Sometimes industry professionals, with all the emphasis on types, sound like high schoolers in the quad—ruthlessly assessing people’s appearances and being quick to label others. But just as teenagers grow up and realize that some people surprise you by growing into their looks or with their remarkable achievements, so do experts in the entertainment industry come to realize their professional opinions are not infallible.

Take Kristen Bell, for example. In a Vanity Fair interview, the 39-year-old actress describes the kinds of obstacles she faced when she was just coming up in the industry.

“I remember early on, getting feedback, that I wasn’t enough in either category,” she recalls. “I would get feedback from an audition like, ‘Well, you’re not pretty enough to play the pretty girl, but you’re not quirky enough or weird enough to play the weird girl.”

This kind of assessment left Bell confused. She wondered, “Okay, does that just mean I can’t be an actor? What does that mean? That’s what I was getting feedback on—on every audition.”

Bell went on to garner critical acclaim playing the title character in the TV series Veronica Mars;  in 2008, she starred as the title character in her breakthrough film Forgetting Sarah Marshall followed by a number of comedy films such as When in Rome, The Boss, and Bad Moms. For five years, Bell served as the narrator, the omniscient blogger in the popular series Gossip Girl. Of course, she voiced the fan-favorite clumsy princess Anna in Disney’s megahit Frozen. And the busy actress starred in both the Showtime comedy series House of Lies as well as the NBC comedy series The Good Place for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.

As the years have passed, Bell has become more hopeful about Hollywood’s direction. “It’s not the ‘80s where you have to have the popular girl and then the nerd who gets the guy,” Bell continued. “It opens up a lot of opportunities for everyone to play pretend, which is the most fun part. I think as I’ve grown older, those boxes have changed … and have almost gone away. It’s this huge gray area now of all these beautiful stories you can tell … that have dimensional people that don’t have to be one thing.”

Other actresses have likewise struggled to move beyond the unsupportive opinions of various industry professionals. Here are just a few.

Oscar-winning actress Sally Field was told by her management that  she was “not pretty enough” to become a film star and experienced relentless rejection. When the Lincoln actress wanted to stop doing TV roles and instead pursue work in films, even her agent said, “Well that’s ridiculous. You can’t do that, you can’t get into film. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not good enough.” Fields, in turn, fired him and forged her own path forward.

Reese Witherspoon shared the feedback she received early in her career. “When I first came her [to Los Angeles], all I heard was, ‘No, not right—not tall enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough.’” But she took it all in stride. “I didn’t really care about their opinions. I’m stubborn,” she said. She went on to win an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

 

Stranger Things actress Winona Ryder shared the criticism she once received from a casting professional. “I was in the middle of auditioning, and I was mid-sentence when the casting director said, ‘Listen, kid. You should not be an actress. You are not pretty enough. You should go back to wherever you came from and you should go to school. You don’t have it.’” But nothing was going to stop her; Ryder went on to win a Golden Globe and receive two Oscar nods.

Titanic actress Kate Winslet once revealed, “When I was younger, when I was 14, I was told by my drama teacher that I might do okay if I was happy to settle for the fat girl parts.” The Oscar-winning actress continued, “So what I always feel in these moments is that any young woman who has ever been put down by a teacher, by a friend, by even a parent, just don’t listen to any of it, because that’s what I did—I kept on going and I overcame my fears and got over my insecurities.”

 

 

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