Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with 25-year-old Alexandra Beaton, a Canadian actress known for her roles in the popular teen drama The Next Step, The Cheerleader Escort, 300, and more. On the surface, one might wonder what a therapist and actor would have to talk about, but as an actor, Alexandra knows perhaps better than anyone what it’s like to deal with rejection, criticism, and unrealistic expectations from others. Plus, I was curious about how being an actor affects one’s relationship with their emotions and how they process them—and if there’s anything we non-actors can learn about this.
What anyone would notice upon meeting Alexandra for the first time is her ability to make you feel like you’ve known each other for years. With mild nerves circulating through my system before the interview, I felt instantly at ease when she greeted me with a big hug before asking how my day was going as if we were two girlfriends who simply hadn't seen each other in awhile. What transpired thereafter was a lovely, inspiring conversation about Alexandra’s commitment to not only her own mental health, but to creating a healthier example for the young women who follow her. I’m thrilled that I’m able to share our conversation with you on my blog and podcast and hope you’ll find it as enlightening as I did.
K: So I just want to jump right in. What drew you to acting?
A: My mom was a model and so she kind of had connections to that industry, and when my sister and I were younger she thought it would be something fun for us to do. So, she put us into commercials and baby modelling and all that kind of stuff and when we got older, she checked in and asked if it was something that we were interested in. For my sister, it was the hardest “no” in the world and for me it was the hardest “yes." So we kind of continued on that path, which basically meant getting a new agent who was more established, going into acting classes, all that kind of stuff. And as I progressed through that field I just realized that it was something I really loved to do and something I really connected with and I’ve stuck with it ever since.
K: That’s awesome! And what is it about acting that you feel you connect to?
A: I think the emotions of it, so having the opportunity to feel those very intense, sometimes scary feelings in a safe place. I think one of the things I love about acting is that I don’t have any stigma about my emotions any more or else you can’t access them. If I was so terrified to be sad, that would show in [my] body. You’d be so tense trying to get to a place that’s sad. But for me, sadness is a really beautiful thing; it means you cared about something enough that it makes you sad. Or for me, music is a huge thing. I’ll listen to songs and just empathize and sit there and realize how lucky and blessed my life is and you know, that can put you in a place of beautiful sadness where you're so grateful but you want to help other people. It doesn’t always have to always be this super dark, awful place where everything has gone wrong to make you sad. You can just be sad in a really normal, healthy way and then when you're happy you’ll have that to understand. It balances out I think.
K: Definitely. And I guess that’s a good segue into: what have been some of the challenges in this industry?
A: Gosh, so many I think. As an actress and an actor and a young woman, I think dealing with a lot of body image issues, a lot of rejection, a lot of self-worth [issues]. As you go through different facets of your career and as you age—which is something not a lot of 25-year-olds are dealing with but is something I deal with in the industry I’m in—not a lot of 25-year olds-are thinking, “Oh, I’m too old for that.” But that is something that I deal with so it’s a pretty interesting juxtaposition in my normal life being a young woman. But aging out of a category that I have had success in like with The Next Step, I think those are some of the challenges.
K: Absolutely. And I can imagine that with acting, every audition you go to you’re kind of exposing yourself to rejection. And I feel like that’s something that everybody listening can relate to. You put a post on Instagram and you don’t get enough likes—you feel rejected. Or you go on a first date and it doesn’t go well and you feel a little rejected. And I was wondering: how do you cope with the rejection and how do you handle that?
A: Coping with rejection, especially when it comes to auditioning, is one thing you learn early. For me and most of my friends you go, you do the best in the audition, and then you just forget about it.
But also realizing, in and underneath all of that, that first of all: they’re not rejecting you. You could be the Meryl Streep of your audition but if you don’t have brunette hair they’re not going to cast you. So they’re rejecting you, they’re not rejecting your personality, and they’re not rejecting your performance. Obviously you can have a bad performance and, yes, they might be rejecting that, but you just have to realize that it’s not a connection to you as a person.
K: For sure. I guess there are so many opportunities for comparison and to get in your head and to think you need to look a different way. So how do you stay sane?
A: I think the number one thing—and I think this just comes with age and is something I continue to improve on—is that when you’re younger, especially a teenager as a woman, you just feel like your whole value comes from how you look. It’s the thing you obsess about most and what you’re most worried about. And maybe it was just me, but having spoken to a lot of women my age about this topic, it’s a general consensus that as you get older, you realize that your looks matter just a little bit less. Or you just start to focus on things that make you a more interesting person.
I’ll tell you a funny story: I was going up for this show for CW and they did all the breakdowns for it. So one of the breakdowns I got for it was for this 16-year-old twin sister role. And I was reading the other breakdowns and there was one called “Molly” who was a really cool character. It was like, “Molly: cool girl, any ethnicity please apply, huge badass,” a descriptor, and then the last one was like “Alyssia: most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, stunning, gorgeous, epitome of grace.” And so obviously I’m there for the twin and I’m like, “Why the hell didn’t they see me for Alyssia!?” So I go do the audition and they come back and say, “Okay, they want you to read for Alyssia now.” So it’s interesting because it’s just who casting sees you as and you can fit into so many roles so don’t have that opinion of yourself. And I was joking, but it also did hurt a little to think I wasn't being considered for the “most beautiful girl in the world” role. But also: your looks are just your looks. Yes, you’re attracted to what somebody looks like but it’s never the reason you stay in anything.
K: It’s so true. I was just talking to somebody about this as well. When I reflect on the people who have been really important in my life or just strangers that I’ve met who have been really lovely or cool or have had some sort of impact, it’s never been because of what they looked like; it’s because they made me feel a certain way or because they had a big heart or a really good sense of humour. So I think that’s such a good reminder.
Something I so admire about you is that you’ve told me that you don’t post anything on your Instagram that has anything to do with weight loss or dieting or anything like that. I was just wondering if you could speak to why.
A: I think as a young woman I was just onslaught with, “Do this to get this body or eat the to get that body,” and all that kind of stuff. And thankfully the messaging around female bodies is changing but still, there’s an unrealistic expectation of beauty out there for all women but especially when you’re in your late teens, early twenties. So for me, I just didn’t want to be part of that. So when those offers started to come in for my Instagram to promote weight loss or fat loss supplements, it was just a hard “no” for me because I don’t want that messaging. I don’t want to be part of that messaging to young girls that they have to be skinny to have any kind of self worth or be worth something or you have to look like any kind of beauty convention to be worth something.
It’s interesting, speaking of social media, I read this really interesting post on social media being like, “What did Rosa Parks weigh when she sat on that bus?” or “What was Gloria Allred’s haircut when she started defending women?” It just speaks to: people who actually do big things with their lives, you remember them for their big things. You don’t remember them for what they look like. You remember them for what they did.
K: Absolutely, I just love that. And social media is another interesting topic because I imagine that you have lots of people leaving you nice comments and who really, really admire you. Does that ever get hard, feeling like you have to uphold some standard or expectation? Is there a certain part of that?
A: Maybe not looks-wise, but projecting an air of happiness is something that can be hard because a lot of the times, I’m not happy. And not that I’m not a happy person, I am. I go through things like most people but that’s not what you post on social media. I post my headshots, which are taken by a professional photographer an I have makeup on. Or I post when I’m having fun on the beach with friends and that’s probably the 16th photo I took that day; it’s not the first. So it’s things like that that I feel get to me more where I do want to promote a positive, healthy happy lifestyle but in and of that, there are times when I feel down or I feel sad or I’m going through something or one of my friend is going through something and I’m trying to connect and be there for them. So I think any key to social media—and so many people say this but even I struggle with it—is knowing that’s not everybody’s life. It just isn’t. I think with every social media person, have a good healthy dose of skepticism.
K: Absolutely. What kind of things have you found maintain your mental health and stay sane?
I do a gratitude journal, so in the morning I write what I’m thankful for and in the night I write why the day was good. So it just kind of helps you stay a little more on track and there is a line at the bottom that’s like, “things you could have done better” so it’s like you’re not always thinking, “I’m the best person to exist!” which isn’t healthy either. So it helps you keep track. And if I am having a down day, I can go back and read that and remember. I write, “Good conversation wth Sophie,” who’s my sister. I’ll write, “Helped Britt with this.” It gives my self worth a different value system.
K: I love that and I think that also highlights that mental health is something we have to be intentional about because we always talk about going to the gym and working out your muscles but I feel as though mental health is the same way. And doing those practices that help—like a gratitude journal or talking to people—that’s how we work our mental health muscles.
I guess my question for you then is gif you could tell other young women one thing what would you want to be a good piece of advice for them to carry from this?
A: I think for me, it’s okay to not be okay. It is not your job to be happy so you make other people feel happy. It is not your job to carry everybody’s issues and not address your own. I think as women, we do that a lot. We’ll be like, “Oh this person needs me or this person needs me and I’ll get to myself later” or you don’t want to voice your own problems because you feel like you’re hindering or putting them on somebody. And if you are listening to this and you have anyone that makes you feel down when you’re telling people about the fact that you feel down, get rid of them. Just leave them. Leave them in the dust because it’s not your job to be happy all the time. It’s your job to be a fully rounded, fully developed person and that includes being sad.
K: Absolutely. And I’m thinking about how great it is that you’re talking about this and how when I was younger, I would have loved if someone I looked up to was talking about mental health and how it’s okay if you’re not okay and saying, “Please take my Instagram with a grain of salt and skepticism” so I really appreciate you being here. I really appreciate you talking about such important things and being so down to earth and real with everybody who’s listening so thank you.
So, what is on the horizon for you? What are you looking forward to, whether it’s personal life whether it’s work stuff?
A: I am going skiing so wish me luck. At the point that this podcast is out, if you hear about a girl taking out half of Blue Mountain, it was me. I’m excited about that. It was pilot season in my industry so that means a lot of the big projects are getting cast right now so that’s fun. On a family level, we’re going to the Exumas on a family trip so I’m excited for some sun but that’s kind of everything going on with me right now.
Follow Alexandra at @albeaton on Instagram.