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.

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Grrrrrrr.

Just read this article:   Where have all the women gone in movies? By Rebecca Keegan

Not great news.  Some excerpts:

Despite the success of recent female-driven movies such as“Bridesmaids” and the “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” series, female representation in popular movies is at its lowest level in five years, according to a study being released Monday by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Among the 100 highest-grossing movies at the U.S. box office in 2012, the study reported, 28.4% of speaking characters were female. That’s a drop from 32.8% three years ago, and a number that has stayed relatively stagnant despite increased research attention to the topic and several high-profile box-office successes starring women.

When they are on-screen, 31.6% of women are shown wearing sexually revealing clothing, the highest percentage in the five years the USC researchers have been studying the issue.

For teen girls, the number who are provocatively dressed is even higher: 56.6% of teen girl characters in 2012 movies wore sexy clothes, an increase of 20% since 2009.

Full LA Times article here.

In The Round

tell it

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.

Preparing for torture

As the agony and ecstasy of pilot season approaches, thought I’d post a link to this blogGuys are not going to want to f**k her  by Ken Levine.   Its a doozy.   It is hard to describe how sensational it is to be part of this biz  when things are going well.  You’ll just have to trust me….it truly does justify the lunacy we go through trying to get there.

We really are gluttons for punishment.

The Slow Boil

Glenn Close is a beast.  She devours scenes.  She eats dialogue for breakfast.   She leaves lesser actors in the dust.  She owns the work.   Whether she is playing the good guy or the bad guy, I am always rooting for her.   I love her.

Possibly my favorite of her performances was as Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons.  I loved it so much, that the first monologue I learned at age 16 was her character’s calm description of creating herself in a culture that ‘only wanted me to sit still and do what I was told’.   Yes, this was ridiculous – as it was a entirely inappropriate monologue for my age….but it was so insanely delicious watching her on screen that I HAD to know the material.   Had to hear those words trip off my tongue.  If you haven’t seen the film – check it out.  You find costume drama’s boring? Give it a chance.  You will be delighted with how sexy, vicious, and riveting the story is.   It’s an intoxicating mixture of chess, porn and warfare.

I was feeling a bit dusty this week – frustrated with progress that feels nominal and effort that feels Herculean.   I was reminded that Glenn didn’t book her first on-screen role until she was 35.  In Hollywood that’s like saying she was 700…and had leprosy. It’s impossible.   But she did it.

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That really IS the question! Are you going to make it happen, be who you want to be, or not?   Time IS of the essence, but I breath a sign of relief that it isn’t as dire as we are told.   Hollywood makes you believe that if you haven’t headlined a film by the time you hit 22 (especially as a woman), you probably missed your chance. It’s nice to be reminded there are exceptions to the rule.   That passion, perseverance and skill can trump the status quo, skew the bell curve and beat the odds.

From the outside it feels like success comes roaring all at once…when usually it has been simmering for years.  While the media focuses on the kid who booked a huge role on their first audition and immediately launched into a full throttle career-  the greater truth is the ‘15 year overnight success’.   Job by Job, gig by gig, building a career over time.  Until that one special job arrives and your career goes from ‘Who’s that?’ to ‘That’s who!’ .

So, I still allow myself to want it all.  To believe in the possibility I can still have it.   I hope you give yourself that gift too – whatever your dream, your passion, your goal.  Fifteen year overnight success sounds great to me!

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I heard a quote once about Zach Galifianakis– it said, something to the effect of  “we are lucky he wasn’t his most successful when he was young, because his talent needed to ferment, to marinate and we are all the better for it”.   I get that.  I hope that is me. I’ve always been an ‘old soul’ and I know that has come across in my work.   I look younger than I am.   But I’ve always had a quality of maturity that is older than I am.  It’s a strange mix.  Perfect for some meaty roles- but not the generic young woman that is so often the role being cast.  I’m now reaching the point where it is all coalescing together.   A yummy soup of womanhood that I hope I can capitalize on.

I’ve always said I would rather be starting my career, have it continuing on the rise, than to realize the best is behind me.   That it would be more interesting to have a career full of dynamic women’s roles, rather than the empty roles of vapid college co-eds or muted girlfriends.   So I will keep pushing forward.

I ran into Kathryn Joosten several times over the years.  The final time was about two weeks before she passed away.    I didn’t know her well, but she was just as sweet, lovely and grounded as you expected her to be. I am inspired by her story of following her passion and living her dream.  I hope you are too.

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Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.  And Dreams aren’t just for the bright-eyed cherubs amongst us.   Life is short – you owe it to yourself to chase after what you most want.

No excuses:

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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.

Enter Livia stage left:  Image

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.     😉