Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Interview with voice actress, Maddy Peters: Standing up for others

Please tell us about yourself and what you do?

Hey, I’m Maddy. I’m a voice actress on TV shows like Martha Speaks and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and I’m also an art student studying illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art. I love drawing and animation and when I graduate I want to work in the business both as a voice actress and a character designer or concept artist. I also like music and volleyball and a bunch of other things. I actually like everything. There’s nothing I don’t like (that’s a joke, but it’s also kind of true).

 

Can you tell us a bit about any upcoming projects or events that you are working on?

I recently recorded some stuff that I’m not allowed to talk about (spoilers!) but other than that, I’ve been laying low on the voice acting because it’s hard to do now that I’m in the States. I’m working on a variety of art projects, some of which I’ll post on the internet, but it’s mostly little projects. No months-of-toil, great endeavors yet.

 

Do you find the pressures of working in your industry significant with regard to feeling the need to have a “perfect” body?  If so, how do you navigate through that terrain?  How do you “not” judge yourself when others (critics, audience members, producers, etc.) “judge” you based on outward measures?

I’m actually lucky to work in a field where outward appearance doesn’t really matter, at least in my opinion. You’re hired for your voice or your art, not what you look like. That said, high school is definitely a time where you’re judged on your appearance, and there are definitely pressures to have the “perfect body. People talk about their weight and their skin and their hair quite a bit and you can see perfection is something most of us strive for, even subconsciously. I always felt a little confused, because while I tried to be perfect, I didn’t really know what perfect was. My sense of beauty has always been all over the place, and though I find what society deems “ideal beautiful, it’s not the only form of beauty. That’s why I started obsessing over clothes. When you find clothes you love, you can choose a different way to be beautiful every day. You don’t have to stick to one look. I’d say it’s a healthy way to deal with the pressure to look perfect, as long as you don’t spend too much money (cough cough, me).

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To follow up with that question, how do you deal with bullying or people talking negative about you? Can you give any examples of bullying in your personal life and how you handled it?

This is a hard question, because I tend to be really oblivious to what others say about me, so I can’t remember a time when I’ve ever been bullied or encountered any negative talk. Well, there was this one time on the internet where I had a run-in with a bully. A girl posted a picture of herself in a bathing suit looking amazing and a little bit shy. Someone thought it would be a good idea to crush her self-esteem, and wrote something along the lines of, “You’re so ugly, you don’t deserve to live. Kill yourself. If the girl was feeling fragile, that message could have destroyed her. I have no idea how it affected her. I asked if she was okay, and she said she was fine, but I’m just a stranger on the internet. She didn’t have to tell me anything.

 

The lucky thing is, the bully meant to write the message anonymously, but she didn’t. So I messaged her. I told her that it was not okay to prey on any insecurities someone might have, and definitely not okay to tell someone to die. “How would you feel if she took your advice? I asked. “You would basically be a murderer. Guess what the message I got in return said?

 

“Kill yourself.

 

Fortunately, I was in a state of mind that made the message seem so stupid and insignificant that it didn’t affect me in the slightest. However, it makes me sick that someone would think those kind of words are okay.

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What made you want to get involved with Mental Fitness, Inc.?

When I was asked to get involved with Mental Fitness, Inc., I got really excited that there was a charity dedicated to mental well-being. Mental health is as important as physical health in fact, the two are totally intertwined but it doesn’t get the same attention. Not only is mental health pushed under the rug, when it is brought up, it’s usually dripping with stigma. People with mental illness or low self-esteem are “crazy or “attention-seeking I feel like Mental Fitness, Inc., is fighting to put an end to that: both the silence and the stigma. It’s really important to me that we make the effort to talk about mental health openly and positively, especially because I have personal experiences with mental health issues (which I won’t go into so I don’t violate anybody’s privacy). I bet anybody could name one person they know who suffers from a mental illness, has been bullied, or has self-image issues. It’s a personal cause for nearly everyone, and that makes me even more inclined to participate.

 

Who were the role models in your life?

I have a lot of role models, all of whom I admire in different ways. Artistically, I love the work of Brittney Lee (http://britsketch.blogspot.com/). Her style is fun and inventive and the lines are smooth and super aesthetically pleasing. She actually worked on Frozen, and though she had guidelines to follow, she had some creative free rein and made some fantastic artistic decisions. Another person I admire is Zooey Deschanel. This may sound superficial, but hear me out: the way she owns her look has inspired me to do the same. For a while, I tried to imitate her, but then I realized that what makes her so magnetic is that she knows who she is and makes everything she wears her own. I started doing that, making outfits that make me feel like me, and I came to love how I look. I think that’s an important step in being confident in who you are. This is going to sound super nerdy, but I also look up to a TV character. Cosima, from Orphan Black, is amazing. She’s a geneticist, and she doesn’t stop for one second to think about the fact that she’s a woman in a pretty male-heavy field. She never doubts herself. She calls people out on their bull, like when someone defines her by her sexual orientation. I haven’t mastered her cool, calm, yet assertive confidence, but maybe one day I will. Now this is going to sound cheesy, but my parents are also my role models. They’re both so brave no matter what happens, they’re ready to take it on, and they make it clear that they’re always there for my sisters and I. I hope to be a parent like that someday.

 

What do you define as beautiful?

Technically, beautiful describes something with a pleasing aesthetic. The thing is, it’s entirely subjective, meaning anyone can be beautiful, but the media reinforces collective standards of beauty and perpetuates the idea that if you don’t fit those standards, you have to change. There are so many different types of beautiful. There’s the long, straight-haired, big blue-eyed, Eurocentric beauty, but there are so many other kinds, some of which I see walking around campus every day. The chubby girl with the afro in a fifties dress and heels, and the Asian nonbinary person with short, pastel purple hair and a biker vest, to name a couple.

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How do you define inner beauty?

Inner beauty is all the qualities that make a person awesome. It could be sense of humour, a willingness to help others, an abundance of ideas inner beauty looks different in everyone. I see it in my friends every day. When my friend took care of another friend who’d had too much to drink. When my other friend hugged me even though I was sick, just because I needed a hug. When my friend gave me her undivided attention as I told a long and rambling story that I really needed to tell. Everyone’s got inner beauty. It’s just a matter of showing it.

 

What is happiness?

Happiness is basically when you feel good about yourself and your life. It doesn’t mean you have no bad days, no ups and downs. It just means that you usually like being you and you look forward to things. It’s really hard to find happiness when you’re looking for it; I don’t know the secret to happiness but if you pursue things you enjoy, chances are it’ll come. The thing about happiness, though, is that it ebbs and flows throughout your whole life. There will be times when you’re down and there will be times when you can’t believe how happy you are. There’s no telling how long those periods will last. Just know that when you’re down, it’ll pass, and when you’re happy, be mindful. Enjoy it.

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Would you be willing to take the Real Deal pledge? Thoughts about that?

I’m just gonna say that the Real Deal pledge is awesome. And it works. You know how I know? Somehow, without even realizing it or knowing what it was, I took the pledge when I got to college. I did, and do, all ten things, and I feel better than I ever have.

 

How do you manage your stress levels in daily life? Do you use music / art / dance, etc. as a coping tool? Are there other things that you do to live mindfully?

When I’m stressed, I usually do one of three things. If my friends aren’t in class, I text them and we work on art together and rant about our stress. If they are, I do art by myself to music (lately it’s been Dan Mangan, Portugal. The Man, and Mother Mother). And sometimes I curl up in bed and read or watch TV and nap a little. I also do some mindfulness stuff before bed I clear my head of any thoughts for five or ten minutes.

 

How do you find a work-life balance — as a woman, relationships, a professional — what are keys to balance?

I’m still working on the whole work-school-relationships balance. I work when I fly home for breaks, so my work and school are separated by time and space. That works well because I’m in a completely different headspace when I’m doing each one, and I don’t stress about one while I’m doing the other. It’s hard to balance relationships with school because I don’t get to see a lot of my friends during the week (our class schedules are really different). Still, like I said before, we do homework together, which is a nice compromise. I also try to maintain a close relationship with my family even though they’re 8 hours away by plane. We text a lot, and Skype. When I come home, it’s hard to tear myself away from spending time with them to prepare for work since I don’t get to see them often. I’m at a point in my life where I’m not really looking for a romantic relationship, so that makes things simpler.

 

To everyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in their body, I have a theory. It’s based on a psychological phenomenon called the Mere Exposure Effect. Basically, the more familiar something is to you, the more you grow to like it. I think that applies to self-image. When you’re a teenager, your appearance changes pretty rapidly. Once you start to reach adulthood (or earlier, or later), the changing usually slows down a little, giving to time to get used to yourself, which leads to a more positive self-image. I think that’s what happened to me. So if you want to feel better about your appearance, look in the mirror and try your best not to pick out your flaws. Just look. Take a few selfies. And if all else fails, wait. If your experience is anything like mine, it will get better.

 

Maddy Peters was born in West Vancouver, BC, Canada. She has loved art of every form since she was old enough to speak, walk, and hold a crayon. She has acted in plays and musicals throughout her childhood and now works as a voice actress. She is currently studying illustration at MICA in Baltimore, MD.

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