When I walk into the callback, twenty-four women who look just like me turn around to stare.
Their eyes size me up, deciding if I’m a threat.
Most are in their late twenties and early thirties. Most have long, blonde hair and are dressed to fit the character description of the “platonic best friend.” (Not too sexy, minimal makeup, causal t-shirt.)
I take a breath and walk over to the sign-in sheet.
I’ve been auditioning in Los Angeles for seven years and this part never gets any easier.
I glance around again and lock eyes with a woman who gives me the “I’m-going-to-be-nice-but-I-hope-you-fail-miserably-in-there-so-I-get-the-part” smile.
I smile back and notice her feet. Damn. We’re wearing the same shoes.
I plop down on a white leather couch and learn they are running an hour-and-a-half late.
That gives me an-hour-and-a-half to silently compare myself to every woman in the room.
I feel the nerves start to rise and pull out my phone to try and distract myself. Five minutes into Facebook stalking old classmates, I’m interrupted by the woman wearing my shoes. She is loudly explaining how many times she has been in to see these producers.
When the casting director comes out to call another name she OMGs to him about last weekend when they were out together and had a THE BEST TIME EVER at “Trunks” – a gay bar in West Hollywood.
I turn to the woman on my right, hoping to share a sympathetic smile but she is buried in her script – mouthing lines and making sure that the rest of see how diligent she is. She has no time for chitchat but she does have time to subtly remind us that she deserves this more because she is a serious actor.
She is also wearing my glasses.
The final straw comes when a tall, willowy woman walks in wearing a button-up silk blouse, four-inch heels, and no pants.
And I don’t mean she is wearing a shirt that could be considered a dress with leggings and the right pair of boots.
No. The shirt she is wearing can only be considered a shirt.
I can’t handle it anymore. I stand up, slip past the pantsless woman, and escape outside. I breathe in the fresh air and plop down beside a girl with brown hair, different shoes, and no glasses.
She is also wearing pants.
It immediately makes me feel better.
She is nice and we spend the rest of the session commiserating about the painful process of auditioning in Los Angeles. By the end, we agree to get coffee.
It’s the best thing that comes out of the callback.
Later, as I walked off the studio lot, trying not to beat myself up for not being skinnier/prettier/younger/funnier/more-what-they-were-looking-for, I decided I needed a change.
Something big that would make me feel different. Less like everyone in that room and more like myself.
Which is how I found myself, a few weeks later, sitting in front of my hair stylist asking him to, “Just cut it off.”
I had arrived armed with photos of women from Pinterest who managed to look feminine and sexy with short hair, half convinced that with their exact haircut I would also get their perfect skin and flawless bodies.
Halfway through the cut, I was starting to look a little Justin Bieber-y and began to have doubts. My stylist smiled reassuringly.
“Coco Chanel said that ‘A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life’.”
I closed my eyes and hoped it was true.
I was ready for that kind of change. For seven years I have tried to fit into any mold this industry wanted – always ready to be whoever they needed me to be.
And maybe I got a little lost in all of it.
I have spent so much time being everywoman I forgot to be myself.
After the cut, I stood in front of the mirror, shocked and thrilled with the results. Had I just taken the last step away from my acting career? Or had I shifted the paradigm? (Or, more likely than either one, would nobody really care?)
The next day I bumped into an actress friend of mine.
“Wow. I really like your hair.”
I beamed at her.
We were wearing the same shoes.
But I didn’t even care.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.