An Acting Teacher’s Guide to Letting Go of ‘Imperfections’
BY BILL COELIUS
When actors come into my class, they almost always bring with them a mental list of all the physical ailments or irregularities they believe will keep them from booking commercials: height, weight, birthmarks, teeth. I’m here to tell you that your body doesn’t matter; what you think about your body does.‘
I grew up in Michigan where, as a kid, my mom would serve a milk and soda mixture for our dinner drink. Can you imagine my pearly whites by the age of twelve? Then came the braces. But by then my thinking was solidified; do not smile. Your teeth are like a cow’s. Have you ever seen cow’s teeth? Probably about as often as mine. Every headshot I took featured a tight-lipped smile that broadcast the message, “please don’t look at my teeth.”
Right around the time I booked my 30th national commercial, I begin to realize how little it mattered. If my teeth were really so horrible, how could I have managed to book so much work? Maybe they weren’t so terrible after all.
The truth? My teeth aren’t so terrible. I’m not so terrible. Actually, my smile is kind of nice. If only I had believed this about myself my whole life and not relied on an outside source of a booking rate to convince me, maybe I might have had more fun in the process.
What’s the point of being in this business if we’re not having fun and constantly trying to hide from the camera? The camera sees all, so it is our job to celebrate it all. And if you can’t celebrate it, change it. Probably less expensive than reconstructive dental surgery, though, is to notice your thinking behind the perceived imperfection. Keep in mind that you’re not fooling anyone. If you smile tightly to keep your teeth from showing, people unconsciously pick up on that cover-up and begin to tense themselves. So, relax. Enjoy. Even if you have textbook perfect teeth, you have no control over how people judge them. There are commercials for every body type, height, weight and yes, teeth.
Try this: take note of how you feel about each part of your body. Positive or negative? Why? Where did you learn it from? Who did you learn it from? If it’s a negative thought, is it really true? Try thinking the opposite just for a moment. “My nose is beautiful.” Try it again. And again. And again.
Today’s advertising market has expanded its understanding of what we as a viewing audience want to see. We no longer want to live up to a version of polished perfection—we want to see ourselves in all our imperfections. Watch commercials, you’ll find it true.
Maybe I’ve never booked a toothpaste commercial, but someone has. And for everyone with great teeth who haven’t book the commercials I have, that’s ok, too.
Study with Bill Coelius