Sexual harassment, acting, and that girl I used to be

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A long time ago I decided that what I was sacrificing in order to be an actress wasn’t worth the potential rewards, even if those (let’s face it, highly unattainable) rewards could be great. I decided that what I was actually looking for in all of my years in the movies, and on those embarrassingly over sexualized magazine covers was two fold - I was simply looking for love and adoration, and financial security. Both of which I lacked in my childhood, and both of which were always fleeting in my years as an actress. 

Never consistent. 

Never sustainable. 

Like a dangling carrot I could only sometimes reach, but always left hungry in the end. 

I remember one weekend when I was flown away to do a horror film convention, signing autographs of myself scantily clad on 8 x 10 glossies and thinking... there has to be more than this. While doing a press interview I was asked the question of which director I’d love to work with in the future. I said Cameron Crowe. 

Everyone blinked. 

I never fit in that world and yet I continued to be offered work, so I continued to work. Who was I to turn it down? Who was I to say no? 

No thank you, Mr. Jackass B-movie, bondage-loving photographer, I don’t want to pose for this shoot wearing that. 

No, Mr. Casting Director, I don’t think it’s OK for me to take off my shirt in this audition because it’s necessary for you to “see my body” should I get the part and we have to film a love scene. (This happened.)

No, Mr. well-known headshot photographer I will not accept your offer to get free headshots if I "make it worth your while" simply because I asked if I could post-date my check. (I declined the offer.)

And whoever made that decision all those years ago at Femme Fatale magazine to make my first ever magazine cover into a zoomed-in shot of only my mouth licking an ice cream cone, transforming a once playful and artistic image shot by a high-fashion photographer into something completely over-sexualized - EF you. YOU are part of the problem in this industry.

Look, I understand you think that only “sex sells”, especially in the world of demons and demon slayers, and I understand that I was the one who said yes and posed in my underwear, and shot that scene, but there is a plethora of young and talented girls out there who never get the chance to be taken seriously, because we are simply saying yes. 

We say yes for survival. 

We say yes for the chances. 

We say yes for the opportunities. 

It infuriates me when I hear the judgmental tone toward these women who may or may not have said yes to a shoulder rub from Harvey Weinstein, or said yes to drinks after hours, or yes to a sexy photograph they later regretted. By the way, the above photographs I'm not ashamed of, or I wouldn't have posted them. But there are plenty of pictures out there that make me cringe when I think of my kids seeing them someday. There are decisions I made that make me cringe when I think about them. But dammit, I feel like there's no one looking out for these young girls.

The ones who say yes because they didn't have the upbringing or parents that you did. 

The ones who say yes to pay the rent and keep going. 

Stop judging them. 

Through the grace of God I eventually realized that enough yes’ could run me straight into a path I never wanted. I once knew a girl who’s yes’ from those movies and those “opportunities” took her straight into the path of pornography. And she was lovely. And talented. And it breaks my heart every time I think of her. And that is why I took myself out. Who knows... Maybe I was never good enough for the big leagues. Maybe I didn’t try for long enough, push hard enough. Maybe I didn't make it my every and only thing. I guess I’ll never know. But I knew that I had to start saying no - and fast, before I lost myself completely. 

Eventually, I had the guts to start writing, something that fulfilled me even if it didn’t matter to anyone else. But somehow, by some miracle, it started to matter. I had interest in something other than my physical being, interest from what was inside my brain and inside my heart and put down on paper. There was never a better feeling. But those moments were short-lived as well. I remember when I was asked to a meeting with a producer who had gotten some of my pages. As we sat in that meeting, me trying to hide my jitters in my more serious thrift store “writer outfit”, I hoped for that moment that could possibly change my life. All too soon, I was overtaken with the sinking feeling that he wasn’t there for my words. My fears were confirmed when he outright said “look, I have to be honest, your script is good, it needs some work, but it’s good... but I’m more interested in this beautiful woman sitting before me who could write such passionate love stories. I’d like to get to know you better.”

I almost said yes. I almost said yes to being taken out on a date with this man, yes to describing in detail why I wrote that one love scene and if I had personally had that experience, yes to him “helping me with my career”... yes to a relationship that could have maybe gotten my movie made. 

But I didn’t. I got up, walked out, and never looked back.

That script is still sitting on top of my files in my office, collecting dust with its faded, pink cover, my heart and soul inside it. 

I now know that the reason I was able to get up and walk out on that part of my life was because I had an even bigger dream - a family of my own. A chance to do things differently. To fill my daughter with so much love and confidence that she'd never let herself be treated some of the ways I allowed myself to be. To give her confidence in her appearance, but to always make it secondary, to her heart and to her beautiful mind. To raise my son to know the difference between right and wrong, flirting and harassment, respect and power abuse. 

As hard as it was sometimes, I look back on that time in my life with a lot of gratitude. It brought me here, and it wasn't all bad. There were a handful of lovely photographers and directors and actors I worked with (you know who you are) who treated me with respect and kindness. But I will say that as a whole - that industry needs a whole lot of shaking up. 

And bravo, it looks like it's happening.