What ‘AHS: Freak Show’ Can Teach You About ‘Type’

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Recently, I was flying back to L.A. from London and had the good fortune of talking to Mat Fraser, a star of “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”

He’s sort of become the breakout sensation of this season’s show and it’s all the more wonderful because he suffers from the genetic condition called phocomelia, in which he was born with malformed arms.

He talked about the irony that for 20 years he knew he was going to break through in his career based on who he was—that being himself was the only way in.

And that’s the truth for each of us.

We’re all types. Humanity in general (and the business specifically) is going to reduce you and type you. That’s what it does. People feel so much more comfortable putting others into categories—labeling them, marginalizing them. So the business is going to say you’re too big, or you’re not big enough; you’re Asian, you’re not Asian enough; you’re too pretty, you’re too ethnic, you’re too green, you’re too old, etc., and on it goes.

Your job is to quickly figure out your type, not so that you can limit yourself or be defined by it, but so that you can find your way into a career that is going to do that to you regardless.

Accept yourself fully with who you are right now and then own it. That’s your way in. You don’t have to be someone else, but you have to be OK with being who you are. If you’re not, it’s very difficult to get work.

So here’s Frazer, who was born with a handicap and yet I doubt he ever saw himself as limited. His challenges are what have made him uniquely who he is. That paradigm shift has allowed him to transcend the “type” that the business is going to generate for each of us. You get in the door by owning your type and then transcending it to have a career.

Stop making what’s “different” about you a liability. It’s your asset. We’re all “freaks.” We’re all misfits, outcasts, abnormal, weird, different. We all are part of the same tribe while simultaneously feeling that we’re outside of it.

So if a self-prescribed freak can do it, so can you.

And when you do, you’ll realize your type is simply human.

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

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Anthony Meindl
Anthony Meindl is an award-winning writer-director-producer, creativity expert, inspirational speaker, and artistic director of Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop (AMAW) with studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, Sydney, and Vancouver.
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