I would be backstage before curtain putting on a whole mask of makeup: layers of mascara for full lashes, liquid liner for a perfect cat’s eye, and blood red lipstick. I curled my hair, and had a friend pin it back for me with strategic pieces falling. My costume was full and frilly so that when I spun, my skirt would flare up and out. I felt stunning.

IMG_8722Flash forward to intermission.

I would be backstage, taking my entire mask of make up off. No foundation. Just a single layer of mascara. Nude lipstick that washed me out and brought the shadows of my face–the circles under my eyes, the hollows of my cheeks– all to light. My hair was taken out and brushed through so my curls looked limp and lifeless. My costume was straight and constricting covering my skin all the way up to my neck. Despite being covered, I’ve never felt so exposed, and I felt beautiful.

I wrote last month about what a challenge it was for me discovering who Rosita was. She was feeling so much, and so was I. Well, now the play is over and done. I’d consider it a success; we made people cry, and that’s all I really wanted. Looking back on all of it though, I can’t believe what an important experience it was to me as an artist.

The moment that made people cry was when I was at my most vulnerable. My director, before opening night, actually told me, “Don’t be afraid to be ugly.” When the moment came, I didn’t care how ugly I was. And that made me feel beautiful. 

I was clawing at myself, trying to tear away clothes, hardly able to spit out words because it was so hard to breathe. At one moment I was crawling like an animal on the ground. During one performance I’m pretty sure my nose was running all over the place (I’m sure this sounds weird, but trust me, in the play, it was totally appropriate). How does beauty come out of snot? Because it was honest.

I find that great art is anything that moves me.

I distinctly remember listening to “4 a.m.” by Our Lady Peace one morning, and even though I’d heard the song a hundred times, I cried that 101st time. I don’t really understand most modern art, but I remember standing in front of a piece at the MOMA and laughing because I was in on the joke. I relate to these things, and I couldn’t relate to them if there wasn’t truth in them.

Of course it isn’t easy to find onstage. It takes something special to not be self conscious. You can be completely immersed one moment, then turn one way, catch sight of your audience and lose it. It’s also an industry that prizes beauty. Film maybe more so than in theatre, but your look is a commodity. My weight, cold sores, pimples, even my freckles that come out in the summer, I’m always aware of them.

I wish I weren’t stressed about these things, especially since I do the best I can with them. I take care of myself the best I can (with a few slips, of course… I really like chips). What more can you ask of yourself? Especially when, as I’ve just truly felt, true beauty is on the inside.

What a cliche. I know. I hate to use it, but it’s true.

What makes us artists is an honesty. What makes us beautiful is a rawness. 

Right now I’m sitting in yoga pants, leg warmers and a man’s shirt. My hair hasn’t been washed in three days and is thrown up right on top of my head. No make up. Lips cracked from the cold weather and my skin pale because there just hasn’t been enugh sun lately. But here I am confessing. I’m telling you, honestly, right now, I ain’t so pretty! I won’t proclaim this post a great piece of art, but doesn’t my honesty earn me some beauty points?

Here’s to being less conscious, and more committed to my work. Work from the inside and the rest will take care of itself.

Sam: My director, before opening night, actually told me: “Don’t be afraid to be ugly.”
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I was so encouraged to follow my creative instincts that I abandoned my plan to become a Journalist and ran to the UK to get some training. I have absolutely no regrets.
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