Dustin Hoffman gets being a woman – especially as an actress

Dustin Hoffman played the iconic role in “Tootsie” as a struggling actor who pretends to be an actress to land a lead on a soap opera. But he didn’t just dress in drag. No, Mr. Hoffman is the consummate Method actor. This is the actor who famously would run 5 miles a day, 6 days a week to prep for “Marathon Man” and would go hungry (to which Laurence Olivier, his co-star, famously quipped “why don’t you try acting”). He spent two years meticulously researching, going as far as telling the producers that if he couldn’t convince New Yorkers he was a woman, he wouldn’t do the role.

And what happened? This.

He gets what millions of women already know: that we are often dismissed because of looks in ways most men can’t even begin to understand. And he got it. That’s profound. Talk about a sensitive actor. He is not famous due to luck, that’s for sure. He researches, prepares, and embodies. My kind of actor.

But actresses get what he says on a whole other level. It’s an industry where you’re either very thin or “niche overweight” (God almighty, yes, there’s a term for it), I’m assuming like Melissa McCarthy. Very few “normal” gals like Maya Rudolph are around. I hate all of it but the fact remains that most actresses have to look at their headshots and audition tapes if nothing else. All of us end up sizing up audition rooms whether you want to or not (Who are these women who have stick thighs? Are thighs not meant to have that little curve on top? I don’t know…)

I’m a size 2 to 4 – small by normal standards and yet, in the insanity of this industry, I’m “curvy.”  Similar to how I was the Dolly Parton of ballet. Meaning, I’m so not but in this world I am. Perception is so skewed that it’s plain wrong around here.

I love fitness. I love working out. I’m passionate about nutrition. I’m damn strong. I’d do my own stunts if in an action movie. That’s why I was a dancer. I love physical challenges. I also love eating. Healthy 90% of the time but I love food and cooking. It’s just if put in a situation with fries, the fries will win. If out with girlfriends, we will drink wine, copious amounts at times.

And I’m not a “foodie” like celebs are. I’ve done meticulous research and if you want to be as slim like the Halle Berry’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s (disclaimer: I own her cookbook, “It’s All Good,” and it’s quite good actually) of the world, do this: don’t eat a lot. Whatever you’re eating, it’s too much. Ditch any and all breads or rice.  I tried one of their dietitians and food service programs (will blog on that later). You eat very little compared to what an average healthy person eats. Also, stick to fish or chicken for dinner, get in love with kale, and drink lots of juices and smoothies the rest of the time.

Eating white meat in new ways is not a foodie, my friend. There’s a limit to loving quinoa. Almost all of Italian, most Asian, and half of African and South American cuisine are pretty much chucked. I am a real foodie.

And for the actresses who are not celebs but are still super thin, most just don’t eat. The biggest joke here is that taking a girl out to dinner in LA is cheap – she won’t eat. That is really sad. Is this what the industry really wants of its women?

Kate Winslet at "Titanic" premiere and now

Kate Winslet at “Titanic” premiere and now

But it’s so easy to fall into that trap. SO EASY. Ask Mr. Hoffman. It’s ingrained in us to have an image of “attractive” women. No matter how much you tell yourself, well Madonna, Janet Jackson, Kate Winslet, and a host of others got famous, won a slew of awards, and then slimmed down. Host of women on TV who are over 35 in leading roles. Their talent had nothing to do with their weight or age.

But then you step into audition rooms, then you have to critique yourself on tape, and you’re like, hmmmmm…

The good part is that for me that now lasts a minute because then you remember that you gotta pay bills with this wonderful but frustrating industry, that you love inhabiting the imagination for a career, that you’re primarily a writer, that you’d rather have a life, so you’re like eff it. Melissa McCarthy’s reaction to a critic who commented on her weight was to feel sorry that he had such a sad life. Kudos. Sandra Bullock’s age is mentioned often in “The Heat,” and she laughed all the way to box office hitness.

There are some things you can change — if you’re healthy and in shape, if you’re on top of your game, if you’re prepared for your auditions and for your jobs, if you’re handling your business. And some you can’t — curves you’re born with, how old you are when you get that “break,” your skin and eye color, if you’ll be Clooney’s next girlfriend (yes, Stacy Kleiber and he have officially split).

Long ago, I learned to own it. That’s all you can do. OWN IT. Even as a dancer I never had food issues because I just owned it. Be in shape and healthy so you can handle the energy levels this job demands on 18 hour shoot days.  Just like Mr. Hoffman. You’ll be amazed at how transformative that is. As transformative as a cleanse… I’m assuming…never done one, since there’s no food involved…


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