A Young Actress Makes the Case: Time to Move beyond Boy-Crazy Roles

Article excerpt

Thirteen-year-old Nassira Nicola knows indignities when she sees them.

When she was seven, Nassira began acting professionally. For the first five years of her career, she regularly played parts showing girls as strong, intelligent individuals. Most recently, she has been starring as Sheila the Great in the ABC television series "Fudge."

But last year, when she turned 12, everything changed. She suddenly noticed a disturbing difference in the number and type of roles for girls. "Parts written for girls 12 to 15 are nearly nonexistent," says Nassira, of Woodland Hills, Calif. "We are not cute little girls anymore, but neither can we be considered sex objects." Even when a program does include a girl in her age group, she finds that romance and submissiveness dominate. "All the scripts for girls seem to center on 'How can I get a guy?' and 'How can I keep a guy?' and 'How can I get a better guy?' " says Nassira. Again and again, she has also read girls' parts that contain the phrase, "Oh, you've rescued me!" On other occasions she has been coached to read a part "dumber." But even those experiences didn't prepare her for a greater indignity. During auditions, casting directors would regularly ask the young adolescent about her bra size. "They wanted to know if I was 'developing' enough to be cast in dating relationships," she explains. Nassira has also been asked to lose what her mother, Linda Nicola, describes as "dangerous amounts of weight." To appear in one production, Mrs. Nicola recalls, the casting director told Nassira she must lose 20 pounds in two weeks. The family turned down the project. Mrs. Nicola sums up the problem. "The Barbies are exactly what the industry wants adolescent girls to look like," she says. "They don't show girls developing on TV. Real girls gain weight, have zits, braces, and glasses. Producers don't show those. …