All or Nothing
When I call Victoria Konefal, she apologizes for some spottiness in the conversation—she’s sitting on top of a mountain. I, on the other hand, am sitting in my small apartment in Brooklyn, and I tell her that I want to be living her life right now.
“I want to be in Brooklyn right now!” says the New York born-and-bred Konefal. “We always want what we can’t have.”
Maybe not. But in the case of Konefal, she’s always known what she’s wanted—and she’s made it her mission to have it. “I was seeing an off-Broadway production of The Hobbit,” she tells me when I ask her if she’s always had an acting bug. “My mom was there with me—she was chaperoning the trip because it was a school field trip and she stopped me from jumping onstage with everyone. Afterwards, we found the director of the show, and he asked if I wanted to be in South Pacific.” For Konefal, who stayed with the Off-Broadway production company for a number of years, there was never any other career choice—it was acting or nothing, something she feels lucky that her parents understood. “I was always a theatrical, creative kid growing up. I would always perform poems and my mom would always take home videos of me, and I would kiss the camera,” she remembers. “I was very much about being out in front of the camera. My mom was thrilled I found my passion at such a young age, something that I really cared about and that made me happy. She’s supported me fully.”
Although Konefal was born and raised in Brooklyn, both of her parents were born and raised in Poland. She was taught Polish by her mother (it’s technically her first language; she learned English in pre-school “through Barney and Elmo”) and she has a close connection to her roots, admitting that part of the reason she feels intensely connected to her Polish heritage is because she was raised on strict European values. As a teenager, Konefal attended the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, a New York-based high school specializing in both visual and performing arts that boasts notable alumni such as Jennifer Aniston, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicki Minaj, and Liza Minnelli, among others.
“Don’t conform to society,
and stay true to who you really are.”
“Our school definitely favored performing over academia, and that’s something I appreciated because it allowed me to develop that creative side of myself,” Konefal says. “We did focus on academic work, but it wasn’t the focal point of anyone going to my school, and that gave me a lot of artistic freedom. It created a better environment for high school than I would have had if I went to a regular high school.” The environment, she explains, also helped her find her confidence as a performer. “There was art, there was dance, there was vocal, there was instrumental, and a ton of amazingly talented people. But the drama department, we were just tightly knit because we all bonded over the same thing—pouring our emotions and pouring our soul into this craft.”
After finishing high school, Konefal was determined to pursue acting fulltime. Despite being supportive, Konefal’s mother saw a different path for her daughter, and she understood why. “It’s a really dodgy industry and you’re not guaranteed anything,” she says. “So a lot of parents get really scared by it, because their children don’t have a stable career. My mom wanted me to go to college, and she pushed it just so I had a back-up plan…and I totally didn’t have a backup plan. I dropped out of college twice and she eventually got used to the fact that I’m not going to be in college, I’m going to be an actress.”
Konefal moved out to Los Angeles via a road trip with her friends and quickly hit the ground running, securing a guest spot on the hit series Modern Family and a role in a movie called Living Dead Presents: Fog City which (even though it’s coming out this year) was the first role she ever booked, three and a half years ago. “I got to play the antagonist, and that was really, really fun…because when you play a crazy psycho, it really gives you a chance to let loose,” she says. “It’s almost therapeutic in a way, because you take all those negative emotions you don’t want to feel and use them.” A string of Lifetime movie roles followed, and one of them in particular (a movie called The Wrong Crush, staring As the World Turns’ Lesli Kay) gave Konefal her big break: the role of the fierce, stubborn, and tumultuous Ciara Brady on the Daytime Emmy-winning soap opera Days of Our Lives. Joining the cast as the daughter of power couple Bo and Hope (Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso), Konefal not only had to deal with the pressure of being a part of soaps’ popular couples, she also had to figure out how to navigate a crash course of working on a daytime soap, an experience she cites as “acting boot camp.”
“At first, it kind of scared me. But then I realized it was kind of a blessing, because it allowed me to be as authentic as possible,” she says. “You don’t have time to structure your monologues a certain way and have them come out the same way over and over. You get one take, sometimes you don’t even get a rehearsal, and whatever happens, happens. If you mess up then it’s a part of the scene, and a lot of the time we’ll improv if we’re feeling brave.” Konefal shares an example: a recent scene where Ciara kisses her forbidden lover (and former serial killer) Ben Weston (Robert Scott Wilson) for the first time. “Now, it’s the iconic helmet drop,” she says, referring to the moment when Ciara drops her motorcycle helmet as the couple locks lips. “But that’s something that wasn’t scripted. That was just something that I added and they ended up really liking it and they added a shot specifically for that movement.”
Although Konefal has only lived the actor’s life for a few years, it’s easy to see how confident she is about her craft. Curious, I ask her what advice she would give to people who are trying to make it in the industry, knowing how passionate she was about making it. Her answer is as self-assured as she is. “Don’t conform to society, and stay true to who you really are,” she says. “I know Los Angeles can be tricky because you feel like they’re cattle calling you and they want a brunette girl with green eyes or whatever, but they want to see specific things in you that make you special. It may be hard to come to terms with, but once you realize you should be unapologetically yourself, it’ll be so much easier. Have fun, first and foremost. The worst that can happen is you don’t get it and go home and continue living a fabulous life.”
That semblance of a fabulous life is one that Konefal feels lucky to have. As a child, she used to ballroom dance, but these days, she spends her time kickboxing, painting, and volunteering for environmental conservation organizations. When she wants to be social, she surrounds herself with friends and family—and her dog, a miniature schnauzer named Lola, who Konefal claims is “a walking teddy bear.” If you ask her what her acting goals are, she’ll bring you up to the clouds with her aspirations by telling you that her dream is to play Angelina Jolie’s daughter “in some way, shape, or form…maybe in some badass film where we’re CIA agents or something.” She wants her roles in the future to be the roles of strong and powerful woman, the kind that will help Hollywood strengthen its visibility.
But as much as Konefal aims for the stars, she’ll always be a girl with down-to-earth roots.
“I’d like to play a dramatic coming-of-age movie set in Brooklyn,” she says, sounding both thoughtful and inspired. “I have kind of personal stories and stories my friends went through that would be pretty great to put in a movie. Something gritty set in New York would be really fun.”
Photographer Tim Schaeffer at Cellar Door Studios @cellardoorstudios.la
Features Editor Andrea Towers
Hair Jerry Chang @thejerrychang
Makeup Anton Khachaturian @antonmakeup using Mac Cosmetics
Dresses Harpers PR @harperspr