British actress Tanya Reynolds is currently filming the third season of the Netflix hit series "Sex Education" with Gillian Anderson. She talks to us about why she is proud to play a character who focuses on female * sexual problems and the need to celebrate the unvarnished truth of the female * form.
Netflix "Sex Education": Interview with Tanya Reynolds on sexuality, beauty, and body positivity
Tanya Reynolds may be 29 years old, but is best known for her role as high school student Lily Iglehart on the Netflix series "Sex Education" - a sex-crazy sci-fi freak with a penchant for alien erotica. The kind of role Reynolds is most comfortable in: a strong, slightly unusual character, far removed from the stereotypical heroine defined - and perhaps even constrained - by her appearance. Because appearance is not important to Tanya Reynolds.
Reynolds grew up in Hemel Hempstead, England. Her idea of beauty was shaped by her mother, a painter with a carefree outlook on life and disregard for make-up. While there were times when she questioned her own looks at school ("I never wore makeup, my hair was wild, and my eyebrows had never seen tweezers"), today she will for her unmistakable look and their authentic approach to beauty. "When you're younger, you think, 'God, why do I look so weird?'", She tells us via Zoom. "Suddenly you think, 'Oh, I can make money with it. I can do my dream job with it.'"
So far, this dream job has given her the role of Teresa Benelli in the Sky One series "Delicious" (2016) and most recently that of Mrs. Elton in Autumn de Wilde's "Emma" (2020). She also made her model debut for Simone Rocha's Spring / Summer 2021 collection in October. Now that she is in the middle of filming the third season of Sex Education, we spoke to Tanya Reynolds about her relationship with beauty and why we all do Need to normalize women's bodies *.
Who or what influenced your perception of beauty when you were growing up?
My mum. She was always different from other mothers. She picked me up in an overall smeared with paint because she had a job as a painter in a factory and works as an artist. She always wore hippie clothes, had super long hair, and didn't really wear a lot of makeup. That was beauty for me. I don't think I've been that influenced by things in magazines. Only now, in the age of social media, am I increasingly exposed to images of perfection. But when I was growing up, beauty meant being colorful, artistic, and just a little different.
Were you confident about your looks?
Before I started high school, I was very confident. My parents were always very supportive of me and always told me I was beautiful, so I didn't think too much about how I looked. I would much rather write stories, read books, and draw. But when I got into high school, my self-esteem took a real crack, as it does with a lot of girls. I realized that I didn't look like everyone else. All of these girls were wearing makeup and had their hair straightened and colored.
And how does it look today?
It's really a "work in progress". As an actress, I'm very grateful for all of the things I didn't like about myself - all the things that made me feel out of line when I was at school. These are the things that make you stand out. Acting has always been my dream and it's just nice to hear people tell you that you have a very unique look.
Has any of your roles changed the way you see yourself?
I've never been very motivated when it comes to makeup. I no longer feel like me wearing it and I find that difficult. I remember a job years ago where I had to look super glam and wear a lot of makeup and a fake tan, and dresses and heels. And I felt so uncomfortable because I had to look good. However, I've been fortunate that a lot of my jobs didn't have massive pressures to look a certain way. I can just be me and stand in front of the camera without worrying about how I look.
You mentioned social media and exposure to images of "perfection". How has that affected your perception of beauty?
I try to pay as little attention to these images as possible. I focus on things that I enjoy doing to counteract all of this. I notice that there is a direct correlation between the time I spend on the phone and my mood. I think everyone is like that. When I'm particularly bothered by the negative effects of social media, I pick up a book instead of my phone. There is no place in my brain for worrying about whether or not I can control my face. And Instagram isn't real, it's a filtered version of our lives, not just our faces.
Is there anything we can do to curb this negative impact of social media on a cultural level?
The fewer pictures we see of perfect, smoothed and filtered women, the less we will believe that this is our "normality". We need to see more pictures of real people. I saw something on Instagram the other day that felt like a step in the right direction. There were many different armpits. All of these armpits were normal. And when I saw that I thought, "Holy shit!" When I was younger I was so insecure about my fucking armpits, which is absurd. There are so many things in the world to think about and do. Why do I think about my armpits? It was just nice to see all these different armpits. It makes you realize that we're not airbrushed, not cellulite-free - we're wrinkled and wobbly, and that's normal and fine.
These things definitely need to be normalized. There are a lot of topics related to our bodies that we don't talk about, topics that we typically find intimate or uncomfortable, and that's what sex education is doing really well in my opinion. Her character, Lily, has vaginismus. How does it feel to be part of a series that drives the conversation and puts female * issues in the spotlight?
It was great for these very reasons. It's rarely talked about, but I've spoken to so many girls about vaginismus since then and so many people I've spoken to suffer from it. I already had it and didn't know what it was. It's nice to be able to talk about it on such a public level.
Why do you think it is still not being talked about?
It just takes a long time for the way entire society to think and work to switch because we have existed as a society that has shamed the female body and ignored women's sexuality and women's reproductive health problems. It will be a long time before the world will see things differently. But I hope that we will become less critical of ourselves and each other and that we can all go our own way. Just leave us alone when it comes to our own bodies.