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More than Skin Deep

As told to Esther Rabi

Shakespeare wasn’t for me, I realized after I majored in theater. I wanted to be on stage, I wanted applause. Who wants to regurgitate Shakespeare? I needed to be seen as someone. Memorizing soliloquies wasn’t the way to get there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

No wonder I was a very good actress: I was a chameleon. My persona was completely dependent on what others thought of me. People loved me because I acted upbeat and cheerful; I knew they loved me for being something I wasn’t, but at least they loved me. If someone thought I was something, I was something; if someone didn’t think much of me, I was nothing. It was like I had no skin. This hypersensitivity caused a lot of pain. I felt very alone. Like a leaf blowing in the wind, not connected to anything. Between auditions I went to work for my friend who owned a day spa. I was terrible at everything but the makeup — I was great at that. My personality does well in animation — an audience or a customer animated me. My goal is to sell an item, create an atmosphere. Soon I was choosing palettes and being sent to shows to introduce the season’s new colors. When a sales rep for Ralph Lauren said, “We could put you in at Macy’s on Herald Square,” I went to work there. I was a very theatrical makeup person. If Ralph Lauren designed the makeup area to look like Africa, I’d wear jodhpurs and become a girl in their scene. I knew how to be part of a scene — it was being myself that was impossible. I thought I was like a bottle of perfume — if packaged well, the sale is a cinch. I tried to package myself so people would want what I was selling. The makeup companies loved me, and I became counter manager, answerable only to our six-foot-four, 280-pound, intimidating floor supervisor, Mr. Parker. My brother, who had become frum through Aish while backpacking in Israel, convinced me to go to a Discovery weekend. I had run around looking for spirituality, but I didn’t know I could find it in Judaism. “You gotta go and learn! Inspect your own backyard!” he told me. I went just so I could cross “check out Judaism” off my list. I didn’t want to feel guilty about never having tried it. Then, I thought, I’d get back to real life. It wouldn’t take long.

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