It’s 2006. I’m 19 years old. I move to Los Angeles because I want to be an actress. I’m accepted into a conservatory program in the heart of Hollywood. I don’t know anyone and I have no idea what I’m doing, but the possibilities seem endless and my dreams feel possible.
It’s 2007. I perform a scene in my audition technique class. When I’m done, my teacher asks me about my clothes. He wants to know why my white skirt is so long and my blue blouse is so baggy. He tells me I’m sexy, and for the sake of my career, I need to embrace it. He never comments on my performance. The class giggles as I sit down. This is the foundation my career is built on.
It’s 2008. I’ve graduated from that conservatory program with a little less confidence than I entered. I get my first commercial/print agent. I’m asked to audition in high heels and a bikini three or four times a week. I hate my stomach. I don’t like the way my thighs jiggle. I’m not very graceful in those heels. I cry on my way home from every audition and tell myself I’m just frustrated by the traffic on the 101.
It’s 2009. I’m told to “network” because it’s “all about who you know”. I meet a guy who claims to be a producer. He tells me he’s making a movie and wants me to be in it. I agree to go back to his apartment to meet the other producers. No one else is there. He tells me if I “do something” for him, he’ll give me the part. He tries to shove my head into his crotch, it hurts. I ask him to stop. I force a smile and tell him I have to be up early so I really should get going. I apologize to him on my way out and blame myself for believing him in the first place.
It’s 2010. I audition for a music video. Non-union. They don’t ask me to wear a bikini this time. They ask me to take off all of my clothes. I do. They take Polaroids. I wonder where those Polaroids are now.
It’s 2011. I meet an A-list actor and we begin having an intimate relationship. I tell myself “he’s busy” when I don’t hear from him for weeks between our get-together. After eight months, I finally get up the nerve to ask him if what we’re doing will ever be anything more. He kisses me goodbye the next morning and I never hear from him again.
It’s 2012. I meet another producer. This one’s legit. I know that because now I’m smart enough to do my research before I agree to meet someone. His resume is impressive. He tries to kiss me on the lips after our first meeting, standing under the fluorescent lights of the valet parking lot at Soho House. I turn my head so his lips land on my cheek. This producer will manipulate and sexually harass me for years. I will email him and meet him for dinner, again, telling myself that I’m “networking”.
It’s 2013. The legit producer sexually assaults me in his home. “Just don’t ever be alone in a room with Harvey. He’s the worst out of all of us”, he warns me as he forces his mouth onto mine. I drink a lot more these days. I tell myself that I asked for it.
It’s 2014. It feels like I’m getting nowhere in my career. I’m struggling to make ends meet. I take a decent paying job at a fancy hotel. My first week there, one of the bar owners comes into my office and asks me if I like to be spanked. “I guess this happens in every industry”, I think to myself as I laugh at my new boss’ joke.
It’s 2015. I get sober and start a blog. I spend a lot of time alone. I think about my time in the industry thus far and what could happen next. I have suicidal thoughts for the first time in my life.
It’s 2016. I book the lead in a movie. There’s a topless scene. If I don’t agree to do it, I won’t get the part, and I could really use a break right about now. So I do it. “The only good thing about ‘Krampus Unleashed’ is Amelia Brantley’s boobs”, someone tweets once the film is released. “How about that hot tub scene!”, a radio DJ exclaims during my interview. I have a panic attack when I find out that the scene and pictures of my body are on MrSkin.com.
It’s 2017. A producer in New York reads my blog and asks me to develop it into a feature. We meet for dinner in LA. It feels more like a date. We sign an option deal. A few weeks later, I post a picture of me and my boyfriend on social media and this producer stops responding to my calls and emails.
It’s 2018. I’m a fraction of the starry-eyed girl who moved to LA at 19 years old. My dreams have been crushed under the weight of men with power, who never saw my talent or hard work because they were too busy wondering what I look like without my clothes on or actively trying to take them off. I’m uncomfortable in my skin because I’ve been living in a body that hasn’t belonged to me for over 10 years. It’s belonged to those men whose words and actions have chipped and gnawed and sliced away at every ounce of my self-worth. I think about quitting. Wouldn’t it feel good to just walk away….
It’s 2019. I read this piece that I wrote a year ago. I think about sharing it, but I don’t. “It’s too much”, I tell myself.
It’s 2020. I seek help. I find the programs and the support that I need to begin healing from my traumas. I get sober again. I can finally say, with certainty, that the abuse, harassment, and assault I experienced, was not my fault.
It’s 2021. I’m finally sharing this piece I started writing three years ago because I’m no longer ashamed of my story. I am in awe of it. I’m proud of the young woman who never gave up, despite having every reason to do so. I understand now that who I am is not the sum of these experiences. I am so much more than that. I’m reclaiming my body, rediscovering my passion, and relearning who I am as my most authentic. It took a while to get back here, but once again, the possibilities seem endless and my dreams feel possible.