I am an actress and I have worked with many amazing artists – Jamie Lee Curtis on Anything But Love, Ellen DeGeneres on Ellen, Tom Hanks in The Taming of the Shrew at a Shakespeare Festival, Denis O’Hare in a play called Lloyd’s Prayer, Amy Morton in a play called Road – but I am perhaps best known for playing Aunt Judy in the Disney Channel movies, Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century.
My character, Aunt Judy, was Zenon‘s kooky aunt, living on earth. Zenon is sent to live with Aunt Judy (from the space station she lives on), as a punishment for breaking into the space station’s memory banks. As Aunt Judy introduces Zenon to the beauty of planet earth, they form a very strong bond. Zenon teaches Aunt Judy about adventure and Aunt Judy shows Zenon that an adult can be your biggest champion.
The three Zenon movies we did for Disney are among the most successful and most popular ever made for the Disney Channel. At the height of Zenon‘s popularity, I was mobbed as I attended a girls soccer tournament when the players realized Aunt Judy was on the sidelines (it was actually kind of scary, as both teams came running toward me during halftime).
I also once upstaged Santa Claus at a holiday fair in Wellington, Ohio. There he was – St. Nick – sitting in his big chair, with a line of children waiting to go and talk to him. Once word was out that Aunt Judy was in the house, Santa and his attendant elf sat by and watched as the little ones turned their attention to me –Aunt Judy– running after me and begging for my autograph. And Aunt Judy didn’t even have presents!
The Zenon movies are still written about on Buzzfeed and Bustle, discussing anything from “This is What the Cast of Zenon Looks Like Now” to “Watching Zenon Girl of the 21st Century as an Adult.” My son, Daniel, a college student at the University of California, called me from a party last fall to tell me that that the DJ was playing the song, Supernova Girl, from Zenon (for those of you not in the know, it’s the song that goes, “Zoom, zoom, zoom, make my heart go boom, boom, boom, my supernova girl.” If you’re in the know just sing along). He had called to tell me that when he had told his friends that his mom played Aunt Judy they had started screaming. To this day, I still get recognized for the Zenon movies.
The difference now is that the screaming is slightly lower pitched – the little girls who were once so inspired by Zenon and her courageous spirit are now young adults- young women. And these young women, together with my own daughter, have been part of my inspiration for creating my new show, The Hollywood Beauty Detective.
It took the popularity of a children’s movie, about the bravery of a little girl, to show me the power and impact the media has – and most importantly, the impact it has on ones so young. We have such a responsibility to teach our children well, so they can go out into the world as strong, balanced adults. As Aunt Judy, I virtually babysat these women when they were little, and I have watched their generation grow up. I want to continue to know these women. I want to continue to inspire them and be in their lives – but in a different way.
My goal with The Hollywood Beauty Detective is to explore the concept of Beauty and to show other versions of what Beauty is – to give us choices. To begin to realize that Beauty is so much more than a photo shopped, manipulated young woman in an ad. I want to honor these other versions and to celebrate them. Beauty is ultimately so much more than anything we are presented with by the media. If we can begin to redefine Beauty, we open ourselves up to tremendous possibility and freedom.
I want these women with me. I want to hear from them, to find out if they ever feel judged or devalued because of their physical appearance. Being an actress has shown me how one’s looks intersect with one’s career, and I know this isn’t something that only actresses experience. I know that girls and women everywhere encounter this and it is up to us to continue to question what we are shown by the media.
As women, we need to help each other. We need to learn from one another. We need to realize that we have wisdom to share, whatever age we may be. And look…I still want to create a stir at a girls soccer tournament. Only this time, I will be on the sidelines with the moms, those former Disney Channel watchers – perhaps just in bonded spirit as my alter ego, The Hollywood Beauty Detective. I’ll be cheering on a new generation of young girls to be strong, adventurous, and to understand fully that their Beauty is whatever they want it to be. Together, we can decide for ourselves what Beauty truly is.
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