The Holy War

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Mourning is a non-linear experience. I keep thinking I’ve let go of something, only to discover it is so deeply embedded in me, that it has never left. That I am still in mourning, still waiting for the world to right itself again. I keep expecting my patience to pay off – because it has to…. because my heart, mind, and body says it is undeniable. Sigh.

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We want to be seen. We want to be chosen. We want to be loved. We want to be fought for. We want to be ‘the one’.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking truth is that you CAN be ‘the one’, you can be exactly right …and still not be chosen. You may have been utterly perfect for that role, that project, that experience…exactly what was wanted, better than even dreamed…you could be right about all of it…. but if “they” aren’t able to see and embrace all that you are, then it is also true that it wasn’t the experience for you. It’s a hard lesson for me to learn. It feels unfathomable that you can be the acknowledged-best in the room and instead of being fought for, decisions are made based on entirely different (and seemingly ridiculous) details outside of you. Again, sigh.

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Heartbreaking, but you step away with grace and shake your head at their loss and keep moving forward. You aren’t meant to be ignored. You aren’t meant to settle. You aren’t meant to have to convince the world to be brave. The best things in life take courage… and not everyone has it at the moment it is needed. You are meant to shine like the sun and those who want to share in your light will rise up beside you. You need those who see your magic and will fight for it like it is a Holy War, because it is. Nothing is more sacred than what sets your soul on fire. Honor those who choose you. Those who make the effort. They are your tribe. Those who stick their neck out and fight for you. People are what they do…not what they say they will do. Ignore the lip-service….celebrate the people who are DOING. Protect them fiercely. Cherish their loyalty. And build together.

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Trust that what you love, what lights up for you, what ignites your soul – the people, the projects, the moments, are where you should be spending your sacred time. That feeling – is a gift that tells us who we are and the life we are meant to be living. Honor the messages from the deepest part of your being about what you can do and which direction you should choose. And honor those who will fight along side you. This life, this industry, can feel like we are made of paper mache and everyone around us is playing with matches….we MUST find our warriors, our protectors, defenders, our creative cohorts, and build our tribe.

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You (or your work, your performance, your _____) are not for everyone.  Have sympathy for those who are unable to see what is before them….and have even more sympathy for those who are stunned into silence when what they have always wanted, appears before them. Some are in terrific awe over the possibility of happiness, of dreams fulfilled. Some look at the option of having everything they want, and after years of denial, they see it as the Hilary-step… unclimbable and become immobile, glued in place by their fears and habits or through what others might think or are telling them to do or what they feel they deserve, think is ‘right’ or expected or big-box-office or…or…or.   “They” have to be ready to experience you. Sometimes they simply aren’t. Sometimes they are too caught up in their own chaos to understand your magic, sometimes they won’t see any magic at all….and sometimes the power of your magic scares them.

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When others aren’t seeing your magic – when your work isn’t catching on fire…that doesn’t mean it is anything less than spectacular. It means that was not a member of your tribe. Keep hunting.

And have endless gratitude to your warriors who recognize and fight for you.

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Female Troubles

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An incredibly condescending meme comparing Michelle Obama and Jackie O has been going around, lamenting the days of the demure, beautiful first lady and presenting Michelle as somehow being crass. Worse, I saw it passed around by women. You have got to be kidding me.

It nearly made me burst into tears that women can be so pointlessly cruel to one another. I was offended to the core of my being by the overt racism, the blatant disrespect and unfair set up (Classic Jackie posed in pearls next to Michelle in a tank top cheering at a sporting event…I mean, come on!), but I also immediately laughed out loud at the misguided absurdity of this meme that also entirely miscalculates what it means to be a woman.

A woman is not something quiet and pretty that sits in the corner smiling…nope, you’re thinking of a doll. A woman is a fierce, dynamic magician who spends her day solving problems, supporting loved-ones and ruffling feathers when she needs to, to fight for those she loves, protects and provides for. A woman wears 10+ hats a day – executive, chef, teacher, chauffeur, goddess, mother, accountant, wife, athlete, lover, doctor, therapist, friend, hero, on and on ….. and yes, enthusiastic, cheering fan at a sporting event.

Jackie, regardless of how intense and multilayered her inner life may have been, was generally expected to be pretty and quiet in public. She was for all intents and purposes, window dressing for her husband. Sure, she was educated and skilled in her own right, yet her main job was to be a soothing, non-threatening, perfect accessory. How many of us can actually relate to that? Does that sound anything like your life or the life of any woman you know?? No. Luckily we’ve reached a time where we all deserve better than a first lady who is asked to be quiet and pretty in the corner. You can be guaranteed that every woman has more to offer than a sweet smile and a little black dress. Thank God we have miraculously been given this fierce #FLOTUS in our new millennium who is using every second of her time to better the world around her, to show the power of a woman with a mission. A woman who has chosen to use her time to fight for girls education worldwide, to work on behalf of children, fight obesity, and, and, and….

She also manages to do all of it with class, joy and humor while also being a wonderful mother, a successful lawyer and writer, a supportive and equal partner to her extraordinary husband, and yes – she can rock a set of pearls and pick out the china patterns if you insist it’s necessary….after she gets back from the ball game.

Women….we are better than this. Let’s hold each other up instead of being part of the problem. The value of every woman is more than her perceived beauty at any given moment. I hope to one day to manage to be a fraction of the courageous, accomplished, graceful lioness that Michelle is. Regardless of your political leanings, she is unquestionably a role model, a beautiful example of using your power to fight for those weaker than you, and a lightening rod for positive change. Three cheers.

Dear Fear,

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FADE IN.

INT. BRAIN – DUSK.   Cue: Long, deep sigh followed by shiver of terror.

EXT.  RIVER OF TRANSITION – NIGHT.

It’s the middle of the night.  You are alone in the middle of a swirling black river.  The current is strong.  The waves are lapping. Your mind is racing.  You’re fighting to keep your head above water.  You can’t touch the bottom or see what is below.  You are blindly trying to make it across to the other side.  Trying to move far enough ahead that your toes finally touch solid ground and you can start trusting that you are again on the upward incline, even if just an inch at a time.  That is the year it has been.  A year of surprising challenges, unanticipated changes, devastating heartbreak on a number of levels, confusion, unexpected losses… a multitude of strifes.   A year of transitions.  We’ve all been there.  A year of doing your best to let go of what was, but what is coming next hasn’t yet arrived, so you are sort-of-lost, sort-of-drifting, sort-of-desperate…to find meaning, understanding, solid ground.  Don’t panic.  Think of it like jet lag.  Your body has arrived but your heart and mind are still catching up to this new reality.  Whether you are putting in endless work, or feel unable to do anything at all, the effects are often the same – because right now you are in the middle of the black river of transition….and it simply takes time, to get through it all and find your feet again.

I pride myself on being ‘aggressively optimistic’ and always fighting for and believing that the perfect thing is just about to arrive… but in a year full of tragedy and set backs, fear has been nipping at my heels, and finding its way into my heart. It is certainly not all bad, and I trust I’ll reach the other side soon…but I am owning the reality that it has been a year full of painful change and loss and I don’t feel like I’m quite on solid ground at the moment…which inevitably brings vulnerability, stress and fear roaring to life.

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Fuck that.  Who needs it?   And yet…

Is there anything more seductive?   How easily we fall into that trap.

INT.  HEART – LATER THAT NIGHT.  Enter DOUBT stage left.

Fear is familiar, addictive and paralyzing. For whatever reason, words that wound us, fears that plague us, and beliefs that bind us are the ‘stickiest’.  They convince you they are important.  Assure you they are right. Fear brings its evil twin: doubt.   Why does doubt get to be the thing we are certain of?   Doubt is not the one who has earned victory here.  Doubt is not the one who deserves the power.  You must doubt your doubt.

Yet I’m fascinated watching how our minds work…how others handle this black river.  It has been a year of deep conversations with family, friends and coworkers on their own triumphs and failures. Their desire to leave a valuable mark, and reach their own goals and milestones in the way and on the timeline they expected – and how they cope when things go sideways.   How my heart bursts with love for those who curl towards you in times of strife instead of adding distance, or placing blame. Those who never take it personally when you have to pull back and focus on yourself.  So much gratitude to those who know they don’t have to supply an answer just an ear to listen.

I’m disheartened by those who have been thrown a rope, yet still refuse to grab hold – fearing letting go of what they’ve grown used to. Staying in situations out of the familiarity of what they know, what they can predict, even when it is predictably so far from what they want most.

I’m bemused by those still struggling to trust they have made it through the river and are back on solid ground – even as their new plateaus are publicly undeniable.  A dear friend is in the middle of a whirlwind second-life in her career, and her life.  A banner year of so many projects getting wonderful attention that have brought her the success and notice she so deserves.   I sent her a note saying how inspired I had been by her this year, and was shocked at the sincerity of her thank you as she admitted to her own insecurity over ‘whether her work mattered and was worthwhile’ and her fear of ‘whether it would last’.   This entire conversation was a glimpse into the heart of all of us, for her level of success, the beauty of her work, the power of her spirit, are all things that I aim for, and feel she embodies implicitly…and yet her doubt is as strong as the person who has never experienced success.  We humans are such silly creatures.   Doubt your doubt! 

I’m devastated witnessing some walk away from what could be the best thing in their life, out of cowardice, weakness, fear of change. I can say with utter certainty, I would rather be in middle of the black river – unsure of what comes next, but trusting it is coming, than to be resigned to a life that is slowly suffocating me. Change is hard, but change is good.

I’m enchanted by those using both hands to claim the latest successes of their lives with bonafied glee and unabashed revelry.  I’m bursting with joy as I witness ‘the ship come in’ for someone who had been stranded on shore for far too long personally and professionally.  An extraordinary friend who has landed smack in the middle of success after some terrifyingly difficult years.

And I remain inspired..by so many things, including my little dog, who I affectionately call Chicken Little, as she is convinced at every second that the sky is falling.  Yet I watch her tackle her fear each day and become this brave little bolt of lightening, as the power of her desire for what she loves, and what she wants, will overcome her fear: Every. Single. Time. That is the courage I want.  The kind that weighs the odds, is unconvinced of the outcome and jumps anyway.  Optimism winning, hope succeeding, love triumphing.  I can’t stop fear from visiting, but I refuse to ‘live’ in fear.  I just refuse.

So what’s a girl to do?  Find her inner wolf and give fear the finger.

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And surrender. Life is beauty and pain.  Life will break your heart again and again, and heal it over and over. Let it. This is its job. This is how we grow, and move on, and transition.  Change is hard…but change is good, as long as fear and doubt are not in the drivers seat.  Find your courage, embrace your optimism and ride the current.  Now is the time to lean forward instead of back, to give more instead of less, to be bold.  Sure, the waves are choppy, the water is cold, and the circumstances feel impossible. Tip your head back and laugh. Smile even in the middle of the black river.  Doubt your doubt.

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INT.  HEART – PRESENT DAY   Pulse jumpy, blood pressure shaky, confidence wavering.

EXT.  FACE  – SAME TIME   Close Up: delighted smile, laughing at the circumstance.

INT.  MIND – MOMENTS LATER  Cue: long, deep sigh…of amusement, followed by a shiver of delight over this thing we call life.

FADE TO BLACK

Leading Ladies?

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I’m not even sure what to say about this project:  Actors-As-Women but I’m facinated by the images.

In The Round

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The Hollywood Reporter holds actors roundtables a few times a year.  The participants change: sometimes women, sometimes men, comedians, over 40, under 40 etc.   The discussions are usually quite interesting and almost always shed some light on the process of acting.  It’s  eye-opening to hear those in the limelight share many of the same fears and frustrations as those of us hoping to make it there.   These particular roundtables are with the leading contenders for awards season this year.

Women:  http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/actresses-full-uncensored-interview-391620

Men: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/video/actors-full-uncensored-interview-387453

Interesting how readily the men admit how difficult the business is for women.   Hmmm.

Adventures in Cleavage

I walked onto a set about a year ago and was quickly whisked off to wardrobe to be fitted for a dress for the scene I was about to shoot.   As I undressed, the wardrobe stylist looked me up and down and said (in a sorority girl delivery) “awwww, your breasts are so cute “.

Umm, what?!

Did I hear that correctly? Surely not.  Cute?  Cute?!  Of all the adjectives I would like to hear used to describe my breasts, cute is probably not in the ballpark of what you want to go with, if you are trying to buddy up to me.     Not to mention, I was there to be sexy – and damnit, I was sexy, not cute!

For the record, my breasts may be small – but they are mighty.  I’m very happy with them.  I grew up as a dancer, and I have always loved a ballet dancers sleek, streamlined figure. I find nothing as sexy as the sensuality, grace and strength dancers have.  I feel sexy, powerful and fierce when I am in fighting form.  I happen to love my body.  That doesn’t mean I don’t see a million flaws that I am constantly battling, but I know when I am focused and working out and treating myself well, I am grateful and happy with what I was given….including my delicious ‘A’ cups.   And even after moving to Hollywood where the impression is that you need “Double D’s” to get attention, I still feel the same way. It never crossed my mind to wish for a bigger rack.  I’m sure I’ve lost out on some roles, but not roles that truly appeal to me.

None the less, breasts do play a big role in my work life.   I was recently discussing with friends, the on-screen adventures my breasts have had through various characters and wardrobe.  While I haven’t done nudity, I’m endlessly fascinated by the illusions that we can create for film and television.  How we design characters to appeal to an audience or to tell their story through their look.

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Holy Boobs Batman!  I was floored, truly flabbergasted looking in the mirror at my Xena wardrobe fitting. The wardrobe department were miracle workers and savvy architects! I had these massive breasts out of nowhere.  I found them to be ridiculous and also loved flaunting this powerful new tool I didn’t normally have. [ I also clearly remember the awkward phone call with my Dad who asked if I had surgery after watching my first episode.   Doh!  ]

When I mentioned my amazement at my décolletage to Lucy Lawless, she joked that the actresses on the show have generally the same length hair, same skin tone and same breast size…because upon arrival, the magic machine that was the vanities department on Xena transformed you with hair extensions, body make up (we were all various non-human shades of  “Barbie!”) and spectacular bras and padding to make us as visually appealing as we were skilled with our weapons (which was also a cool illusion).

Foolishly, I made the rookie mistake of reading online feedback about my debut on the series. This was my first experience with online criticism and the venom that online anonymity can encourage. It was a lesson immediately learned: Its none of my business what you think of me.  I have to put my best (breasts?) out there and let it go.  The opinions of others can’t determine your satisfaction with your work (or with your appearance).

This aside is applicable to my cup size because I had a mini-meltdown upon returning to New Zealand and getting a new set of wardrobe – without the massive padding.  Had my characters new found religious fervor somehow deflated her bosom? Not sure.  Normally I would not have batted an eye and just rolled with it….but after my recent reading of message boards and reviews, all I could think of was how many people would potentially be discussing and critiquing my body, my private space – and I was (to my horror!) suddenly in full blown tears while standing in the wardrobe room being pinned into my costume.  I had no personal interest in having big tata’s….but I didn’t want the sudden absence of them to create the opportunity for a renewed focus on my body by thousands of very vocal people online.   I just felt too vulnerable.  The wardrobe department and I talked about continuity and for better or for worse, as you can tell from the pictures, the rack was back!

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I have since grown a thicker skin (as is obvious from this boob blog). You MUST have a sense of humor as an actor.  You are a tool, a prop.  (As is your cleavage.)   The fun and occasional frustration of that fact, comes from your appearance and how it is used.   It makes each audition and each job a bit more of an adventure and is sometimes nerve-wracking or frightening when you are forced to use a flaw you would rather hide. I’m lucky, in that I’m a bit of a chameleon on screen, playing a wide range of looks from buttoned up and demure to wild and crazy. I love that I can represent so many types of women and turn femininity on its head by tweaking the presentation.  It always amuses me that Hollywood seems to want to categorize you when we all know the work itself is about creating illusions – and that very few women fall into 1 stereotype.

Career wise, my chi-chi’s have now gone on to have a diverse career in their own right:

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In real life I  never wear a padded bra…i hate it. It feels foreign, uncomfortable and not like me.

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….but I am endlessly fascinated by the illusion one can create with wardrobe in every day life too.  Two photo examples below – these were taken less than 45 minutes apart at the same photo shoot.  And bras weren’t even involved. #Wow.

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Oh, and I’m fully clothed in this shot.  Jeans, sneakers and a strapless shirt.  Only my shoulders are bare….but that’s the beauty of illusion.

I heard a semi-celebrity spout on TV the other day that she couldn’t understand why anyone would remove their implants. She couldn’t imagine the prudish hell that must be living with small breasts.    I laughed out loud at this.  Trying to compartmentalize sex appeal or womanhood down to one body part is, to be blunt- idiotic. I can certainly ‘bring it’ as much as any augmented blonde.  The beautiful thing about women is how different and dynamic they are…and that applies to their minds, personalities, and bodies as well. Fake breasts are not my thing.  Voluntary surgery freaks me out and feels like a slippery slope.  But I firmly believe that everyone should do what is best for them.   I have friends with implants, who love them.  I also have friends who regretted getting them. I’m lucky to have an amazing group of women friends who span a tremendously diverse array of shapes, sizes, types, etc.   What I love most about them is they each feel 100% authentic. They have worked to be completely, fully themselves. The amusing irony of life is it sometimes takes enhancements to reach that – and we all have different forms of enhancement – if not breasts, maybe its tattoos or piercing or even a haircut or the clothes you wear…. We get to create ourselves in this life – each of us is our own make up artist, wardrobe stylist, writer, producer and director. We all star in and create our own story.

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The lesson:  Love what you are given.  Celebrate it.  Work with what you’ve got (you’d be surprised what all you can do!). Or If you are certain making a bigger change will make you feel that much better – go for it….but make sure that change is not masking something else but helping you create fully who you truly are.  Nothing is sexier than a woman who loves herself completely – and no amount of exterior ‘enhancements’ can change the truth of that.   There is nothing sexier than true confidence.  Nothing more attractive than real happiness.  And that comes from inside – not out.

P.S.  I like your t*ts in that top.     😉