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The Actor Paradox: I Want to Be Famous and Invisible at the Same Time

One of the few things I remember about my UCLA graduation was my sister saying, “nobody knows you.”  That struck a raw chord in me. On one hand, I love spending time by myself; but on the other hand, I’d like to think I’ve had some influence over other people. Unfortunately, that influence was minimal at best.  It pains me to think that I have passed through many years of my life not making a difference, without purpose.  But the real question is “why?” Why am I addicted to being invisible, at the same time desire to thrive in the extremely visible profession of acting?

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After two years as a technology consultant, I knew the cubicle life wasn’t for me. It was too confining and I wanted to express myself, explore new parts of humanity, and tell other people’s fascinating stories. I wanted to act!  Yes, I had lofty dreams, but at the same time I really didn’t want to expose myself too much to the general population. I didn’t really want to tell people I was an actress, because people’s reactions are often very insensitive. One time, I told an airport immigration officer my profession and he scoffed, “You!?” I couldn’t tell if “me as an actress” was just too crazy to fathom or if I was just negatively reading the reaction.   Another time, I was suffering from acne and performed in a short film, someone publicly commented online that I was a “butterface.” Meaning, she has a pretty body, “but her” face is ugly. I was so depressed, not only because of the nasty comment, but also because of the acne. As I look back, I realize that I allowed insensitive reactions to cower me down towards invisibility.

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We have to able to face criticism and ridicule to survive with our sanity as artists. Our inner child, who never cared what other people thought, and just played and had fun, is the one encouraging us to to leap into a fantastic, brave profession. Go on! Be an A-List entertainer! But mean spirited opinions from random people make us ignore our deeply personal desires.   I look at famous actors today, even near flawless ones in both appearance and ability, like Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, and they still have to face the comments from ne'er-do-wells. And these days people can cut down and condemn others from the safety of their computer screen.  Funny enough, they are the ones who are actually frightened, and blind to the realities about their own flaws and accomplishments.  

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“If I want to be free, I gotta be me. Not the me you think I should be, not the me my spouse thinks I should be, if I want to be free, I gotta be me.” I love this quote by Bob Proctor.  I now aim to have compassion for myself, my viewpoints and my journey. I’m doing the best I can at this very moment. But what have really helps me is sending silent mental loving energy to those who offend me.  That process of focused thought helps me more than anything else, it relieves the pain and pressure from my head and anger from my heart. I breathe in and work through it until the sting is not so harsh. Then, when my mind is clear and free from negativity, I can go on creating.  When I’m creating, I’m no longer hiding, and can influence others, just like I’ve always wanted to.

Jamie Ann Burke 
Founder, Thespian Heart Clothing

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