Our Interview with OITNB Actress Julia Lake
Please tell us about yourself and what you do?
I’m an actress! I play the goofy meth-head, Angie Rice, on Orange is the New Black.
Can you tell us a bit about any upcoming projects or events that you are working on?
I’m currently filming season 5 of OITNB, which has been absolutely crazy and a ton of fun. I’m also finishing a web series I co-created called Mental, a comedy about two best friends who struggle with mental instability. Additionally I’m pitching two television shows with co-writers from my comedy sketch team and just finished directing the pilot of a web series called Tinderellas. I’m keeping very busy these days.
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?
Yes, I hate to admit it, but have felt pressure from the industry to try to have a perfect body and to stay young looking. It’s tough being in an industry where you question if you just made tweaks to your appearance, could you have the career you wanted. But women like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer have really inspired me to say fuck that, I am who I am, and to try to create more roles for women who are REAL PEOPLE. Not just sex objects/mother’s/wives. We need more roles for women, and more female driven material like Orange is the New Black, created by women. I think ultimately that’s what’s going to put an end to this insane standard that women have to to be perfect looking to be on television and film.
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?
I’ve been a bit bullied on my social media, trolls telling me that I’m hideous. I think fans think they’re invisible, that actors aren’t looking at the comments on our social media, but we are. When I was in first grade, mean girls bullied me on the playground and laughed at me when I auditioned for our elementary school talent show. But I made it in (they didn’t), and I found confidence through singing and performing. When I was in middle school I was bullied by some older kids – I think I just endured it for a while, and eventually they stopped. One of the kids who bullied me died of an overdose shortly after I graduated high school, which just puts into perspective the immense amount of pain he must have been going through that probably drove him to bully me and others. At this point in my life, I’ve completely cut people out of my life who are negative and who drag me down. If somebody is bothering me or bullying me on social media, I block them. I’ve dealt with enough bullies and jealous, unstable people in my life to know that you can’t change them or help them, so I completely cut those people out. I try to surround myself with positive supportive people.
What made you want to get involved with Mental Fitness, Inc. and what it is about the mission of Mental Fitness that speaks to you?
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life, and when I was a kid, that wasn’t something that we really talked about in schools. I grew up Palo Alto and went to a hyper-competitive high school that’s had a slew of teen suicides over the passed ten years. More needs to be done to provide support to struggling teens, and I want to help in any way I can.
Who were the role models in your life?
When I was young I wanted to be a jazz singer and was inspired by Ella Fitzgerald. She was painfully shy and struggled body image issues, but she was still brave enough to let herself shine, pull herself out of poverty and become a international superstar. I was also painfully shy and had terrible stage fright, but her bravery inspired me to push forward with my passions despite my fears.
What do you define as beautiful?
As an actor, I’m always asked questions about beauty and fashion. Honestly, who cares. It’s so inane, and there are so many more important things to talk about. I’m sick of talking about beauty. It’s not something you earn or fight for, it doesn’t define a person, it doesn’t help or enlighten anybody. We need to stop placing so much value on beauty, a total bs topic, and start valuing our minds, hearts, and ideas above all else. But, to answer the question, I find nature epically beautiful. I think people are most beautiful when they’re feeling open and free and being themselves.
How do you define inner beauty?
I think generosity is inner beauty. Helping and nurturing others without expecting anything in return. I need to strive to be more generous myself.
What is happiness?
Happiness is a feeling of peace, security, freedom, and joy. It’s being in that headspace where you can be spontaneous in the moment and not worry about a hundred things at once. I feel the most happy when I’m hiking in the mountains, swimming in the ocean, or doing something active outdoors. I’m also happy when I’m acting and am 100% in the mind of the character and not thinking about anything else. I also love laughing with friends and loved ones and playing with my puppy, Rougarou.
Would you be willing to take the Real Deal pledge? Thoughts about that? (http://wearetherealdeal.com/a
Yes, that’s great! I love that. I need to remember how my attitude and language affects others and eliminate fat chat. These are really good reminders.
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?
I do yoga and exercise – that really helps. Sleeping. Eating well. So important for me. I love coffee, but I try not to drink too much because it makes me anxious. I hardly ever drink alcohol because it makes me feel much more anxious the next day. Meditation. Massage. Hiking and getting out in nature on the weekends helps the most; it clears my mind and resets me for the next week.
How do you find a work-life balance — as a man, relationships, a professional — what are keys to balance?
Work-life balance is tough. I have barely any control over my schedule in this profession, and that really stresses me out. But having a puppy really helps to slow me down because he needs me to take care of him – feed him, walk him, play with him. I think making lists and schedules and prioritizing personal time and exercise is key. Also not overextending yourself. I need to learn to say no to projects and focus on the few things that I can manage.
If you can go back and talk to your younger self, what would you tell yourself and what would you tell others reading now?
I wish I had been more willing to fail. When I was younger, I thought I had to be perfect at everything I did. If I tried and failed, I thought I just wasn’t good at that thing and was too embarrassed to ever try again. I didn’t get that there’s always a learning curve and had no idea how much work and failure it takes to be really good at anything. My perfectionism has held me back over the years.