Sierra Lisa Speaks Her Truth! She’s an Amazing Woman! We Are giving Away Ten Free DVD’s to the First Ten People Who Email Us. See Details at the Bottom of this Post!
Sierra is a dedicated and passionate filmmaker. Her goal is to make films that influence people to reflect on different aspects of life, question the status quo, and become independent thinkers. She has directed several films in high school that showcased at the Moondance Festival. One of them, The Ice Cream, won Best Short Film award, and a third place ROP award in Film Production. At California State University, Northridge; she produced, directed, wrote, edited, and worked on several short films including STARving, which was one of the five projects to be funded by the school’s film program her senior year.
Sierra has worked in the entertainment business since she was sixteen. Included among her many clients are San Diego Chargers owner, Alex Spanos and renowned singer, Gloria Loring. Currently, she works with Leeza Gibbons as the producer for the radio show Hollywood Confidential as well as Leeza’s in-house video and audio editor.
Have you ever struggled with self-esteem or body image issues in the past? If so, how did you reach the point of accepting and loving yourself and your body as it is.
It is estimated that 8 million people in the United States are suffering from an eating disorder and, much too recently, I was one of them. In high school, I would rather have died than admit I had the problem, but now having surmounted bulimia, this experience most significantly impacted my life. Training to be an actress at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), the pressure to be thin engulfed me and I began believing that any harm I endured was a worthy sacrifice for my art. My bulimia began with frightening ease and quickly spiraled into a compulsive nightmare. It is due to the help of a teacher named Kim Wield that I was able to triumph. My evolution from nonchalantly beginning bulimia, uncontrollably continuing in it, and ultimately overcoming the fight has dramatically shaped my views on life.
Sitting down for rehearsal of a female dance number, I listened to my perfectly toned choreography teacher suggest that we start eating healthier foods while avoiding crash diets. In practically the same breath, she ended her pep talk by saying she did not want to see any flab on the stage and she followed with a laugh so sharp it pervaded my very being. I looked down at my 16-year-old body, quickly compared myself to the other girls (each of whom was making her own comparison), and came to the conclusion that I was the fattest girl in the room. I frantically started on a 500 calorie diet in hopes of dropping the flab by opening night, which was a mere eight weeks away. When I failed to lose the expected weight by the second week, I broke the diet in a bingeing frenzy and decided to voluntarily vomit for the first time.
Throwing up my food was scarily simple and, since I had binged on candy, it did not taste as bad as I thought it would. It started as a way to “cancel out” the fact that I broke my diet, but soon I realized I could eat anything I wanted as long as I purged after every meal. I continued this pattern for nearly two years, alienating myself from everything and, being that I was lying to everyone that I loved, my relationships began to disintegrate. I strove to be perfect only to find that I was falling short in every aspect of life, including my own happiness. It was when I started thinking about cutting open my thighs to perform amateur liposuction that I realized I needed serious help. As I searched for peer advice to no avail, I stumbled across a woman who would change my life forever.
One day in her acting class, Kim Wield openly shared her fight with bulimia and I developed a trust in her that was only possible because we shared a similar experience. During a one-on-one evaluation with Kim, I divulged that I was bulimic and could not stop. In the cold, sterile classroom, she looked at me with warm honesty and said, “Sierra, listen to me. You are beautiful.” I shrugged her off, but she continued, “Sierra, you are beautiful.” I felt uncomfortable as she saw through my disguise and she persisted until I started to cry. In that moment, I had the epiphany that I really was beautiful and decided that I was going to change the way society evaluates beauty.
My attempt to obey a demand to be thin, my struggle with an overwhelming disorder, and my recognition of beauty has significantly changed how I see the world. I am committed to creating a more positive perception of beauty in our culture because every person should know his or her own beauty. I feel it my duty to share my story in hopes that people, young girls in particular, will learn from it. Film is a way to recognize the beauty in our everyday surroundings and, more importantly, in ourselves. Through my films, I want to change the idea of beauty, so that I can contribute to a societal epiphany like the one Kim helped me achieve. Beauty, as it is presently defined, is too narrow-minded and I want to assist in shaping a more diverse meaning.
What advice would you give to girls and women who are struggling with self-esteem, confidence, or body image?
I would say to any girl who struggles with her body image that she is beautiful. No matter what anyone says, you are beautiful. On the days I can’t see my own beauty or I’m freaking out about my jeans not fitting, I try to find at least one thing I believe to be beautiful about myself. Some days I only find one thing, but usually I can build on that one identification to find maybe two or three or more. If I can’t find a single quality I like that day, I’ll try to think of any positive comments I have received and focus on that positivity.
What inspired you to write and direct STARving?
This film is based on my experience as an actress in an arts high school where the pressure to be thin caused some girls to exercise instead of eat at lunch and commonly develop eating disorders. Having surmounted bulimia myself, I now strive to illustrate the unhealthy consequences of accepting our society’s absurdly oppressive standard of beauty and hope to help shape a healthier, more balanced, cultural viewpoint. While it is well-known that eating disorders can be directly linked to the pressure exerted by our media culture’s increasingly unrealistic standards of beauty, STARving highlights the profound impact, both negative and positive, that teachers, parents, and peers have on young women. Awareness is pivotal in shifting the tide of this unhealthy societal epidemic and my goal with STARving was to raise a consciousness regarding how our actions, even when seemingly small, can greatly affect those around us. STARving strives to raise awareness about the power that we, as everyday individuals, parents, teachers and peers, have to promote healthy attitudes, thus protecting young people from these dangerous beliefs and destructive behaviors.
How has the film been received? How do you feel about your movie being shown at the Cannes Film Festival?
It has been wonderfully received so far and I would love more people to see it. Having it screen in Cannes was very exciting! I’m also so proud that it was selected for one of the most recognized female film festivals La Femme Film Festival among other festivals. What’s most exciting about these opportunities is they help get STARving seen. My hope is that the people who see the film will use it as a starting point to help open the doors of communication regarding body image and ultimately begin a new era of acceptance within our culture.
When did you become interested in film/cinematography?
I’ve loved film ever since I was a child! As far back as I can recall, I have always wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry in some way. Whether I’m an actor, editor, director, set designer or PA; it doesn’t matter the title; just that I’m fulfilled by working with people who are forwarding a positive message through film.
You have worked with Leeza Gibbons since 2005. What do you love most about her?
What I love most about Leeza is that she is so positive and funny. She does everything in her power to uplift the people around her. Whether it is through her charity work or just by saying something supportive, Leeza takes the time to care.
Sierra with actors.
What fascinates you most about people?
The ability we have as individuals to make a difference, positive or negative, throughout life. Causality is probably the most amazing factor I can identify in what makes me who I am today. I’m endlessly fascinated with how people make decisions and how those choices can affect the future. My dad always used to say, “No shame, blame, or regret” and I still use that phrase as a reminder to find the positive in every experience I face. I wouldn’t be the person I am without all the events that have shaped me.
What do you love about yourself and why?
I love the curve of my body and how soft my skin feels because it makes me feel feminine. I love that I can easily see the beauty in others, and I’m not shy to give honest compliments because I know that by saying one positive phrase I can improve a person’s day. I love that I’m so positive and laugh at the simplest things because it makes me feel good. I love that I have solid viewpoints and the intelligence to make a sound argument because I refuse to question my integrity. I love my face because it’s so expressive and how my eyes light up when I smile. I love that I snort sometimes when I laugh really hard and that my friends make a game of seeing who can get me to snort the most. I love that I am constantly trying to improve my life and the lives of those around me. Most of all, I love that I can learn from my mistakes and become stronger despite difficult experiences.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Love yourself as you are right now, because this moment is all that matters.
You are a busy lady! What advice would you give to a college student trying to balance work, school, and personal time?
Time management! I keep a calendar, and I’m an avid supporter of to-do lists.
What are some of your hobbies?
Karaoke! Directing, acting, modeling, photography, dancing like no one is watching, game nights hiking, taking spa days, travelling, camping, and passionate conversation about anything and everything. I also enjoy critically analyzing films with my friends because it helps me grow as an artist.
Who inspires you?
The people who inspire me are those who can find beauty in others, those who are proud of their body despite any outside influence, those who are gracefully opinionated, and anyone who is passionate about creating a better world.
Who do you consider a role model or hero? Why?
Kathryn Bigelow is a major role model for me because she defies the status quo and gender expectations normally expected of women. She has a specific point of view and strong artistic integrity. In terms of broadening the status quo of beauty, Margaret Cho was the first celebrity that ever made me feel like I had a voice in the media as I deeply related to how she felt about her body and the overwhelming pressure to be thin in Hollywood. I also dearly admire Savannah Dooley and Shonda Rhimes for choosing plus-size actors to play normal roles, because it is disturbingly common to see plus-size people ridiculed on television. I applaud them and similar individuals who have become a driving force in stopping that type of hatred.
What are your favorite beauty must-haves?
Sheer Cover, liquid eyeliner, and mascara are my beauty must haves.
Where do you like to shop?
I really love thrift shops, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and Express for my clothes shopping, but everything else I find on eBay.
Sierra explains shot.
Please tell us what you think of ABC Family show HUGE?
I LOVE HUGE! Savannah is a great friend of mine and I remember when she was telling me about pitching the show after passionately discussing our own struggles with body image. I’m so proud of her and the HUGE team for creating such a unique show. They are absolutely helping push the societal pendulum in a healthier, more accepting direction. Finally, I’m seeing plus-size people on television who are portrayed as human instead of the limited typecasting that is common in the business. Hopefully, this will be the beginning to seeing much more diversity in common television shows.
Do you feel plus-size modeling is helping redefine beauty?
Absolutely! When mass media features only a limited type of beauty, those who don’t fit into those confines often feel like they have no voice or are unworthy in some way. With plus-size modeling, people who previously had no voice begin to feel accepted and that acceptance yields more understanding, which then creates less hatred.
What are you excited about right now?
I’m excited about everything happening in my life right now and the positive people who surround me!
What are your goals for the future?
I would love to have a hand in creating a more diverse and accepting culture. I want to become a director and create art that helps forward a culture wherein the “plus-size” label is no longer needed. I want to travel and experience other cultures. Ultimately, my greatest goal in life is to leave this world in a much better condition than it was when I came into it and in whatever capacity I am able to do so, I’ll make that effort.
*Thank you for everything, Sierra!
** The first ten people to email Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org, will receive a free copy of the film STARving.