I don’t often stop to watch videos that show up on my Facebook feed, but the other day, I scrolled past a video entitled Leading Lady Part. I didn’t know what it was about, but it was paused on an actress I recognized and the title piqued my curiosity, so I stopped and watched it. 

In the 2018 video, several well-known British actresses portray an audition for the leading lady part of a film. Each actress begins reciting the lines, only to be stopped short by the panel choosing the lead. The panel then gives them reasons for stopping them and what they need to do differently on the next read through in order to get the part. The panel’s answers include advice like smile, wear more makeup, lose the clothes, be more “white,” and act both thin & curvy and sexy & innocent at the same time. 

The clip is dramatized, almost comically so, but it was intentionally done that way to call attention to the mold this world wants to fit women into and the mixed messages we receive every day. There is this unrealistic, unattainable ideal we’ve become accustomed to feeling like we need to reach, like we need to be. Different outlets, like social media, books, music, and film, only continue to perpetuate the ideal the longer they go unchecked. 

The actresses in this clip know that little girls emulate the characters they see on film and TV. They know that when they step in front of the camera, the character they bring to life could be exactly who a little girl decides she wants to be like. I appreciate the way many female actresses over the years have taken this knowledge and shaped their characters to break the ideal, presenting us with strong, smart, independent women instead, both on and off the screen.

If you haven’t seen it, I hope you watch the clip. There are so many more layers there than I can cover in a single blog post. I hope it brings to light the unrealistic ideals you’ve been trying and failing to live up to and encourages you to instead lean into whatever it is that makes you authentically original. 

-Emily VanderBent
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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