Actor With Low Self-Worth

Hello Bonnie,

My name is Sandra. I am a local actress here in Orlando, Florida. I have loved acting since I was 13 years old. Due to unfortunate circumstances and life I was unable to pursue my career as I wanted to. I attended college as a theatre major and needed only six months to receive my bachelors degree. I have an associates degree in film and video, however was unable to find work in that field. As an actress I have been somewhat luckier. I have been cast in a couple of films. The recent independent film Fiesta Grand will be out on Blockbuster Video very soon.

I enjoy — or I should say love — to act. I am in my late 40s now and still feel the same way I felt about myself as a young person. I think the reason I am not getting as many roles as I would like is because of the way I look. I am on the heavy side now, wasn’t when I was younger. I don’t like my face. I try to accept myself as I should but find it so hard knowing I will be going on auditions looking the way I do. Casting directors are not only looking at the talent an actor might have. I am sure they are looking at how good or bad you look. I want to give up the whole thing but find it difficult to do so. I feel that if I didn’t have the acting to look forward to then I would have nothing. It is so very hard to love something so much and not be making a living from it, especially at my age.

If I look bad now, what will l look like in a couple of years down the road? I know what I have written to you is a problem I will have to overcome on my own. It is not easy. I am Hispanic, overweight, and coming to an age where roles will not be available as much as for a younger person. I am wondering if I should just give up now and face the reality of my life and of ever making a living in what I have always wanted to do. I work in a regular job now and that is hard to face from day to day. I have to pay my bills and so I must work.

Bonnie, would you be able to shed some light on my dilemma? Thank you so much for reading my letter. Oh, by the way, the casting director did not want me as the mother in the movie Fiesta Grand. The director chose me. I don’t think the casting director was happy about that.

Thanks again.
Sandra Rivera

Oh, Sandra, I wish I could just give you a hug. I have so many emotions in reaction to reading your email. First and foremost, I have to advise that you STOP associating success in acting with physical attractiveness. Stop it right now. There are thousands of working actors (yes, actors who make a living doing nothing but acting, every year) who most people would describe as “not good-looking” or “overweight.” The idea that the only people who are successful in their pursuit of acting are the ones who are good-looking and thin is simply ludicrous and not at all based in fact. Sure, the most successful, most famous actors generally are amazingly attractive and fit, but you do realize that they represent a very small percentage of the overall number of actors who earn a living in this profession, all over the world, right? C’mon! Think about it. Watch TV. Watch movies. Watch commercials. Keep a tally sheet of every actor you see on screen (every single one of them, not just the stars whose names you know) and mark how many are gorgeous and how many are “just normal.” Mark how many are fit and how many are “too skinny” or “too fat” or “too short” or “too tall.” Believe me, your perspective of reality is simply skewed.

And that brings me to the saddest part of your email — and of course you understand that this issue is yours to fix, since you mentioned that specifically — and that’s that you “don’t like [your] face.” If you walk into an audition not liking the way you look, not liking your body, not liking yourself at all, you are teaching us from the moment you walk in the room to feel the same way about you. You’re setting the tone for how we should feel about you. This I know for sure: We teach others how to treat us, how to feel about us. So if actors walk in confident, excited to be there, thrilled with their choices and their thoughts, others will be excited to see what they’ve chosen to do, excited about their confidence and thoughts. Even if, at that point, they aren’t the right fit for the role, it will have been a positive experience for everyone. Isn’t that cool?

This goes for lack of confidence and self-esteem as well as for bitterness or a sense of entitlement or overcompensation for lack of talent. So, choose your “tone” wisely. I’d say a tone of self-acceptance, talent-filled choices, and gratitude might be the best possible audition-scenario recipe. But play around with it. You’ll find what yields the best results for you. Some actors come in detached and unimpressed. That works well in some situations. Others come in grateful and enthusiastic. And that works well in most situations. What almost never works is a sense of “poor me.” It’s The Eeyore Syndrome. If you’re showing up feeling sorry for yourself for any reason, we’re going to feel sorry for you too. And the person we pity is not generally going to be the person we want to book for an acting gig. (It might work well for certain reality shows, but rarely for situations in which we’re seeking a professional actor.)

Now, as for your feelings that you’ve had to give up on living your dream thus far in life, well, you can’t go back and “fix” any of that, but you can fix your feelings about it. You’ve lived your life! It is what it is! And now, at this moment, you have the opportunity to pursue your dreams. The number of actors working today who started over the age of 40 might surprise you. Again, I’m not talking about the celebrities you probably focus your attention on. I’m talking about the real, working actors whose names you probably don’t know but who haven’t had to work a “survival job” in decades. Due to attrition, the number of actors eager to work the smaller roles over a certain age is fewer each year. And that’s where the “just getting started” actor at any age over that flooded 18 to 24 “starting” age range is going to swoop in and accept those smaller roles that the established actors no longer seek out.

Bonus: Older, Hispanic, overweight, character actors work far more than younger, Hispanic, thin, leading ladies do. I’m not sure why you’re so sure your look and type is keeping you from work. It’s absolutely not your look and type. It’s your attitude about your look and type. (Oh, and I say this without having visited your website to actually see your look or type. I’m basing this solely on your description of yourself in your email. I don’t even want to visit your site and then tell you something like, “Oh, you’re SO much more attractive than you think you are!” Because, what’s much more valuable about what I can say is that you are SO much more castable than you think you are. I can say that no matter what you actually look like. Your confidence level is what needs the “fix.” Not your look. I can almost guarantee that without even having seen you.)

Now, having said all of this about how bookable every type and look can be, at every age, I must of course be responsible and realistic and let you know that the majority of people who pursue a career in acting will never earn a penny acting. That’s just a fact. Further, the majority of people who *do* earn a penny acting will actually never earn enough to live off of, just through acting. So, if you understand that the odds that you’ll ever earn any money as an actor (much less that you’ll earn enough money as an actor to give up your survival jobs altogether) are steep and you still hunger for it, then go for it! Acting is a wonderful job choice. It just happens to also be one that’s pretty risky to choose. There is no guarantee that you will earn money doing it. But if you “hit,” you’ll earn big and that’s a dream come true, now, isn’t it? 😉

Only you know for sure whether you could turn your back on acting and be happy living a safer, more predictable life. And if you believe you would choose that safer, more predictable life and then spend every single day wondering “what if,” please know that that’s a recipe for living a safe, more predictable, yet totally miserable existence. (You already know this, of course. You’ve been doing it.) Give it a shot! Fix your attitude about yourself and your “worth” as a performer and a person and then really go for it. If it doesn’t work, at least you’ll know you tried your BEST (rather than having tried “a little“).

Oh, one final note about the casting director on Fiesta Grand not having wanted you for the role: You do realize that the casting director’s job is to bring choices to the decisionmakers, right? Only occasionally are we given the opportunity to make the final decision on any role (and it’s usually a small one, and only after the producers or director have learned they can trust our taste) and it is actually our job to present choices. Sure, we’ll have our favorites for every role. We’ll wish the director would’ve gone with our top choice rather than our sixth choice. But in the end, it’s not our money and it’s not our call. We’re not the ones who get up at the Oscar mic and thank the Academy for having enjoyed our choices (or who have to hang our heads in shame for having made huge casting mistakes that get panned by critics worldwide).

So, sure, that CD may have wished the director went with another actor for your role. Big deal! Without getting too “Oprah on a Mountaintop” here, I want to suggest that you stop focusing on the negative. The fact that you pointed out a negative surrounding a job you booked is very telling. Most people who regularly book acting work find it impossible to find negatives associated with such abundance and bliss. Quit throwing up roadblocks to your success. Your attitude about your look, your weight, your age, your type, your having gotten off-track when you were younger, your having encountered a CD who didn’t have you first on her list… these things are what make pursuing a career in acting a struggle for you. It doesn’t have to be a struggle. You’re choosing it to be so.

Stop that.


Good luck. And keep me posted on your progress. I really do hope that you have a great paradigm shift coming!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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