Let’s start simple…
It all started when: I was turned down for a role. I was told I was not big enough. After being told all my life that I wasn’t small enough for certain roles I thought “Now wait a minute! Then what the hell am I?” That lead me to my journey of body positivity and diversity in theatre, stage and real life.
Currently working on: I am currently working on a screenplay of my life experiences as well as several modelling projects and auditioning.
My goal is to: Aspire others to inspire. I want to share my story to help others have the courage to share theirs.
I can’t go a day without: Coffee and laughing
For me, self-care is: Setting boundaries. Stopping and listening to your body and heart and what it needs. That may be a pedicure, that may be walking away from a toxic relationship depends on the day.
My favourite workout is: Dancing but I am also really into weight lifting
I keep myself motivated to work out by: Remembering how great I feel once I’m done and the power it gives my body and mind.
Now for the real talk…
Tell us about your personal journey to where you are now. What have been some of the struggles and sacrifices you have had to make to get here?
Wow what a question! I would have to be incredibly honest with you all. I discovered my journey only about 4 years ago. For as long as I can remember I have to say I have been blessed with people in my life that have helped support and guide me. They have showered me with a protective and naïve view of my body. I come from a very strong Italian family who has always supported my dreams. I can’t say that this is the case for most unfortunately. I know that without those people in my life I wouldn’t have recovered from the sudden loss of my mentor in college to cancer and later a good friend to suicide. My friends and especially family were there for me when I almost died in a bus crash and had to be taken to the hospital for internal bleeding and go through a long recovery process, which I still go through to this day. I would say the biggest recent hit that effected my career greatly is when my ex of 3 years proposed to me with a promise ring then two days later revealed that he had been cheating on me with multiple women and I was kicked out of the apartment I had helped create. I was homeless and crashing on couches week by week for months all while still trying to book jobs and modeling. That was probably the biggest hit in the past years that has changed my outlook and really given me a new lens on my life. Like I said I’ve always had supportive loving friends but didn’t notice the perspectives of the outside world and how harsh they can be. That is why now I fight for diversity on stage and in my life. This is why I share my story and more importantly want to hear others because they matter. I know what its like to feel that you don’t matter in this world or to be told you are “too fat” or that you aren’t worthy of love because of your physical appearance. That is why I fight for other people’s stories rather than physicality and there is no better place to do that, than the stage.
What do you look for in the roles to play on stage?
Character development. I really love to see whats behind the mask of a character and have fun with it. That is why I love villains just as much as the heroes. There are levels, that you get to unravel as a performer and how it relates to your own personal self.
Do you have advice for women who want to work in performing arts?
Research! Research! Research! Find the performers out there who you admire. Try out different styles and don’t be afraid to approach people. The worst thing they can do is say no and then you find someone else to help lead you down a path. Trying different things and educating yourself will help you become more detailed and specific about what you are looking to do as a performer.
How do you deal with physical and mental burnout?
My friends, my coffee, my exercise and also breathing. It is so important to breathe. Try to find even small moments to just take a breath and be grateful because it will change your whole perspective and help you not burnout.
Even when doing the things we love, the stress can sometimes suck the joy out of work. How do you stay motivated? What techniques do you use or habits do you maintain to keep yourself on-track career-wise?
I would say my motivation comes from my experiences and not wanting anyone to go through some of the things I have. I also would say comedy and laughter are HUGE habits for me to keep myself motivated and happy. Finding the humour in every stressful moment resets my brain and reamps me to do the work that needs to be done. Also I would emphasise RESEARCH. Make sure you ask a lot of questions, and then do the work; even if it is just one paragraph that you write just START. Even if it is you and your friends goofing off and taking photos or reading lines from your favourite tv series! Do it! Start! You may surprise yourself, I know I have on many occasions.
A lot of women struggle with self-esteem, especially in the workplace. Have you experienced that? Do you have any advice on that?
Oh absolutely! Coworkers, fellow models, actors; I mean it is literally my entire career some days to talk about how someone looks. Here is the thing: Being You is your super power. I am sure we have heard this before. Whenever I find myself in that moment I do two things 1. Breathe (just count and breathe for 5 counts) 2. Then I try to realise that I am the one creating the issues with myself self. I have control over how I want to be perceived and that if someone else is making you feel bad about yourself they probably have it way worse. You never know someone else’s story or issue, you just have YOU and YOU are your best super-power.
Many of us aren’t happy in our own skin. But you’re thriving! What’s your mindset like on body positivity? How do you talk to yourself? How do you deal with days when you don’t feel so great?
I’ll be honest, my mindset on body positivity alters all the time. I get hate from people who think I am “too small” to be body positive and “too fat” to talk about body positivity and health. This is missing the point all together! Body positivity is so much more than just the body. It is a mindset that just helps create a closer bond to your spirituality and self or character. That’s how I see it. When it comes to myself I can be very harsh some days but I have post its all over the place that say “I am special. I am loved. I am worthy.” I also have been taking note of how I speak to my friends about myself. I catch myself every time I go to say something negative about my body. Words are very important. I also try to correct my friends as well. When I make a joke like oh my butt won’t fit in that chair. My friend might say “oh stop it! You’re beautiful”. I stop her and say “I didn’t say I wasn’t beautiful. I said that chair is freakin’ small. Don’t equate my beauty to my size please.” Yeah, it makes for a few awkward moments maybe but it helps. I also wake up in the morning, stretch and take 5 minutes to look at myself and give 5 compliments. Some days it is much harder but I turn to others and their stories and see their beauty and it helps inspire me. I hope I can do that for people too.
Social media can be a tricky place! How have you managed to stay authentic and true to yourself?
My goal with Social Media is to always try and stay true and authentic. I do that by going live and really showing who I am with unedited photos or one on one story moments. I also try to take breaks too! I think that we live in a super fast paced social media world which has its benefits but sometimes you have to show your authenticity by stepping away for a minute, showing you are vulnerable to social media just like everyone else and sometimes you just need a damn break from Karen and her perfect latte art. Its human and its real and its beautiful.
And finally, what’s your favorite piece of advice that you’d like to pass on to others women?
Support Each Other Please! I am not always the best at this even. I can find myself from time to time feeling jealous and materialistic with other women but I work on it everyday. Check on your girlfriends and support each other even in the smallest ways. Reach out to even women who have different ideas than you do; try to bridge the gap. I am not saying you have to start a band together or anything but I think it is important as women that we lift each other up. Stand together. Applaud really loudly and maybe bring a blowhorn to your friends next event ( just don’t tell them that I told you to do it). Be kind to one another and I would say especially to yourself. Remember that YOU are the ONLY YOU in this world. We are all just a bunch of kick ass female super heroes walking around here how cool is that? So give yourself a moment to love your super powers.
To follow Jonna and her journey head to her Instagram here.