I had a conversation with my best friend this morning and she seemed to be shooting hot lava out of her mouth, because she wants to know why Beyonce seems to be the “norm” of what absolute beauty is. She wanted to know what Beyonce has done to help young girls with their body image.
As some of you know celebrities like Sara Jessica Parker, Jessica Simpson, Tyra Banks, Queen Latifah, Ellen etc. have created organizations, clothing lines and/or camps for children/teens/young adults who may be battling body image. Sara Jessica Parker, actor on “Sex and the City”, for years in her teens battled huge eating disorders. Even, the Scandal Goddess Kerry Washington, suffered from eating disorders in her college years.
She recalled, “I’d eat anything and everything, Sometimes until I passed out. But then, because I had this personality that was driven toward perfectionism, I would tell people I was at the library, but instead go to the gym and exercise for hours and hours and hours.”
The thing is I look at someone like Kerry Washington in a magazine and I see someone that is perfect. I see her amazing unmarked brown skin and how muscular she is. I look at her hair and how it always has that perfect pin curl. I look at Beyonce and I, like my friend, and realize we can’t escape her. Queen B is everywhere!!! From her documentary, to her world tour, we cannot escape walking past a subway stop and seeing her image. I know recently, that she flipped out at H&M, because they tried to photoshop her images for their recent campaign advertisments. Even though Queen B flipped out about her almost retouched images, what has she done to help women and men feel comfortable in their own skin? This entry is not an attack at Beyonce at all- because I enjoy her music, and have tickets to the concert in Philly! But, my question to you all is, what makes a sex symbol? Is it great abs? Is it a lighter face? Is it straight hair? Is it just something you are born with? I have no idea.
My best friend, who is portrayed in “The Body Image Project,” is absolutely gorgeous. She sometimes knows it, but has battled negative body image and confidence for years. She has fought for years to be seen as an actress. My best friend for years, in this industry, became accustomed to hiding behind the scenes, because “higher ups” never gave her the chance to shine. She is one of the most life changing actresses that I have come across. The thing is she is a voluptuous woman. She always has been. She has incredible Caribbean curves that I am so jealous at! But, I can remember a very hurtful time, when she got a lot of backlash for performing Maggie the Cat’s famous monologue from Cat on The Hot Tin Roof. I used to have her perform the monologue ALL THE TIME, because I would be so entranced by her rendition of it. This woman can connect on an ancestral level of deepness. But, people, even close friends of ours, would tell her not to do the speech, because Maggie the Cat was “sexy.” “Maggie was a thin” “Maggie was a sex symbol of the time” “Elizabeth Taylor is Maggie the Cat.” This hurt her, and me so badly. It hurt so bad to the point where she doesn’t even do the monologue anymore. The thing is Maggie the Cat was down south, women are thick there! Why can’t Maggie be so voluptuous and curvaceous? I always promised that I would direct her in this show, because no one can light a candle to my best friend. She is one of the major inspirations for The Body Image Project, because I have watched her fight for years so that she can play ingenue roles. People have typed her into playing the mom or the grandma- at 20!! It is not fair that actor’s are “typed” because of their physical appearance. My motto is: if you can act it, you can play it.
I had dinner with a friend of mine recently and he is about to become a MAJOR celebrity. I won’t unveil his name in the blog, but you will be seeing him on a lot of tv this fall. But, he has been doing out of control workouts recently so that he could be known as a “sex symbol.” He wants chiselled abs, pecks the whole nine. And yes, he is a gorgeous man. But, why does one have to go crazy in the gym to be a sex symbol. In the entertainment industry, why does your look negotiate what roles you get?
I went on two auditions recently. One was for an August Wilson play “Seven Guitars” and the other was for a Lynn Nottage play “By The Way, Meet Vera Stark.” Now- I was called in for two completely different characters. In “Vera Stark” the character is written as the mammy archetype. As most of us know, “mammy”, in our history, is the fun loving, stern larger black woman that usually works in the kitchen.
The other character I auditioned for in “Seven Guitars” was for the role of “Vera”- who has for years been portrayed by slender sized 6-12 women. I can honestly say, I really wanted the role of Vera in “Seven Guitars.” I am tired of playing the comedic relief. I know, because of my shady in between size, people call me in for comedic roles. I am not small enough to be an “ingenue” and I am not old enough to play the roles that are for my “size.” So I find myself always in the middle. The casting director for “Seven Guitars” even went as far as saying that I did a great job, I just didn’t “fit” what they were looking for. Even though I did a great job at reading “Vera” in “Seven Guitars” the director still had me read for the larger than life character of “Louise.”
Do I have to lose weight to be seen as something beautiful and sexy as Beyonce? How can we change the media? How can we create sex symbols, that look differently? How can my best friend, who is a gorgeous curvaceous woman, be seen as a sex symbol one day?
I think about the world now and I do see things beginning to change. I am seeing more sizes available in department stores. I am seeing more natural hair products for women. I am slowly, but surely, seeing more brown skin women play sexy characters in film/tv. BTW I will be talking about the light skin/dark skin wars in black culture soon in the next couple of blogs to come, don’t you worry!
I am seeing a slow movement for natural beauty. But, what does it take to be viewed as a sex symbol? I see Channing Tatum in “White House Down” and I immediately am fixated on how gorgeous and fit he looks. Which is great, but when will there be an actress that is my age and my size that is viewed as sexy and not comedic actress who is screaming up the place or singing out of control riffs! When will there be a curvy female lead in television that people fall out over?
I went to dinner with a friend of mine last night. It was late and we had bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches and beer. A couple of really physically fit men came into the restaurant, and my friend said “I wish I could look like them.” Is that what our obsession is with these celebrities? Do we just want to look like them? Is that why we put them on a high pedestal?
I have interviewed men and women who have bleached their skin to try to look like a celebrity, or person who may be lighter than them. I have interviewed women who have gotten breast AND BUTT enhancements, and have provided their surgeons with pictures of celebrities they would like to resemble.
What is our obsession obsession with looking perfect? I worry about my future children and what they will see as beautiful. When I have children, I want them to have such a powerful sense of self. I want them to know that they are beautiful. I would hate it if they saw something on television and wanted to alter parts of their body to look like some celebrity. How do we encourage our children and teenagers and ourselves that they/we are beautiful creations? How can we make a difference? How can our “celebrities” contribute to the body image movement.
How do we reprogram the mind of media and show them a refreshing look of what is sexy? That is my goal with The Body Image Project. I want to answer these questions and I want there to be immediate change. When I think about sex symbols I think about: Marilyn Monroe, Channing Tatum, Usher, Beyonce, Elizabeth Taylor and a couple others. Where do the majority of us “fit” in this sexy equation?
Would love to hear your thoughts?
actor | playwright | director