Receiving bad news is equivalent to getting punched in the face, and right now my manager is the one doing the punching: one of the studio's we pitched the digital series that I created, co-wrote and planned to star in had turned it down.
"Not because the show isn't good enough, in fact they loved the show, the writing is on point, it's relevant, funny and it's exactly the kind of content they're looking for but unfortunately they Googled you and you're too much of a risk for advertisers..." this is what I'm hearing down the other end of my phone while making a Caprese salad in my kitchen.
"But... the show in essence is about reinvention, it's about a girl who's trying to start over!" I say in disbelief.
My manager continues talking trying to find the positive in the situation, "at least we know that people are responding to your work and your writing isn't the issue".
I 'ummm' and 'ahhhh' down the phone trying to concentrate on cutting the tomatoes and not my wrists. "Yeah I guess?"
This doesn't come as a shock to me; my past has held me hostage for the entirety of my acting/writing career, nevertheless the words "they Googled you" make me cringe with disgust. We end the conversation, I put down my phone on the counter and walk around the kitchen, up and down, back and forth, side to side, not knowing where I'm going or what I'm actually doing, it's just sort of a routine I do when I'm upset and angry. I finally come to a stop. At this point I've lost my appetite, so I sit down at my dining room table and let out a little cry. So the studio loves the idea of reinvention on paper, but in reality reinvention it's too much of a risk? They think my writing is "on point", but my online reputation somehow precedes me? I start getting all worked up like my usual neurotic self. I hear myself saying: "Google stop ruining my life! F***, sh**, b*llocks"
Before I turned my attention to acting and writing I was a model. Not a fashion model or the type you see in commercials, I was a topless model, the kind you find on Page 3 of the Sun newspaper. How I ended up in this profession is pretty simple. I grew up in a working class family in South East London with no money. I left school at the age of 16 with no education or income; taking the first job I could get working in a hair salon. It was there I realised that unless I was the daughter of someone famous, or from a wealthy, connected family, chances were I was going to struggle. That alone was enough to throw me into an enormous ball of panic. If I wanted to make it out of the hood, which I did, and do something fulfilling with my life then I needed a job that paid me a lot of money. Coincidentally, I found that job being a glamour model.
I didn't have a problem being topless, in fact it comes quite naturally to me. I had no aspirations to be the next Katie Price but the job served a purpose: to pay me enough money to buy the freedom to do what I wanted to do with my life. So I bounced around the world for a couple of years getting my "assets" out until self-hatred descended upon me and I decided I'd made enough money to get out of South London, I quit. I moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in drama school, something I had dreamed about since I was a child. I studied full time for a year before re-entering the working world as an actress.
Now, all of this could have been great. Prior to the days of the Internet, I could have modelled for the Sun and remained close to anonymous on my move to Los Angeles. It's not like anyone at the studio had heard of me until they searched my name into Google.
I'm now wallowing in self-pity eating my Caprese salad with pure anger because I don't have an appetite, but I'm basically eating my emotions. I've managed to open my laptop and type my name into Google to see what comes up. On the right hand side of the page my name appears along with the word "model" as a byline and there's one photo. The photo takes me by surprise, most of my modelling photos take me by surprise, but this one in particular because I look like a man, not in the sense that it's a bad photo and I sort of look manly, legitimately it's a photo of my face and boobs mixed with the face of Martin Short. Is this some sort of sick joke? I follow the various links to the original website and find out its all part of an online partial face transplant photoshop competition. I cry into my Caprese salad and I haven't made it to the 'image' section of Google yet!
I scroll through the first couple of pages of the search engine and notice that my official website isn't listed. Interesting. I finally click onto the dreaded images section. There are hundreds of photos in what appears to be a forever-ending scroll of imagery. Who is this person? Who is this dark haired person who looks slightly slutty posing as me? I look nothing like this person! That's when I realise, I'm 18 in all of these photos, and they're practically 10 years old now. With Google having no concrete timeline, the photos of me that arise when you type in my name could have been taken last week as far as anyone is concerned, and the majority of the images don't have any kind of branding on, they don't look like they've been published in any magazines. It dawns on me that the bulk of the shots were taken by the same photographer a decade ago. I have an agreement in place allowing me to own joint copyright to these images, but here they are spread all over the Internet seemingly belonging to public domain.
I suddenly notice that my Google 'image' page is an amalgamation of all the photos I hate of myself piled into what a appears to be an accessible online album. To explain this feeling to you, it's like someone went through your Facebook page and picked out all the embarrassing photos you dislike of yourself. Then, the photos you love - the profile picture you've had for the last two years, that album from when you were on holiday and looked great with a tan - all of those images are gone. They've vanished and the only photos made available are the ones you hate. I go on the rampage to my computer screen, "I'm 18 in these photos, I turn 28 in a couple of months! This is a manipulated version of my work!" No magazine covers, even the last photo-shoot I did isn't there, no stills from any movies I've filmed, and it's like none of the noteworthy, or new shoots I did exist. The only photos one can find are the bottom of the barrel, lowest of the low and that's what I have representing me as a person. AND THEY DON'T EVEN LOOK LIKE ME! I'm now shouting at my computer like a crazy person, hoping that by some miracle a Google genius will jump through my screen and help me delete my entire past from the Internet. Unfortunately it doesn't happen but one can hope it's not far off. The worst thing about Googling someone is it conjures up this conceptualised idea about the person whether it's accurate or not and the mental image that comes to mind when Googling myself isn't a positive one.
It dwells on me as I stare at the Internet version of myself, I don't want to delete my past entirely. It's part of me as a person and even though I live in a limbo land of feelings about it (somewhere between regret and rejoice) I'm not trying to run away from it, merely close the chapter and move onto the next. Yes, I was a model, it's all part of my history, but do I have to be defined by this updated, cardboard cut out, sexed up image of my 18-year-old self forever? People change. People can be more than one thing. We all deserve 'the right to be forgotten' not to censor our mistakes, so our Google personas don't solely dictate who we are. I guess writing about reinvention is the easy part; it's fighting for it in reality that's the challenge.