In our second installment of our 6 part campaign, we present Mara Marini to talk about what it means to her to BE YOUR OWN Woman in the 21st century.
My name is Mara Marini and I am a Canadian actress that moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams. I grew up very focused on wanting to pursue acting. I knew from about four years old that that’s what I wanted to do and LA is where I needed to be. My Dad is a pilot and my Mum is a teacher so they didn’t really know where that aspiration came from or what to do with that information, but they were as supportive as they could be. When I started memorising sonnets out of my mother’s Shakespeare book at six years old, they finally gave in and enrolled me in an acting class. I fell even more in love, but growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the time, there wasn’t a lot for me to do other then my school’s drama class, extracurricular acting classes, dance and theatre. I left home at 17 to attend the theatre program at York University and while I was there, I auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts which was my ticket to Los Angeles. I attended on the Princess Grace Scholarship and completed the full three-year conservatory program.
After the Academy, there was a slew of very embarrassing straight-to-DVD horror films. I hustled and worked on anything I could get my hands on. I wrote and performed my own one woman show, did stand up, etc, but I was having a very hard time finding representation and thus going out on better auditions. I noticed meetings were a lot easier for my male actor friends where there was a bit of the “old boys club” mentality, whereas when I went in, I was just struggling to get footing as an equal where I was either treated like a little girl or a sex object. I finally took matters into my own hands and paid to get the breakdowns (the breakdowns of what is casting every day) and started submitting myself as my own rep. Some time later (and unrelated to the breakdowns), I noticed that the casting director for NBC’s Parks and Recreation was holding a workshop. I realized this was my only chance to get in front of her as I didn’t have very good representation at the time. I went to the workshop and it went quite well. Luckily, a breakdown came out for the show with a role I was right for, just a few days after the workshop and so I submitted myself and created a fake email address to pose as a “talent manager”. I wrote to the casting director as though I was my “manager“ and said “you met my client at the workshop and she would be perfect for this role, etc. etc.”. She ended up bringing me in and I booked it! It was just supposed to be a one episode guest star, but Amy Poehler ended up writing me in a future episode and they kept bringing me back. Hands down, one of the best experiences of my life. From that project, I was able to get into some more casting rooms. Still always hustling, but very fortunate to be pursuing what I love and so grateful for that. I’ve also been writing my own projects and we are currently shooting a project that I cowrote starring Jane Lynch (Glee), Derek Phillips (Friday Night Lights), Sean Wing (Hello Ladies), Paul Witten and myself.
I think the most challenging time for me throughout my womanhood was when I was just coming out of the Academy (AADA) and trying to take meetings and auditioning in Los Angeles. I was put in more than a couple very uncomfortable situations that a man would never have to deal with, let alone even think of. Whether they were too sexual in nature or patronizing or just dismissive, I was very lucky that nothing “happened“ to me, but it came close and I know other women probably weren’t as lucky. I think that due to some of those experiences, I questioned my self worth and started listening to other people above my own intuition. For instance, when I finally first got an agent I was just so happy to be represented, but they made me believe that I needed to completely change my appearance in order to be accepted. I listened intently, as all I wanted to do was work, and upon their persuasion, cut my hair very short and drastically dyed it. They ended up not sending me out on even one audition. That that marked a big internal change for me, as I started understanding that there is no formula to this industry and I need to listen to my own intuition above anything else.
I think to BE YOUR OWN Woman in the 21st-century means know your self worth, listen to your intuition and support other women any chance you get. I will say, I’ve noticed a marked difference from when I first moved to LA compared to now, as to how women are starting to treat one another. It used to be that you’d get the catty-up-and-down-look at auditions (and I’m not saying that doesn’t still exist), but, universally, a larger support of women is starting to come to fruition. I know that I’m very lucky, as my best girl friends are all so talented and amazing and supportive of each other.
Don’t listen to what the “rules” are. They were probably made by men. Trust your gut and pave a new way. Feminism is the future. We are so amazing and we have been held down for so long that this is a really exciting time for us to rise up. Even with the current political climate and how awful all of it is, I think women coming forward (ie: with Weinstein and similar scandals) is so important and majorly overdue. I am so in awe and proud of these women and I think the more we support them and each other, the more that this behaviour becomes abolished.