Hollywood can be a tough, judgmental place, just ask former child actress Lisa Jakub, who left the industry altogether.
Jakub, perhaps best known for her role as Robin Williams’ daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire, has penned an essay explaining why she left the industry after more than a decade of appearing in major commercials and blockbuster films.
“Being a brunette, I was placed in the Hollywood hierarchy as “ethnic.” Because of my unaltered breasts, I was categorized as “athletic” and destined to be the friend, tomboy or Joan of Arc,” writes Lisa. “More than once, producers shook their heads, scratched their goatees and sighed, saying: “You’re a good actor, Lisa, just not pretty enough.”
But it was more than the superficial nature of Hollywood that sparked Lisa’s desire to live a more “normal” life.
She suffered from the irrational fear of missing out, and continued to succumb to peer pressure which told her to stay.
“I feared that if I quit and was stripped of the title of actor, there would be nothing left of me. I’d collapse like a puppet when someone cut the strings,” she said.
As a result, she spent many years living according to the standards of others, and told herself the following lies:
You are an idiot if you don’t want to live this life.
You can’t fail everyone’s expectations of you.
You’re not capable of doing anything else.
You’re too far into this, you’re not allowed to change your mind.
Everyone is miserable in their job.
But the fear of staying is what scared Lisa the most: “I saw myself becoming a caged animal, trapped in a life I didn’t want, pacing and foaming at the mouth and making ill-advised life choices that resulted in a clichéd headline…So, I left.”
Lisa notes landing the role in Mrs. Doubtfire impacted her life in countless ways, for better or worse, but she still wasn’t content.
“Leaving my house became more challenging: There was attempted incognito photography, hugs from people who didn’t know when to let go, and an assertion of ownership that made me feel more like a hired dancing monkey than an awkward, introverted, lonely 15-year-old,” she said.
“For years, I assumed the problem was me. After all, I was living the dream, wasn’t I? I was a working actor in Los Angeles. What had begun as one of those unreal-sounding encounters–a 4-year-old shopping in a farmer’s market with her parents is ‘discovered’–had somehow turned into an 18-year acting career,” she continued.
Jakub eventually quit acting when she was 22, and moved to a small town in Virginia where she became a writer and married her longtime partner.
“I learned how to fill out a timecard and make vegetable stir fry for dinner. I collected quarters for the dryer. I learned what normal life looked like. And it was beautiful,” she said.
“Everyone has a story; mine just happens to be the story of living a dream by leaving Hollywood, rather than getting into it,” Lisa concluded.
Read the entire essay, here.