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I am not trying to be perfect anymore

For years, actress Vanessa Marcil felt intense pressure to achieve, achieve, achieve. Now, at long last, she's over it.

I don't have many happy memories of my childhood. I grew up in Indio, California, the youngest of four. We were really poor; we couldn't even afford a car, so my mother had to walk us everywhere. At school I didn't fit in because my mother was white and my father was Mexican, and kids picked on me because I was scrawny. Meanwhile, my father used to tell me that if I wasn't careful, I was going to get a big butt.

At 17 I got out of there; I graduated from high school early and moved to Newport Beach, California. I'd planned to go to college, but I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I dropped that idea I was so irresponsible: Every four weeks I had a new job; I couldn't pay my rent; my phone and electricity would get turned off all the time. When I went out, I would drink-beer, wine, whatever I could get my hands on. It was not normal drinking; I would drink to the point of passing out.

One night a friend of mine called to see if I wanted to hang out. He was doing very well for himself, and as I looked around at all of his friends and saw what all of these people I admired had achieved, I realized that I didn't want to be a loser-I wanted

to do something different with my life. The next morning I sat down and wrote out a list of all the things I wanted to achieve. When I was finished, there were 62 items on the list. Some of them were:

• Buy my mom a house and a cat: 

• Get involved in charity work.

• Find something that I feel passionate about. 

•Be recognized for my work in some way, even if it's just having someone say, "You did a great job." 

•Get healthy physically and emotionally.

"Once I relaxed, a funny thing happened: I felt hotter than I did when I was t-rying so hard to be hot."

I started working on the list immediately: I quit drinking,  did 200 sit-ups per day and never allowed-. myself junk food of any kind. Once I decided that  what I wanted to do professionally was act, I really felt pressure to be perfect in every way. While my friends were out partying, I was working  out, going to acting class and getting into bed by 8 PM. Little by little, over a period of 12 years, I crossed off every single thing I'd writen down on that list. I landed a role on General- Hospital.  I bought my mother a convertible BMW  I got involved with an organization that helps battered women. And last year I won an Emmy.

But when I was 32, something happened that made all the things I was obsessing over seem insignificant. I got pregnant.

If you've been working out for 10 years trining to achieve a perfect body and suddenly you get pregnant, you can't help but think, oh my God., Am I going to get stretch marks? Are my boobs going to sag? Am I going to get cellulite? But  somewhere down the line, I decided that I'd rather  be comfortable than look hot. I started to wear things that I felt good in, like flip-flops instead of stilettos. I stopped worrying about whether people thought I had a good body or good skin. I  became comfortable with myself instead trying to be super-exceptional to everyone else.

After I had my son, just being with him made me  feel happy. Kassius was so content just sitting  in the grass or playing with rocks, and watching him helped me realize that I had to slow down if  I wanted to stay in that moment with him.

These days, I'll let myself have a drink  or two when I'm out with friends. I don't need to be in bed by 8 P .M. every night or get mentioned in  every article written about Las Vegas, the show  I'm on. And now that I've relaxed, a funny thing has happened: I feel hotter than I did when I was trying so hard to be hot. I don't have to be so strict with myself anymore.  And that's made my life so much more fun.©

GLAMOUR October 2004