Ruggero Barlaba – Creating Your Reality
Ruggero Barlaba has an air about him; an ability to ‘own the room’. His presence commands attention, evoking the feeling that he could succeed at anything he sets his mind too. As an aspiring actor, the charisma that he exudes is potentially a great asset, but I quickly realised that this young man is leaving nothing to chance and is working hard to achieve his dreams.
The 23-year-old was born in Yorkshire to what he describes as a tightknit three-quarter Italian, one-quarter Ukrainian family. Having moved to Bermuda, when he was little, Ruggero experienced an amalgamation of rich cultures on the exotic island, which he speaks fondly of, and which greatly influenced his childhood. At first, he was ‘the outsider’ at school but quickly learnt to fit in by becoming the joker and performer, someone who adapted to the people around him. Essentially his first acting role, perhaps.
His family returned to the UK and settled in Somerset so that he could attend University. Having completed his sixth form at Strode College in Street, Ruggero who was just 17, decided on a year at Exeter College. He started working part-time at the former Costa High Street in Exeter to earn a little, and to be close to his mum who had set up a hair salon on South Street. He said,
‘It was never my interest to be a barista, I didn’t even know much about getting a job!’
But after some thought and concluding that meeting lots of different people could benefit him as an actor, he embraced the role.
Fast forward a few years and it’s clear that perhaps ‘embrace’ is an understatement as recently Ruggero won the UK and Ireland’s Barista of the Year, at Costa Coffee, and then went on to come second in the Global Finals at Canary Wharf, London. That’s no mean feat and involved him having to create a speciality drink which he spent hours practising. The time wasn’t wasted though, as he also won the award for best speciality drink. The word ‘driven’ springs to mind!
A valuable lesson that Ruggero took from the competition was whatever happened, he needed to remain grounded, relax and just be himself. He enjoyed the UK and Ireland round of the competition, going with the flow and letting his muscle memory take over but during the world championships, he almost forgot to breathe, he was so tense, and the nerves took over. I reminded him, at this point, that coming second in the world is a marvellous achievement, which he acknowledges, but with a glint in his eye, he replied that he’s going for gold next year.
Back to the other ‘string in Ruggero’s bow’, his passion for acting. Following advice from his parents, he decided that he needed something to fall back on, should his acting career not pan out as planned. He chose Maths as his undergraduate degree which he achieved with honours at the University of Surrey before going on to achieve his Masters in acting from Guildford School of Acting. He laughed and said that the more he studied maths the more he realised that he didn’t want to study maths; acting was definitely where he wanted to be. He said,
“To be honest with you, I feel if you have a Plan B, you’re not invested enough in your plan A!”
Ruggero has managed to get acting work in several short films, while still working as a barista, as well as taking on a few modelling gigs. He remains prepared and open to any parts that may come up saying that he has found the key, so far, is to simply be interested, apply and show up. He recently played the main character in a 35-minute English short-film psychological thriller (filmed in France) which is to be sent to such festivals as Sundance and Cannes Film Festival. Watch this space!
I asked Ruggero what his ‘stand out’ acting role was to date. He replied,
“There are two, one was a musical, Pippin. It was was a big stepping stone as I was the narrator and able to explore my capabilities as a performer”.
“During my time at GSA, I had a role called ‘Rodolpho’, in ‘A View from the Bridge’, by Arthur Miller which was performed in front of the school. For that, I think I did the most prep I’ve ever done for a role in terms of the psychology of the character. I wrote a whole biography, the words of the character, the mindset of the character and the whole back story”.
He said that during the play, he had learnt so much about the character, he wasn’t just acting as Rodolpho, he was Rodolpho and all he needed to do was listen and respond. The feedback that he got from the audience and lecturers was resounding; one of his lecturers saying that it was the best acting he’d ever seen.
When he is performing, he forgets who he is, as he fully embodies the role. He laughed,
“I’ve had so many identity crises in my life!”.
He added that he is trying to solidly establish who he is as a person, as if he knows that, he can move into a role, fully embrace it and then come back to that point. He said,
“I’m committed to giving it my all to be a great actor, but I don’t want to lose myself”.
With the highs that come with success, there are the inevitable lulls which can bring lows and affect a person’s mental wellbeing. Ruggero admits that he still trying to find the balance. He said,
“I don’t like people to see my lows, as I pride myself on being the ambassador of positivity”.
I asked Ruggero how he manages his mental well-being. He replied,
“When I’m feeling down I try to go back to basics as clearly something I’m doing is not working.”
Going back to basics, for Ruggero, involves re-establishing good habits. Plenty of sleep, healthy eating, lifestyle – plenty of exercise, positive self-talk, talking to somebody that he trusts and basically being kind to himself. He added,
“What you tell yourself, you tend to believe, you create your reality”.
He also recognises when he needs to step back and let go of something. The best way for him to do that is to say to himself that he will leave it for his future self. He tries to remain thankful, even if it’s for small things like a hot coffee, as he added that the brain doesn’t know the difference between whether it’s big or small and it switches his mindset to a more positive one.
I enjoyed chatting to Ruggero, he is wise beyond his years and yet comes across as a humble young man, who is filled with respect for those he meets along his journey. As to what the future holds, he says that he plans to work as hard as he can today so that his future self can relax and reap the rewards. I, for one, will be watching that ‘movie’!
Written by Stella Nicholls
Photos supplied by Ruggero Barlaba