Why Can't That Be Me?
*A story by Katie Daly*
Body positivity. Self love. Curve confidence. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen these phrases and subsequent hashtags splashed all over social media. Often times accompanied by a picture of a strong, confident person embracing the skin they’re in I’ve loved these campaigns and believe in in them wholeheartedly but I never thought they applied to me.
I was a chubby kid who grew into an overweight adult. My family was (and still is) very loving and supportive. But they fell into the societal trap that how we look dictates our success as a person. And in their minds, my being overweight was the root to all of my issues. Why I wasn’t being asked out. Why I wasn’t captain of the soccer team. Why I wasn’t happy. I will save you the extensive explanations of the emotional and psychological effects that type of mentality has on a young girl, as I’m sure many of you have experienced something very similar. Long story short, I was now an adult who thought my self worth was tied to my appearance. And I was found wanting.
I work in fashion as my day job. I went to school on the side to learn about film and created a production company in 2014. I had no intention of ever being in front of the camera because people like me didn’t belong there. And when I would get caught on film between takes, the self-hate I projected on those images was a horror movie in itself. I tore apart every angle, every emotion, every blemish, and every smile. A further validation that I belonged behind the scenes and not where people could see me.
When I moved to Portland in 2015, I thought I would take a couple of acting classes to make me a better writer/director/producer. This way I could more accurately relate to my talent and get the performances I wanted out of them by understanding their processes. Or at least that’s what I told myself. But all of that was a lie. I wanted to act. I wanted to be seen. I just didn’t know how to articulate that in this skin and find acceptance in an industry built on how you look.
From that first class, I was hooked. There were people of various ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, body shapes, etc. attending these workshops and classes with an amount of passion and fervor that I envied. But my coaches continued to encourage me and my fellow actors made me feel safe and understood. So I kept coming back.
After a couple of years in these protected spaces, I gained confidence in myself not only as an actor but as a human being. The vulnerability I allowed myself to have with these fellow creatives, spilled over into my regular life. I began to find the conversations with myself were less hateful, judgmental, and spiteful. I was kinder to myself, more supportive and much more compassionate.
Earlier this year, I signed with one of the top agents in town. I was so nervous before that meeting, wondering if I would have to start dieting and working out like a crazy person so he wouldn’t regret bringing me on. But in that conversation, he said something that made me almost fall out of my chair. When I told him I needed new headshots because I’d lost about 30 pounds since the last ones (and now had bangs), he stopped me. He told me that if I wanted to lose weight for my own personal reasons (whatever they may be), he would be absolutely supportive of that. But if he ever caught me doing it because I thought that was what he or the industry required in order to book roles, he would have a very serious talk with me. He was signing me because of who I was. He wanted Katie Daly, because I was someone special and I had a look and personality that was all my own. And he never wanted me to try and be someone I’m not.
Recently, my agent sent me an audition email for a really fun part that I felt was right up my alley. I excitedly read the sides, character breakdown, etc. and then I noticed the attire for the audition and subsequent role had two words that would petrify most people... Bathing Suit. Now I’ve come a long way, but I don’t really do swimsuits in my normal life. Let alone in front of a camera and later possibly, the entire world. Or whatever market this would end up playing in. My knee jerk reaction was to turn down the audition and make up some conflict for the shoot dates as to why I couldn’t do it. Clearly my agent must have sent me the wrong email. This was meant for a different actor on his roster, obviously. But that little voice inside me that has grown louder over the years, kept niggling at me. And then a couple of my very supportive friends not so kindly reminded me that I’m constantly advocating for diversity in representation in media. Not only when it comes to ethnicity and gender but body types as well. What if this wasn’t a mistake? What if this project needs someone with curves? Why can’t that be me? Why not me?
So after a lot of internal reflection (and very fast shipping from Amazon), I confirmed the audition. And I did it. I felt nervous, scarily vulnerable and yet incredibly empowered all at the same time. But that voice inside me wasn’t satisfied. I had taken a few selfies before the audition to send to my cheerleaders and the more I looked at them, the more I liked what I saw. I liked it enough that I decided to share one of them on instagram, which I think was probably more nerve-wracking than the audition itself.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll wish I hadn’t posted it and want to take it down. And the day after, I’ll feel a surge of pride that I did. It’s a constant battle that I, like so many others, go through when it comes to finding self love and body positivity. But on that day in that audition room, I accepted myself for who I am and owned every curve, every bump, every stretch mark, every ‘blemish’. And let me tell you... it felt DAMN GOOD.