People 30 July 2017
When I headed out the door of my East Village apartment to meet Mandy Moore at the Crosby Hotel in late June, I took two important items with me: my headphones and a picture of my "aura." After reading about Moore having her aura read, I couldn't wait to talk to her about my own adventures in new-age discoveries (spoiler: she's into crystals right now), especially since my mom is an astrologer.
As for the headphones? I hate to admit it, but I listened to "Candy" on the way to the interview, relishing singing along to one of my favorite songs from my middle school era. Needless to say, though, after chatting with Moore, it's evident how far she's come since those pop ballad days. In fact, I was thoroughly impressed with how openly and unapologetically optimistic she is, as well as how intelligent she was.
As her career continues to flourish with her title role in the Golden Globe-nominated show, This is Us, Moore talked to SWAAY about what she's learned over her multi-decade show, and what's next for this inspiring female:
On What She Wish She Had Done When She Was Younger
Moore has always known one thing for certain: she was meant for the stage. She's often credited her British grandmother, who was a professional ballerina in London, for opening her eyes to the life of performance. She told Billboard magazine that her parents thought she'd outgrow the desire to be an actress or singer, like most young girls do, but she stuck with it. Her big break was delivered quite serendipitously when she was 13, when a FedEx delivery man heard her singing while she was at a studio in Orlando, Florida. He was so enthralled with her vocals that he personally delivered her unfinished demo to a friend at A&R at Epic Records. Fate was on her side - she signed with the label shortly after and her first hit song, "Candy," became my go-to pre-teen jam.
Since then, Moore has explored everything from acting in romantic comedies to even briefly running her own fashion label, Mblem, from 2005 to 2009. But while she's kept busy and unarguably built an inspiring, successful career for herself, when she looks back, she's grateful, but also sees some of the fun she missed along the way.
“I wish that I had really taken advantage of being young. I think that I said 'no' too often, whether it was being in a new city or [saying] 'Nah, I'm just going to get some sleep and not go out with my friends to see a band or explore" she says.
“I think I sometimes took my life a little too seriously, so I would tell my younger version of Mandy to just take a deep breath and enjoy how life is unfolding in front of you."
Even though she might have missed out on some beers abroad or getting lost in a new city at night, Moore's life has unfolded in many unexpectedly beautiful ways. As she's continued to explore different roles, even playing a wife and mother for the first time on This Is Us, she's aligned herself with causes and campaigns that speak to her interest, beliefs and of course, for this heartfelt powerhouse, to her soul.
On Why This Campaign Means Something to Her
While Moore wants to become a mother one day, right now she's focusing more on her career and exploring those avenues before diving diaper-first into motherhood. Because she's aware of her own timeline and the important choices she's lucky to have for her own health, she wants other women to feel empowered to make the same choices, for wherever they happen to be in their lives.That's why she recently joined the "Her Life. Her Adventures" campaign, which is shedding much-needed attention on breaking the stereotypes on birth control, fertility and family planning. “Every woman has her own unique story. She has her own unique journey. She has her own sense of adventure, and what adventure means to her," she shares. “[This campaign] is all encompassing women's health, and specifically around family planning and birth control but the educational awareness component of this campaign really resonates with me. I think it's an important conversation worth having and highlighting. I'm super excited to use this platform that I have to continue this dialogue."
On Allowing Herself to Feel Deeply
Even for female entrepreneurs who breathe, live and devour every second of their budding businesses, being on top of your game every day is an unreasonable demand. With Moore's hectic schedule, she's learned to accept that not every day will feel sunny side up, and instead, she gives herself breathing room to feel whatever she's feeling, sans judgement. “I try to look at the bigger picture and take each day one day at a time. Also, to allow myself to feel my feelings and not get down on myself for having a bad day or feeling blue about something. It's part of the human condition," she says. “I try to remind myself to not get down on myself and that tomorrow's a new day and you're not going to live in an endless cycle of feeling down."
On Therapy and Why It's Important
Ask any famed entrepreneur and they will likely credit soul searching as a key detour on their path to profitability or funding. Not only is being self-aware an important lesson in becoming an adult, but it can help you value the sheer strength that comes from asking for help when you need it. For Moore, who has been in and out of talk therapy for more than a decade, giving herself permission to chat it out has been a pivotal routine of her continued career. “The sessions where I don't go in with something in mind, like this is something I'm going to tackle in therapy today, are usually the most beneficial sessions. Something comes to light that I had no idea I was thinking about or that was a problem or something that's so packed away or compartmentalized," she explains. “I know it's something I'll continue to do in perpetuity, in fits and spurts."
On the Female Entrepreneurs She Champions
Though Moore did run her own fashion label for a few years, she has no future plans of starting another company and instead says she's “happy being a consumer and a fan of a lot of things out there in the marketplace." That doesn't mean she's not still paying attention to the smart female entrepreneurs who are making waves in her local community, though. One of her friends owns a group of nail salons in Los Angeles called Olive and June, where Moore is a frequent, supportive customer. She's also impressed with Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, who founded WhoWhatWear, or what's now CMG Clique Media Group Inc. In fact, she calls them "total badasses."
She also continues to keep a pulse on style, commenting, “There are a lot of incredible women out there doing remarkable things and changing the machine of the fashion world."
Mandy Moore at DGA Awards
On How There Was Never a Plan B
So what would Moore be doing if she wasn't an actress? A good question, according to Moore, who says she doesn't have the skillset to do anything else. She laughed, saying she'd probably be unemployed. “I used to think I would want to go into journalism but now that I've been on the other side of it, it's a really daunting job. I don't know if I would be cut out for that. It's too high stress for me. I may have gone into the blogosphere and become a blogger," she shares.
But since she's been in the game for so long, the thought of another industry hasn't crossed her mind. “From the age of six, I knew I wanted to do this in some capacity and I always thought I would end up on Broadway. I've had a one-track mind and there's been no plan b."
On The Best Career Advice She Was Given
Over the years, everyone from mentors and fellow colleagues have given their words of wisdom, shaping her viewpoint along the way. And while Moore has admired many actors and professionals throughout her career, it was her father who made the greatest impact on her decision-making skills. “My dad has always told me, 'If there's any doubt, don't.' I try to think about that, because the few times that I've ignored my gut in life, it's gotten me into trouble or landed me in an uncomfortable position. Respect my intuition and trust that," she explains.
On Taking a Leap Of Faith
When you take that first step off the ledge into the unknown, giving up your job and sinking your savings into a business idea you're not sure will stand the test of the market, it's an exciting yet daunting experience. While Moore says there isn't a single moment that stands out as her "leap of faith" - she argues that really, all of it was risky. And that blind ambition and unparalleled courage is something she wishes she could bottle up again.
“I think back now and there's no way that if I had the fear I have at 33, I'd have the guts to do this as a 15-year-old. Not to pat myself on the back, but there's clarity and wisdom that comes with age. I can't imagine the guts I had as a kid to get on stage in front of 20,000 people. I didn't even think about it. It didn't even register. I was just like, 'Great, Cool. Where do I go? Where's my microphone?' I was hosting MTV shows. The fearlessness that came along with being a young person, I don't know if I have that same level of fearlessness now. I try to tap into it when need be," she says.
Even so, on the good and bad days, and every kind of day in-between, it's that same optimistic courage that keeps her going. “I try to have perspective and think about the bigger picture, and realize I'm really lucky to have a job that I'm passionate about 99 percent of the time. The 1 percent is okay. I'll take the good with the bad."
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.