Tasya Teles

Tasya Teles

Tasya Teles

Tasya Teles

Tasya Teles

talks feminism, creative expression, and the importance of therapy

talks feminism, creative expression, and the importance of therapy

talks feminism, creative expression,

and the importance of therapy

talks feminism, creative expression, and the importancee of therapy

talks feminism, creative expression, and the importancee of therapy

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INTERVIEW BY CARIANN BRADLEY AND MICHELLE STEWART • PHOTOS BY DAVY KESEY • SEPT. 20, 2019

STREAM TASYA'S SHOW "THE 100" ON NETFLIX HERE. FOLLOW HER ON IG HERE.

INTERVIEW BY CARIANN BRADLEY AND MICHELLE STEWART • PHOTOS BY DAVY KESEY • SEPT. 20, 2019

STREAM TASYA'S SHOW "THE 100" ON NETFLIX HERE. FOLLOW HER ON IG HERE.

TASYA TELES: I’ve been a feminist since birth — my mom always championed women’s rights, and taught me the importance of being a strong independent woman… But what catapulted me into action I think, or perhaps where all the crossroads have intersected to where I am today with Unslaved, and speaking more openly about women’s issues, began years ago when I was living in Montreal and I was getting my degree. 

One winter after my birthday, I was walking home from a friend’s house and it was like minus thirty degrees Celsius – super cold. I came home after a normal night, I just had a glass of wine with a friend, and the next morning I woke up and suddenly had meningitis.  Boom. Just like that I was super sick. I had to drop out of school, and was stuck in bed for almost three months. In that time, I couldn’t even sit upright—I could lie on my side, or on my back, and talk and call my friends, read books, and stuff like that, but I had to do everything lying on my back.

And so I was feeling pretty depressed about my situation because I was lonely, and bored, and dying to heal and start walking again, and my mom sent me some books to read.  She knew that I was looking at women’s studies, as I was interested in the many Women’s Rights movements of the past –I think this was back in 2006 or 2007. So I was kind of wondering ‘these days, why are people so resistant to call themselves feminists? Have we regressed?  What happens if women don’t identify as feminists? Is it all lost? Etc, etc..” I wanted to learn more about what it meant to be a feminist today, and I was curious about transferring my major to Women’s Studies. I was scared to switch majors, and needed to think about it more.

So, my mom sent me this stack of books to I read, and had I not had meningitis, had I not been stuck in a bed with nothing else to do, I may have not have had the time to explore it further.  One of the books was called “Half the Sky”— it documented a movement against oppression of women in third world countries who are systematically enslaved in a variety of ways. Human trafficking is a very clear example, but there are other ways of ‘enslaving’ women through cultural customs, poor health care, or other legislation that can trap women in poverty, when they don’t have any resources, such child care, or whatever support us women need for our specific female needs.

That book really changed me.  It put into focus what my passion is—which is to spread the word about these issues and speak to other girls about them, and shake off these taboo relationship we have with the word feminism, or being a self-declared feminist. To this day, some of my girlfriends are like “Oh, I’m not a feminist, Tasya is a feminist, but I am not a feminist.” And I’m just like “Who are you kidding right now? You can vote, you can work, you can do all of these things, you have birth control (which is a huge), for god’s sake you’re a feminist!!  You just don’t want to call yourself that for some reason!?”

CARIANN: What was the book you mentioned again?

T: “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” I think they turned it into two movies with George Clooney and a bunch of other celebrities that are showcased in the film. But yeah, it was incredible. That book really opened my eyes to how powerful women are and how, when they seek opportunity or have access to finances, we don’t make changes just for ourselves, we make changes for their entire communities. So that’s what makes me so passionate about supporting all of these grassroots movements that are happening worldwide. They have lasting implications, and the changes are amplified by these strong women in the world who are creating them.  The book is written as a collection of short stories, and is such a powerful read. Each unique story I read, I was like “WOW!” That book is just so inspiring.

C: I think I’ve read too that you’ve done some work regarding human trafficking; is that true?

T: Yeah, I mean I’ve been — working steadily for years actually on various things — kind of dragging on because my support system that was helping me with it grew and shrank, and grew and shrank, which has been kind of frustrating.  I don’t have a lot of time to do it all on my own, but what I’ve been doing is, working on a project called “Unslaved”. The basic concept is sell bracelets to raise money for charity – but where it’s different is that people who buy the bracelet get to help design, and launch next year’s design and campaign.  It was my way of adding some value to purchasing the bracelet, and I love that it gives us all a chance to connect and participate in doing something good for the world. It’s a community of kick ass women who want to do something about gender injustice worldwide. The money raised goes to women across the globe on a grassroots level – in essence supporting our sisters who face violence and limitations much more severe than we do in the Western world.  One of our charities who we are donating to right now is ECPAT.org, which fights child prostitution and exploitation.  

So what I do is make a limited number of bracelets, and whoever buys the bracelets—they get to design with me the next generation of the bracelets, and the money collected is donated. My hope is that people will start to become aware gender injustice and human trafficking isn’t just happening in some distant foreign place it’s happening in New York City, London, Cancun, it’s happening everywhere.  Awareness leads to change, and right now people don’t know how bad it is. People don’t want to face some of the more upsetting realities about misogyny. It’s a difficult one to tackle, so I hope to use Unslaved as a way of reminding women how powerful we are, and how effective we can be as a group, so that things change for women everywhere.  When we start fighting for justice, there’s something that wakes up in your soul, your own inner power. It’s incredible.

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C: That’s really awesome — the work that you’re doing.

T: Yeah, so actually I’m hoping to get that finally launched this summer. It’s been such a long process, but it’s going to be great, so hopefully there will be a lot of talk about creating support systems for one another and taking care of each other and our own mental health issues. I’m really happy that you guys are talking about that.

C: Yeah, us too. Thank you. It’s been really crazy the amount of support that we’ve gotten. I think people are just really looking for a platform like this regarding our anonymous submission site. It just goes to show that people are still really scared of telling their stories, even when it is anonymous. Whether that is a story about their mental health, or about abuse, or about sobriety, or anything. So it’s been really interesting to watch it unfold, and for the brand Midnight Woman to come into something that exists rather than just a brand inside my head. It’s taken on its own existence, it’s really interesting.

 T: That’s incredible. I think people just don’t really understand what mental health encompasses. I think that there’s a lot of misunderstandings about mental health, what it means — people used to think of mental health as being mentally disabled, or having a really specific diagnosed condition – like you were depressed or bipolar, etc. — but it’s a lot broader, and a lot more nuanced, as people are coming to realize now. It has to do with everything from addiction, anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders, and so many other things. I think the world needs what you’re doing.  Again, the more we talk about it, the more we understand it, and the more we have the tools to take care of ourselves.

C: Thank you so much for saying that. Really. I’m kind of interested to know too, your passion for women’s studies and women’s independence — you play a super independent character in “The 100” and I want to know how you feel playing Echo. And how your passion for feminism incorporates into your character.

"...it really put into focus what my passion is—which is to spread the word about these issues and speak to other girls about it, and shake off these taboo qualities we have with the word feminism or being a feminist."

"it’s a tough, crooked path to walk through life."

T: It’s interesting because part of the reason I went into finance [in college] is because I wanted to have a voice. I wanted to make sure I was living in my power as a strong, badass woman. I didn’t know what that meant when I was seventeen and I was applying to university. When it came to picking a college degree, I was shooting in the dark, so I was like “Finance! That sounds powerful!” But it wasn’t the right choice for me — I was destined to act.  It’s funny how the universe, if you’re paying attention, will lead you where you’re supposed to go regardless. Because I didn’t end up in finance, or in women’s studies, and yet, I have the opportunity to be talking about women’s issues and connecting with women all over the world and representing a strong woman on screen that a lot of people connect to. It’s a beautiful thing.

 I think one thing that really strikes me about Echo is her sense of coyness, and her sense of — she’s very silly, but she keeps everything inside and makes very calculated choices. At first, I saw that, for some reason, as a quality that was a little bit shifty or manipulative — well, not manipulative, but there was definitely a mysterious quality about her. And I didn’t really have an opinion on how I felt about that. Then recently when I was flying back from Spain, I saw this documentary called “RBG” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was powerful, and it was awesome, and it reinvigorated me with ideas about strong women, and Echo, and Unslaved.  RGB has a stillness and strategic intelligence that I see in Echo. Plus in my personal life, I was excited to get back on the “Unslaved” project. The movie inspired me again to take action.

I remember in another historical documentary I watched about Women’s Lib, the women who were leading the Lib Movement would be on these newscasts, speaking to news anchors who were these Ron Burgundy-type, macho guys, and the men would ridicule and patronize the women with dumb questions like  “So what do you think burning your bras actually means? Do you think that’s actually going to change anything in society? etc…”  

And the way that the women handled all that ridicule was so masterful. They were not affected by it, they didn’t bark back at him, they didn’t try to show strength. They kept it really light, made their points,  and then turned the joke around on the newscaster. It was fabulous to watch – interview kung fu! I was proud of them.

Ultimately, nobody wants to deal with anybody who is angry, or righteous, or entitled in what they believe in.  Whether it’s feminism or any issue – people will recoil from someone, when they are trying to push an issue, or belief, too hard in. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg really represents someone who knows that; she knew how to push her agenda, without being forceful. She’s kind of quiet, and very stoic, and it isn’t about pushing ideas, it’s about creating a conversation and educating people so everybody can know the facts and make their own decisions about the issue.  It’s about making it really approachable and easy for people to welcome a new idea. This is important because there’s still a lot of progress that needs to be made, and it won’t happen by using blunt force.  With Echo, I find that that’s something I can really see — her RBG qualities…She’s not so much plotting, as she is weighing everybody’s opinions and thinking of what the best strategy is. Embodying a character like Echo, with so much patience and stillness has taught me a lot.  I used to be someone who was filled with so much energy, maybe too much…I was just bouncing around all the time. It’s been very empowering playing Echo.

C: That’s awesome.

MICHELLE: I can really see that, too, come across in your character — just the way you describe how she’s kind of being calculating and taking everybody’s opinions in, but not being too in your face about it, and respecting that and making that change. I can really see that. 

T: Awesome, thank you. 

C: I do want to ask, what’s your advice for younger women who are trying to find their voices or externalize their experiences?

"When you live in a creative space, I think that’s when you’re most connected to your authentic self. "

"When you live in a creative space, I think that’s when you’re most connected to your authentic self. "

T: I think it’s a tough, crooked path we walk through life.  Mental illness impacted my life in huge ways — I’ve had to crawl out of dark holes more than once. There are moments of darkness that last longer than others.  Sometimes it feels as though there is always there nagging at you; what is the meaning of everything, what are you doing with your life, are you doing it right, how do you find your sense of self, how do you stay in a place that’s honest, how do you protect yourself, how do you live with purpose, I mean the list goes on and on.  

Getting on top of all that destructive inner dialogue was really difficult for me, and sometimes it still creeps in, but I have spent a lifetime teaching myself how to untangle all that nonsense.

I was always looking for things, and trying things, to help me deal with negative self-talk. The thing that really unlocked it for me was when I found one of my mentors, Larry Moss, and he bestowed some invaluable advice. He’s an acting coach who travels the world, and he just gives incredible advice.  The life lessons he teaches are so impactful and so profound – so when he tells me to do something, I always do it, and my life becomes immeasurably better. Once he turned to the audience and yelled, “All of you, you all need to go get therapy! For those who can’t afford it, do what I did as a youngster, get a second job, and become an adult and take care of damn yourself!!”  So I did. I was broke at the time, I was waitressing and studying acting, trying to juggle it all, but I would take an extra shift every week to pay for my therapist.  That was a game changer for me.

With therapy, it’s important to find a good therapist.  If you don’t, you can feel like youre wasting a lot of money and not getting the results you’re after.  It’s like finding a good partner, it’s important to connect and trust them. It was hard to find a good one, but I finally found someone who I really work well with. She’s almost like, my life coach in a way. I walk out of every session feeling like I can conquer the world and all life’s problems feel a lot easier to handle.  Ultimately it’s about having the courage to take care of yourself, which, along with physical health, includes mental health.

There are many things I do for mental hygiene…You start building your life around what is the best for you, and you start implementing certain practices and routines that are work.  You learn about yourself. What works versus what doesn’t. I’ve found that by finding good teachers, finding different support systems —which I think is the most important thing to do—you surround yourself with people who bring you up.  Sometimes it happens that you can regress if you’re surrounded by negativity, without even realizing it, so you have to realign. But always look for teachers that will give you sound advice, teachers who care about you, and coach you through hard times, and teachers who create opportunities for you. Go to therapy and express yourself through art. That’s a huge, and something that often gets ignored. 

Even for myself, as an artist, I need to give myself more creative time. I don’t find myself being truly creative as often as I like. But when you live in a creative space, I think that’s when you’re most connected to your authentic self.  This expresses itself for different people in different ways. I used to paint, but I’m also very physically expressive, and I just love acting, so that was the one I fell in love with the most. But now what I do almost every day, is write. I fell in love with writing. It used to feel like a chore, but oh my god, when I’m writing consistently, and just getting all of that noise out of my head every day, it is just so healing. I find that you can find your inner voice really quickly by committing to writing a few pages, every morning.  That’s my secret weapon.

C: Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you.

M: That’s really sound advice. 

C: It is, it’s really great advice. Do you have anything that you’ve watched recently that you’ve seen that has inspired you?

T: Oh my god, totally. I’m in a space right now where I’m really hungry for external forces of inspiration. When I’m moving around a lot and traveling a lot, I get jet-lagged and I really want to just order Door Dash and watch Netflix, and turn off completely. 

Right now, however, my life is a little more structured, and I find myself watching videos of women giving really moving speeches.  Things that make me emotional. Like the RBG movie! I feel that every woman should watch that movie—it’s so incredible. Another unexpected source inspiration comes from the fans. Its just the simplicity of connecting with people who watch the show.  It really humbles me and reminds me that no matter what you go through in life, we’re all the same. Some specific people come to mind, who I’ve developed friendships with on Twitter, or Instragram. Incredible people whom I stay in contact with, and it’s just really inspiring watching them grow. I just love talking with them and connecting with them. We make plans and set little goals together. So yeah, inspiration comes in all forms, but that RGB movie is up there for me right now!

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Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. l'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. L'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.