I was never ashamed of my size, or at least I never thought I was. Not until I went to my first year of professional acting school in New York. All of a sudden I was surrounded by tiny, beautiful girls, who all lived in hip, cool Brooklyn (At the time, I was still commuting from Long Island). I was about 19 years old and I thought I knew who I was. I thought I was comfortable in my skin. Boy was I wrong. Being 6’0” tall, having red hair, and a quirky smile, it was the first time I felt like I didn’t belong.
At the end of the year, all of the students get evaluated by their professors. I was called into my meeting, honestly thinking that they would tell me what a great performer I was. You see, I always tried to make everyone laugh no matter what role I was playing, and laugh they did. But during my meeting, my professors told me what they had observed all year: that I looked uncomfortable on stage. I looked like I didn’t know what to do with my body, that I was just hiding behind it.
It gets worse. After my evaluation, a professor told me “off the record” that she felt I had some body image issues and suggested I should seek therapy. This was the first time in my life someone addressed the size of my body to me. I was shocked and confused about why she was telling me I needed therapy. It wasn’t like I had an eating disorder or anything. I was just bigger than all the other girls. Sure, I was different from them, and yes, I wanted to look like them. But I was mad at this professor, thinking to myself, “She doesn’t know what it’s like to be bigger than everyone else.” You feel like everyone is looking at you, but not in a good way. Sadly, I was not asked back to perform at the school the next year.
I was devastated. I thought that acting was my purpose, and the experience made me feel worse in my body than I did before. Looking back now, I realize my teacher was right; I didn’t know what to do with my body. I did, in fact, have body image issues. I wanted to be small. I wanted to be those cool Brooklyn girls. I kept trying to be something I wasn’t because I thought that was what I was supposed to be. Instead, I was just hiding who I was.
I’m not sure the moment I set myself free, but it was definitely around the time I started doing stand-up comedy. And the thing with stand-up is that it is scary because you have to be yourself! You aren’t playing a character. You are onstage alone, and it’s just you up there. But when I go on stage, because of my height, I stand out positively. I command a room. Getting up onstage night after night, I realized I didn’t need to be anyone else. I slowly started gaining confidence in my body. I wasn’t trying to be those cool girls from my school. I just had to be me, a tall girl with a quirky smile, and that was enough.
Now I have been doing stand-up for six years. I host a monthly show at The Pit and just did my first feature weekend earlier this month. Instead of feeling sad about about my size, I make fun of it. Not in a bad way but in a way to let people know I am happy with who I am and can laugh at myself.