excerpts from interviews by Douglas Eby
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Singer/songwriter (CDs titled "The Meloradrama" and "Purr")
Actress (films include "Absolute Power"; TV series "The Office" etc.)
"I think music and art comes out of a place
of yearning, a longing for something - you may not even know what,"
"But in that, there's a lot of beauty and comfort and peace even in the turmoil of it. It's almost like focused turmoil."
Singing and dancing in front of a live audience, she finds, "are very immediate, and both are very visceral, physical: when you sing you feel the notes, it's an actual full body experience from your head to toes, you feel the vibration of your voice through you. And it's the same with dancing: if you're doing it right, you're using every part of you from head to toe. There's something about that kind of instant body feeling that is really intense and cathartic.
"And acting has that in it also, but most characters you play don't run around making exaggerated moves. But I think I'm just a physical creature, so even in my acting I get to my characters through physicality. When I'm working on a role, I first visualize it for myself, and then intellectualize it, then emotionalize it, or sometimes physicalize it first.
"I think anger is the best propeller for any kind of action, it really gets you moving. It's a good thing. A healthy thing. But I also think a lot of people -- like some songwriters I interact with -- get really caught in the trap of feeling like if they're not sad, or their heart's not aching, or they haven't just gone through a major breakup, or they're not mad or angry about something, they can't write in an inspired way.
"I just feel like any creative process is, like that old saying, 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. I really believe that it's the little gems you write on a day you don't feel very inspired that are much more appealing or a success, rather than pouring your heart out when you're down and out. That's the easy time; we can all do that."
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Hardin says she feels the "temperature" in her kind of music today "is very angry oriented; it doesn't embrace lightheartedness very much. I think you can be alternative or offbeat as an artist without being harsh or edgy. I have that side to me, and I write with that side, but I also try to write with the side that's soft and sensual, sexual and gentle: all those emotions are just as strong and powerful and intense as anger. Everything's intense. You may not feel you're getting a kickstart quite like you do when you're angry, but if you're patient enough with the feeling, the feeling will hand you tons of material."
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As far as social reactions, she thinks "blonde women have it harder. I was blonde for about two months for a movie, and people definitely treated me differently. I have never ever felt when I walked into a room as a brunette that anybody was testing my intelligence. But as a blonde, I certainly felt that way. That was really weird. I really enjoyed being blonde, but I felt myself being tested more, by men especially, but by women also.
"I've never felt responded to negatively for being intelligent. The general family atmosphere I came from was that it was important to be eloquent, to speak clearly and thoroughly, and we did it a lot in my family.
"This is what I have, this is my package. I just happen to be wrapped with this color paper and this color of bow: my looks. It's nice that it's pleasing to a lot of people, and that I don't have to struggle with that in this lifetime. But we're all put on earth with some kind of package, and we just have to do with it whatever we do.
"If I were Claudia Schiffer I'd be glad to make millions off of my long legs and big breasts and blonde hair, I'd have no problem with that. But I'm not her, and have other things that are appealing, and I don't mind using them. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But also I'm not going to go get a breast job, or a face lift just because I have wrinkles.
"Women often say they have all this pressure on them to look good, but I think in the last few years the media have done a pretty great job of trying to display different kinds of beauty - we have a lot of different prototypes of beauty, and we have Banana Republic ads that show women in their sixties. And we have Courtney Love on the cover of Rolling Stone, and she's one of the ugliest women I've seen, but there's something attractive about her because she's just who she is. And look at Madonna when she started out, and now - a lot of people think she's really beautiful. I don't think she is that, but she is compelling.
"Especially when I was younger I used to audition for parts described as `The most beautiful woman you've ever seen in your life - perfect body and incredible hair, eyes like silver' - these writers are having an image of somebody, and you're supposed to go in and be that, and that's a really funny thing. I used to read these descriptions and just laugh, and go in and think, okay, maybe someone will think I'm that wonderful, and I would sometimes get those parts.
"And I just thought this is hysterical, how can anyone say that - there's no such thing as `The most beautiful woman'. It's so funny - this business is absolutely, totally insane. If you took it seriously, you'd either be interminably angst-ridden and angry and frustrated - and a lot of people take that position - or you would be an airhead."
Labeling of artists is "a pain," she agrees - "And we all hate it, but it's one of those things you have to have a sense of humor about. But this is a business. and you have to give the businessmen something to grab onto: that labeling is not for the artist, it's for the businessmen; they're not creative thinkers, they don't think the way we think, they can't be whimsical the way we can be, they need concreteness. I admire people who are so successful, like Sinead O'Connor, who can throw it all to the winds; that ballsiness.
"I always thought of `gifted' as a mathematician genius or something, something exceptional on an intellectual level. I do feel exceptional in ways, but I guess I didn't feel that's how I would term it, and no matter how exceptional you feel or you've been told you are, or know you are for that matter, everything is validated by how many ways get challenged.
"I have control to entertain myself, and to keep myself on a path that I feel is true and challenging, and I don't need major stardom to do those things. I wouldn't mind major stardom, because it would bring more power, but I don't think I need it. I went through a year where I thought, oh God, if I don't get these things I want am I going to be a bitter old woman, and angry, but that's just not my nature. And there's too much in life beyond that, and there's a lot of power in not having that kind of power. A lot of actors and creative people sit around dreaming of the day when they'll have that power, when they really have all the power they need right there.
"That's what motivated me to get my band together, to get my CD together, to create a one-woman show, and I think in a way I'm in a really free position. Since I'm not her, nobody's going to come to my show and say, 'Oh, Julia Roberts is such an idiot with what she has to say' -- they're going to say Melora Hardin has something interesting to say, or she doesn't, but either way it's not going to make a big difference.
"Unless it becomes like a blockbuster hit, then that's fabulous. But there's a lot of power in everything, and it's part of our artistic struggle to find a way to our power and not wait for someone to hand it to us.
"Power is not in the millions of bucks you make. If I really wanted to, I could have a production company right now, I don't have to wait until I'm a millionaire. It's a matter of creating your own world for yourself, and tenacity, and going ahead. It's hard for everybody, even when you're Meryl Streep."
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"The Meloradrama" and her new CD "Purr" are available
from her site
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Talent Development Resources pages:
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