Your Favorite Movie Stars Have Pimples, Freckles and Pockmarks Too
My first television gig upon moving permanently to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, New York in 1993 was a volunteer stint for the Independent Spirit Awards, for all intents the Oscars of the indie film scene. Indie films of course are regularly nominated for Oscars today; back then it was certainly an occurrence but not as frequent.
I also volunteered for the subsequent three years, and each time my duties increased. During my first two years I was a celebrity escort. In the second year, I was responsible for two nominees. In my third year, I became a production assistant and in my final year I was assigned as “quad leader.”
My job as “quad leader” was to wrangle our presenters prior to returning on-air from commercial breaks.
Did I mention the show aired live, the day before the Oscars, on Bravo during that period?
My most hair-pulling adventure during that final year had to do with a gentleman named Quentin, another gentleman named Harvey (not Weinstein), too many drinks, and the awards bar.
My earpiece was a bit too loud for my taste.
“Joel, we have 30 seconds to air. Where the hell are they?”
I got ’em both and just in time too, the director and his actor buddy, both of whom were not necessarily clear-headed when they finally took to the stage.
The audience knew. They roared at their antics.
So what’s the point of all this?
For those first four years of breaking into the business in which I had striven to work, I learned quickly that image is all-important.
Common sense? Yes. Of course. But when you witness the reality up close and personal?
A whole other animal … and one that serves as a clear reminder that the idea of perfection simply does not exist.
At the end of my fourth Independent Spirit Awards gig, the crew and presenters gathered outside for drinks, where I noticed …
- The most popular of all television actresses acted more insecure and childlike than she did on a fabled late night television appearance.
- Once her makeup was removed, the face of the beautiful new A-list model-actress who accompanied the actress, marketed to moviegoers by the studio as a “flawless beauty,” was ridden with pockmarks and scars.
- Several presenters (performers, all) were swapping benzos (sedatives) and Prozac pills (usually prescribed for depression-related disorders) following air-sucking in the Oxygen Lounge. Yes, the Oxygen Lounge. Way back in the 90s. All flavored too.
Welcome to Hollywood.
Each year, tens of thousands of aspiring actors move to Los Angeles or New York to pursue their careers in a given entertainment field. Most quit within the year, their resources and/or their stamina expired. Some fall into substance abuse to cope with their disappointment. Others turn to prostitution, or hustling to pay bills or eat. Many move back home.
Some who stay persist against all odds and do what they must to succeed in one of the most competitive — and cutthroat — of all industries.
Plastic surgery and trend maintenance diets are common seductions for some who persist in the field, as are related non-surgical services to those with body dysmorphia issues.
The newest gym equipment is omnipresent in the homes of the obsessed.
Image is everything in the acting profession, as it is in modeling or any other performance-based career. Being in front of the camera and working towards attaining a level of celebrity is an adjustment from a private to public figure not everyone can handle.
Too many people now say “yes” to those of whom they would not have given the time of day in their pre-fame days, and the recipients of such sycophancy may become more than a bit heady.
As I review that last sentence I also consider the fact that several celebrity friends of mine, multi-millionaires one and all … are miserable. Why?
They are no longer hungry, can pick and choose between projects, never have to work again, and are no longer chasing work.
What then, is life about for the empty-nesters among them?
This is not to say every wealthy or successful person is miserable. Far from it. I’m only saying money does not always equate to happiness.
And so on. The message is the glamour that audiences sometimes see presented by a camera is fraught with makeup, lighting, hair design and an abundance of training.
And sometimes restraint.
That camera is a metaphor for presenting oneself in real life.
So my question to you is: What’s the deal with your quest for perfection?
To strive to be the best there is in your chosen field is one thing. To obsess over perfection is something else entirely. Perfection does not exist. It is a mirage, an illusion.
So many of us look to public figures as models of perfection or near-perfection, when they are anything but.
As we delve head-first into 2021, following the disaster that was 2020, I have one unsolicited piece of advice I’d like to offer: Please be yourself. The time for illusion — okay, b.s. — is over. Together we face an evolving new reality, in part courtesy of Covid-19, where ensuring healthy lives for future generations should be our primary goal. To get there we need to survive.
If you sense there is subtext to this piece, you’re spot-on.
In the meantime, your image of perfection is anything but.
Thank you for reading.
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