Young Actresses Take Heart

Young Actresses Take Heart

Young women, take note.  June Squibb is an overnight sensation at 84.  Meaning: after years and years of acting work on stage, TV and in film, she has been acknowledged with an Oscar nomination for her work in Alexander Payne’s film Nebraska.

This makes me smile.  It gives me hope.  And it reminds me that things like the announcement of Academy Award nominations are but a detail in some people’s very full and well perspected lives.  Ms. Squibb herself was quoted as saying: “I was up at five and dressed, and if I didn’t get it, I’d just have gone back to bed.

Ladies, I know it’s tough what with magazines and dudes and other women telling us we have to be young and sexy in order to matter, regardless of what field we’re in.  But there’s a whole world out there, young actresses, of women who just keep doing their thing and at some point get the recognition, respect and the roles they deserve.

I thought my acting career was over at 29 when I hadn’t had the kind of success that society, the entertainment industry, my parents, or the guy at the Von’s check-out viewed as success.  But my harshest critic has always been myself.

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I know. That perm. The suspenders.

At one point I just stopped altogether.  But after years of setting aside acting (though not really in my heart), I got back to it again.  I was determined and sure I was just a late bloomer.

And there are other late bloomers out there.

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Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester

Up until the film Best In Show, Jane Lynch’s TV and film roles weren’t that plentiful.  She came from a theatre and improv background and was always busy acting.  And today at 53, she’s finally a bonafide TV star, thanks to her Sue Sylvester on Glee.

The late Kathryn Joosten didn’t even start acting until she was 42, after years of a nursing career and raising a family.  She finally moved to LA at 56 and went on to have a successful – by any standards – career, and even win two Emmy Awards.

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Kathryn Joosten with her Emmy for Desperate Housewives

And these women actually weren’t late bloomers at all.  They were busy living lives until the world at large noticed them, that’s all.

Everyone’s path is so different.  There’s no one way to do this ride.

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to work with the funny and generous Wendie Malick on an episode of Hot In Cleveland.  I’ve always admired her acting and her career since her Dream On days, so I was delighted to find her warm and open.  And even more delighted to find myself in a conversation about being women in the entertainment industry.

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Wendie Malick, Hot In Cleveland

 

After chatting for a while, I told her I felt like a late bloomer.  She replied: “Me too!” and then shared with me how she got a break around 40 with HBO’s Dream On and then her big break at almost 50 with Just Shoot Me on NBC.  She had been acting for years and said she always knew that’s what she wanted to do.  And finally around her late forties she was on her first big network show.  “It’s never too late”, she said (or something like it, but I can’t remember because I was so happy to be having this very conversation about something near and dear to me with the woman whose television career has inspired me).

And do I even have to mention the amazing Betty White?!  She’s at the peak of her long career, made the Guinness Book Of World Records for having the longest career TV, and just turned 92 today.

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Ms. Betty White

Young actresses, the best years of your career may lay ahead of you. Maybe far, far ahead of you.

It’s never too late to have success, as defined in our culture.  But find what success means to you. I’m still figuring that out for myself, although I’m clearer now than ever before.

And compared to my nerve-wracked 25 year-old self, I’m now more at peace with what the Universe has in store for me, despite my best laid plans.

I’m just now coming out of my big fat mid-life crisis, and I’ve got to say: I love being a late bloomer. And I feel like I’m blooming right now, even though there are no paparazzi outside my bedroom window.

I’m blooming with possibility and hope for the future…with an appreciation and enthusiasm for what’s right in front of me.  It’s a delicate balance I can only hope to maintain, so you might want to check in with me next week.  But I think it’s the way to handle this insane business of being a woman with passion and talent.

So, dear actresses, when you lament that you’re 30 and you haven’t “made it” yet, relax.  Put down your iPhones and explore the world.  Explore yourself.  Know yourself.  Know others.

Fall in love.  Get your heart broken.  Be curious about how other people see the world.  Grow.

Become comfortable in your own skin and not just the skin of the characters you play – on screen, on stage, for the people in your life.

Live a full life.  There’s a whole world possible after thirty and forty and fifty and sixty and seventy and eighty and beyond.  But find a way to be happy with your life and what you do even if you’re never on a magazine cover.

And if you’re lucky, you, too, may wake up one morning at 84 and find you’re nominated for an Academy Award.

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