It drives me insane when a creative team says they want someone who looks ‘sexy.’
‘Sexy’ covers such a gamut of ages, looks, personalities, everything. As I hope you, reading this, can attest – when you find someone sexy, there’s rarely a common denominator in outer appearance. I don’t mean ‘pretty.’ I don’t mean ‘hot.’ I don’t even mean ‘attractive.’ I mean when you find someone sexy. Like – cuddle-up-against-them, listen-to-their-stories and possibly-rip-off-their-clothes, sexy.
It’s surprisingly difficult to find someone who actually is sexy, rather than someone who just ‘looks’ sexy according to current social norms. However – it’s also a hell of a lot of fun when you find someone who radiates sexiness, and then get to share it with the rest of the world. Sexiness is not something easy to force or manufacture, and when you find it – it’s a raw, awesome power that jumps off the screen.
There are gorgeous, beautiful people out there, onscreen and off, and often – I see people around them react in a purely image-based way, and it’s frustrating to watch. I can almost see the wheels turning in their head – ‘Ah, okay. If I dressed like that, if I worked out to get my muscles like that, if I did my hair/makeup that way – then, then, people will look at me the way they look at that person. And I’ll feel as happy/confident/capable as they seem to feel.’ But that’s the wrong interpretation. It’s not the way they dress, or the cut of their hair – it’s what they exude, that we want for ourselves. There are also pretty people who inspire no such feelings in the people around them – because they don’t exude shit.
Sexiness is a very fine line between knowledge of self, and cognizance of one’s place in the surrounding world.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
Knowing what you’re capable of, knowing what you have to offer, and valuing that – that’s sexy. But not if you’re wrapped up in your own world, and can’t see whether or not that’s important to the world around you. We’re all insignificant specks, in the grand scheme of things. Take an arrogant CEO character, for example. He or she knows they are capable, and they know what they have to offer; but when that CEO make assumptions about the people around them being lesser men/women, or assumptions about how they could do anything better than someone they just met – that’s not sexy. That’s arrogant. Conversely – knowing your place in the world, but not recognizing your own value – it comes across as though you’re constantly trying, and trying, to unnecessarily prove you should keep what you already have. We all have a unique, special value and worth. Take a self-defeating friend character, who’s pining after the main character but doesn’t feel like they deserve that kind of person on their own – perhaps they are the funny punching bag, in order to make that person feel better, or maybe they buy everything. They’re trying to prove their worth, as opposed to knowing their worth – that’s not sexy. That’s a little pathetic.
Change your perspective on these characters, and balance them out – that way you’ll create something undeniably sexy. Take that arrogant CEO again. Perhaps they are always flippant and mocking to those around them, but when you take them out of their element, you find out – their priorities are making the world a better place, and they have respect for others who do the same. This version of the CEO doesn’t look down on those around them – at a dinner party of genius billionaire philanthropists, they’d make a lot of friends. It’s just they are not letting idiots waste their time because they know their time is valuable, and they use those valuable skills for something more important and beautiful than themselves. Suddenly – you’re doing that same scene, but flippant becomes witty, mocking becomes discerning. Arrogance, if backed up with facts – becomes charming strength.
I know I’d find that sexy.
Or that self-defeating friend character – what if in a different situation, one that they don’t feel they have to fight for, we see them at their most comfortable. Perhaps they visit their grandpa every day in a nursing home, and not needing to impress the other patients – they’re able to be funny without putting themselves down, they’re able to give and accept compliments and admiration freely, not feeling they have to pay for it. Their confidence shines through, because they know that their time, and their qualities, are valued. No substitute could come close. So go back to the scene with them pining and working hard to win their love, and the story shifts – self-defeating jokes becomes self-deprecating, trying becomes sweet. Their loving support is a quiet power, and their patience is inspiring.
I’d want to hug that person close.
Here’s the crux – the original CEO character knew their value, but not their place in the world. You as an actor need to show us he or she knows their place in the world – that’s when they become sexy. The pining friend knew their place in the world, but didn’t recognize their value – again you need to show us he or she knows their value, and they become sexy. Of course – this is breaking things down to very simple terms – there are so many variations on either side of this balance. But ultimately, my point is that there are a lot of different types of sexy – none of them have to do with the way someone looks.
Where the additional struggle comes, as an actor – you’re already trying to be someone you’re not. If you’re not comfortable in your character, it’s very difficult to be sexy. The ease you have, when you’re in your favorite jeans – that’s the ease you need to have with your character, in order to even try to be sexy. Which is why that quality is so elusive in a casting room. Just getting comfortable enough to be a character is difficult, and on top of that I’m asking you to figure out the core of who they are and how the world sees them. You haven’t lived as this character, you don’t really know. Essentially, I’m asking you to make up an entire life of memories, an entire world of interactions, for this character – based on a two-page scene of banter. No pressure. What are their valued qualities? Do they know who they are in grand scheme of things? Which of those qualities makes them be sexy? This is why it boggles my mind to see an actor spend more time in a gym or a salon than they do in acting class.
I take the responsibility very seriously, as a content creator, to redefine what it means to be sexy on screen. We all, as facets of the media, can change what it means on a case by case basis. I can’t control the audience who takes away the image of sexy, rather than the feeling of sexy – but I can try to show them that it comes in all different shapes, colors and sizes, and point them in the right direction. I always want to go back to my team, and say, ‘I didn’t find you someone who looks sexy – I found you someone who is sexy.’ Because that’s always better.
So you, as the actor, need to put in the work – sexiness is a rare thing, but don’t be put off when you see it in a character description. I don’t care what you look like – anyone can be sexy. You need to have that confidence and awareness, and it needs to be so intrinsic, that someone watching you is drawn to you like a moth to a flame. It can’t be forced, it can’t be something you try to convey. You can’t fake sexy. You have to know you’re sexy – same as the real world.
Please take the time to learn and know your value, your worth – and how you fit into the world around you. And bring that to your characters. Because trust me – you’re sexy. And you know it.