An Interview with Christina Schmidt

Christina receiving the Young Artist Award for ''Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) - Supporting Young Actress.'' Click the image to view it at a larger size

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an internationally-recognized actress, parading down a red carpet in Hollywood, with flashbulbs popping all around you, as you receive a major acting award? Or have you ever wondered how you would feel if you were a gorgeous plus-size model on an exciting photo shoot for a major clothing chain? Popular Canadian beauty Christina Schmidt recently enjoyed both of these experiences—without diminishing her figure—and in this interview, she tells us all about them. She also shares her thoughts about fashion, makeup, and life as a teen role model.

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HSG: What was your initial reaction when you learned that you were one of the nominees for the Best Supporting Actress Award at the Young Artist Awards?

CS: I was excited, surprised, happy—every single positive word you could think of.

HSG: And do you remember where you were, and what you were doing, when the news came through? Did you even know that someone had nominated you?

CS: No!

HSG: You didn’t? So finding out about it was a complete surprise.

CS: I got it in the mail. And for the last couple of years, Degrassi had been nominated as a whole show. So I thought, “Oh, Degrassi has been nominated again.” And then I read it more carefully, and I realized, “I’m nominated!” So that was wicked.

HSG: Be honest—what did you think your chances of winning were?

CS: I did not think I was going to win.

HSG: You didn’t.

CS: I didn’t go there thinking, “Oh, I’m not going to win.” I was with some outstanding actresses. For a Canadian show to be at an American awards was, first of all, amazing. I don’t think many Canadian shows were nominated, so I was thinking that my chances were not as high as some of the others. But I still went with confidence.

Christina at the 26th Annual Young Artist Awards, holding her award for ''Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) - Supporting Young Actress.'' Click the image to view it at a larger size

HSG: So at least some part of you thought, “I have a shot, here.”

CS: Yeah!

HSG: Now, the thing that blew everyone away when they saw the pictures from the event was your dress—the red dress—the famous red dress. Everyone raved about that. What was the process that went into selecting that? Did a stylist recommend that for you? Did you choose it yourself?

CS: Well, my mother and I went shopping, and we looked in so many stores. We went to Toronto, and, “Maybe this.“ “Maybe this.” “No, maybe this.” “No.” I tried on so many things. And then we both saw it, and I said, “I don’t think I need to try any more.”

HSG: What was it that made it so special? What made it stand out to you?

CS: It’s red, which—I love wearing red lipstick. And it just fit really well, and I pictured the whole outfit in my head before I even tried anything on.

HSG: And of course, you wore a pair of your trademark “wild, crazy” earrings. Were those something that you had in your possession already, or did you buy them specifically for the event?

CS: Those I had already. I think I wear those to almost every single event that I attend, from going out for supper, to a club, to stepping out with my friends—or to awards shows.

HSG: That’s interesting to have that item of continuity—like a good-luck talisman. The dress was quite different from the somewhat…conservative attire that you wore as Terri on Degrassi. Was that a conscious choice to differentiate yourself from the role?

CS: I wasn’t necessarily comparing myself to Terri. I just wanted to be myself.

Click on the graphic to hear a 32-second .wav audio clip from Christina's interview

HSG: Ah, so this is more of an expression of who you really are.

CS: Yes. I wanted to be myself. It was comfortable. I felt confident in it. And I got a lot of compliments on it, which was nice.

HSG: You did.

CS: Yes. And I thought it was overall a beautiful dress. And that’s why I picked it out.

HSG: Now, you say that you did not go to the event expecting to win. But did you write an acceptance speech beforehand?

CS: Ah—no.

HSG: You didn’t.

CS: And I seriously do not even remember what I said up there. Even right after I was on stage, I couldn’t remember what I said. The lights were so bright, I couldn’t see anybody. I was shaking…

HSG: Oh really!

CS: I just quickly went through my head thinking that, first of all, I’m going to thank my family, my mom and dad, my agent, and everybody who was involved. That’s just the obvious, but after that, I really don’t know what I said.

HSG: Okay, I’ll ask you a little bit more about that experience in a moment, but first, let’s start with the day of the event. What was that like? Was it hectic, or smooth sailing, or—

CS: Well, whenever I have to wake up earlier than, I think, one o’clock, it’s kind of hectic. [laughing]

HSG: Is that your usual wake-up time?

CS: Between twelve, one…sometimes pushing to two.

HSG: That’s wonderful! But this day wasn’t like that. You actually had to drag yourself out of bed earlier. [laughing]

Test photograph of Christina. Click thumbnail to enlarge.

CS: I did. And when I straighten my hair, it takes a little while. So that was a bit hectic. But putting myself together was…it was exciting, for an event like this.

HSG: To straighten your hair? So your hair naturally has more, what, wave in it? Body?

CS: It’s really thick, and wavy-to-curly. So when I blow-dry it, I look like a lion! And then, to straighten it, I have to brush it, blow-dry it, use a straightening iron, and then use a real iron.

HSG: So you put that look together yourself? You didn’t go to a hairstylist to do it?

CS: No. I tend to do my own hair and makeup 99% of the time.

HSG: What is your makeup ritual? What goes into creating the “Christina Schmidt look?”

CS: I always wear liquid eyeliner, on the top. Kind of like the Egyptians used to do, with the little wing at the side. And I usually wear a shimmer on the top of my eye, towards my eyebrow. And I always do something…not crazy, but something noticeable with my lipstick—either red lipstick, or lip-liner and gloss. Something that people will notice.

HSG: And did you learn this yourself, or did you pick these things up from make-up artists who worked with you, over the years?

CS: I’ve always had my own taste in makeup, ever since I was little. Always putting on show makeup, going on TV shows, that kind of thing. And I always learned a lot from the make-up artist. She tells me different tips, she shows me different techniques…

HSG: So, do you generally adhere to your own style, or do you mimic something that you see on someone else?

CS: I try to have my own style. But sometimes, when I see what a celebrity does, or a singer, a dancer, whatever, I’ll try it. But I always give it my own little twist.

HSG: At the event, there was an actual red carpet for celebrities to walk down, while photographers took their pictures. Was it the way we see it on television, with flashbulbs going off?

CS: There’s a million people screaming, “Christina, look this way!” “Christina, look over here!” “Christina over here!” “Christina over here!”

HSG: Photographers trying to get your attention.

CS: Yeah. And it’s like what you see on TV. Like what you see on eTalk, or…

HSG: And tell me honestly—did you “feel like a movie star,” at that point?

CS: I did. I did. And it was so good to be with so many other young actors and actresses. It was an amazing day.

HSG: Was it a little bit addictive? Could you see how someone living in L.A. could get addicted to that kind of attention?

CS: [with emphasis] Oh yeah. I remember saying, “Why do we have to leave?”

HSG: Did you get a chance to mingle with any of your contemporaries?

Test photograph of Christina. Click thumbnail to enlarge.

CS: Raven-Symoné was there, who is probably one of the biggest teenaged actresses right now. There were kids from Finding Neverland there. So many movies…

HSG: Now, how did you feel in the split-second before they read your name? Just when they were announcing, “And the nominees are…”

CS: In the moments before, I was saying to myself, “I’m not going to get nervous, I’m not going to get nervous.” And then, two categories before they were going to announce mine, I was tapping my fingers, playing with my hair, thinking, “Okay, I’m getting a little nervous.” And then, by the time they said, “Best Supporting Actress in a TV show,” I was like, “Oh my god…”

HSG: What was your reaction immediately when they read your name?

CS: “Oh my god!!” And I stood up right away, and I kind of just stood there for a second, thinking [breathless] “Okay, walk to the stage…”

HSG: And your mother accompanied you to the event, yes? What was her reaction?

CS: “Aaaaaaah!” She was really sweet. She kept saying, “Way to go!” “Way to go!”

HSG: And you have already said that you don’t remember your acceptance speech. Do you remember whom you told about the win, immediately afterwards?

CS: I called home and I think I told my dad first. Then I text-messaged all of my friends.

HSG: Since you won that award over some notable competition, what do you think the organization saw in you, that singled you out?

Click thumbnail to view a screen capture from ''Degrassi: The Next Generation''

CS: Well, I know I prepared so much for that episode. I researched it carefully, And it was such an intensely emotional episode, that I guess they noted the hard work I put into it. And everyone, from the writers to the directors, all had a part in it. On Degrassi, they are all so talented. I figure it was all of our hard work, and it was a great performance to them.

HSG: Okay. Do you remember what you did afterwards?

CS: I think I went shopping! I went back to the hotel. First thing I did was take my shoes off—

HSG: Right, because you were in heels for the event.

CS: Strappy high heels.

HSG: And how do you like those?

CS: I’m actually really comfortable in them. But it’s always nice to take them off.

HSG: You and Raven-Symoné both won awards, and you have both been recognized for not conforming to the anorexic, size-0 Hollywood mould. Do you think this represents progress for non-skinny actresses in the media?

CS: I guess so. That would be really good. I think more and more plus-size actresses and models are getting recognized, as time goes on. Maybe they’re getting more nominations—and if that’s the case, that’s awesome.

HSG: Performers generally receive two kinds of recognition: public acclaim, and peer awards, such as the Oscars, and the Young Artist Awards. What do you think makes peer awards so special to the actors and actresses themselves?

Christina in a Fall 2005 advertisement for Torrid. Click to view the complete ad.

CS: Just knowing that other people in the industry who do the same kind of work that you do recognize your work. Good actors recognizing good actors. And that they recognize other work in the industry, and they notice other people’s good work.

HSG: And now, on to the other major event that happened recently—Torrid. While you were on Degrassi, you played a character who was an actual plus-size model on the show. Did you ever think that you would be doing this yourself, in “real life?”

CS: I thought it would be nice. “Oh, this would be cool.” But I never really thought that it would happen like it did. It happened so quickly! I thought maybe one day, I’d like to do it…

HSG: Torrid closely resembles the “MoreGrrrl” concept on Degrassi—and vice versa. Now that you have done both, modelling and acting, how would you compare the two?

CS: I love taking pictures. Photoshoots come out of being on a TV show as well, but going to a studio to take pictures makes you feel really good.

HSG: And what about the experience makes it so enjoyable?

CS: It feels good knowing that someone wants you to represent their clothing, wants your face to be on their ad. That always feels good. And especially with the plus-size industry, knowing that so many other girls are going to look up to you, to look at your pictures. And, for other models, to show them that there are beautiful girls who aren’t stick-skinny.

HSG: How is a commercial fashion shoot different from creating studio stills, or an acting test?

CS: In a way, it’s kind of all the same. It’s all advertising. Like, for Degrassi, the photo shoot is representing the show, advertising the show. And for Torrid, the shoot is representing the store. So it’s the same, but the only difference is, modelling is representing clothing, hair, and makeup, and photo shoots for TV shows are representing the TV show.

HSG: How much direction did the photographer give you?

Click on the graphic to hear a 19-second .wav audio clip from Christina's interview

CS: I always tend to go—I’m obviously going to listen to direction, but right off the bat, I’ll do some poses that I’ve had in my mind. There’s the cover of a magazine that’s out right now, Jennifer Lopez is on it. It’s one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen.

HSG: That’s Elle magazine. Did you try to imitate that?

CS: I did. I thought, “That pose is wicked.” So I tried that. I did some other ones that were in my head. And he, the photographer, gave me some direction too. He would say, “Go edgy.” “This is more of a catalogue shot.” And so on.

HSG: Did you practice in front of a mirror when you were at home?

CS: No, just, I ran it through my head, and just let it come out when the time came.

HSG: Were there any surprises at the shoot?

CS: Not so much that I wasn’t expecting, but I knew it was going to be fun—and it was so much fun. And I knew that the clothing was going to be cool—and the clothing was really cool.

HSG: It was.

CS: Yeah. I liked everything that I shot in.

HSG: Well, what was your favourite piece, of all of the items that you modelled?

CS: A black-and-gold dress.

HSG: Oh, so you modelled some dresses! And was this a dress that you could see yourself buying and wearing?

CS: Yes! It’s similar to the red dress, the same length, and the halter style, and the neckline. The whole dress is black, and it’s a silky, slinky material, and then the neckline has a gold lining on it. And then there’s a tie-up belt. It looks really nice. Really, really nice.

HSG: And where might you wear such an outfit?

CS: You could go out dancing, you could go to a big awards event…it just all depends how you do your hair, do your accessories.

HSG: Oh, so those accouterments are significant to the overall look of an outfit?

CS: It’s everything, from head to toe.

HSG: What’s special about wearing a dress, rather than, say, slacks?

CS: Well, when you wear a dress, it’s a dress, it’s a different feeling.

HSG: Do you have a favourite style of dress?

CS: A halter style is nice. I usually like dresses that go just a little past my knees, or just above my knees—

Christina receiving the Young Artist Award for ''Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) - Supporting Young Actress.'' Click the image to view it at a larger size

HSG: Not into minis?

CS: Well, nothing like too, too

HSG: Not Christina Aguilera.

CS: No. But I can find miniskirts that I like. I can find long skirts that I like. But just, proportion-wise, I like bare shoulders, a little bit lower neckline, and the knee area. And then some strappy shoes. And some big accessories.

HSG: When you modelled the dresses, were you only shot from the front, or did they ask you to pose from the side, or from the back?

CS: I did a couple that were on angle, but for the most part they were from the front, or a little bit on angle.

HSG: That’s a shame. You never really see how a halter style looks unless you view it from the back. Anyway, in your modelling, do you have a look that you prefer projecting—sweet and innocent, sexy and edgy…?

CS: Well, it depends what outfit, how I’m feeling…

HSG: So you tailor your expressions to the outfit that you are modelling?

CS: Yeah. If I’m wearing a sexier dress, I’ll put more of a more sexier look on my face. If I’m wearing a cute little t-shirt, I go for a cute little smile.

HSG: Did the Torrid shoot have hair/make-up people at it?

CS: Yeah.

HSG: So this wasn’t something you put together.

CS: No, I went with how I wanted to do my hair, and how I wanted to do my makeup. And they loved it. However, they did add to what I came in with.

Click thumbnail to view a screen capture from ''Degrassi: The Next Generation''

HSG: And of the creative team that comprises a photo shoot, whose job fascinates you most?

CS: Everything about every job there fascinates me. Like, makeup, the creativity they can express in making someone look beautiful in the face. That’s so cool. And the different ways they can do their own makeup, and then do it on other people. The photographers, how they are the face behind the camera, and how they can make that their own thing. The stylist, how they can put an outfit together and make it look beautiful. Even the people who make sure your clothes look flattened down, and are always making sure everything looks good.

HSG: What can you do, as a model, to make an outfit look more appealing for someone to buy?

CS: Well, first of all, Torrid clothes are really appealing, right off the bat. With anything, I personally can make any outfit my own thing, which I think anybody can do—to make it their own thing, and make them feel the best, in the outfit that they have on. If I’m wearing a t-shirt, I usually roll up the sleeves, I like sleeves a little higher on the arm. I think that looks cool. With jeans, I can roll them up into capris, and make that outfit look different than the longer jeans. But at Torrid, all the stuff looks amazing. But anybody can do their own thing, and make their own style.

HSG: So do you think fashion for plus-size girls is getting better than it used to be?

CS: For sure! All the clothes you would see in a store for the small, small sizes, there’s stuff in there that looks the same—and stuff that looks even better.

Test photograph of Christina. Click thumbnail to enlarge.

HSG: Do you think that girls with curves can wear some styles better than skinny girls can?

CS: Curves are always good! Like a dress. Look at Beyoncé. Did you see the Oscars, the dress that she was wearing? Her curves made it look so much better than if a skinny, skinny girl was wearing it. And jeans always look wicked on girls with curves. And tank tops…I think curves are in. I think girls with curves have an advantage.

HSG: How do you feel about being a role model?

CS: I think that is so cool. And even if I was just to have one girl look up to me, and say that, “You helped me, helped me feel good about myself,” that would satisfy me. But having lots of girls—I think that is just so amazing. It makes me feel so good. I think that’s my favourite part about being in this industry, is having other girls look up to me, having a positive influence on other girls, helping other girls feel beautiful about themselves. I love that. For sure one of my favourite parts about the industry.

HSG: Has being in the industry helped you acquire the self-assurance that you need, in order to communicate it to others?

CS: Well, being in the entertainment industry, and doing modelling and stuff, it does give you confidence, because people want to see your face in an ad. But even if I wasn’t in the industry, I’d try to always be positive and confident, because it makes you feel so much better about yourself.

HSG: So, bottom line—you don’t have to diet to be beautiful?

CS: Of course not!

HSG: Anything else you would care to add?

CS: For girls in Canada, look on the Torrid Web site. You can order stuff off the Torrid site. There’s so much cool stuff, and it makes girls feel so beautiful.

HSG: Did you encourage them to come to Canada?

CS: I did! I said, “Oh, it would be nice if you had some stores in Canada…”

HSG: Hopefully they will take your advice. Thank you for a great interview, and best of luck with all of your future projects.

CS: Thank you.

Christina Schmidt Galleries: One · Two · Three · Four · Five · Six · Seven

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