Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Arlyne Spalla Is Helping To Change Our World

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Five things I wish someone told me when I first started acting was how much work I would do free of charge, to accept every role that was available in order to gain a wide range of acting experience, to be prepared for the amount of traveling I’d have to do for certain roles, how unforgiving the camera can be, and finally to rejoice about all the amazing and talented people I would meet who would change my life.

As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arlyne Spalla.

Arlyne Spalla is an award-winning actress. She has won Best Actress for her leading role in Natalie’s Abortion, and Best Supporting Role from the World Music and Independent Film Festival (WMIFF) for several films: Serial Madness, Romeo Must Die Again, A Walk to Remember, and La Taous Nikita which was filmed in New York City. She was also nominated for Best Supporting Role in The Curse of EVE. Arlyne has been acting on stage for years and is a member of two improv groups, LAMP (laughter as medicine productions) and Fresh Option. She currently works in Entertainment at Busch Gardens as a Scare Actor, and she performs at Sesame as a costumed character.

Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?

I always dreamed of being an actress but I didn’t know how to achieve it. I was a shy and quiet child. I did a little bit of acting in high school, but I didn’t return to my dream until ten years ago. I participated in a competition called Passport to Discovery from the Barbizon Acting and Modeling school with my children. It was an opportunity to practice acting skills as well as meet mangers in the industry. At the competition, I received many offers from agencies in LA, but jumping up and moving to LA was not feasible as a mother of four. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I landed a manager who was local to me and connected to a major director June Daguiso. It was then that I realized I had what it took to be an actress and I gained the confidence to work in this field.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made when I first started acting was when I looked back on performances and realized how unforgiving the camera could be. I looked at my hands, thinking about how huge my fingers looked. I had to learn my angles and how to hold my body and then just be comfortable with myself.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I would advise any young person who wants to pursue acting to believe in themselves. With enough passion you can make anything happen. While working in the industry just remember to stay positive. There will always be someone who comes along to tell you that you can’t do it. So, it is very important not to listen to the naysayers and to never give up.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

The person who has made the most profound impact on my life is my mother. My mother is a domestic violence survivor. When my father came back from Vietnam he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and responded violently within the family. My mother had to commit my father to a mental institution, get a divorce, and raise her children while having no support from the extended family. She managed to take care of all of her kids and obtain a Master’s Degree in severe and profound disabilities. Her tenacity as a mother and educator gave me the drive to be the person I am today.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?

I use acting in film as a means for social change to depict survivors in a way that allows them to tell their own stories. In my most recent role, I play an attorney who has to defend a client who killed the man who sexually assaulted her in self-defense. Art imitates life in the way that so many survivors are faced with judicial repercussions for defending themselves. However, I strive to make a social impact in how survivors are perceived by giving them voice through film.

Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

I took up the cause of domestic violence because I experienced it. I was married to a man who emotionally, physically, spiritually, and sexually abused me. During this dark period of my life I felt as though I didn’t have a voice and that there was nothing I could do about it. I felt trapped. However, when I regained my strength and got out of that abusive relationship I took up the cause to help survivors of domestic violence by sharing my experiences. By telling my story and depicting other people’s stories through acting it lets victims know they are not alone. It gives people hope that anything is possible. There are people who understand, who care, and can help a victim become a survivor.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

My children have been impacted by my cause, because my children are the reason I was able to escape from my abuser. When I was married to my abuser I kept saying to myself that I couldn’t divorce my husband because it was a sin. However, I spoke to a Christian counselor who asked me if I would want my daughters to grow up and marry a man like the man I married. At that revelation, I realized I had to get out of the abusive relationship for the sake of my children. I know that my children seeing me become a survivor has impacted their lives and helped them grow into strong-willed, intelligent, adults.

Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

The best thing an individual can do about domestic violence is to listen without judgment. If someone ever confides in you about domestic violence don’t ask the accusatory question “why don’t you just leave?” There are many hindrances a woman in an abusive relationship faces when it comes to leaving, such as financial dependence, spiritual abuse that condemns her for wanting to leave, or fear from the physical threat the abuser poses. Instead, an individual can ask a domestic violence victim about what she would need to leave and help her with safety planning. Society can support domestic violence victims by first stop turning a blind eye to the problem. There is a tendency to ridicule or make light of domestic violence as a problem even though 1 in 3 women are impacted by domestic violence. The government can support domestic violence victims through financial support, but instead of giving financial support to institutions, the government would do better to hand the support directly to individual victims.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”

Five things I wish someone told me when I first started acting was how much work I would do free of charge, to accept every role that was available in order to gain a wide range of acting experience, to be prepared for the amount of traveling I’d have to do for certain roles, how unforgiving the camera can be, and finally to rejoice about all the amazing and talented people I would meet who would change my life.

You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would start a movement to address the ripple effect of domestic violence beginning with emotional healing for children who witnessed it growing up. At first, I never saw my children as victims of domestic violence, since I was the one taking the hits. Overtime I realized the amount of emotional trauma they experienced by witnessing the abuse from the marriage. My children felt guilty because they couldn’t help me. In our society, there is a tendency to trivialize emotions, but wounds from the past have a way of coming out in the worst possible way if the emotions from those wounds are left unaddressed. This is why it is so important for children who have witnessed domestic violence to receive emotional healing from the trauma.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite quote is, “You can’t let life happen to you, you have to make life happen.” This quote is relevant to my life because when I was abused I was letting life happen to me. I was just existing. When I took the power back in my life I began to make life happen. I got my confidence back and it led to so many things I thought would never happen. I am driven by my faith now and I give glory to God and His Son.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have a private lunch with Mariska Hargitay from Law and Order SVU. Law and Order SVU is my favorite show and I think Mariska Hargitay is such a wonderful actress. Personally, she has used her star power for so much good. She started the Joyful Heart Foundation to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. I relate to her cause and appreciate the work she has done in the entertainment industry to help people. As an actress who is also in her 50’s it gives me hope to see Mariska Hargitay doing so well and it empowers me to keep pursuing the dream.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Arlyne Spalla Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.