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,
Laura

13 lovely bits o' feedback.:

The CEO said...

Wow. What an amazing post. I'm proud to know you!

Petunia Face said...

Ugh. That hurt ME to read it.

You are beautiful--inside and out.

krista said...

oh, honey. let the haters hate.
you can laugh your ass all the way to the bank, twinkie in your hand like a lit cigar.
*oh, and i loved your comment on the post*

work, girl. work.

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

ok, a few things here.
First, as an overweight person, yes, people do say those things.
And it hurts. But hey, that's life. I'm not going to lose sleep over a complete strangers opinion of me.
Second, fashion is so personal. People either love it or hate it. When you put yourself out there, you have to know people are going to look at that picture and say WTF?
Personally, I almost fell over when I opened your blog and saw the picture from Ginny's blog and realized it was you.
I am so happy to see the other pictures. They are beautiful. They show just how beautiful you are. Sorry, but the first one is not. As my mother used to say "It does nothing for you".
The people commenting on Ginny's blog (I usually don't read the comments) are commenting on a picture. Not a person.
Most are just trying to be funny. Sorry it was at your expense.
But you get the last laugh when you look in the mirror and see that beautiful face.

Lynnetta said...

Wonderfully stated.

Melissa said...

Those comments were painful to read. I can't imagine how it made you feel. Why do people feel the need to be so hurtful? I've always been thin too. In school, kids would call me anorexic. Even now, I hate hearing others refer to me as "skinny." That's not a positive word! I've been told many times to "eat a sandwich." But I can house a Big Mac in twenty seconds, so obviously that's not my issue.

But people will always feel the need to criticize others. I remember when my Operation NICE article was in the Philadelphia Inquirer and a commenter said I looked like a vampire. Come on. It was an article about being nice to others! Geez.

A Fortunate Bride said...

I was reading through the comments on the other blog and my heart kept sinking thinking about you reading them. And then - your comment! Boo-ya mean people!!

You seriously rock sweetheart. I mean, seriously.

Irishembi said...

I just might love you.

And I missed you too. I've got some catching up to do.

Irishembi said...

And you're beautiful. The clothing choice in that one photo was, errrr, "unfortunate", but I think by now we all know the model doesn't choose the clothing.

Don't listen to those haters.

Chris said...

Girl, you know I will always have your back when people be hatin'...and possibly a few jelly-filled...you know its always possible :-)

Judi said...

Hey...just catching up on some of my fav bloggers....
First of all....you do not have to explain yourself or your occupation or why you do it. It's what you do--not who you are (thank God our careers don't define us!!!)
Secondly....fashion is art. And, like any other form of art--people have opinions on it.
Thirdly....you are gorgeous!
Fourthly...you are a fab writer
Fifthly....some people do not know what they do!
Sixthly....oh fuck 'em!
I am really tired to judgmental people today. Oh, I am sick of them yesterday too. And, I'm sure I will be sick of them tomorrow.
You go girl!
I hope you ate that twinkie!
Judi

L said...

i love you all.

i rully, rully do.

thank you for making me feel better.

can i hug each of you?

xoxo,
Laura

Andy said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but I think that any state (let alone Pennsylvania) would have a hard time conjuring up anything quite as lovely in any respect, let alone many of them.

World's brighter having you in it.