How Meryl Streep’s Quote Changed My Perspective


 Gullick_Jennifer_HeadshotI think the most liberating thing I did early on was to free myself from any concern with my looks as they pertained to my work.”

~ Meryl Streep

I started acting pretty late in the game; almost by accident. It all started when, during a time of major change and a fairly high degree of stress, I decided I needed to do something just for me. I chose to attend a drop-in improv class. The rest, as they say, is history.

Looking back, it seems as if I was catapulted from the gawky, tomboy phase of my girlhood into a “you should be a model” phase of life. So, even though being the center of attention was pretty uncomfortable for me, I started dabbling in modeling here and there. I even got to travel the country one year as a spokemodel for a company. Modeling is all about a look and being able to attract attention to a product or company. In print, it is the photographer’s job to make you look great – the focus is on your looks. I hate being judged solely on my appearance – I was a glutton for punishment.

The first time I saw myself on screen in a small acting role, I cringed. My mind flooded with thoughts about how I looked: ‘Why on earth do I do that with my mouth when I talk? I hate how my nose looks at that angle. I wish my breasts were bigger.’ This is the short list. In live action, the camera is not forgiving. I took pause. I didn’t like the negative feelings that flooded through my veins, but, I loved acting. Nothing else had ever made me feel so whole, creatively.

Meryl Streep is my idol. She embodies everything I wish to be as an actress. Her focus, drive, depth, breadth, consistency, and unyielding generosity as an actress inspires me greatly. A few months into my acting career I wanted a good dose of inspiration and actually Googled “Meryl Streep + quotes on acting”. And, there it was:

I think the most liberating thing I did early on was to free myself from any concern with my looks as they pertained to my work.”~ Meryl Streep

Acting. It’s not about that. It’s not about me. It is about my character. It is about bringing to life the vision of a writer, producer, director. It’s about being vulnerable and real. It is about truth. It is not about beauty. We can’t give a role the attention to detail it requires if we’re worried about the angle of the camera. Guess what? That’s not our job as actresses. We are one person on a huge team of hardworking people, people focused on their job(s).

This is not to say that we don’t or shouldn’t desire and seek to work with professionals, talented lighting technicians, make-up artists, etc. This is not to say that we shouldn’t want to look our best. And, yes, many roles do require a certain look to fulfill the director’s vision – especially for commercials. But, relative to the role, let the hair & make-up artist and lighting techs do their job – and “free yourself from any concern with your looks.”

Once this truly sank in. I began to see my work in a whole new perspective. I began to prepare differently. I could watch taped auditions and critique them based on the performance, and not that little ‘weird thing my mouth does’. It really was freeing. We’re human; we are imperfect; we are flawed. We owe it to ourselves to view our work as objectively as we would anyone else’s.

During this year’s film race competition is when I knew I had really taken this to heart. The director’s instructions to my make-up artist for our short film, Carpe Vita, was ‘make her look as defeated and unattractive as possible.’ And not in spite of, but because of that fact, Carpe Vita, ended-up being one of my most rewarding roles to date. Not a drop of make-up, covered in fake sweat, absolutely physically exhausted, unflattering angles, etc. But, I’m proud of the film. Proud of the performance. Proud of the team. We brought the story to life as authentically as we could, myself included.

Free yourselves, ladies.