Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

My Life as a Warrior Princess

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

My Life as a Warrior Princess

Article excerpt

I never forget how much we all need our heroes and heroines, our mythical gods.

Every time Fashion Week returns to New York, the subways crowded with long-legged adolescents with stylish shoes and wary eyes, I can't help but think about myself at age 14. That's how old I was when I started working in the fashion industry.

I had wanted to go new places, to try bold new things. But I soon learned that this was a world where young women's rights were worth less than the clothing they wore. In Italy, I was hired for a bathing suit shoot. The photographer made me stand in a freezing pool for hours, then screamed in my face when my skin turned an unattractive shade of blue. In Mexico, I was given drugs, then coerced into going topless for a shoot. I learned the hard way that my body was not my own.

I felt powerless, and after just a few years, I wanted out. So I found myself, at 17 in 1994, sitting on the floor in a corner of the Wilhelmina modeling agency, reading a pilot script for the first season of the television show "Xena: Warrior Princess." I remember being excited by this incredible land of make-believe, a land where women ruled.

I auditioned for the role of Gabrielle, a farm girl who becomes a fighter. Although I did not get the part, I eventually made my way to Los Angeles, where, a few years later, I was cast in the stunt- heavy role of the Amazon warrior Amarice.

I traveled to New Zealand, where the show was filmed, and I soon realized that acting was nothing like modeling. Everyone was constantly asking me if I was O.K.; if I needed to take a break. They assured me that the stunt person could do this or that move if I was not comfortable with it.

Perhaps the main difference, then and now, is that actors have a union and models do not.

Xena, however, was also special. It was feminism at work, with female lead characters who were unapologetically powerful and sexy.

During my time on the show, on six episodes from the fourth to the fifth seasons, I kicked butt. Off screen, I was trained in numerous fighting techniques, in archery and horseback riding. On screen, I hung with a Christ figure called Eli; I had a same-sex lover and a boyfriend of a different race than mine; I threw bombs and walked along high wires. …

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