When we left off, our conversation was about to turn to some pretty taboo subject matter. Read on for Amelia and RLB’s insights on advertising, giving things your all, and the pointlessness of douche.
RLB: I don’t want to diminish the fact that men are under a certain amount of pressure, too. They can have quite a bit of insecurity around their hairline and their abs and pecs and things like that, but the reality is that they aren’t under the same scrutiny as women, and they aren’t judged as harshly when they don’t meet those standards.
AA: When you look at marketing and advertising today, the buying power and audience power that we have… everything panders towards us. Even in men’s magazines, the ads are constantly geared toward women.
RLB: I’ve had that same thought reading (my husband’s) GQ. I always have a visceral response to the ads whether or not they’re in my Glamour or his GQ. It’s the whole concept of how women don’t really get dolled up for men, but more for each other. And not in a lesbian fantasy kind of way (laughter).
AA: Alright, male readers? Not in a lesbian fantasy kind of way… It’s funny because there is not a single, solitary aspect of our appearance that media is not trying to attack. It’s running rampant on the feminist blogs and websites, this idea that – sorry, RLB readers – this idea that your vagina should be A) Hairless and B) Smell like a field of daisies. People of the world out there, do you know what happens with the female reproductive system? You have no idea the amount of women – that I know and that I’ve read about on these websites – who freak out because some guy says they have an “ugly vagina” so they go and Google “ugly vaginas” and start to believe that they really do have an “ugly vagina.” Why are women even worrying about that?? That’s like saying “I have an ugly tongue.” It’s just another way that media and advertising has sought to make us feel bad about ourselves so we’ll spend money to make us feel better about ourselves. It’s gross.
RLB: Whole Foods is now carrying some sort of “all natural” douching product! Which I just – well, readers should know. Douche is my favorite insult. And it is because you are basically calling somebody out on being a huge fraud and fundamentally serving no purpose whatsoever, because that’s what douches are. It broke my heart to see a place I considered to be at least a mild step above the trappings of mass-media marketing, to see them selling something so offensive. It really does put so much pressure on women, to have not only these publicly visible qualities of beauty…
AA: But these standards of things that you shouldn’t even be worrying about, like taste or smell of your lady parts.
RLB: Basically nothing is wrong with your personal taste or smell unless you have an infection.
AA: Unless you’re sick.
RLB: And that’s a whole other problem, that you really do need to worry about and seek some medical attention for. I mean, frankly, my turn to be candid – if you’re a sexually active woman (and even if you’re not), your lady parts are going to have a hormonal, pheromonal thing going on that is perfectly natural and a fundamental part of being a human being. There’s no reason women should be pressured to repress that.
AA: It’s really, really stupid. Young ladies out there who might be reading this blog: If someone else is coming into contact with your vagina, Don’t spend your money on douche. Your money will be better spent on condoms and birth control. Go do that instead. Okay, enough vagina talk.
RLB: I’m glad we talked about it though! It’s an important point that hasn’t been addressed on RLB until now, so good work.
AA: Thank you.
RLB: I do want to back track though, to something you mentioned to me this morning. When women wake up and they’re having a “bad day.” Tell our readers about your thoughts on that.
AA: It makes me laugh – and I’m not saying that I’m immune to it, I don’t wake up every morning to birds tweeting outside my window while I sing a song to my reflection. Everybody has bad days – but it’s so funny to me that women (and men, if you’re out there, and you feel this way, please let us know), will wake up and say “Oh, I feel so fat today.” or “I feel chubby today” or “I feel ugly today.” And it occurred to me that I don’t think any woman has ever talked about waking up and thinking “Ugh, I’m just having a stupid day. I just feel really dumb.” or “I’m having such an un-talented day today.” or even if you Do have a day where you think “I feel like I can’t do anything right,” it usually all started with the way your jeans fit that morning. So much of what we feel about ourselves comes from this idea of… being skinny. It’s so confusing to me. Because if you think about it, if you think about the female body and everything that it does, just, I mean, the human body even. I won’t exclude men from this. Your heart is always beating, and you have these organs that are constantly working, and you’re moving through space and you’re able to do things like lift up your kids, or rearrange your furniture. If you’re lucky enough to be a dancer or an athlete, you can do even more amazing things with your body. With everything that your body can do, to punish it, and to punish yourself mentally and physically because… you’ve retained a little bit of water?
RLB: And this is more than a hypothesis, I would say. That our insecurities are almost always rooted in how we feel about ourselves aesthetically. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an actress and so my career feels so inextricably linked to my physical appearance, but on the days I’ve felt the most unsuccessful in my career, or beaten down by my “failures,” it always comes back full circle to “maybe I need to straighten my teeth… maybe I need to lose ten pounds… maybe I should invest in more push-up bras…” All of these things start assaulting my psyche as the things that are holding me back from being as successful as I could be.
AA: Right. Well, and what really bothers me is that I’ve known so many women who do this. They’re trying to make a career of being an actress and they audition and don’t get parts or they aren’t as successful as they want to be, and it comes back to “I’m too fat” or “I’m not pretty enough.” The fact of the matter is, it’s much easier to blame you not getting what you want out of life on being fat, than it is to say “I didn’t work hard enough” or “I might not have what it takes, how can I fix that?”
RLB: I know for a fact that I no longer give 100% to pursuing a film career, precisely because of how intense the focus is on how you look. As actresses I think a lot of women fall back on blaming their looks because that’s always what they’re told. You never hear “You just aren’t good enough for the part.” Instead you’re told “you should lose ten pounds and consider a nose job.” I know I’m a good actress, and I work really hard to always push myself and get even better, but the realities of Hollywood are that talent is secondary to how you look. After living in LA for a while and pursuing that career, it became unappealing to me to realize how fully appearance trumps ability. So I backed off from it, and I don’t work as hard I could to achieve it, because I’m not even sure if I want it anymore. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore to think about how I look All the Time. If you aren’t born into the industry, if you don’t have nepotism on your side, you really have to work your ass off and make tons of sacrifices to actually make a successful career out of acting. And even with lots of hard work and sacrifices, it still might not happen. For women those sacrifices invariably include strict dieting and meeting a certain aesthetic. I bowed out of that game because it was making me miserable. I was doing it, I was getting work, but the game sucked.
AA: I realize that I’m in a unique position because when I didn’t like the game, I was able to pick up my ball and go play somewhere else –
RLB: – build your own stadium.
AA: (laughter) yeah. Keep your stick ball, I’ll be in the stadium next door. But still, it wasn’t any less hard for me than for anyone else who decided to create their own theatre company in a city like Albuquerque in this day and age. I had to figure it out from the ground up. I’m not blaming my successes or failures on the way that I look, because it’s based solely on merit. What I have and have not been able to achieve at this point in my life isn’t about my appearance, it’s about what I’m capable of. For me it’s a lazy answer to say something is or is not happening in your life because of how you look.
RLB: For me it actually contributes to this idea that our society is perpetuating that there IS something wrong with not meeting a certain standard. And it isn’t just the film industry. There are all sorts of articles out there about how “If you aren’t attractive, you won’t be promoted as easily as your attractive co-workers” …Really? You’re doing scientific studies on this? Attractive People Often Have Easier Lives. That isn’t rocket science, it’s not something that needs to be studied. But to me being an attractive person is about so much more than your appearance. How you present yourself matters, no matter how well you fit into societal definitions of beauty. We’re all handed a certain lot in life, but it’s what you make of it that matters.
AA: Well, yes. Absolutely. I’ve read those studies, too. But is it really being attractive that gets people ahead, or is it that attractive people have a certain amount of confidence to say “I’m going to do this and get this done.”
RLB: The media’s role in that comes back to the idea of You Can’t Be What You Can’t See. If you’re an attractive person, by society’s standards, and you see reflections of yourself everywhere you go – in ads and movies – then you’re going to feel better about yourself. You’re going to feel more confident because you see your experience reflected back at you over and over. Whereas if you are a little chubby girl – you’ve got Melissa McCarthy and Roseanne in a sea of “beautiful people,” you will have less confidence because you don’t see images that look like successful versions of you.
AA: I understand that, and I agree with it and I agree with it to a certain extent. But what did I have to show me that I could do what I am doing now? Where in our society have I seen a Hispanic women starting their own theatre companies? There will be people in the world who attempt to put caps on what you as a human being are capable of. It is your responsibility then, as a woman, as a female, to shoot that cap off and say “I don’t care if there has been a template created for someone like me to do what I want to do. If there hasn’t, then I’m going to be the first.” And maybe that’s really naive of me to say, but I think that if I was to wait for somebody else to show me how to do this thing that I’ve wanted to do for the majority of my life, I would still be sitting around waiting for that to happen. So at what point do you say “Nobody has taken the first step, so I’m going to do it. It’s important for me, as a woman, to be the pioneer.”
RLB: I think what needs to happen is we need more conversations like this with women like you, to inspire more people to take this stuff on. The problem I see is that this isn’t the message women hear. The messages they hear are predominantly about the way they look, not what they’re capable of. It’s our responsibility to change that conversation.
RLB: So everybody go check out Duke City Repertory Theatre and see what great work Amelia and her team are up to!
AA: Please do!
RLB: Now before we say farewell, please tell our readers: three things you love about your appearance?
AA: My hair and eyelashes, my hands and feet (though sometimes I think the former are a bit large for a girl of my stature), and third – and this is going to sound a little weird – my abs. They’re always covered with a little layer of protective flab but they are really strong from all the singing I did when I was younger. I can hang with the best of them in any core class and they keep me upright all day long. They’re not “perfect,” there’s no six-pack that you can see, but they’re all mine and I love ’em!
RLB: Brilliant. In honor of MissRepresentation’s new campaign to Value Ourselves, RLB is adding two new questions to the end of every interview, starting with lucky you! Name something you love about your personal life?
AA: I have, hands down, the finest group of friends and family that someone could ask for. You all inspire me, support me, encourage me to be a better human being and keep me centered. And not a one of you will fail to call me out on my BS when necessary.
RLB: Damn right. And how about your professional life?
AA: Ha! I think the thing that I love most about my professional life is that it’s all my doing. What I have now, this company that I love so much, is totally the fruits of my own labor. Yeah, that’s pretty badass.
RLB: Well said. Absolutely something to be proud of. High five!
Thanks to Amelia for the excellent conversation and food for thought! Join in the conversation by commenting here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s one of the author’s favorite moments in the interview that was such a tangent it didn’t fit very well anywhere else. Still, it was so fun I just had to include it somewhere. Enjoy!
On Period Films and Perfect Teeth
RLB: It’s starting to piss me off, as an ardent fan of period films, that Everyone – and I mean Everyone – has Perfect Teeth. In Tudor England, where the hell are the orthodontists coming from? Because unless there was some sort of miracle of genetics, there is no way that from the poorest pauper (though admittedly sometimes they let the poor have jacked up teeth), up through the courts to the king and queen, that everyone magically has super straight, sparkling white, perfect teeth.
AA: You really are doing a disservice, British people, to centuries of your own history when you make these films about anything before 1920 with like, Keira Knightly and her dazzling white teeth. Speaking of teeth, I was watching “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” recently, and it occurred to me that everyone looked really weird. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I realized that everyone’s teeth were a normal color. This was back before the mandate of Bleach Your Teeth Until They’re So White They’re Almost Blue!
RLB: In Hollywood it’s still cool to drink and smoke, so drink and smoke as much as you want, but then –
AA: Bleach your teeth!!
To wrap up, here’s a photo of Amelia looking beautiful and badass – with a guitar: