Written by Allie Ingalls
I recently attended a performance in Manchester that sparked a thousand thoughts about one very loaded topic: the honest-to-god human body on stage.
It’s frustrating to think some will say “here’s another woman talking about body positivity and the media”, but to those people I say: when it is no longer an issue, then and only then will I stop talking about it.
The chorus of this show was made up of young women, roughly between the ages of 14-18. I could tell they weren’t chosen because they were judged as aesthetically perfect or a certain dress size or had a modeling portfolio or a number of Instagram followers. They were regular, talented young women playing refugees in a foreign land – but, they still looked like they had taken acting classes, trained to be a certain way on stage.
In the last scene of the performance, to represent the people of the city that sheltered the refugees, a crowd rushed the stage. This crowd was made up of what looked like pedestrians – not actors, just real people from outside the industry. The difference was striking between the actors hired for the show with their trained dulcet toned voices, pretty faces, and the people who came to the theatre after their workday to volunteer their time to be in one final scene.
I’m sad to admit that the shock of seeing normal bodies on stage made me scrunch my face and squint to try and fit them into the world of the play. Why was this so difficult? We pass by people every day from all walks of life, art is meant to reflect everyday life, and yet when we turn on the television or see a show or go the movies or open a magazine, we are bombarded with visuals of people who look “perfect”, and frankly, boring. The worst bit is that whether it’s conscious or subconscious, we now expect this “ideal” when we consume media.
If I leave you with anything, it’s that we all have the responsibility to change the entertainment industry to represent everyone whether you are a consumer, entertainer, blogger, producer, director, critic, investor, whoever you are.
With that being said, I’d love to share images of the actors I’ve been training with here in London, UK for the past three years. People who aren’t perfect - they laugh, cry, get pimples, wash grease out of their hair, read books, tell bad jokes, sleep through their alarms, binge-watch TV shows, eat junk food, drunk-dial their exes, and are working on loving themselves like the rest of us.
My hope in sharing these images is that they seep into your brain and help you remember that there are images of actors who not only look real but are genuinely, perfectly imperfect people. That the bodies and faces we see in the public eye should reflect this beautifully diverse world in all its forms, and being an actor is a job like any other. No more bodies on pedestals – just hard-working, talented people.
Photographer: Michael Grieser-Johns