Ninja Marlena

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Snatched made me feel worthy of myself, of every blessing that comes my way. - Ninja Marlena

My arrival at MFF stemmed from an unfortunate experience at an audition a few years prior. Shortly after graduating from University, I went to an audition where the casting director was in a particularly foul mood (I cut her this slack only because I have been in for her several times since, and she has never repeated the behavior of this instance). On this day, however, she seemed to be particularly exasperated and frustrated, and made a statement to me, pointing out that my “fat body” didn’t “match my pretty face” and basically stating that I was wasting my time acting, and her time auditioning me.

I was humiliated and shattered.

Nobody had ever spoken that way to me about my weight before. Nobody, except a jerk in 6th grade who shall remain nameless, has explicitly used the “fat” word to me. Nameless 6th grader is in jail now so obviously his sense of judgement is skewed. Still, fuck you, nameless 6th grader.

Although I have stepped into more confident shoes during adulthood, I struggled a bit with my weight since a young child. My upbringing dictated it. My parents were obese when I was growing up. They are magnificent parents, always putting their children before themselves. Unfortunately, their own health was last on the list. Making sure we all could play sports and instruments and go away to college and study abroad, etc was always more important. When I was in middle school, my father, obese and plagued with severe diabetes had a heart attack at my softball game. My mother always belittled herself and her weight, equating beauty with thin-ness. Growing up, that’s what I learned from her. She came to New York my sophomore year and couldn’t walk three city blocks, she was just so heavy. I was convinced she would die before the new year. (Note: my parents have collectively lost over 250 lbs now, and looking fuckin hot at 70!)

The point is, I grew up in an environment where health was not the most important priority. I grew up believing that I was beautiful, smart, and successful when I was thin; ugly, stupid, and a failure when I was chubby. And then this fucking casting director called me fat (and also that I didn’t match my face whaaaat?)…something in me exploded and I felt absolutely worthless.

So I packed up my things and started backpacking the world. Africa, The Middle East, South America, Europe, Southeast Asia. Me and a carry-on backpack, little money, just living off the kindness of strangers. I wanted to travel to meet people, people who didn’t give a fuck if I was a size 4 or a size 14. And I did. I met the most extraordinary, adventurous friends on my travels. I wanted to disassociate with my New York world and live without consequences. And I have to say, few things make me happier than solo backpacking. But on my most recent trip to the middle east, I had a bit of an awakening: I realized that I was traveling in part because traveling is fucking AWESOME, but also, just a bit, I was traveling to avoid acting. I was scared of auditioning because I was scared that someone could get down to my marrow and infect me with self-loathing, the way the casting director did.

I had been thinking of doing MFF for almost a year. Several friends from college had participated in Snatched and looked fucking fantastic. When I came back from the Middle East, I felt something boiling inside me. I felt like I had been able to pin-point why I wasn’t acting anymore, and I didn’t want that to be okay. So after chatting with a few Ninja friends, I took the plunge.

So my experience in Snatched: Yes, I learned a shit load about fitness and nutrition, and I am especially grateful to Mark for debunking so many myths and making eggs my new BFF. But I got something more out of it than just 14 lbs down, 2 1/2 inches gone from my waist and 2 from my hips…I got to be selfish about my health, which is something my parents didn’t do until they were two inches from horizontal. I feel like you guys, Mark and Brian, saw the reigns of my life, of my health, but I couldn’t see them. And you forced me, with love, to grab them. Hold them tight. Steer them. I never knew that I could be selfish like that, that I could put my health and hotness before anyone else’s comfort. You conditioned my will. Snatched conditioned my will. Snatched gave me the permission to be selfishly healthy, because, well, I’m the only person who has to live with this body for the rest of its life.

About halfway through Snatched I started writing down my travel adventures. I’ve thought about doing a one-woman show for several years, “thought” being the key word. But Snatched lit a fire inside me. Snatched made me feel worthy of myself, of every blessing that comes my way. It’s funny, as I’ve been working on this show, it just pours out of me. It was there all along, but you guys defrosted it for me.

I truly believe there are no coincidences in life. None. Had I not had that awful audition, I would not have felt bad about myself and left New York to travel the world. I would not have been aching for a change and come to MFF. And had I not done Snatched, I don’t know if I would have ever found my artistry again…

So yeah, you guys changed my body and the way I think about food and fitness. That’s awesome. But most importantly, you guys brought art back into my life, which is essentially saying…You guys brought life back into my life.

Thank you for giving me life.

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