Photo: Mark Andrew
Cindy Cheung, 38, is an actress who has a radiant smile and projects a quiet strength and authority.
Once, my mother said, "You might not be the prettiest girl in the world, but I think you're beautiful just the way you are." I'm pretty flat-chested; my mother is too. We'd be in the fitting room, and she'd say jokingly, "Sorry! Sorry I didn't give you more!" She's putting us both down in a little offhand joke. The message was, "You're lacking in this department—that's a sad little thing we have to accept. Unless you want to get a boob job." She always says, "I'm built like a football, and you're long and lean and beautiful." But she still says "Sorry!" about the boob size. The specifics are very revealing about how she feels about me and herself.
My dad is kind of a square, really conscious about health. He asks, "Are you eating right and exercising?" That's his way of showing his care and his love. I inherited a lot of healthy attitudes from him. I go to California every year for pilot season. In the industry, at auditions, they can be cruel. You can tell when you walk in and you're not "hot" enough; they're done with you very quickly. My mom will ask, "You sure you don't want a boob job? It can really help your career." I have to actively tell myself I'm not lacking.
The casting call will say the role is for an "average woman." And the actresses look like mannequins. They're perfect, those proportions that conform to Hollywood's idea of a beautiful woman. They might look fabulous in a magazine. But when you get close, you see they're gaunt, they're hungry, they're not happy. You can see it in their eyes.
When I see a TV show or a magazine with a woman who does not have those very specific proportions, I'm happy. I'm happy for her and for me and for women. I'd rather have a few great roles than a ton of roles based on superficial elements. I have a pretty healthy sense of my body image and of myself. But it does take work and awareness in the roomful of mannequins. A technique I learned in acting school is to notice my breathing—it makes me very connected to my body and to the present moment.
Love Your Body!
We Hear You!