Deborah Lee Smith is not only a phenomenal actress and producer, she is a dear friend of mine and a Ms. In The Biz contributor. She is also the Founder of a fantastic new website and community called “More Than You See”. I’m going to just dive right in so you can learn about this amazing resource from her!
First off, where did the name “More Than You See” come from?
As an actor, I got really good at putting on an inauthentic face, after all, that was my job. But as things got really tough over the past year, I realized that this mask wasn’t serving me. In fact, it was doing me a lot of harm.
When things got to a breaking point, I started looking for ways to cope because I was drowning in my helplessness and depression. I realized that everyone is putting on a face. I started having honest conversations with my closest friends, and I realized how much we are all faking it. This is so damaging to our society and ourselves. Social media has allowed us to craft a perfect version of ourselves that we can show to the world, but I want to deconstruct that, be authentic, and bring the idea to the forefront that we are all More Than You See.
What is your goal behind “More Than You See?”
I realized when I was going through my dark times, that it is hard to know what may bring you out of the darkness. It could be a song, a meditation practice, therapy, a podcast. This catalyst can be something you can hold on to as you start to heal yourself, and More Than You See is a library of catalysts and stories to remind you that you are not alone. I built this platform full of podcasts, videos, articles, organization, books, and more, so that someone can come here and build their own mental health toolbox.
You are running an Instagram campaign that is part of this movement. What is that about?
Instagram is a great way to building community and connect with others. Ironic, I know, but it truly is an easy way to help share struggles and give a voice to those stories that have yet to be told. On Instagram I share quotes that resonate with me, as well as stories submitted by members of the community. The stories can be anonymous or the author can decide to share it under their name. If they share it under their name, I ask for two contrasting pictures to share as well. One photo that shows their external persona, brand, the mask you wear etc., and one showing a part of yourself that you normally hide from the world. It is incredible to see what sort of photos people are sharing with the community: both their mask and their internal persona.
How does this relate to the entertainment industry community?
The more I dive into mental health, the more I realize how impacted our community is. Of course, we always hear about celebrities who have died as a result of suicide or an overdose, but we are rarely talking about the why. There are so many medical and social reasons as to this climbing suicide rate, and I think there should be more conversations on this topic.
I find that it is especially prevalent in our industry, because filmmaking can be a very solitary job. Even when we are on set, we bond with a group of people for a set period of time, and then are wrenched from that community when we finish filming and move on to a new project. It is basically like we are building a family, bonding with that family, and then being forced to find a new family all over again. There are countless studies about the importance of community in personal wellbeing, and our industry is based around having to constantly find a new community.
What advice do you have for anyone going through a difficult time?
First off, you aren’t alone. That is why I built More Than You See. I wanted to give voice to unheard stories, but also remind people that we are all in this together. Also, I want to remind everyone that THIS INDUSTRY IS HARD. There will be days, weeks, where things seem impossible. Unfortunately, that is just part of this business, but it is important to remember that even in this impossibility, you aren’t alone. We are ALL going through shit.
Find your community, outside of set. Find your tribe of people that won’t change. These core friends are integral to your sanity. But also remind yourself that the ups and downs are normal. This is all part of the career.
Finally, find a good therapist. Therapy is SO important, and while it is starting to be de-stigmatized, I think we need to talk about it more. Honestly, if you are a creative, you probably need a therapist to help you balance this emotional roller-coaster. Unsure how to find a good therapist? Ask a friend or check out the post I wrote on More Than You See about “How To Find A Good Therapist”.
Anything else you’d like to share about More Than You See?
I would love to share with the community that I am always looking for more stories to share. I feel that through sharing these stories, we are closing the gap between each other and learning more about our own struggles and the struggles of our community.