Confessions of a post-TIFF party anxiety-stricken actress
Like most Toronto actors, once TIFF hits the city, I go into self-promotion mode and my excitement and anxiety levels peak in tandem.
TIFF really is a wonderful time of year for our great city, and the festival showcases some amazing talent... but despite all of the creative happenings, it’s really hard for me to enjoy any of it. I put so much pressure on myself to schmooze (while trying not to booze), be seen, and make sure that I post all of my happenings online.
I promised myself two years ago that I wasn't going to attend any more TIFF parties unless they were in honour of my work. Narcissist much? But still, it was a boundary that I put in place for myself because I knew that I needed one at that point.
Flash forward to TIFF 2017. I’m now older, wiser, and a married woman. I thought I was ready/able to handle the social sphere of TIFF parties.
On the first Friday, a group of girlfriends and I headed out for a night on the town. Dressed to impress but with no actual invites or plans, we were hopeful that we could bat our eyelashes and use our feminine powers to get into one of the hottest parties of the festival (guest list only, open bar, celebs and producers galore). Every young actress' dream come true.
Well, as my Aunty P once said: be careful what you wish for, because a girl like you will probably get it.
#SUCCESS. We made it into the party after a group of men let us in as their guests. We spent the whole night drinking, working the room and taking pictures...exactly what I thought I wanted.
Except I didn't have that much fun doing it.
This whole event was supposed to be a positive experience but It actually made me feel further away from reaching my goals.
I woke up the next morning with my makeup still on, a raging hangover, a bolt of anxiety, and a pile of remorse for the way that I behaved. I remembered saying so many stupid things, and on top of it all my phone was also blowing up with text messages (both good and bad.)
One text message from a friend asked me what I had in store for the following nights, I wrote back: I think I'm quitting acting or drinking, quite possibly both.
It wasn't long after when all the embarrassing flashbacks of my behaviour came back to me that I remembered one exchange vividly.
In my late night drunken state I thought it was okay to send a post-midnight email to a director I had just met saying: Can’t chat now, I’m at X’s house going to bed, talk later. Looking at that email this morning it occurred to me that the email made it seem as though I was sleeping with someone other then my husband...which is horrible, and way too cliché for a young female actress. This director was someone I had just met and someone that I clearly wanted to leave a good impression with.
I was too drunk to realize it at the time, but that morning I knew that I wanted my email to explain to the director why I felt it was too late for us to be emailing; I was out with friends, tired, and heading home to put myself to bed. It was (in my mind) a nice way of saying let’s talk later, preferably between 9-5. Clearly I wasn't in the right frame of mind to write comprehensive emails.
I completed the rest of my damage control (some of which is just too embarrassing to mention in this post, even anonymously.) Then, I lied in bed for five hours feeling sorry for myself, hating myself for how I thought I came across, and picking apart every action I could remember from the night before. Eventually, I said FUCK IT. I can’t feel like shit forever I have to deal with my issues, feelings and fears.
I messaged some sisters and witches who I knew I could trust and count on to make me feel better about my mistakes. Talking to them helped, it reminded me that it is okay to screw up, that a few bad choices don't define you as a woman and won’t ruin your career. Most importantly, it showed me that I am not alone, as a woman, as an actor, or as a feminist fighting this uphill battle.
Thank you ladies, you know who you are.
And so now I ask you this:
Why do we, as women, feel the need to use our sexuality (broad term, I don't literally mean sex) to achieve our goals, specifically as female actors looking to get hired? Can we break the habit of our schooled- sexualized roles, correct the chain of command in the casting room and can we be strong enough to stand together to empower one another so that we can pave the way for a stronger generation of women to come?
It’s in the moments when I feel powerless that I choose to scapegoat and use my sexuality. I just want to feel special, and validated - for the art form I practice and love so much but when I don't seem to be getting any of that sort of praise I hit a wall and take what I can get.
So many talented actors aren't validated enough for their hard work, skill and willingness to share a piece of themselves. For me, the excitement and possibility of being recognized and praised takes over my moral compass and clouds by ability to make wise choices. Alcohol doesn’t help any of this either. Needless to say I am taking a 30 day break from booze and potentially putting that habit to rest for good.
It is only once we acknowledge the role that we play in this vicious cycle that we are able to break the behavioural habits and gender stereotypes that many of us (both men and women) are so accustomed to. We all have to admit that we have a part to play. It would have been so easy for me to victimize myself in the events that unfolded at the party and afterwards but I am choosing not to. I am choosing to be empowered, and to take responsibility in the hopes of making changes in myself, the way that I cope in social settings, and for the future of the industry and for women in general.
Overall I am trying not to forget why I fell in love with acting.... and that, for me, is my passion- to play pretend and share stories with others.