The Importance of Being Pretty


Hayley DerryberryEvery little girl dreams of being the most beautiful girl at the ball who catches the eye of the charming prince. I was no exception. I even moved out to Hollywood to become a movie star and hoped that my unique beauty would catch the eye of some charming director who would cast me as his leading lady. Since becoming a professional actress seven years ago, I have obsessed about my look, my body, my hair, and my clothes: every little thing that defined who I was as an actress. Then life happened.

Four weeks ago I got a phone call from my stepmother that my dad was currently in brain surgery. He had suffered a massive stroke. There had been a blood clot that started in his heart and traveled to the base of his skull cutting off oxygen flow to his brain. He passed out and was taken to the hospital. Suddenly every petty care I had in the world was dropped. I have never felt so useless. I flew to Florida as soon as I could and spent a week with my sister going back and forth to visit my dad in intensive care. When I got back home to Hollywood everything looked different.

The amount of energy I’d wasted obsessing about the film industry and getting to be a part of it was suddenly apparent. I’d spent the last seven years of my life being an actress first and a human being second. Every decision I made had to be what was “best for my career” all the way down to how I cut my hair. I had always thought that to be an actress I needed to be a blank canvas; ready to take on whatever role was thrown at me. When going up for parts, I would tell myself, “don’t wear anything too bold, someone might not like it.” “Nice neat makeup, nothing too crazy,” and “style your hair clean and fresh.” Above all I wanted to go in looking pretty. In being “pretty” it turned out that all I accomplished was being pretty boring.

When I came home, I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I chopped off all of my hair. It was the best thing I could think of to symbolize how I felt: I don’t want to be an actress first anymore. I want to stop putting my life on hold. I want to take some college classes and learn real skills not just “special skills” to add to my resume. I want to stop obsessing about how I compare to every other girl in Hollywood, and I want to focus on being a complete person not just a blank slate.

I can’t draw any conclusions yet, because it just happened, but I think this will bring some much needed change to my acting career. Directors and casting directors, really aren’t looking for blank canvases. They want a finished product. They won’t mold someone into the character unless he or she is an already established actor who will sell their project. They’re looking for an actor who is a whole person with a strong personality, and that’s what I want to work on in my life. Sure I may not get called in for certain “pretty girl” roles, but I hardly ever got called in for those anyway. There are far too many actresses in LA who fit that type, and even if it doesn’t get me more work, I love my new hair and I feel more free without the stress of being pretty.

editor’s note: Hayley’s family has a GoFundMe campaign currently raising money for her father’s recovery. To help, please visit: