Becoming a model and a performer in the wider queer community in Melbourne and Perth has been a wonderful and, to be frank, very enlightening experience and career venture for me. Along with a lot of personal work, and seeing the face that I am able to represent for young people like me growing up now, it has really helped me get to a place of self-love and advocating for self-love, and general acceptance for people who don’t sit within the social ideal of thin, white, cis and straight. Initially I didn’t think there was a place for me, or room for me, in either of these career avenues. Being born and raised in Perth, it really felt very far away from a possibility to be a professional performer (in most contexts) or a professional model as a fat, black, queer girl. I rarely saw people who looked like me in campaigns, or anyone who looked like me, that was from Perth, who was a person of colour who was successful in any facet, and if they were successful and from Perth, they lived somewhere else. In Perth even in the queer scene (even to this day) there are barely any people of colour in paid performance roles of mainstream theatre/events, or in the queer scene, a lot of POC being asked to work for free, if they are even booked at all. In the Perth modelling there are also barely any “plus sized,” models, let alone plus sized models of colour, with short hair.
Moving to Melbourne really helped me to feel like I could be a part of a lot of communities, and that I have a look that can be representative of people as a model, and also to see a lot of beauty in myself that was already there! Seeing other models that looked like me, or even slightly similar to me, and also actors/performers who were Australian that represented me/people like me, was very inspiring and a big reason that I was able to take this leap into both performance and modelling. The opportunities I have gotten in Melbourne have also helped me to then be able to perform and model in Perth when I go home, landing an agent in Perth mid 2020, and also beginning to perform in the Perth queer scene at about the same time, as a burlesque artist and dancer. I hope young people who are like me from Perth will see me, and feel represented, and also like they are able to thrive in the areas that I am in!
The resurgence of BLM in 2020, had a big impact on how I see myself within this world, and in my own spaces, and also what I am willing to sit back and allow to happen, and when I want to use my voice, to make the spaces I am a part of safer for me and people who look like me, so that younger people like me don’t have to go through this fight for as long/ don’t have to fight as hard, like their white, thin and straight counterparts. Considering my own assets and talents, and where they are overlooked in comparison to white, thin and straight mediocrity, has helped me to see the value in myself, and be able to continue to fight for justice for oppressed groups and their representation on stage, screen and in advertisements, and all other walks of creative life, where I as a kid would’ve loved to see people who looked like me, and be told through the social narrative that I am beautiful, wanted and worthy/valuable. This movement also made me really conscious of the presence I have on social media, and also of the voices I listen to, watch, read and follow, and showed me that I used to be following a really white, thin, straight and cis-gendered body of people, which firstly made me feel really gross about myself, as I didn’t look like any of the people whose posts I was liking and sharing, but also warped my view of other people who aren’t a part of the social ideal. In diversifying my feed, I gave myself access to hearing the experiences of wider groups of people, and representing more accurately what the world looms and is like, but also helped me to find a lot of beauty in myself and also like-minded people.
I still have struggles with feeling like I belong, don’t get me wrong, I am currently in my third year studying my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, and in coming to the end of my studies, and beginning to enter the world of professional theatre/ musical theatre I am having MAJOR imposter syndrome, and also anxiety about where women of colour fit into these workspaces. Looking at the casts of shows that are coming out, it is encouraging seeing more diversity in the shows being produced, especially in the wake of the height of BLM, and the strength of the movement in 2020, but the places that women of colour, fat women, and queer/queer presenting women are getting can sometimes be conflicting. Often women like me who fit into these categories are made to be the butt of the joke in theatre, and especially in musical theatre, and if they aren’t the person to laugh at in the show, they are often the villain or represented as a negative or dangerous presence. Another aspect which can be challenging is how often we are expected to play into stereotypes, or characters are written as complete stereotypes, and this can feel really diminishing, and aren’t stories that I think need to be being told in commercial theatre in 2021, or stories that I want to be told in my body: I don’t want to tell young people like me that we are a villain, the butt of a joke, a stereotype, or any less than a fully fleshed out human being, worthy of being the princess or the lead. I think remembering who I would have loved to see on stages/ as a model/ online and on screen growing up helps me keep my integrity and also self-love as an actor, model and performer.
I don’t think there’s any quick fix/fast way to finding love for yourself/radical acceptance of yourself, but I do know that I am very lucky to live within my body, and knowing what I am capable of representing and what I do represent for a lot of people helps to remind me of what I, and anyone is capable of doing just by existing in spaces where we are told we don’t belong. It’s important to remember too, that we don’t always have to be feeling 100% and that people always try their best to represent themselves as happy and perfect, an although we all have good points and assets, we also all have flaws, and I think as long as you’re doing what you can, you’re doing all you need to do!