Do I really want to be Camryn Manheim?

Looking sharp!

Happy Father’s Day! 

Inspired by Casey Wilson‘s article about her own father in last week’s Entertainment Weekly, I have decided to dedicate today’s post to my dad in honor of Father’s Day. Totally belatedly, I know. But better late than never, right?

My father, like Casey Wilson‘s father did when she was on SNL, has already sent me a list of suggestions for blog posts. And “Do I really want to be Camryn Manheim?” was #2 on his list. So here goes Pops, thanks for the suggestion.

When I was a little girl my dad showed me movie musicals like “The Sound of Music,” “Grease,” and “Singing in the Rain.” We watched “White Christmas” every holiday season. As I got older he expanded my repertoire with greats like “The Pajama Game,” “South Pacific, and “Sweet Charity.” I went through a very long phase where I begged to rent “Bye Bye Birdie” every time we went to the video store.

When I was cast in the high school musical my dad was my biggest supporter (aside from my mother who spent hours finding rainbow leg warmers and sewing costumes for 12 girls so I could have the same costume as everybody else). My parents came to every show and my dad always offered praise – “You really belted that one out!” – and often times constructive criticism – “I thought it was funnier the way you did it last night.”

And last year when I played the role of “Diva Divine” in a production of “Starmites” my dad was there on opening night. When I asked him what he thought of my big number, “It’s Hard to be the Diva,” he said

The best things, happen while you’re dancing…

“I didn’t think your kicks were very strong.”

“Well, Dad,” I said, “that’s kind of the point. That’s the joke.”

“Yeah, but you should kick higher.

Mind you I was wearing 4 inch stiletto heeled boots in this show. But every night after that I kicked my legs all the way up to my head. And he was right. It was better that way.

When Camryn Manheim came into my world I was in high school, deeply involved in theatre and dance and preparing to apply for college as a theatre major. I had already been through countless performances in leotards, standing out amongst my skinny friends on stage.  I had endured humiliating episodes of taunting and abuse from mean kids on stage and off. So Camryn Manheim kicking ass and taking names on a hit TV show was like a giant green light for me. Go forth and change people’s minds about what a real woman looks like.

When she won the Emmy the following year and gave her “This is for all the fat girls!” fist pump I was just about to move to LA to start my freshman year at USC’s school of theatre. Her win only fueled my passion more.

So when my dad asked me one day in a heated conversation where he was trying to express concern for my future as an overweight human being he asked “Do you really want to be Camryn Manheim?” I thought, “Sure. Yes, I’ll happily take Camryn Manheim’s roles and follow in her successful footprints. Why not?” I believe that conversation ended with eye rolls and screaming about how he didn’t understand the business.

What you need to know about my dad is that he has been in and out of Weight Watchers my whole life. I remember being in elementary school and eating frozen Lean Cuisine lasagna for dinner when he started his at-work meetings. I don’t have any memories of my dad being fat. He was just my dad. But in pictures I can see how his weight fluctuated from big to tiny to big to not so big.

But no amount of begging and pleading to lose some weight, or comparisons to fat actresses or even his own personal success could convince me to do something about my own weight.

Not until I was ready. And then one day, maybe because he had pushed and prodded, maybe because he was so supportive…

…one day I was ready.

Not because being the next Camryn Manheim would limit my career, but because being overweight was starting to limit my happiness.

Clearly I was listening though, Dad, because when I was ready I knew exactly where to go. And now I can say I am a Weight Watcher and I am keeping off 80 lbs. And that, in big part, is in thanks to you.

Happy Super Belated Father’s Day, Pops! I’m super glad you’re my dad!

Dancing with Dad

I think my dad was Liza Minnelli in another life.


3 thoughts on “Do I really want to be Camryn Manheim?

  1. Beautiful!
    Made me miss my Dad even more!!!!
    Thx for sharing.

    p.s. Your wedding pics are wonderful…. you look beautiful!

  2. I think this is your best post yet. I didn’t want it to end! Such a great window into the Jen-Pape world.

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