One of the concepts I’ve been learning to navigate over the past few years is being “seen”. Those in the entertainment field are forced to reckon with this more than most and even develop ways of curating or “branding” themselves. When tackling issues of authenticity and anxiety, this is no easy task. Sure, if self esteem is high or I feel particularly prepared: it can feel easy. The trick is learning how to navigate being in a sort of continuous spotlight with grace. Ultimately this skill becomes part of owning who you’ve been, who you are, and even who you will be. Between social media, events and the occasional real life run in- I’ve had to learn that being known means always being on.
In my sophomore year of college I was in the play “Splendor in the Grass”. Due to the nature of the production and limited number of actors, some members of my class had to juggle more than one role. I was one of those so I tackled playing the roles of Ginny Stamper and Miss Metcalf. It was a fun challenge, both character wise but also logistically. These two ladies were so different. Ginny was vivacious and a hot mess with a raw magnetic charm. Miss Metcalf was a prim and proper authority figure repressed by her own traditional views. Exploring these two roles simultaneously, I considered their relationship to being “seen” and living in their truth. It went to how they physically presented themself and their ease with who they were. Throwing myself into the mix, I was forced to explore my own tension with this. Throwing myself into the work, I gave those roles all the epiphanies and didn’t retain any for myself.
Some years later after thinking I had a grasp on the symbiotic relationship I created with acting, a newness set in. Film and a blossoming career requires so much more of you. You create the role, then if you’re lucky it in turn creates you. Becoming “Chrissy” in ‘Return to Nuke Em High’ was more layered than you might imagine. After landing the role, I explored what it meant to exist in that world. Finding her was a thrill because the creative process tricked me into putting some of my own DNA into her. She became the badass I wish I was. The delightfully quirky wannabe sleuth and she “got the girl” even if the means were chaotic.
There are a billion stories I could share of my time on set but one sticks out the most. The last night of principal photography I had to be Chrissy mutant style. My last shot was me absolutely pulverizing one of the Cretin Villains -fun times. After I was wrapped, I walked into the dark across a muddy field and into a small lot. I stopped: a wave came over me and I started shaking and crying. Then of course, those tears turned to laughter and out of left field I punched a tree. A lot of complicated emotions, for sure. It was the first time I felt “seen”. Looking back I think it’s because this creative process had me exploring things about myself along with my character in a way that was beautifully cathartic but tough to process at times.
After production had wrapped I was introduced to the world of promotion. From interviews to interacting with fans, I’ve been asked continuously to express and convey what projects mean to me. Not gonna lie, it has tested me. At first, it felt effortless. Riding off the high of a unique project and taking it seriously: I wanted it to be seen and experienced. Then the murkiness set in. My own insecurities manifested in the form of online trolls, mainstream industry standards, fair-weather friends and my own mental breaks. It was a weighty time and difficult balance. There were times that the occasional cruel email (even from a random meanie) would get me in the foggiest headspace. There were times when I resorted to avoidance when I knew I could not sit right with myself (let alone others). After years of unresolved issues I saw that my only out was through them. Breathe it in and love it all as it comes. In a word: acceptance.
To survive this career comprised of perpetual visibility you have to develop an inner strength. Inside you determine your worth and you in turn tell the world how to see you as well. A good support group comprised of people who “get you” and support your passion helps. Owning a deep understanding of your story and how to share its value to others is another way. Sometimes setting things aside just for you and deciding what you want to share makes a difference. Whatever it is, be right with you and being “seen” becomes easier. I’m working on it everyday myself and it constantly surprises me how my own self image evolves. The less I worry about my value being determined by others-the more I make myself immune to the downfalls of the occasional self doubt.
So as I decide to make my dreams bigger and my idea of my self stronger to match: a truth emerges. Acknowledging how I’m feeling inwards has helped me better at projecting outwards.