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“I’m (Hollywood) Fat”

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photo by Tracy Birdsell Photography

photo by Tracy Birdsell Photography

As I sit in bed, pinching my back fat, I wonder: Do all women do this?  The daily pressure for a woman in Hollywood to be thinner than thin is nothing new, and the amount of inner torture it fosters can be overpowering and dangerous, like a 600 pound wild boar bearing down on you, but in reality the beast is the mind-blowing grilled cheese you had for lunch, and your only escape route is to demoralize yourself.

The pressure to be thin.  The pressure to be beautiful.  The pressure to be perfect.  Fuck.  It’s a lot to handle, and often gets the better of us.  There is nothing wrong with wanting/striving to be healthy.  But the constant weight (pun intended) the media puts on women to be a size 2 is atrocious, and dare I say CRIMINAL.  I’m a size 4, and in what most would call great shape, yet it’s still not enough.  It’s not enough to book a bikini shoot, it’s not enough to look good in front of the camera that always adds 10 pounds, and most days it’s not enough when I look in the mirror.  The scary thing is, will it ever be enough?  Will I ever be enough?

My love affair/obsession/negative relationship with food entering my body began decades ago.  I have this strange yet very real memory from high school, watching a then-guilty pleasure, “True Life | I’m Getting Plastic Surgery”.  Two best friends were gorging themselves on sushi pre-surgery.  I remember being jealous of their feast, the final super before the makeover of a lifetime, their freedom in the ability to eat whatever they wanted knowing it would all be wiped away.  Then, I remember the images of the girls post-surgery, and any thoughts of slicing and dicing my body vanished as I saw them go from girl next door to horror show.  That’s when I decided that dieting was my body-altering method of choice.

My boyfriend met me when I was 10 pounds heavier, fell in love with me when I was 10 pounds heavier, and actually prefers the “10 pounds heavier me.”  So why is it that I obsesses about the skinny me, the “10 pounds lighter me?”  Why do I cling to the pictures were I was so hungry I could’ve punched a baby?  What is this obsession with being thin??  Will it ever go away?  I have guy friends who say I’m too thin, but casting directors who say I’m too curvy. Real Life vs. The Industry, a dichotomy that’s mind bending to say the least, not to mention a battle no one will win.

I recently watched an amazing documentary called “MissRepresentation”; if you have not seen it, run, don’t walk.  It was not only incredibly empowering, but I found immense comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this battle. The media and the industry have royally fucked with our perception of beauty, and have made us all feel less-than, picked apart, and let’s face it, FAT.  I knew that it wasn’t just me pinching at my back fat in bed, and to prove that, I sought out some humans of the female variety, two very talented actresses, and asked them to WEIGH in.  (Like Liz Lemon, I’m a sucker for puns).  These two gorgeous ladies both lost weight and gained bookings; a sad correlation that we can agree wasn’t fortuitous.

Nikki Mckenzie:

“Loosing weight directly affected my booking and call back ratio for the better. I started to work more. It was hard to accept at first. I really trust my rep and I know that they had my best interest at heart (when they told me to slim down) for what they wanted to pitch me for.”

Eden Malyn:

“When I signed with my current manager he encouraged me to lose 15 lbs, and ultimately I had to lose 25 before I started consistently booking work. I booked 4 national commercials and a recurring role on a big TV show (that year), which is probably not a coincidence. I feel like I would book more if I were (even) thinner.”

So we can agree that thinner actress = working actress, which is why it’s so easy to get wrapped up in “thin think” and obsess about every pound.  It’s an unfortunate truth of the business, and let’s face it, we are selling a product and the consumer wants skinny.  Is it fair?  No.  Do I agree?  FUCK NO.  Will I conform?  Yes.  Sheepish, bitter, and kind of hungry.

Now, with that said, how do we deal?  For me, every day is tough.  I really fucking like food.  On the flip side, I really want to be a working actor, and last time I checked I wasn’t a series reg…so…

The good news?  Though it’s bullshit, it doesn’t have to be torture.  It doesn’t have to be unhealthy.  You can still eat…salads.  Haha.  Seriously though, it’s what we signed up to do and we have to make the best of it, and not drive ourselves (and the people around us) bonkers.  I am finding a way to make it about my own personal growth and health, rather than about being Hollywood thin, which may be the secret to success.

Nikki McKenzie:

“(My) weight loss was positive because it helped my self esteem; it gave me more confidence and made me happy with myself. Don’t torture yourself about weight, do what is best and healthy for you. The key is to find an exercise that you love. Trick yourself into loving your work out and find something you need to do – LOVE to do. That work out for me was Yoga. I fell in love with Yoga. Yoga became almost like therapy and the weight has stayed off. I now have this new hobby and passion other than acting.”

We all must remember that at the end of the day we’re actors, and damn good ones. Industry bullshit aside, it has to be about the passion of the craft, remember that little ole thing that got us into this mess to begin with?  We CANNOT lose sight of that, or ourselves.  You MUST honor that fire you feel when you’re on set, or in class, or when the stage lights rise.  Clutch that dream, hold it tight, and keep fighting the good fight.  And once a week, allow yourself to go hog wild on that grilled cheese without getting trampled by the boar of demoralization.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Amber Sweet

About Amber Sweet

Amber Sweet is an actress best known for her breakout role in the independent short "There's Something in the Woods.” She is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and a proud company member of Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre, where she tours SoCal in the show "What Goes Around.” Amber is a founding member of the up and coming all female comedy group, Full Frontal Females, where she writes, produces, and acts. Amber will be filming two independent features in 2014, "Clarion Falls" and "Pretty Things", as well as hitting the Off-Broadway stage, reviving her role as Bella in the critically acclaimed production of "Women Are Crazy Because Men Are A**holes.”