Warning: We are about to get emotionally deep here, y’all. Hang on.
I remember the first time I realized that I was different. I was in elementary school and standing in the lunch line to get my milk. I usually always brought my own lunch- a sandwich or sometimes, if I was lucky, a Lunchable. Another girl came behind me and said, “Why are you in line?” I turned around to face her and responded that I was getting my milk.
“Oh, good,” she replied. “I thought you were getting a second lunch and I didn’t think you should do that. You should be eating Jenny Craig or something instead.”
And with that, a whole new world opened up to me. It’s not a very kind world, either. There are no sparkly unicorns, rainbows, fields of flowers, or anything remotely bright and beautiful. This world is harsh, judging, and full of jabs meant to bring you as far down as they possibly can. It is bleak. It is cruel. It is a world I am choosing to leave.
They, being the experts, say that children are like sponges; that kids can remember the darndest things, and absorb everything around them. It is true, to an extent. I can easily recall this memory, and most every other time I was made to feel different, but can I easily remember what the “E” in Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally stands for? Nope. (Exponents. I googled it.)
Since this moment in elementary school, I have spent my life focusing on what I do NOT look like. Every time I look in the mirror, or see my reflection, I notice that I don’t look skinny enough. I don’t look pretty enough. I don’t look proportionate. I don’t look like my breasts are big enough, or that my butt is “junk in the trunk” worthy.
And maybe because I spent so much of my life hyper-focused on what I don’t look like, I noticed every single time someone reinforced that message. “You don’t look like a leading lady.” A director once told me. I was a senior in high school and going for the lead in our musical. We hadn’t even had auditions yet, and she already told me I wouldn’t get the part because I didn’t look the part.
Ok, I get it. The theatre world, and the performance industry overall, revolves mainly upon your appearance. You have to “fit” the part to play the part, right? In my opinion, sometimes. I think it’s ok to have curvy women play leading ladies (and I don’t mean JUST Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray)– as long as they can sing it and act it. Are we not as entertaining because we are curvy? Are we seemingly less talented because our dress size is larger? Some roles are meant to be filled by individuals with certain measurements- although, I’m not going to lie, I searched plays and musicals by character description and virtually NONE had physical characteristics that referenced dress size or physique, most had vague terms like, “sexy,” “beautiful,” “dancer,” etc. Take a look for yourself HERE.
What I’m trying to get at here is that people have told me numerous times that I do not look like a leading lady. But, what does a “leading lady” look like then? Each show is different, each playwright’s vision is different, and each casting director’s taste/vision is different- so how can the term “leading lady” be wholly not applicable to me? Who’s to say?
But, the title of this post is “You don’t look like a runner”, and all you’ve been talking about is acting…what gives? Patience. I’m getting to it.
When I started running, I was about 280lbs. I was slow and I took a LOT of walk breaks (I mean, honestly, you probably couldn’t event call it running because I trotted more than I ran, but I was moving and getting better every day). I read books and magazines about running and was proud to tell people that I had found a way to better myself.
Then, one day, someone reminded me that I didn’t look like a runner. When I mentioned that my three mile run earlier morning suggested otherwise, she responded with the fact that “I wasn’t toned and thin like most runners”. I wasn’t fast. I wasn’t logging dozens of miles every day. I didn’t look like what I claimed to be.
That was about 6 years ago. And although I now weigh 147lbs and have completed numerous 5k races, 6 half marathons, and a slew of virtual distance races (with the bling to show for them all)… I still don’t look like a runner. I have a lot of excess skin from my weight loss, so I’m not very toned (especially in my upper body). I’m still not fast, although I am slightly speedier than I used to be. And I still take walk breaks because I’ve found that while I CAN run long distances non-stop, it’s better on my lower back if I don’t.
But let’s pause for a minute and back track. Just what exactly does a runner look like? I googled “runner” and searched images. Here are the top three that came up:
Image from HERE
Image from HERE
Image from HERE
Let’s discuss the physical characteristics we see in these photos, shall we? I see individuals who are thin, toned, and muscular. Other words I would use to describe them are strong, determined, and focused. I have to say that I may not be thin, toned, or muscular, but I sure as heck am strong, determined, and focused. Seriously, ask my husband (he will probably throw in a few other descriptive words as well, like, stubborn).
But, we are mostly discussing the physical characteristics and, honestly, this is only three images that I searched online, so is it REALLY an accurate representation of what a runner should look like?
I don’t think so. I’ve done a TON of races and I’ve run with people from different cities, states, and countries. I’ve seen runners of all shapes and sizes- thin, curvy, young, old, fast, slow, muscular, non-muscular, etc. Seeing these individuals in our starting chorales at 4am, and keeping pace alongside them on the course, how can anyone say that they don’t look like runners? Literally, they are RUNNING, but yet they aren’t perceived as runners? Just like with acting, looking like a runner has NOTHING to do with your ability, solely your appearance and I’m tired of it.
I’m tired of hiding behind all of the things that people tell me I don’t look like. I choose to open my eyes and see myself for all of the things that I am based on my abilities, my talents, and my passions. I’m abandoning this bleak and harsh world of misconception and misperception, and choosing to move to a world where I am free to be exactly who I am, not who people tell me I am.
People come in all wonderful shapes and sizes. Who are we to tell them who they should be because they look a certain way? Who are we to decide what they are and are not able to do or become? Why do people have to LOOK like anything to BE something?
I choose to BE a leading lady (and I have been). I choose to be a runner (and I am, many times over). I choose to be whatever I WANT to be- not because I LOOK like something, but because I AM that something.