Once upon a time there was a talented, sparkling, beauteous rocker named Leah Cevoli from the City of Brotherly Love. One day, in the historical land of Ben Franklin, The Barrymores, Will Smith and Liz Lemon, the fair Leah heard the Siren’s Song knell through Philadelphia’s brick corridors and colorful tulip gardens. Taking the form of The Black Crowes so she alone would hear it, the song trilled, lilted and riffed amidst the city streets, beckoning her independent and creative soul to the land of plenty: plenty of sunshine, plenty of sea, plenty of opportunity, plenty of cabbage, plenty of thee.
Leah Cevoli, “Deadwood” set, Santa Clarita, CA
With blazing streaks of platinum and magical tips of royalist purple in her locks, our heroine fled her City of Brothers and set forth for the City of Angels, Los Angeles, a.k.a. “Hopeless Hole”, dubbed so by the dark and exotic, erotic Mistress of the Dorks, Ms. Adrianne Curry.
Upon arrival, the fair Leah was tapped by the magic wand of mediocrity. Shady agents and producers across the land chided the funky fair damsel. “Nay!,” screeched they, “You are too unique! Too different! Away, to Cookie Cutters Salon in the Valley we shall fly!” With a sprinkling of fairy smog, she did just this. The shady agents and producers then screeched further, like pterodactyls on new, weak prey, “Nay! You are too similar! You look too much like her! Average, Caucasian, brunette girl, take thee a number!”
Along her journey, she met like-minded, talented friends. A kindly lad named Collin would aid in her unConventional quest, a girl named Helenna would become a dear lass for life and in the land of nothing’s-too-odd, a robot chicken would scratch and peck and spin her gold. Yet, not only kindly elves, silky minks and futuristic poultry did she meet upon her trail. She also crossed paths with snakes, serpents and the insidious vendors of their oil. There would be dragons disguised as friends and weasels dressed as lawyers and vermin of every kind lurking on studio lots, in agencies and under the back tables of Starbucks along the rocky Wanderwegs of Lankershim and Magnolia.
One fine, California day, when feeling rather pleased with herself, the fair Leah posted upon her page of Faces, a happy, casual image of her likeness. Then, without warning and in one sharp strike, an evil serpent with whom she had once been acquainted in the tales of Deadwood, hissed and punctured her soul with the greatest of ignorance and insensitivity: I’ve seen you look better, Leah.
“Fie on thee!”, the Philly Beauty cried and away to Ana’s House she did go! “A panel at WonderCon I should like to plan!” she declared! “Where actresses, models, entrepreneurs and writers of all shapes and sizes may talk of slings and arrows besieging the women of entertainment! A panel I should like to form where bright damsels may speak intimately on body image, eating disorders, self-love, recovery and the curses of H-town’s poison apples! A panel where ladies such as these shall inspire and influence those younger damsels, those pretty rabbits and field mice speeding on Greyhounds, fresh from the pastures, meadows and mountaintops of Iowa, Georgia and Colorado, all ingressing to the land of the seedy and the greedy!”
L to R: Adrianne Curry, Lynn Chen, Helenna Santos Levy, Amber Krzys, Miracle Laurie and Leah Cevoli, WonderCon 2013 Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
With that, kids, All Shapes and Sizes Welcome: Body Image & Women’s Issues in the Entertainment Industry was birthed: a primal and proactive response to an insensitive Facebook comment about Leah’s weight gain. This may have been an epiphany for Leah. For, it was at this moment she truly realized what a duplicitous and presumptuous double-standard of beauty there existed in Hollywood and society en masse, no less. Why was it socially acceptable for a relative stranger to comment on her weight? Why was she told, “You’re too thin!” with the same pity as, “You’re too fat!”. Why did a period production like Deadwood specifically cast “curvy women”, then make certain all the lead girls were Santa Monica-svelte? This all got her head spinning. Of course, she’d also been on a forty-day Master Cleanse during her Deadwood days and that got her head spinning, too, considering she went from a 31-inch waist to a 22-incher. Oh, my, Scarlett!
Leah knew there had to be other women with Aha! moments like hers. What had they heard, endured and learned on their paths in and out of Hollywood, The Most Venomous Place on Earth? She wanted to know and to share. Was there truth in TV’s First Kiss? Were there antidotes to the poison apples that hang so lusciously and temptingly along the palm treed parkways to Burbank? Could the dragons, weasels and serpents be slayed?
A host of fierce and lovely ladies, inside and out, came to her side and in a meeting room filled to capacity at the Anaheim Convention Center, Leah and her glossy posse set about to tell Hollywood, Broadway and Burbank a thing or two about a thing or two.
Watch your step, Hollywood! These ladies will get Medieval on your ass! The March 30th, 2013 WonderCon panel featured Miracle Laurie (Dollhouse), Adrianne Curry (Adrianne Curry’s SuperFans), Helenna Santos Levy (founder, MsInTheBiz.com), Amber Krzys (founder, BodyHeart.com) and Lynn Chen (founder, www.theActorsDiet.com). It was my pleasure to attend this panel and, afterwards, chat with Ms. Cevoli, her pals and fellow panelists, Ms. Helenna Santos Levy and Ms. Amber Krzyss. Please enjoy my interviews and read what these energetic and powerful chicas had to say.
L to R, Leah Cevoli, Helenna Santos Levy and Lynn Chen Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
Comic-Con Int’l Presents WonderCon Anaheim, All Shapes and Sizes Welcome Interview with Leah Cevoli and Helenna Santos Levy, March 30, 2013
GTBAG: So, thank you both for taking time today to chat with us. Your panel was very intimate! (laughs)
Leah Cevoli: I’ll say! (laughs)
Helenna Santos Levy: (laughs)
GTBAG: You really covered everything so thoroughly in the panel, I just want to ask you to expound a few things, if that’s okay?
LC: Absolutely. Let’s do it!
GTBAG: Great! Being in entertainment, what do you both find to be the most pressing issue against women, besides the body image?
HLS: Okay, one of the things we just skimmed the surface of, that Miss Representation [.org] deals with a lot and which I’m really passionate about, is the whole sexualization of women. This is really interesting to me, what we’re kind of doing right now. It seems to be since the Spice Girls, or what I call the Christina Aguillera Dirty version of feminism, where we think that by putting on the heels and making ourselves look sexy … see, I’m caught in the middle of it. I don’t pretend to be outside of this issue, I’m caught right in the middle of this issue and I’m trying to search my way through it. So, we’ve taken that on as the version of female empowerment: “I’m going to use my sexuality. I’m going to be in charge of that.”
GTBAG: So, what is modern feminism to you?
HLS: It’s funny, my husband and I had this discussion and it actually feels like the new version of feminism looks like the old Penthouse
Helenna Santos Levy and Lynn Chen Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
HLS: (laughs) No, it feels like we’ve gone so far past it all that we’ve come all the way back around and we’ve developed our own new version of feminism that’s actually just the old form of sexism, but we’re re-branded.
GTBAG: It’s like the political spectrum. You can go so far in one direction, you merely end up back where you started, the point from where you thought you were progressing.
HLS: Right. So, the question is, for me, if I know all this exists and I’m in an industry where, at the moment, it is what it is and, in order to work you have to accept the system, how do you work in that system while keeping your own voice and be strong enough that you can then change the system? I think that’s the ongoing struggle.
GTBAG: What’s your answer to that?
HLS: Do I have the answer to that? Absolutely not! Trying to figure it out every day, but I think by having panels like this and creating more of a dialogue that women who are strong and sexy and powerful, that we can then figure out how to do this and feel good about ourselves, and it’s not just because we live in a male-constructed society.
GTBAG: Is there an element of becoming successful enough where you don’t have to take that role, you don’t have to take that gig?
LC: That’s interesting, because it goes down even to just things like your hair and makeup. When I first moved to Hollywood, I had a tongue ring and blonde streaks in my hair with purple at the ends, but I was going into the acting industry and I heard, time and time again, “No. You need to look like everybody else. You need to look like that Girl Next Door.” Which is interesting, because now I’m that “Girl Next Door”. I’m in my thirties and all I hear is, “There’s so many Caucasian, 30 year-old brunettes. Pick a number.” Okay. But, when I was more unique with my piercings and my colors, they were like, “Oh, no. You have to look more cookie-cutter.” So, there’s always mixed messages.
GTBAG: How do you affect these messages, change them?
LC: One of the things we didn’t touch on in the panel, and that’s been kind of rolling around in my head is … so, if we’re saying, “Accept everybody, all shapes and sizes”, no matter what industry and if you want to be an actress or a model, all shapes and sizes, then, yay! Let’s get more women of all shapes and sizes on mainstream television. Then, the flip side of that is, what are we teaching our youngsters? Is there a point when it’s actually unhealthy when we’re saying, “You’re very heavy, you’re obese, you’re this, you’re that and it’s acceptable.” We’re putting this in our commercials and ads, as well. So, what are we saying? Are we promoting unhealthy things? Are we promoting it’s okay to sit around and eat McDonald’s all day long as long as you love yourself? Because, now we’re promoting heart disease and diabetes and high cholesterol and everything else.
HLS: Right. We’re not promoting a healthy image, one way or the other, and everyone is confused right now. We had this discussion earlier, why Girls and Lena Dunham are so polarizing to people. She’s not going with the typical, Hollywood norm. She’s doing something completely opposite of it. So, if it’s not appealing to men, they’re like, “Ugh! I could never handle watching this!” Whereas, women are like grabbing onto it. But then, people are like, “Is she healthy? Is she promoting a healthy body image?”
LC: In her case, I think she is.
HLS: I think she is, too.
LC: I think she’s like, “Hey, a got a little bit of meat on me and I’m okay with it because I’m having sex as well and here’s my butt!” What’s wrong with that?
Continue interview with Leah and Helenna
GTBAG: So what is sexy, what is feminine to you?
HLS: Your own inner quality. It really shouldn’t matter what we look like, what we’re wearing, what we’re doing, because it’s our own inner quality that shines through.
GTBAG: Still, it does matter what you look like, in entertainment.
HLS: Well, the irony of this all isn’t lost on us because we’re in a pin-up magazine! (laughs)
LC: (laughs) Yeah! We just came from an autograph signing! We were both featured in Cupcake Quarterly magazine, which is a pin-up shoot, right? So, now we’re about to go speak about body image and here’s this magazine. I had lingerie on! I posed in lingerie and garters! Helena’s got garters and a bra on! (laughs)
GTBAG: Isn’t that a healthy body image though? Because it really is all shapes and sizes.
LC: It is. But, at the same time, could it be sexploitation?
Helena: Of course it is, because that’s inherently what pin-up is. But then, we as women are taking back that title.
GTBAG: Yes, but do they have to be mutually exclusive?
LC: For me, this was actually a cathartic experience, because I did it a couple of months ago, at the heaviest I’ve ever been and I’m invited to do this and I said, “Yes!”. The night before I was like, “Oh, my God!” I mean, I’m okay taking photos, I’ve been taking photos since I was a little girl, but in my underwear?! I’ve never taken photos in my underwear and I’m the biggest I’ve ever been and am I really doing this?!
GTBAG: How did you get through it?
LC: I had to trust that Elisa [Jaeger], who is the editor-in-chief and creator of Cupcake, I had to trust in her and her vision and I’d seen her work and I know she’s very body-positive. (She wanted to be on this panel with us.) I had to trust in that and, you know what? I like the way I looked! I put them on my Facebook page!
GTBAG: Did you send them specifically to the gentleman whom was the impetus for this panel?
LC: (laughs) No. I think he’d already been deleted from my Facebook page by that point. Isn’t that interesting, though? What gives anybody a right to comment on anybody’s Facebook photo like that?
GTBAG: Well, there is a prevalent mechanism for comments on Facebook.
Miracle Laurie Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
LC: Well, yes. And that got me spinning on, what if I got more mainstream, if I was on a show like Dollhouse, like Miracle [Laurie] was?
HLS: If you were Melissa McCarthy?
LC: Lord knows, right?! Lord knows what would come up if you Googled my name?!
GTBAG: I imagine there’s a level of personal dissatisfaction. Like the fellow with the broken-down Porsche on the side of the road. Everybody laughs because there’s dissatisfaction they don’t have a Porsche and never will.
LC: Exactly! It makes people feel good to tear us down and we accept that to some degree, being in this industry.
GTBAG: There is constant critiquing. You’re not wearing enough, you’re wearing too much. You don’t have enough flesh, you’re too fleshy.
LC: They like to build people up to tear them down.
GTBAG: I’ve seen horrible Tweets to your other panelist, Ms. Curry.
LC: Oh, Adrianne! Yeah. I love that she takes care of herself. She’s doing it in a healthy way and she doesn’t care. She just doesn’t care what people say. I have to say, sometimes, I just can’t look. I can’t look at her Twitter feed because she gets it on a daily basis.
GTBAG: She gets ripped to shreds, by men and women alike, no matter what she says or posts. She’s a Porsche.
LC: Yeah! And why? Because she’s a sexy, confident woman who overcame a drug addiction and now works her ass off like crazy to keep her sane, keep her off drugs, does it in a healthy way and they rip her apart, why? Because she’s got a better ass than you!
Adrianne Curry Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
HLS: Exactly. They hate her because she’s doing it.
GTBAG: Plus, they’ll never have her.
LC: They wish, right?!
GTBAG: I know you ladies have a busy afternoon ahead of you. Is there anything you’d like to add before we finish?
HLS: I just think it’s important we’re having this discussion, that we have options in this industry. It’s changing.
LC: Yeah, options! It’s not just a bunch of old, white men calling the shots anymore.
GTBAG: On that note, thank you very much, ladies.
HLS & LC: Thank you!
Comic-Con Int’l Presents WonderCon Anaheim, All Shapes and Sizes Welcome Interview with Amber Krzys
March 30, 2013
GoodToBeAGeek: Thank you for taking a moment to chat. I just have a few questions not covered in the panel, if you don’t mind.
Amber Krzys Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
Amber Krzys: Not at all! I love to talk about this stuff! I think humans want to help each other and that’s what we’re doing here today!
GTBAG: Okay then! So, what drives you to speak publicly, to be actively passionate about body image and women’s issues, specifically in the entertainment industry?
AK: I love women! So, who’s determining the rules, is what I want to know? The rules in this industry. I think women are incredible! Our innate gifts – our nurturing, our sensitivity, our feelings, our caring. I think, at this point, women actually outweigh men.
GTBAG: No pun intended?
AK: No! (laughs) I think, in actuality, women are 51% and men are 49% in our country. But we don’t know that yet. We don’t have our voices out there yet. So, that’s for me, the big reason I’m doing it.
GTBAG: So women need to back each other? Do you tend to seek and support women in the Arts, in business, even in politics, strictly because they’re a woman and overlook a qualified male for the part?
AK: Not necessarily. No. No. Not necessarily. I’m a believer in doing your research and I think there are a lot of men pulling for us. There are women out there who aren’t, too. Women who believed that in order to succeed they needed to become a man and they forced through these things. So, no, I’m not advocating that at all. Do your research, whatever is most important to you. You go with that.
GTBAG: Most important issue facing women in entertainment, specifically?
AK: (pauses) That’s a really good question! I have two things. First is the body image and feeling this pressure to look a certain way because the media is dictating this. But, the second thing, I think, is the roles. You know, how often are you watching a movie and the woman’s taking her clothes off? She’s a mistress or the sex queen? It’s rare to have a really meaty, nice role that’s basically not focusing on the woman’s body.
GTBAG: The roles are defined by their sexuality, then? Defined by the men they’re with in the film?
AK: Exactly! If you think about it, the media is a reflection of where our society is. How does the world see a woman? How does the world see a man? It goes back to what Helena [Santos Levy] was talking about in Miss Representation [.org] during the panel. The fear and insecurity for a man comes from power and providing. It’s the money thing, right? It’s the status. ”I drive this car.” It’s the status. For women, it’s, the way they get to us, it’s the body style. “Be thinner, no acne, wrinkles are bad, growing old sucks.” So then, what does the media do? Even the entertainment industry? They realize these are real fears and concerns and they heighten that, you know?
GTBAG: So, what role would you write for yourself? How would you take back that power?
AK: I’m no longer pursuing acting.
GTBAG: If you were, if you could create that “meaty role” on stage or screen?
AK: I don’t know. I think, to me, a role that represents a real woman today. So, her real struggles. Yes, facing her body … but also like having to choose between work and family. For me, I’m thrity-six. I’m single. My family’s like, “Are you ever going to get married? Are you ever going to have kids?” The clock is ticking. I only have a certain amount of time if I want to have kids.
GTBAG: Like Liz Lemon and Murphy Brown lied to you?
AK: Totally. Raising a child, working alone, those things make a good role.
GTBAG: There are a lot of women talking openly via Facebook about single-motherhood. How do you approach a role like that then, to speak to those women?
AK: Right. Rather than buying into the fairy tale of, “I’m going to get married and he will save me because I need saving, I can’t do it on my own”, I’d do something that’s completely opposite of that. You know, “I may not know what the ‘F’ I’m doing, but I’m going to figure it out ’cause I’m smart enough and I’m good enough where I am today.”
GTBAG: I think that’s a good way to end this.
AK: You’re so welcome! I love having this discussion! I’ll be sure to share this with my community.
GTBAG: Thank you, Amber. We’ll be sure to share it with ours as well.
L to R, Adrianne Curry, Lynn Chen, Helenna Santos Levy, Amber Krzys, Miracle Laurie, Leah Cevoli Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
Have any questions or comments for our interviewer? Contact Jennifer Susannah Devore @JennyPopNet or jennypop.net Want more fab panel pics? Check out Dr. Lucy’s Twisted Pair Photography!
GoodGeekGirls w The Fierce Ones! L to R, Collin Pelton, Yours Truly, Leah, Helenna and Dr. Lucy Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
Hannah’s fave places to haunt on-line? Jennypop.net @JennyPopNet & Jennifer Devore’s Amazon Author Page