Dan Thompson: Beauty Busted


Rae Ellen Bodie: Redefining Beauty

Voice Coach to the Stars (and me) Speaks

Part of my job requires me to speak in public. A few years ago whilst presenting to a large group, I lost my voice. I felt it actually strain and snap. Of course, what I had done was over used it and not supported it properly. After that experience I was introduced to the extraordinary talents of Rae Ellen Bodie.

Rae Ellen trains performers, singers, speakers, and actors how to properly use their voices.  It would seem that knowing how to use one's voice would be natural and simple, it certainly did to me until I lost the use of it, but that is actually not the case. I liken what Rae Ellen does to that of any coach.  She trains technique, refines skill and then strengthens the muscle so that almost impossible feats seem to be executed with ease and grace.  Just like a coach trains a runner or a gymnast, Rae Ellen trains people to use all the aspects of their voice including breath, muscles, articulation, speed, and, of course, full body control. Her very special talent, however, is showing how voice and presentation invoke emotion. She has a unique ability to help any speaker connect emotionally with their topic and convey that passion through the spoken word. Without what she taught me I would never have been able to work and speak in the capacity I do.

An actor and director in her own right, she certainly has both practical and academic knowledge of the use of voice. Many people have asked me how I can make personal appearances and speak for hours upon hours without having a strained voice. It's thanks to the training of Rae Ellen. I consider her an integral part of the Daniel Thompson Beauty team. I feel as if I am in some very special company having been trained by Rae Ellen. Privately she has coached Rachel McAdams, Scott Speedman, Rossif Sutherland and Diego Klattenhoff and she is the on set coach for shows like Lucky 7 (ABC), Reign (CBS), and Beauty & the Beast (CBS).



Recently I asked Rae Ellen to tell me her definition of beauty:

"I coach a lot of female actors who really struggle (particularly in film and TV) to embrace what their specific, true beauty is. They starve themselves because an unthinking agent or casting director has suggested they "drop a few pounds"; they get their teeth done, spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery, etc.  I've seen 60 year-old women at work on TV sets who hate what they see in the mirror; who resent the young women around them for their beauty, even as those same young women have internal lists of all the ways in which they themselves are wanting.  It's a vicious, heart-breaking cycle that I too find myself swept up in from time to time.  

It's taken me years to see the flaws in our North American perceptions of beauty; I feel the difference in my being when I am marching to my own drum; operating in the world from a place of possibility and fearlessness — and that my beauty has nothing to do with any kind of common perception of beauty or arbitrary aesthetic.
As a person who grew up on the prairies I saw my aunties elbow-deep in the dirt; taking care of babies; putting up their hair for church; banging in fence-posts, tending to the animals; driving tractor; butchering chickens; preserving vegetables and fruit that they had grown.  My first female role models weren't submissive women who dumbed themselves down; they didn't leave it to the men around them to take care of things that they themselves could take care of, yet knew when to ask for help.  They were fiercely independent, yet had the deep understanding that the business of running a farm required loving interdependence; that everything is connected."
Her most recent project is one I have seen personally. Rae Ellen is the director of Picture of Happiness, a show that I can only describe as a hybrid of theatre, cabaret, and salon performance, and it is playing across Canada to rave reviews and sold out venues. Next up are performances in Toronto on October 19 and 20 followed by Calgary on October 25, 26, 27 and 28.
I have seen this production several times, in various venues, and I have yet to not be moved by the work of the performers, the telling of the story and the reaction of the audience.  I don't want to spoil the show for anyone but I will use Rae Ellen's own words she to describe the story of this show:  "Being alive is about having a fearless heart — living the full spectrum of life and every experience that comes with it.  A million things can distract me from being awake, keeping my eyes open, breathing and staying in the moment. Every breath invites me to stay awake to what's happening right now — and ultimately that brings great joy, regardless of what I am being attentive to. I'm saying yes to what is in front of me, all of it, right now — whether it's a moment of bliss or the deepest grief."
Trust me — you must see this show — it will change your entire perspective on love, family, marriage and hope. I defy anyone to walk away from this show and not be stunned into personal reflection and quiet realization.