Body, Inadequacy, and “The Business”

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Happy Monday Everyone!

This blog post is for artists. Right now I am listening to Janelle Monae’s “Can’t Live Without Your Love” and it truly feels like summer. I am in the UK at the moment and will be back in the Windy City tomorrow. I was inspired to write this post after a telephone conversation I just had with two really great friends of mine. Both ladies are on completely different coasts, but fully committed to the industry.

Whilst in the UK I have had a lot of time to sleep and think.  Going back to Chicago has terrified me, because I feel as though I have nothing to go back too. The last audition I have been called in for, by my agent, was a long time ago and it was for Kohl’s. It was a hot mess that involved no acting. Honestly in Chicago Theater scene there is absolutely no work for my “type” at the moment. The only show that has given me life is “The Body Image Project.” This show has changed my life in many ways. But, the last production I was paid for was in January and I received a stipend of $200 after working on the show for four months. The Career. 

Whilst at the Anna Deavere Smith workshop, actor, Xosha Roquemore, wrote a Personal Narrative based on Joan River’s “The Career” speech. In Roquemore’s narrative, unfortunately I will have to paraphrase,  she says: “every six hundred dollar class I take, every piece of food I put into my body, every plank I do in the morning is for the career.” These words have resonated with me in such a powerful way, because as an actor we dedicate so much time/effort/money to possibly be disappointed. Hope truly keeps us alive.

As artists we are constantly preparing for something huge to change our lives. We scrape up the money to take classes with masters of the craft-, but still have yet to pay our rent and bills. This is the most insane career choice, because we are constantly playing Roulette.

It only takes one “Yes.” “Yes” changes lives. “Yes” can create stability and afford us chances to change our families life. “Yes” can mean having a home or paying off student loans. “Yes” can mean having groceries every two weeks. “Yes” can mean feeling comfortable to start a family. “Yes” can mean having a savings! “Yes” can mean finally being able to donate to projects you feel passionate about. It is sad because many leave the industry to raise families, pay bills and have peace of mind. Today was the first time I legitimately thought about quitting the business. A business that I have been dedicated to since I was thirteen years old. A business that has been very good to me, but has also caused me to compare myself to others. This business never allows me to feel like I am good enough.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy” and it is so true. We say: Do I need to lose 100 pounds to be successful on film/tv? Do I need get scar gel to remove all of the mosquito bite marks on my legs? Did I go to the wrong graduate program? Is my hair long enough to wear it natural? I am too skinny. I am too fat. I need surgery. I need botox. I am ageing out. My arms are too jiggly. I have a double chin. I am too fair, dark, or not ambiguous enough. That man has more abs then me. He is taller and has a great smile. I have a gap. I look too ethnic.

Once we pick ourselves apart and are left to nothing, who will be there to pick us back up? The business? No. Why is it that as artist we see the amazing gems in other people and fail to see those same jewels in ourselves? I am at fault, because i practice this way of thinking on a REGULAR basis. I can 10 million phenomenal things in someone and can struggle to find two for myself. I am programmed to notice my flaws and what I need to change to achieve success. We look at casting breakdowns and they ask specifically for: “attractive types” or “only seek models” or “racially ambiguous.” I know that in this business I am not considered attractive. That is a reality. My mom, husband and friends think I am the most beautiful thing on earth. But, in this business- my breakdown would be: “overweight” “frumpy” “best friend” “comedic relief.”

I have a really good friend who is absolutely gorgeous, she has lost over a 100 pounds and has had some really great opportunities in the business post weight loss, but recently went on a bunch of auditions and did not book one job. This is our industry. Many of us have grown immune to it. But sometimes it can be tiring. I have another friend who is a plus size woman who just graduated from school and is going to be one of the BRIGHTEST stars America has ever seen. She is determined to stay voluptuous and live her dream. I whole heartedly believe she can do it. Her talent is unmatchable.  But, when you are doing all the right things and still hearing the words “no” it can make anyone go crazy. It doesn’t matter how much support you have, how much people tell you things will get better, when the bank accounts do not add up for the 900th time and you have a family- when is enough? When is it appropriate to throw in the towel?

I have been feeling inadequate. I want to give up. I want to branch out into tv, but I know that my body has to change drastically in order for me to maintain longevity. I have been praying for weeks on this. I wonder sometimes if I made the wrong decision going overseas for my MA in Acting. Should I have gone to a top five MFA program in the US? The greatest thing about going overseas was- of course, meeting my husband and having a great British education. But, in the back of my mind, I always second guess, and wonder. 

How do we learn how to stop comparing ourselves to others?

How can we learn true peace in times of financial instability?

How can we get work, when there is none to be found?

How can we support ourselves in this craft and create a life?

These are the questions I will leave for you.

Please answer freely in the comment box. 

Danielle Pinnock-Wallace

Playwright | Actor 

E-mail: bodyimageprojectplay@gmail.com 

Twitter: @thebodyimage

 

4 Comments

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  1. Jamal Douglas July 1, 2014 — 3:25 am

    Love love love!

    Like

  2. Jamal Douglas July 1, 2014 — 3:21 am

    The haunting questions we all have to face and answer. I go back and forth. I see my worth and believe in it. I go to sleep smiling and wake up frowning, asking “am I enough…today?” It’s a constant battle directed by fear…I think. Reality in this business puts us artists in a place of fear. Am I tall enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, big enough, and on and on and on. We become fearful that we are not enough. However, we have to greet fear daily. Say “hello, how are you today fear” and have a real conversation with it because here’s the thing, if the “yes” is this is what you HAVE to do…what you MUST do, there’s a deeper reason why fear keeps knocking. Fear might be knocking to prepare you for something greater and rejection might be protecting you from something less than the great preparing itself for you.

    When there is no work to be found, I believe it is our work to create it. Money is going to be slim, yes, but even that doesn’t sustain us if we leave what we MUST do behind. I’m cleaning other peoples houses right now to get by in grad school, so I know. We have to keep at it and find peace knowing that this is what we HAVE to do.

    It’ll come…eventually. I hope. I believe.

    Like

    • bodyimageprojectblog July 1, 2014 — 8:21 pm

      Thank you Jamal for reading. My pastor always says that Fear is Written in Pencil. We just have to wake up, face it and say hello to it as you said. Wishing you a great run in Othello!

      Like

  3. Love it darling but as artist, we are people first. Love the person, they will respect and hire the artist. We still have to do lunch. Let me know when you get to town.

    Like

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