In my early twenties, I met a beautiful female actor who doesn’t share her age with anyone. Based on her experiences, I can do the math and know that she is playing roles that are easily ten years younger than her actual age. She was and still is KILLING the game. Her choice to hide her age appeared to be intentional, and I didn’t get it until I ran into another actress (that I highly respect) who does the same thing.
I figured out by observation that there are more opportunities for younger women in the entertainment business. The older you are, the harder it can be to get started and ultimately succeed (depending on the market you’re auditioning in). Men, on the other hand, are sometimes encouraged to age up for better roles. Thankfully for women, this business is based on appearances, not facts. So, if you look younger than you are, you can hack the system by not sharing your age. I signed up for that strategy early in the game.
The only issue is that the longer I did this, the worse I felt about my real age. When I got pregnant at twenty-seven, I freaked out because I was losing valuable acting years trying to have and take care of my baby. When I turned thirty, I was super careful not to post any pictures with the big 3-0 balloons from my birthday party. I ran away from aging because I observed some negativity around it in the industry. I’m already black and a woman. I didn’t want yet another thing to “overcome” in my professional life.
I’m honestly still working out my feelings about this. I’ll be 31 in two weeks. Happy Birthday to me! But I cringe as I type this. I’ve been hiding my age since the beginning of my professional acting career. To see it typed out, ready to be posted in a public space, is a little scary. Tis the season for vulnerability, so I’m owning my age in this season of life.
Here’s why . . .
My mom didn’t make it to fifty. This is the primarily reason I’m looking at my age differently. I watched the end of my mom’s life and became acutely aware of our limited time on this earth. She died young, and I know people who died younger. Every year God gives me on this planet is a blessing that I want to cherish.
Also, I’ve had some unrealistic career expectations connected to my age. I used to feel like not “making it” before thirty meant I didn’t do anything. This is another sneaky little idea I subconsciously got from society that turned out to be a lie. Am I a working actor? Yeah, but I’m not famous, and I’m not swimming in a pool of cash. I haven’t “made it.” Maybe it’s because I’m not ready for a big opportunity yet. Maybe a big opportunity isn’t ready for me. Who knows? But I don’t think this means I haven’t done anything.
Truthfully, I did not squander my teen years or my twenties. When I look closely at those years, I remember that spent most of my life being focused, as a student, leader, employee, family member, etc. Most of the time this focus and hard work wasn’t balanced properly with fun and joy. I thought that was the price you pay for big wins, but that’s not how the game works. I’m not owed a successful career because I’ve worked hard at the expense of my happiness. No one owes me anything. My opportunities come when they come, and the best I can do is be prepared. Stay skilled. Create what I can. Keep a good attitude. Enjoy my life!
When I look back over the last couple decades, I can honestly say I am proud of myself. I didn’t squander my time. I tried things. I took classes. I asked questions. I fell in love. I created a company. I grew a spine. I become a mother. I read. I experienced. I learned. I created. I grew.
I am living. Some things I figured out later than others, so I am a late bloomer by some standards. But I can reflect on my choices and honestly say that I’m fine with that. I dig how my journey is unfolding, and I’m just getting started.
I now embrace my age because I’m done with rejecting parts of myself based on society’s warped standards. I choose to express the truth of who I am without shame. There it is. That’s the new strategy.
As a kid, I used to ask my father this question all the time, and he didn’t quite know how to answer it. As a grown up, I can now say that life experience answered it for me.
Q: “What do you do if you have more than one interest in life? I feel like I could be good at more than one thing, and there’s no way to know for sure. How do I know which path to take?”
A: “Figure out what you must heal in this world. By the grace of God pursue that purpose using everything you have. You will end up exactly where you need to be.”
In this I take great comfort.
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.