with Advice Columnist KAYTLIN BAILEY
Women and the Masks that We Wear
I'm generally new to acting, about two years, and I don't expect to really start seeing much success right away, but I want to be doing all I can do to make it happen soon. In terms of my looks, I have a few good angles, but I'm not a traditional beauty, and I have kind of just have a normal, not super skinny, but not larger body. I am trying my hardest to take care of myself because I want to be in front of the camera, but I have a full-time job and shows most nights. I just don't have the time or money to get to the gym or eat as well as well as I want to. I basically know that if I committed myself to losing some weight, I could, but it'd be a huge lifestyle change. I used to have an eating disorder so I'm not really keen on the idea. I'd just love to just do me, stay the same and kick ass! But is that a pipe dream? What is your honest experience with women and the pace at which the industry is changing vs. how women are still changing to fit into the industry as it is?
Look Banter Girl, it sounds like you're relapsing. Believing that you’ll be more likely to “make it” as an actress if you’re thinner is your eating disorder talking. It’s lying to you. Your weight, it tells you, is something you can control and everything else about becoming an actress is OUT OF CONTROL! So, you’re trying to regain some semblance of agency over your life by making it about something you can manage. That’s a recipe for disaster.
The reason performers have to take care of their instrument is because they need it to work, under any circumstances, at a moment's notice. Looking good is never going to be a liability in entertainment, but it’s not a beauty pageant. This is an industry dedicated to storytelling. It takes all kinds of people to tell all kinds of different stories.
If you want to be an actress, you need to get in tune with your body. It’s not about being thinner, it’s about being able to access different parts of yourself under weird circumstances. When the stakes are high, your adrenaline is pumping, and everyone else is panicking, you have to be able to stay focused, even if you haven’t gotten enough sleep. In theater, there are no retakes. In film, every take costs money. There are a bunch of professional people holding lights and mics, and they have to stand there until you get it right so, like, hurry up. It’s intense. You need to be healthy enough to push yourself, to stay sane enough to go to another audition. How much you weigh doesn’t matter, but you have to be able to trust your body.
Your manager, or director, or whoever will cast you in a wide variety of roles. You may have a type, and that type might be “pudgy chick,” or “funny friend,” or “before picture.” No matter what you look like, there are roles for you. It’s never been easier to be different, which doesn’t make it easy. Figure out what your strengths are as a performer. Hopefully, you’ll be the only one in the world who can rock whatever “it” is. You don’t want to compete with a bunch of other people to be the prettiest, it’s not that interesting.
This is an age old question, but I feel like this problem still persists! I work as a studio manager and am often "hosting" clients at my boss' studio for photo shoots. Lunch is always the main event of my day. I've gotten to know some of the regular clients because I see them every other month. There are some women who, no matter what is being served, feel compelled to make comments on calories, fat, or something along the lines of "oh my god, I shouldn't I'm so bad!" It is just so toxic and frustrating. I know this is maybe some sort of bonding mechanism for older women, but I'm under 30, and I feel like no one my age pulls this crap. Or, at least my body-positive friends. There's obviously a power dynamic happening, so I can't just call them out, but what are some ways to just make some of these women cool it with this weird disordered eating talk? For their own sake and mine!
Look Banter Girl, you’re hosting clients for your boss. Part of your job is to smile through painful small talk and “toxic” comments. Chit chat about how the cheesecake is going “straight to my hips” is the least of it. I’ve had to politely nod through much, much worse. The real problem is that you’re allowing some woman’s comments about her own eating habits to affect you. You and your “body positive” friends are allowed to talk however you want, and so are these women. I’m sure some of your ideas would make these women (and other people) roll their eyes, but whatever. It’s not your job to play missionary at work. No one likes a self-righteous subordinate.
If you really can’t stand it, and someone presses you about your eating habits, feel free to say “oh, I don’t really think about it. I don’t want to end up like my mother.” And then start looking for a new job.
I'm in a junior role at a company where I have a male coworker who has a similar job description. There's an executive assistant at my office (female) who empties the dishwasher, deals with the printer, performs general administrative duties, etc. She also does the usual assistant type stuff, like get lunch and drinks for our male boss, which I've done before in previous jobs, but that's not my job here. When she's out of the office, I find that I'm asked to do more of these tasks than my male coworker, and I find it so incredibly frustrating. I've had to literally pour oats and water into a bowl and microwave oatmeal for my boss on multiple occasions. I get that I am still low on the totem pole at my company, but this type of thing just feels humiliating! And believe me, I get it that this guy should be doing more things for himself, but he's not the one that's going to change. It's a small company, so I feel like there's a team player aspect, but it just also feels icky in this situation. Any tips for possibly handing off some of these assistant-type tasks to my male counterpart?
Look Banter Girl, you work for a small company. Are you sure that your male peer, let’s call him Jim, isn’t also doing menial tasks below his “status” as a junior whatever? If you are, then simply ask him to get coffee, or oatmeal, or laundry, or whatever other administrative assistant type task is being delegated to you. But, before you do that, make sure you're busy doing something that is an objectively better use of your time. So, when your boss asks “Hey, can you cut my meat for me,” you’re ready to say “Actually I’m working on X, Y, or Z, but maybe Jim can do it.”
When your boss looks out of his office for someone to fetch something, make sure the only person he can find is your male peer because you’re so busy trying to get promoted to a position with fewer humiliating tasks.
Understand that you are fighting against decades of social conditioning. He looks to you to get coffee in the same way he would look to Jim to change a lightbulb or lift something. Speaking of which, are you sure Jim isn’t up to his eyeballs in male centric busy work that's beneath him? Are you and Jim on the same team? Maybe talk to Jim and share your thoughts. You might be surprised to learn that he thinks he’s taking on an unfair share of blah, blah, you get it.
Email Kaytlin for advice at: firstname.lastname@example.org