say mindset more than fitness. I developed this fitness program called Moticise and it’s motivational exercise. It’s a hybrid of mindset and fitness. It’s like having a life coach and a fitness trainer in one. It’s a guided process around a goal that includes visualizations and goal setting and affirmations while you’re getting a cardio exercise. It’s based on the science that when you’re working out, a protein is released in your brain that actually creates neural pathways. So your brain can actually be rewired! When you work out, you become clearer or new ideas can come to you. There’s a new focus that’s an actual physical and chemical thing that is happening to your brain and in your body. It’s an optimal time to learn and create, so it’s harnessing that power to create the life that you want.
What can people expect from Moticise?
It’s about changing your life and identifying your ideals and then narrowing it down into baby steps. The exercise helps you embody it and helps you to think of other things that you can do. It also takes a look at what you have in place that can help you to make it happen. I use this mindset stuff when I was acting, when I would go into auditions and visualizing how I wanted it to go and seeing myself doing it. Some people might take the time to exercise but not do this, so this allows you to do both. And for people who don’t like to exercise, this can help you like it because you’re focusing on something that you want as opposed to how many more reps you have to do. With each lunge, you’re thinking of your next step.
I love that. It’s visualizing your success in a physical way.
I am teaching on the Upper West Side in NYC, and I do events, too. I’ll be launching a program online where someone can do a 4-week course with downloads, etc. I have one exercise video and plan to do more, too. I still have one foot in the door with acting; I think once you’re an actress you never let it go completely. I’ll be doing a show called Vanities, it used to be on Broadway. We’ll go to a city and do the show for a weekend, and then I’m also going to do another part in the Netflix series. I’m also doing women’s empowerment adventures. We would kayak to the Statue of Liberty and it would be about finding your flow. There are so many life lessons to adventure that I’ve done in my life, so I’m going to bring that back to help people find adventure and purpose in their life. We’re going to do a trapeze event and it will be about letting go.
What’s it like being a NYC mom and raising your kids Kaya (10) and Ty (7) in NYC?
I love it; it’s so much easier. You don’t have to put them in car seats and drive them everywhere. You schlep a lot more stuff; you sometimes feel like more of a pack mule. It’s a great place for kids to grow up; it’s a tradeoff. They don’t get as much nature, but they’re exposed to so much more and it’s a much more international community.
Are either of your kids showing a little acting bug?
Yeah, our son is showing a little bit of it. I’m more positive about it than my husband is. I’m all about following your dreams, and we can show him the ropes. It’s still early yet, and he hasn’t expressed any wishes to do commercial calls. I brought my daughter for gigs and we got cast for mother/daughter spots, but she didn’t really like it! [laughs]
How do you find your balance?
I renamed it because the word balance stressed me out. I don’t know if I’ve ever been balanced and I’m not sure if it’s achievable. I’m more about work-life fulfillment and when do I feel a lack of fulfillment and which area needs attention or nurturing, whether it’s work or kids. It’s easier to identify because balance to me equals time, and how do you know if it’s equal time, which just doesn’t happen anyway. You know when you’re feeling a need, like when you’re missing your kids and you need to spend quality time with them. I’ve started reframing what work/life balance really is, and I try to do it right before it gets to the edge where everything is falling apart and you can feel that things are in a little need of attention. I love being a mom and I love my kids, but I think that I’m a better mom because I work. I think if I didn’t have that stimulation I might be a little grumpy! [laughs]
I agree. When I think of balance, I get tense.
Yes! Tense and frustrated. I would also feel guilty when I was working and not with the kids, or vice versa, and I decided to let that one go! [laughs] I just want to be present no matter what I’m doing. And happy. Present and happy. That’s the goal of it all.