Q&A: Aundrea Sayrie, author of ‘A Closed Mouth Won’t Get Fed’

Poet, voice actor, author, and Three Rivers community activist Aundrea Sayrie is passionate about helping people in all capacities. Having blindly navigated her own way through becoming a voice actor, she decided to write a DIY book for others in her situation: A Closed Mouth Won’t Get Fed.

“If you google ‘voice acting book’ you can hardly find a woman, and you definitely can’t find anyone Black,” Sayrie said in an interview on the Keep Your Voice Down (KYVD) podcast. “When I started I didn’t have anyone bankrolling me, I didn’t have professional training, I didn’t have a professionally-made demo, I didn’t have an agent. I taught myself how to do it until I was landing commercials.” Sayrie said she figured if there were other people out there like her who didn’t have access to resources to get started then maybe writing a book would help them. 

While tackling the task of writing a book is a feat on its own, what readers may not know is that Sayrie wrote the book while battling a very serious health issue. Bound to her bed by debilitating pain caused by pinched nerves, she said she was in a very depressive state during that period of time. Sayrie could not work as a voice actor due to her worsening health, and said she felt her anger rising inside her. “I had to make a choice that I was not going to hold anger,” she told KYVD hosts Alek Haak-Frost and Douglas Sears, Jr., “You cannot hold anger and heal.”

Sayrie said she took this moment of realization as a second opportunity, a second chance, and turned on voice-to-text on her phone. “I decided to just write about it — just finally write the book. My hands and fingers weren’t working at that time, and I really needed something to occupy my mind. I had to kill the time somehow.”

“Killing the time” turned into A Closed Mouth Won’t Get Fed; a grassroots guide for anyone interested in becoming a voice actor, but especially geared to women like Sayrie who are pioneers in their own right. In her book she talks about her own experience saying, “I spent a lot of time in the beginning looking for female mentors and alliances. Entrepreneurship was immediately a lonely road.” She wrote with the hope of informing others on the process of honing a new craft, while also educating on what she calls “pigeon holes” in voice-acting for Black women. “I didn’t want people to be shocked like I was,” she said.

Sayrie’s book covers the entire range of becoming a voice actor; such as the mechanics of the job, vocal care habits, how to use audio engineering software, and information on creating a vocal demo. Not only does she inform on these topics in a clear and concise way, but Sayrie has written her book in a style which makes you feel as if you are chatting with a friend. Her chapters are not only filled with knowledge, but they are relatable and funny, making it a breeze to read. 

For more on A Closed Mouth Won’t Get Fed, Watershed Voice interviewed Sayrie: 

Beca Welty (BW): What would you tell someone like you, a woman of color, who is considering a job doing voice acting?

Aundrea Sayrie (AS): “Party ova’ hea’!” Ha! There is more than enough room for BIPOC women in this industry. We are the minority in this industry too, which makes potentially specialized jobs easier to get. It also means that there are obstacles at times but that’s not new. I read a quote a friend posted recently.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.” ― Simon Sinek. That’s it. That’s all the reason you need to take risks and pursue your passions in life.

BW: What have been some of the greatest challenges you have overcome during this journey of which you are the most proud?

AS: Wearing the audio engineering hat is hands down my biggest source of pride. Reading and manipulating a spectrogram was intimidating and I overcame that fear instead of outsourcing. It’s as if I taught myself how to read a third language. If I’m looking for a certain sound such as a plosive or a breath, I know exactly what it looks like in the sound waves and can pick it right out. Now editing is a breeze.

A second thing I am proud of was pointed out to me. A colleague congratulated me and said “you are a trailblazer in that you are the first Black woman to write a book on voice acting.” I personally have looked over the years and haven’t found one so if that’s true, that’s cool. Finally, it would be knowing what I overcame to give birth to this book. I’m glad it’s here to serve its purpose.

BW: What are your favorite types of voice-acting jobs? What has been your most memorable job?

AS: Auditioning is a major part of the voice acting process. You submit an audition, hope that you are part of the shortlist and then ultimately cast. That’s usual. So one of my favorite things is when I am booked based on my audition.  Not booked and now give us three reads in a clean MP3, but the audition itself is approved and the payment is released with no further work needed. Hands down my favorite thing to have happen. The Dr. Scholl’s commercial on my IG page is an example of that. I also love when clients come back, and a great gig is just handed to me, no audition necessary. Cake.

As far as memorable, I have to say every single directed session. These are the two times that I am not working autonomously. Being that my work is virtual I’m able to have meetings with people from literally anywhere, right? Not referencing any production house in particular, but I would say that working with production houses in California gets really interesting… pretentious. It reminds you that although this is daily and fun work for you, you do work in the entertainment industry. I find that observing and speaking when spoken to serves me best. It has helped a lot with my own self-direction and gives me better insight into what clients are looking for. Regardless, I like the way they pay in L.A.

BW: In chapter one you mention the importance of having grit. Where you do believe your grit comes from?

AS: One of the final things my mom said to me before passing was that I have always been amazingly resilient. She was my greatest example of what it means to have grit. She was a highly independent disabled woman. She outdid men, she outdid people with two good legs. She had a “can do” mindset, and one of her absolute favorite things to say was “where there’s a will there’s a way.” She provided structure but in no way was she an enabler. She didn’t answer questions directly, she made the time to have just the right conversation that would inspire my own ability to think critically.

Once you experience the power of grit. The success that follows it… there’s nothing like that rewarding feeling. You become motivated to put in the hard work and chase down that feeling again. It’s like, “pffft what’s a closed door? A bump in the road? A hill? A mountain? I can do this. I WILL do this!”

BW: In an interview on the Keep Your Voice Down podcast you speak about your serious health issues and the feeling of being “trapped” in your body. You said, “I had to make a choice that I was not going to hold anger. You cannot hold anger and heal.” How did you let go of that anger? 

AS: Anger was never an option I chose. In the moment that I realized that the root of my health issues was so small, I questioned how so many experts missed it. I had been suffering and getting worse for three and a half years at that point. What I was experiencing could have been 100% avoided in my eyes. My health was so far gone by then, that instead of becoming angry I decided to pursue health. I wanted my life back and there wasn’t any room for anger.

There were other emotions though, I was disheartened, I was disappointed, but recovery was my main focus. In times that I find myself angry I retreat both physically and mentally. I find a safe place to pray and meditate. This allows me to regroup and approach the situation differently. Sometimes that looks like an important conversation, other times it looks like art, or a newly created boundary.

Buy the book

Sayrie’s book is now available on Amazon and will be in bookstores soon, though Sayrie said there are options for those wishing to support her beyond purchasing A Closed Mouth Won’t Get Fed. Searching for the title of her book or her name on Amazon and clicking on the results brings her up higher in the search results, which she said would be of a great help to her.

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.