[THE GROWN UP CHILD ACTOR] EATING DISORDER

It’s funny how people usually think of anorexia first when they hear the words ‘eating disorder’.

For me it was binge eating (yes it’s a thing) and bulimia. I actually desperately wanted to be anorexic, but the whole reverse psychology thing kicked in and my cravings took over my mind.

I was bulimic because of my binge eating, and I did that because I was under so much pressure to be thin that food became a drug to me. The sense of deprivation came from obsessive dieting and eventually everything revolved around food.

First things first, when this all began I had a BMI of ~18.3, just underweight. I probably started gaining a bit of weight, and being in the world of entertainment which can drive the most confident person to be insecure, I hopped on the diet wagon.

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Check me out: round, on the cover of a magazine, wearing a strange strange dress.

In hindsight I feel my addictive personality may have contributed to it. I like to go all in. I researched the most effective diets and learned why it was so. Sadly for me, learning why opened the door to a whole new level of obsession. I needed to track my caloric intake. I started reading the labels on everything I ate. I would get very good at guessing the calories in a portion of food (like how I became really good at guessing someone’s salary just from looking at their CV as a recruiter, ha). I would weigh myself before and after I peed or worked out, as if the difference meant anything. I would feel bad that my efforts didn’t make my body look different.

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[THE GROWN UP CHILD ACTOR] THE ACTING PART OF IT

It didn’t come easy. It took years and years of pushing and being pushed. I was too shy and I cared too much. Warning: pretentious cliche saying up ahead. As an actor you really need to let go and lose enough of yourself to become another person. It was either that, or becoming vulnerable enough to expose your true self in the shell of a character. It feels easy enough to drown in the emotions when you’re watching it on screen, but the truth is actors don’t get any soundtrack or editing while on set to help them feel different from what they are actually experiencing. It’s unnatural to have been running around all day doing random stuff (because actors really do do the weirdest of things to put food on the table), and suddenly just become another person living another life. We get good days and bad days, easy scenes and difficult scenes, but it still takes skills, practice, and can be very exhausting.

For me, doing a scene where there’s something big going on is easy. Crying, heart broken: I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s okay. Scared: a little more difficult (I was once told by a director he wants to see my pupils dilate in a close-up; have yet to master that one). Drunk: kind of easy. Happy, curious, gossiping, angry, all relatively easy. Candid, by comparison, is level 999 for me. Sure, there’s something happening in every scene, but when it’s not one where your character needs to be actively doing something, that is really hard. On this front I think supporting actors’ jobs are much harder than the leads’. Standing around doing nothing while pretending to be someone else is not something that comes naturally. You don’t want to overthink it, but you also need to be in character.

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[THE GROWN UP CHILD ACTOR] INSECURITIES

I was going to write about acting, but this insecurities thing is burning on my mind and last time I checked this is my bloody blog and I can write whatever I want to.

I’m quite open about insecurities because I know everyone has them. Recently I’ve had to face some insecurities I thought I was done with. It’s sobering to learn that some insecurities just don’t go away. Not completely.

So much of being an actor is about facing and living with your insecurities, but I feel that’s really because we’re all human. We all have insecurities, actor or not. Maybe this blog post could be a standalone outside of this series; or to be honest, I could probably also start a one called “Insecurity is My Middle Name”.

Before we go into the things I’m insecure about, let’s start with some ground rules. Try not to judge or bitch too much. If you’re going to tell me I have no right to feel a certain way, or that I’m just ungrateful, you might not understand what insecurities are. Insecurities can be irrational, which is why they’re a bitch to live with, but also why we stand a chance at working through them.

So. Shall we begin?

I’m insecure about:

  1. My thighs, and calves… let’s just say my legs
  2. My tummy, the way it sticks out after a meal… even though I know it’s supposed to do that
  3. My eye brows
  4. My profile, as in how my face looks from the side
  5. My face, actually
  6. My laugh
  7. My nails, please don’t look at them
  8. My singing, not that I actually need to sing for anyone
  9. My personality
  10. My sentimentality, it makes me feel like I care more than others do, as if that’s a crime

I think this is becoming a list of things I don’t love about myself, and could go on forever, but while it lasted – all ten points of it – it was great to get off my chest and to openly say that those are the things that would drain my confidence if you paid attention to it.

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[THE GROWN UP CHILD ACTOR] HOW IT ALL STARTED

If you know me you would not believe that I was an incredibly shy kid. So shy that I found it difficult to say hello to anyone in a room full of adults. Like any spoilt child though, I had a lot of attitude when it came to my own family. I think the weird combination of being a shy but spoilt only child must have lead to my annoyingly inconsistent bitchiness.

To make things worse, I was also the baby of the family for a long time. My relatives loved dressing me up and taking photos of me as if they had such pioneering spirits that they thought of film as memory cards.

I hated it.

The attention and company was nice for a while, but my cousins would move onto playing house, making me play not just the baby, but a small baby who “doesn’t know how to walk or talk”. That meant I would spend whole weekends or even summers with them being told to lie in a corner and do nothing. Fast forward 20 odd years and I would own that game, especially if you gave me some wine. The alternative back then was being strapped into a toy pram, raced against whatever they found available for pushing and destroying, and be abandoned until my aunt found the carnage of a toy pram crash. Now you know that’s a thing. Oh wait, memories are flooding back: option #3 was being held down and tickled by no less than two older cousins until an adult tells them I’m about to stop breathing; and option #4 was being “taught how to swim” by having my head held under water until an adult comes along. It’s a strikingly consistent theme. 

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[The Grown Up Child Actor] Hi

My name is Rachel. Born in Hong Kong, raised here as an actress.

I was maybe four years old when I first started acting, 24 when I finally walked away from it all. I was younger than most of my colleagues, but had the most experience at least in terms of years. For twelve months I worked as a Flight Attendant, bringing my tally of visited countries to 24. When I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do for life, I looked for my first ‘proper’ job at age 25. Soon I joined a global recruitment firm as a consultant, where for the first time I was immersed in the corporate world of sales.

I didn’t stay at the job for very long. It drove me crazy and I tried to look for ‘my thing’, as I had for as long as I can remember.

I’m at a job right now that’s better than being a recruiter, but it feels like I never did figure out who I really am after I stopped acting. Maybe I’ll feel like a fish out of the water for as long as I’m not on set.

This is the life of a grown up child actor. Follow this space to read about the insecurities, eating disorder, identity struggles and all the things we pretend to know nothing about.