Do Better


(Photo by Joe Mazza at Brave Lux)
I’m a stage actor based in Chicago. I’ve been a working actor for ten years. I have been very lucky in my career in many ways. I have worked with and for incredible people. I have also heard this:
-“You really need to lose some weight if you want a career.”
-“You won’t work until you’re forty, because you’re never going to play the love interest, but after that you’ll work a lot.”
-“You would need to lose twenty pounds for the role.”
-“You’re not believable as a love interest.”
-“You should really wear more makeup, and show your cleavage more.”
-“We can work with your body type, but if you are serious about this career you need to have your nose and teeth fixed.”
-“You don’t have a commercial body type.”
-“They told us you were smaller.”
-“I mean, you’re good-looking, but you’re not beautiful.
There is more. There is so much more. This is just a sample. For the last ten years I have been conditioned by my industry to hate my body.
Not all of the above things were said with malice. Most of those individuals thought they were helping or didn’t even realize they had said something inappropriate. Some of them WERE helping, and did help me land a role I wanted. It doesn’t change the fact that I, an average-sized woman have dealt with so much sizeism and sexism in one of the last industries where you can discriminate against someone because of how they look. And if I’ve dealt with it, I know others have and that some have it worse, way worse.
The statement that bothers me the most is “you’re not believable as a love interest,” because it’s a damn shame. I have played the love interest before. Being believably in love with another human on stage just happens to be my specialty. (Also, I take issue with the term “love interest.” Men are never referred to in that way, even if the woman is the lead. But that’s a different fight for a different day.) Am I not right for the particular love story you’re telling? Great. But to say that I am not right to ever love on stage EVER? Horseshit.
I just did the casting for a local Equity musical and we saw all types of women for the female lead. Three of the women called back for the role  that weren’t the typical “love-interest type” actually thanked us for seeing them for a role they would never normally be seen for. I’m so glad that it made them happy, but I’m so upset that this is an anomaly. We need to do better by them. We need to be braver. Those of us who affect casting decisions need to be as brave as the actors bearing their souls in front of us.
So how do we change the game? Artistic directors, casting directors, directors, anyone involved with casting…we have to do better. Not for me; I’m fine. I have become less interested in being a “cog in the machine” and more interested in becoming a part of the solution. But we need to do better for those who come after me.
We NEED to diversify. If you are involved in the producing process, ask yourself, “Does my show have specific plot points related to race?” No? Then you should think about looking outside the caucasian race. “Does my show have specific references to body type?” No? Then you should be open to other body types. “Are there some roles in my show that could possibly be re-allocated for women to play?” Yes? Then think about switching the genders of those roles. And don’t forget the trans community, the disabled community, the community that brings you into a new perspective.  Be Actively Inclusive.
And, don’t expect these different groups to just show up, seek them out, invite them, include them. Do your due diligence and make your company one they feel welcomed to be a part of. It’s worth the extra work.
Theatres wonder how to stay relevant; how not to die off once their main audience literally dies off. This is how. We need to start casting in a way that looks like the world that we live in. Casting predominantly white and male is antiquated. It doesn’t fly anymore. If we don’t change with the times, we will become irrelevant. And worse, it’s UNCREATIVE in a CREATIVE art form. We have so many more types of stories to tell with so many more different types of people. Let’s do better.
And as for me?  I’m taking my body back from this industry. It hasn’t been mine for 10 years. I will no longer lose weight for you. I will no longer try to mold myself into what I think you want me to look like. I will no longer starve myself for a quick weight loss to please you. I will no longer change myself in any way for YOU. When I take all the pressure to change myself away and I take all the negative feedback away, I realize that I actually like myself. When I stop worrying that if I speak my mind people will not like me or worse…DUN DUN DUN…they won’t CAST ME, I like myself A WHOLE LOT. This is my New Year declaration.

111 thoughts on “Do Better

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I am not in the industry but I have considered the modeling industry. In any case… the whole ‘love interest’ thing… it may be my ignorance in this industry but what IS a love interest? Does ‘there is a someone for everyone’ not apply in acting? Aren’t you supposed to portray life, on stage? If that’s the case, isn’t everyone a potential love interest?

  2. This article is so needed, especially here in Chicago’s theatre scene. We are making strides but definitely not fast enough. I only disagree with one point (and most likely because I am a giant middle-aged white dude) but it has been my experience that theatre is one of the FIRST places where sexism and sizeism matters in the minds of many who run it. It shouldn’t, but it does. I know that in spite of my abilities I have, will continue to get turned down for lead parts (unless it’s Santa or Shrek). I am very glad to see empathetic souls such as you working to change the system. Brava!

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  4. I got into the acting and modeling business from birth. From 0-6 i was doing modeling and acting gigs, from 6-8 i was training for the IMTA, from 8-13 I worked as a child actress and model and was told probably told all of the things you were told minus the things about being a love interest. I came to the conclusion that hey are conditioned to be that cold, and un-empathetic. After realizing that I quit.

  5. It’s unfortunate because in real life, “love interests” and heroes come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. To deny someone the chance to create a meaningful connection between audience and stage over such superficial factors is completely unacceptable. Congrats to all the artists out there defying such standards.

  6. Women have been told those things for centuries. Here’s my point. YOU are more than what they say you must be. Speak well. Breathe well. Move as you move. To hell with the ignorance that makes us less than who we are.

  7. Thank you for this article. I agree. Same old things aren’t creative anymore. I’m so happy that you’ve come to love yourself and not be the opinion of others anymore. It’s one of the strongest things one can achieve. I hope to see this change in the acting world🙂

  8. People like me don’t really know this reality until words come out from those who have been there. Being in that industry seems really tough, the competition is high. It’s okay, there are other great things to be good at. Congratulations to your new perspective!🙂

  9. Hi! Thank you for the honest post. I work for theaters in Germany (backstage as a theater scientist and assistant to the artistic director) and we have similiar discussions. It starts with the universities, where people can study acting. They tend to accept women who fit into the market that we don’t want anymore. Second problem are the directors…but I agree with you. It’s easy to change it, if we really want to change it.

  10. Changing the industry from within through writing, casting, producing etc. will change society’s perception of what is ‘acceptable’. The beginning of my social justice education began with watching ABC’s after school specials! Creative people are the best educators.

  11. I liked what you wrote and even the way you expressed it Just keep your promises to yourself and good luck .I’m trying me too to take my body and my brain back from this complicated world as well as from other industries. The whole world in my opinion is an industri with all problems industries got Believe it or not it takes long time to achieve the goal to take your self back to you but it s worth to attain success What you ll win it s what you got … yourself Do you believe you have anything better to do than take the responsibility for yourself? Hopefully not … Thanks any how… for your article

  12. I started doing direction and community theatre production because it was so humiliating to work as an actor for people who not only would reject me for my hair color, or my body shape, but who would refuse to admit they were doing it in the first place. I knew a lot of talented actors who just drifted out of acting because it was like banging your head against a brick wall. One time I saw a young woman cast in a Chekhov show because her hair was brown, and then they put her in a wig. That was exactly the same color and texture as her real hair. I mean, you’re putting the woman in a wig. So why are you casting based on hair that the audience will never see? ?????! ???!!! I knew another respected director who told a man that he would never get into an MFA program to study Shakespeare because he was too fat (he was not “too fat”; he was in excellent shape for acting and usually played great parts). And my God, when does Shakespeare ever reference the body size of his men in the text, aside from mentioning how buttery Falstaff is? And even the women are only notable for height variations and hair color. Which can be wigged and is relative.

  13. Wow. This is really profound. I am one to like the creative arts but this seems crucial. Would anyone in consideration like to check out my blog? I am just managing to get my head around wordpress and want some constructive feedback.

  14. I love this. Why should only white skinny beautiful women be portrayed, when there’s so much more to the world? I’m trying to go into acting, and it’s seriously discouraging to read posts like this one. Still, the problems exist, and it’s about damn time we talked about them.

  15. This is amazing! I think that no matter where we are people are always going to describe us by the way we look. In this generation now, I think that the main cause of body image issues among young people is because they look up to someone who as told that a size 00 is THE look. People take one opinion or they look a you and make their judgments and they roll with it.

  16. Reading this made me think of my blog. My blog is focused on musicals and spirituality. I have been blogging since December of 2015 and am trying to make it successful by Spring of 2018. Reading a theatre blog is important to the musical aspect of my blog.

  17. Hi there! I just launched a new blog where I will be touching on many social issues, including diversity, or lack thereof. If you’d like to check it out, please visit Thanks and love, love this post!

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  20. And not only in the theatre everywhere! On TV, in the media, people are showing that you have to be skinny, big boobs, and pretty to make it. Not just for women but men to are also set unbelievably high standards. They have to be buff with six packs. Thank you for touching on this subject. Just your voice can make a difference.

  21. This is insightful. Your list of common feedback you get was eye-opening. It’s either about fitting a certain (same) image or fitting for the male lead.

    Unfortunately, the casting teams are doing what they think is what’s popular and/or what will provide their investors the most return. It’s sad.

    Good for you for taking a stand. Things are changing, though very slowly, with the backlash of body shamming, the modeling industry opening to more voluptuous figures and equal gender pay. Its a long road, but I see some pavement forming.

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