Beauty Image Q&A with The LaBute Cycle’s Elisabeth and Julia
In a world where we are constantly bombarded with images of female beauty, there isn’t enough conversation about how these pressures are affecting us.
This is something deeply important to us at CityGirlScapes, so we were thrilled when we heard that the company of The LaBute Cycle were bringing these issues into the spotlight with performances of Neil LaBute’s dark comedies Fat Pig and reasons to be pretty at Unit 102 Theatre from April 8 until April 13 (alternating nights).
We had the opportunity to discuss the topic of beauty and why it’s important to be aware of these pressures with Elisabeth Lagerlöf (Carly in reasons to be pretty, Jeannie in Fat Pig) and Julia Nish-Lapidus (Steph in reasons to be pretty, Helen in Fat Pig). Here is our conversation.
Putting yourself in the spotlight and exploring these sensitive topics while inviting these strangers to examine what could be your own personal insecurities, that takes a lot of guts. What was your inspiration for being a part of something like this? Why do you think this is important?
Elisabeth: I think it is important to shine a light on these issues that so often are accepted and not questioned. It’s really interesting for two women to go up on stage and challenge that.
Julia: It’s definitely more than a little terrifying, but having that reaction to it is really what made me realize how important it is to publicly address these issues. If it’s such a big deal to stand on a stage and talk about how we look and how we and others feel about that, that just shows that we are still placing so much importance on beauty, and it’s important to present art that questions those values.
reasons to be pretty focuses a lot on the impact obsessions with physical appearances can have on relationships. Ashley recently got into a pretty heated discussion with her boyfriend about image pressures put on women by society versus our own perceptions of what we think we should look like. Are men and women naturally going to have a difference of opinion on these subjects? Do these pressures apply to both sexes or is this something that we’re putting on ourselves?
Elisabeth: Growing up I watched my mother stress over her weight, going on every fad diet the early 90’s had to offer (think slimfast and Susan Powder videos) and without her ever telling me, I learned that being thin was important. For so many years beauty was one of the only things that was valued in a woman, and something that is so deeply ingrained is hard to change.
Julia: I think in rehearsals for these plays we’ve discovered that the opinions of men and women differ greatly on these subjects. We’ve spent a lot of time in the rehearsal process talking through the issues brought up in these plays as a company, and we’ve found that the two male actors and our director (who is my husband), just don’t always understand the perspective we have as women on issues involving beauty. And Elisabeth and I almost always see eye to eye. It really showed us that although there is pressure on men to fit into what society sees as attractive, the pressures are not the same at all. As women, there is never a time that we can escape it, but it seems like there are moments of escape for men, where you can forget to think about how you look. We’ve spent a lot of time explaining how women think to these guys, and sometimes they’re shocked at how much thought goes into picking out clothes or doing your hair, all that sort of stuff.
As you know, Veronica just had a baby. Pregnancy is supposed to be this beautiful, natural thing that women are lucky enough to experience, but a lot of times we hear about these women feeling fat and ugly during this beautiful process, and then scrambling to fit into their old jeans afterwards. How can something so beautiful and organic become something people are concerned about?
Elisabeth: Every time a celebrity has a baby she is put under a microscope until she is back to her pre-pregnancy size. Kim Kardashian wouldn’t even leave her house after giving birth for fear of what the tabloids would say about her. These magazines talk about a woman who hasn’t instantly dropped the weight like “what could she be doing with her time?” Weight and self worth have become so closely tied through the way we see women portrayed in the media that it would be extremely difficult to not become wrapped up in the need to shed the extra pounds
Julia: Which is really sad. It’s just a horrible thing that this amazing act our bodies are capable of has become something so negative and there’s so much pressure to look like it never happened as quickly as possible. It should be something we’re proud of being able to do!
Fat shaming has become a thing now, online and in person. The implications are atrocious and this is essentially another form of bullying. How has the anonymity of the internet helped escalate issues with body image and the feelings of inadequacy?
Elisabeth: People seem to feel they can say whatever they want online, and all the darkest aspects of humanity are revealed when there is no accountability.
Julia: It’s pretty terrifying. Just because you’re online doesn’t mean it’s not still real people you’re interacting with. The internet is amazing, but it can also be pretty dangerous. It’s so easy to get lost in the anonymity of it all and feel like you can judge people you don’t even know. It’s too easy to forget that you’re hurting real people and there’s nothing fake or “digital” about that hurt.
We’re seeing more and more articles about celebrities like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lawrence and most recently Lorde releasing untouched photos of themselves and commenting on how unrealistic the published magazine photos are. And the award season this year showed a lot of women over 40 nominated for these big awards. Are we progressing in Hollywood? Does drawing attention to these issues help ease those feelings of needing to look a certain way or does the fact that magazines continue to photoshop despite this defeat the purpose?
Elisabeth: I think it’s amazing that there are women who want to end the myth that every woman in Hollywood is perfect. I feel that there is only so far in one direction we can go. Now that we’ve peeked behind the curtain, maybe there’s no reason to keep pretending.
Julia: I think the trend towards untouched photos is great, but it’s gonna be a long time before any real change is seen. Magazine will continue to photoshop for a long time, I’m sure, but it is nice to see some big celebrities begin to fight against it, and who knows what could change in the future!
We were supposed to be having this conversation over drinks in some trendy bar, but unfortunately our schedules conflicted and we couldn’t make this happen. But we made a deal that we’d be having a couple of drinks while writing and answering these questions via email, so did you hold up your end of the bargain? What are you gals drinking?
We had some delicious beers while talking through our answers to your amazing questions! Here’s a selfie we took, while we enjoyed our drinks (we apologize for the bad quality)!
A huge thank you to Elisabeth and Julia for taking the time to answer our questions. They’re such lovely people standing in front of some very important issues that we think everyone should take some time to think about. Fat Pig and reasons to be pretty opens at Unit 102 Theatre this coming Tuesday, April 8 and runs on alternating nights until April 13. Check back for our review of reasons to be pretty