Stage 7 at Warner brothers studios, I was on the set of Pretty Little Liars watching the playback from my scene with Shay Mitchell, admiring her bright eyes and beautiful lips, how easily and perfectly she was lit. Then as my close up began to play, quite honestly, I cringed a bit. I thought, “Boy have my features changed.” You have to remember, I’ve been looking at my face on screen for near 30 years. To see this big of a change was a bit shocking. I looked…CRAGGY. Now granted, some of that was lighting for sure. As I’ve said gals, “it’s all about the lighting.” But the fact is, my face just isn’t that taught canvas it used to be.
Now a days if the light is slightly off to the side it deepens every line and crevasse making me look 10 years older than I am and 20 years older than I feel. It was a strange realization because even though I know the lighting was accentuating everything, I’d never really had to worry about it too much in the past. But there in that very moment, I knew what had worked for me in the past where lighting is concerned, just wasn’t going to work for me any more. And suddenly that feeling of exuberance that bounced in with me in the morning, kind of dribbled off stage left.
But as I removed my jacket and took a deep breath, gathering up the courage to let go of a time past, a NIA past, three of the beautiful 20 something year old leads walked up to me in awe, “look at you and your little body. Look at those arms! How do you do that? How do you get arms like that? What do I have to do to get that body? Is it weights, yoga? I need some shape, some strength. Nia, help me out here.” And I smiled. I smiled because I realized, what they were asking for can’t be given. You can’t be born with it. It has to be earned with years of dedication. I smiled because I knew that although I was saying goodbye to an aspect of Nia, I was really saying “hello and thank you” to the Nia I had become, the Nia that took years to create.
These changes in my face don’t mark a decline, but evolution, an evolution in to greater wisdom and experience, deeper love and friendship, more meaningful joy and passion and years and years of experience that can never be taken way or lost. I don’t need 30 minutes and eye drops to prepare for an emotional scene. I need 1 minute because I have 30 years of training beneath me. I don’t need 5 girlfriends giving me the thumbs up or down on a boyfriend because I’ve already been through years of various relationships to know what I like, who I am, and what feeds me.
I don’t need to be 20 to look good on camera because I have the wisdom and the chutzpah to ask them to simply move the light. I don’t want to go back to being Nia at 20, I wouldn’t trade places with her for 1 million dollars. But I now have the wisdom to know I’d seriously consider it for 10….J