Giraffes, Penguins and Transforming Yourself (And When To Stop Transforming Yourself).

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. ” – Coco Chanel

Today in 2014 I was at an audition for an E! News promo to air during the Academy Awards. I’d come straight from an audition for a sports drink commercial so when I got to the casting studio I sat in my car to do makeup & change clothes. Sports bra to push up. Shorts to halter dress. Reeboks to stilettos (that’s a lie, Reeboks to flip flops to stilettos I carried in from my car).

I gathered my 1,926 bags that contained:
A) all my work materials,
B) some productive crap to do in
event I had a long hurry up & wait period ahead of me, and
C) a change of clothes & makeup for my next audition.

I headed inside, all dressed up and with all my shit, looking like a well-costumed figure skater living on the streets of Los Angeles. I was cranky, irritable & pissed off at the world (by the way, anyone who’s ever restricted any kind of food knows what I’m talking about).

Me at the E! casting in 2014, and also me not at the E! casting in 2017 (although I seem to still be living in 2016, clearly, and was too lazy to re-do the text).

Like clockwork, I’d stopped consuming food & water the day before so my stomach (the organ) would be as empty as possible & therefore my stomach (the non-organ, the outside, physical appearance) would be as flat as possible for the sports drink audition & my body would be as dehydrated (i.e. thin) as possible for the E! News audition, where I was- as happened frequently with my typecast- an actor who occasionally modeled surrounded by fashion models who occasionally act. Two very distinctly different things from the perspective of, well, me in the audition rooms, yet “subtly” differently things depending on which agent you asked. Subtle like in the way a giraffe differs from a penguin.

Because this penguin had to be in a Barbie-sized outfit for the sports drink audition, my self-tanning routine was on point in order to attempt hiding the cellulite on my thighs & ass.
But unfortunately, because this penguin was running from one thing to another, back to back, there wasn’t time to actually do my hair for E! News, which resulted in pulling it out of a ponytail & crossing fingers it didn’t have a Troll vibe.
There wasn’t time for a curling iron & hairspray. And there wasn’t time for winged liner & fake eyelashes. There also wasn’t time to add bronzing powder on top of the self-tanner to visually slim out a bit more.
There wasn’t time for one more workout, one less cheeseburger, or one more bargain with God to ‘just get me through this ONE audition with a small ounce of the beauty the models had & I’d lose 10 more pounds, I swear.’
There wasn’t time.
I didn’t have enough time.
And what I’ve learned since then: there would never, ever have been enough time in that world.

There would never have been enough time in that world to transform myself into what I needed to be.
There’s not enough time in the entire world for me to grow another 4 inches.
There wouldn’t have been enough time for me to lose another 10lbs without killing myself.
Never enough time to laser away the excessive stretch marks my years of disordered eating have given me.
To exfoliate the lack of life and luster and glow from my undernourished skin.
To manicure beautiful, presentable hands & nails from the ones I’d chewed until they bled in the midst of anxiety attacks.

And, most of all, there would never have been enough time in that world to heal the depth of the self-hatred that sank into my psyche as the other girls gracefully towered around me like ballerina flamingos on stilts. I cursed myself for being “a fraud in a room full of fashion models.” (Followed, of course, by cursing my agent for putting me in the position of being a fraud in a room full of fashion models.)

This experience, as unique and zoo-like as it sounds with the giraffes and penguins and flamingos, is one of so, so many of its kind. And 3 years later, I’ve finally dug one of its greatest lessons out from beneath the layers upon layers of self-tanner: there would never have been enough time in that world for me to transform myself into someone I’m not, regardless of how many years I spent trying or how many people were requesting it of me.

I now choose to take my time back. I choose to create time, to stop time. To manipulate and be thankful of time, and to accept the time my recovery is demanding from me – although it’s been so much more than I wanted to give. So much more than I thought I had the patience to give.

And yet, here I am, impatient …maybe. Frustrated, overweight; kicking and screaming and exhausted and utterly baffled, yes. But I will continue choosing to take my time back, because now is the time for recovery.

And there’s more than enough.


Wanna share?

2 comments on “Giraffes, Penguins and Transforming Yourself (And When To Stop Transforming Yourself).”

  1. Catacosmosis Reply

    You are still alive, and you are living the rest of your life on your own terms (beautifully, by the way). I think that deserves far more than any award or recognition Hollywood could ever have given you. It deserves – you deserve – all the peace and self love and true, very real happiness that the REAL you could ever dream of, and more. I read this post and found myself rooting for you, and in the end realizing you’re rooting for ALL of us. And that makes me very happy, and inspired, and grateful.

    • Amanda Gist Reply

      I somehow missed this comment. Most likely because I forget to check them…something I’m trying to get better about. Your first sentence struck me because I had a version of that realization pretty recently, the fact that I now get to mold & create myself and my image exactly how I want it, far from the box I was trying to fit myself into for LA and the industry. So thank you. For so eloquently putting into words a thought I’ve been hanging out with for awhile now. And two months later (since I can’t manage to check comments), I’m still rooting for ALL of you but also YOU specifically. And for me. Because we show up and we move forward. So much love to you…Xx

Speak up. I hear you.