Monday, November 23, 2009

people be hatin'.

I'm in the public eye. Yup. Me. That girl in the photo above. As an actress and a model, the whole run-and-hide thing isn't an option. Ever. People look at me, watch me, and write about me. I knew that going into this industry (twelve years ago). Still, it doesn't make it easy.

Very rarely do I use my blog as a platform for anything other than a Hey!-here's-what's-going-on-in-my-life! kind of thing. I'm actually quite shy when it comes to really voicing my opinion about things. Why? Probably because I hate confrontation. Of any kind. It terrifies me (says the girl with the schizophrenic mother). So, instead, I play it safe here. I play it safe because I'm a wimp.

Except for today.

I cannot stay silent after what I read about myself this morning. Please note that the writer of the post was respectful towards me, completely. In fact, she never said one negative thing about me. (Thank you, Virginia!) It was the comments by her readers that made me want to speak up. And, so, at the risk of engaging in confrontation, at the risk of having more hurtful words said about me, I am going to use my voice. Here.

I started out as an actress. Twelve years ago. When I was 19. I was in an private acting class at Carnegie Mellon University, studying Shakespeare. I loved it. Felt alive. Thought to myself, These words! These emotions! This is so real to me! And then someone in the class said, "You should check out this agency. Get paid for your talent." And so I did. And I got work. Steadily. Through college, after college, through graduate school, after graduate school. Industrial films, commercials, voice-over jobs, etc. It's been fun.

But somewhere in there, someone honed in on my height and said, "Why don't you model?" Why don't I model? Because I have pointy elbows, hairy arms, a weird mouth, lots of moles on my never-seen-sunlight skin, and a general fear of having my worth evaluated by what I look like. Wouldn't you?

But then the bills started coming in. And so I caved.

I went from "actress" to "actress/model." I walked the runway. I wore ridiculously expensive clothing--some ugly, some beautiful. I positioned my body in ways that are unnatural, silhouettes that real women in the real world in real time don't make. But it paid the bills. And it was outside of myself. It was pretend and it took me away from the things in my life I didn't want to face: living with a schizophrenic mother, feeling the weight of our family's pain on my shoulders, dealing with the responsibilities that a young woman my age shouldn't have to deal with.

Do you know how it feels to have people--even complete strangers--comment on your body all the time? On the street, in stores, at restaurants? "I bet you don't eat anything!" "You look like you don't have to worry about what you eat at all!" "If I looked like you, I wouldn't have a care in the world!" "DAMN! You're skinny!"

What if we turned the tables a bit? Said these things to women who were heavy? "I bet you eat everything in sight!" "You look like you don't care about what you put in your body!" "If I looked like you, I'd feel the weight of the world on my shoulders!" "DAMN! You're fat!"

Mmmm. Pretty harsh, huh? Can you imagine the way the woman hearing those words would feel? Well, it feels the same way when a thin woman hears her own version. Why does society find it acceptable to comment on thin women's bodies to those women's faces?

You're probably thinking, "Yeah, but..." Well, stop. Please. For this moment. For me. I realize that models put themselves in positions to be commented upon. I am very, very aware of this. I know that part of the job of being a model is to use one's body to portray a certain type of lifestyle, a certain type of culture, a certain type of fantasy. I realize that there is a standard in the fashion industry--a completely unrealistic one, I might add--but a standard nonetheless. I will tell you that, in all honesty, I don't agree with that standard. It's ridiculous. And yes, there are going to be people who are mean. Because it's part of human nature. But what if--and this is just a what if--what if we started thinking about our neighbors a little more than our own preconceived notions? Our own angry responses? Our own ability to be mean, rude, or ignorant? What if we started looking at the people around us as if they were people we really cared about? People we believed in. People we wanted to see succeed. People we wanted to know how much they're loved. Just because we know that people can be mean doesn't mean we have to be. And it certainly doesn't mean it's okay that they are.

Yes, maybe I should quit. Maybe I'm a hypocrite. But sometimes you do what you have to do to put food on your table. Does that make it right? I don't know. But I do know that being mean won't solve anything. Ever.

For some reason, I was born thin, and I grew to be quite tall. But I was also born with IBS. So, at the risk of getting a little too personal here (especially for some of you who are, as it were, on a first date with me with this post), everything I eat goes right through me. Yup. My intestines hate me. Which is one reason why I am thin. And it's not glamorous. I'm cold all the time, I have excruciating abdominal cramps, I spend a ton of time in the Ladies' Room, I can't sit in the middle of the movie theatre for fear that I'll have to "excuse"myself to dash to said Ladies' Room, and on, and on, and on. I do not starve myself. I do not "throw up everything I've ever eaten" (as one commentor put it). And I certainly do not take diseases like anorexia or bulimia lightly. It makes me sad to think that some people do.

When you see a model, please remember that she is human. She is a real person, in a body that she may or may not have any control over, carrying her own burdens, her own insecurities, her own fears. She has her own story. Despite being a part of an unrealistic standard, she is still as real as can be.

We are not all living lives of material wealth, dripping in Chanel, choosing from closets of shoes and handbags that cost more than your average car. We are not all going to fancy parties, sleeping with a different guy every week, barking at our assistants to carry our bags to our waiting limo. We are not Linda Evangelista, telling our agents that we won't get out of bed for less than $10,000 that day.

We are women who work day jobs. Who wonder if we'll have enough money for this month's rent. Who are in stable, monogamous relationships. Who go to church every Sunday. Who shop at Target for anything and everything. Who drive the cheapest model Chevy makes. Who stay at home on Friday and Saturday nights just to curl up in sweats while sipping mugs of tea. Who get on their knees and thank God for any modeling job that comes along where their integrity won't be compromised and that will help pay off their credit cards.

If you are disgusted with the modeling industry, if you are disgusted with the unrealistic standards that you're being fed vis-a-vis the media, magazines, etc., then let designers and companies know it. Write letters. Voice your opinion. Yes, I realize that if enough women get angry, I will lose my job as a model. But if that means that more women will feel better about themselves, better about their bodies, better about their physical realities, then I am thrilled with losing my job as a model. I'll find some other way to help pay the bills.

Just please remember that models are people, too. With feelings. And heavy hearts. And lives away from the camera.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Twinkie I need to go shove in my mouth.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

you know, just doin' stuff.

So, yeah. Here's what I've been up to lately. Just hangin' around in couture. No biggie. The above photo? Yeah, those shoes are straight from Balenciaga's studio in Paris. And the heels are about, oh, 5 1/2 inches. I needed spotters just to get me standing up in them. And once I did stand up, I was an easy 6'4". Thank goodness for that railing, or I would have toppled on over face first.

This purple party dress below is probably my favorite. What gal doesn't want to get all girlied up for a holiday party? Or any party? Or to go to the grocery store?

Sometimes I worry that I'm not wearing enough Chanel:

I had a Chanel clutch, a Chanel cuff bracelet, and Chanel earrings. Delicious! (Ladies, the clutch in the above photo costs about as much as one class at a private univeristy. Can we say gorgeous-but-ridiculous? Oh, Saks Fifth Avenue, you are fun!)

This hot pink number was custom-made by a woman here in Pittsburgh. Who says hot pink taffeta is just for bridesmaids?

And sometimes I worry that my love for cats isn't quite clear enough:

(Yes, that's me in each of these photos. And yes, that's total sarcasm throughout. Sometimes I really love modeling, but most of the time I think it's pretty silly!)

with love from Pittsburgh,

close call.

It's no secret that I had a couple of rough months there. It was pretty touch-and-go for a while. And I'm not ashamed to admit that, quite frankly, I wanted to die. I really did.

I wanted to die.

I wanted to not be here. To not be conscious. To not feel. To not be in this world that seemed to be betraying me at every.single.turn.

Maybe that's hard for some of you to comprehend. How can anything be that bad? you may ask. Nobody's life is perfect. Everyone goes through rough times. You mean you couldn't just buck up and get over it?

No. I couldn't.

I suffer from depression. Not chronic, not debilitating, but depression nonetheless. Sometimes it hits me a little hard--when serious change occurs, when events prove bigger than I'd anticipated, when the human foibles we're all so prone to come front and center. Other times, it's just this tiny little nagging in the back of my day. I don't really feel like going out, it says. Or, I'm not as interested in that as I used to be, but sometimes I wish I was. And even, Gee, I think I could just stay in bed today and not feel like I was missing out on anything.

But after I came out of that depression, that darkness that was inkier and thicker than I think I'd ever experienced--yes, this time it was debilitating--I thanked God/my lucky stars/my friends who stood by me/etc. that I didn't die. Because I would have missed out on things.

Like reading. In bed, snuggled under the covers, my body pillow placed on top of me, the length of it only a fraction of my nearly 6' frame, but acting as a propping mechanism for the book nonetheless. Reading and disappearing into worlds that took me away from my own, or coming into my own universe so closely that I was convinced the author had been spying on me, turns of phrase that were written just for me. In ways that meant something only I could understand. Do you know how comforting that is?

Or the taste of tea. Oh, how I love-adore-take delight in tea! Liquid peace, its warmth slowly making its way down to my core, healing and soothing all the hurts. Have you ever gone a day without tea? I cannot. Right now, an empty mug sits beside me, having served its purpose, but not the first of the day. Somehow, holding a mug of hot tea close to my face calms me, my hands, tired from work and weak from constant grasping at this world, wrapped around its curved body, the steam rising towards my chin, my lips, my nose. I feel safe with that mug of tea near my body. I feel protected.

And clean laundry. I love doing laundry. I look forward to it. It's like getting a whole new wardrobe, only it's familiar and comforting because it's mine. Those fabrics have graced my skin so many days and hours of my life, have been with me in moments of joy, moments of sorrow, moments of hope. Clothing takes on a life of its own, sometimes mirroring my shape as it hangs from the back of a chair or on the edge of the bed. And when it's clean, it's as if it gets another chance--a fresh start--to be with me all over again, to be with me in those days and hours of my life.

If I had died, I would have missed out on those simple but miraculous and glorious pleasures.

It was a close call, but I am still here. Sipping tea, with a book in my hand, while I wear my freshly laundered sweats.

There is great, great joy in this. I do not deny it.

with love from Pittsburgh,

Saturday, November 07, 2009

dishing it out.

Oh, my sweet, loyal readers. If you had any idea what my world has been like for the past 3 months, you would be so, so proud of me that I'm here, functioning, writing.

I want so very much to dish it all out here, in this one single post, but I feel as though I must take it in small clumps, somewhat ambiguously, of course, so as to protect not only myself but those involved as well.

Let's just put it this way: Life has a funny way of kicking you in the gut, the face, and the arse, all at once. And then, without warning, it turns around and says, "Just kidding!"

(my beautiful church--St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh, PA)

Do you know that I went to church every single day except Saturdays, for six weeks, and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament (that's the Eucharist, for you non-Catholic lovelies out there), on cold marble, my knees aching and burning from the discomfort, and prayed that my heart would heal from the pain and trauma it had recently endured?

Yup. I did.

I was all, "Hey, Jesus? Um, things are, like, really bad right now. Seriously. 'Member that time you brought the most wonderful man into my life and things were, like, really good and pure and full of love for four whole years? And then, out of nowhere, that man did and said some stuff that was really hurtful--all in the name of you--and, um, left? And it was all completely out of character for him? And it didn't make any sense because there weren't any signs leading up to it? And you let him leave? What the hecks was that all about? Because I'm, like, reallly, really hurtin' here. Like, sorta wantin' to die. Yeah. I know. That's pretty serious stuff to say to you, isn't it? Well, it's the truth. And I'm all about sayin' the truth to you, because, well, you're you and all. So, um, maybe you could help me out please? Because I really don't know what else to do or who else to turn to.

"Do you want me to let him go? Is that what this is all about? If it is, then I'm askin' you to help me let him go. Is he not the person you've picked out for me? Because I sure thought he was. Like, for reals. I mean, you're all mysterious and stuff in your ways, so I'm not sayin' I understand what you're doin' and all, but still. What is all of this about? I'm havin' a hard time believin' that something you'd want would cause this much pain. Because really. I am not okay. I really am not okay. And I don't know how I'll ever be okay after this."

And that was what I prayed every day for six weeks. On the cold, hard, white marble of St. Paul's Cathedral. Right in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus, right there in front of me, listening and weeping in unison with my pain.

Do you know that on one occasion, I was sobbing so loudly that it echoed through the entire cathedral? And the woman praying in the first pew stepped out into the aisle, walked up to railing where I was slumped, and knelt down beside me. She said, "What can I do for you, sweetie?" Between my heaving sobs, I replied, "Nothing." And she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Well, you're in the right place." And then she went back to her pew, where I'm almost certain she prayed for me.

I was in the right place. As much as I hurt, as much as I felt betrayed and abandoned and confused, I knew I was in the right place. And I kept going to that place. Every day except Saturdays. And I knelt on the cold, white marble. And I prayed. Sincerely, deeply.

And then he came back. The love of my life came back.

There's a lot to work out, a lot to figure out. But love is a decision, not just a feeling. And sometimes, even when it hurts, you decide to see what will happen. You decide to love.

Monday, November 02, 2009

yeah, i'm an actress.

Here's the commercial I shot back in August for First Niagra Bank. I'm the girl in the speedboat. Yup. That's me.