Brisbane raised Lauren Jimmieson boasts an exciting resume some young performers can only dream of, having been in the national tour of Singin’ In The Rain and most recently, having toured with Nickelodeon’s Paw Patrol Live as Rocky. With the launch of her blog The Jimmie Journal, Lauren has taken the leap to sharing her vitiligo story. Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition that attacks the pigmentation cells of one’s skin, most famously associated with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. We were lucky enough to chat to the inspiring Lauren about her exciting career as a creative, performer and her experience with vitiligo.
When did you first develop an interest in the performing arts?
My parents put me in dance class at the age of three. I loved it from the get go. My passion for dance quickly expanded to singing and acting. I was very studious in high school. Somehow, I juggled this with performance classes nearly every afternoon and weekend. Many eisteddfods and dance concerts!
When did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in the arts?
Growing up, I wanted to pursue a career as a commercial dancer on cruise ships. This goal shifted during my first year out of high school, when I was full time at Theatre and Dance in QLD. I realised my passion was really musical theatre. My singing teacher Jacqui Devereux helped me realise this and prepped me for many months in the lead up to my audition for the Conservatorium of Music. Thankfully, I got in! I spent the next three years under the direction of Paul Sabey working towards my Bachelor of Music (Musical Theatre). My goal changed to aspiring to be a part of a big musical! I am proud to say I achieved that goal. Once I was out in the real world, I realised my passion and skill for children’s entertainment. Now, I try and balance work between musical theatre, kids’ entertainment and trying new creative things!
What was your experience finding out that you had vitiligo?
I was 14 and had suffered from eczema as a child. I developed a raw patch of eczema on my neck and that’s what triggered my vitiligo. It took me quite a few weeks before we found a specialist who diagnosed me and started me on UVB light therapy treatment. During those weeks, the vitiligo spread. It was a very confronting and difficult time. 11 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of information out there about the condition and I didn’t know anyone who also had it, so I felt very isolated and unsure of what the future might hold for me.
How has vitiligo affected your day-to-day life?
In my day to day life, I camouflage my vitiligo with a product called Microskin. Ironically, this product was created in Brisbane (where I grew up) and is used for those with burn scars, birthmarks and vitiligo, all around the world. Prior to my reveal via my blog, most of my family members and friends were aware of my condition but had never seen me without Microskin on.
The effect on my day-to-day life is mainly in the process of applying and removing the Microskin. I choose to do it daily. Every morning I airbrush the Microskin over my vitiligo. The level of coverage I’m after determines how long it takes and how many layers I spray. Usually, it can take up to an hour. At night, I remove the Microskin with specially formulated remover, exfoliate the affected area and sleep bare-skinned to give my natural skin a break. I repeat this day in and out.
Since starting my blog I’ve spent more time uncovered, but this is mainly in the privacy of my apartment or just out and about with my partner, Anthony. Even so, If Anthony and I [are] out in public, I’ll go makeup free but still wear a turtleneck shirt which covers most of my vitiligo. I’m still getting comfortable with this baby step. I’m looking forward to getting more and more comfortable with leading a coverage-free lifestyle.
How has vitiligo affected your approach to your career?
In the performing industry, it’s usually part of the gig to wear makeup, especially for the actual performances. When working in the industry, no one has ever questioned my makeup. As I’ve mentioned, the Microskin in an incredible product, and while you can see that something is there, most friends who learnt of my vitiligo just thought I was being very thorough and efficient with my foundation application by blending into my neck. My vitiligo has never determined my career path or stopped me for auditioning for a role… because until now, it’s remained out of sight.
It’s important that I find confidence in my own skin in my personal, day-to-day life first. Once I’ve done that, I’ll see how I feel about presenting myself with natural skin in rehearsals or auditions. My big fear was that revealing my vitiligo would affect my career. Honestly, this fear is why it took me 11 years to share my story. I still believe that had I presented myself with my vitiligo exposed from the get go, my CV would not look as colourful today. It’s tough. While talent, determination and passion are necessary attributes for aspiring performers, your ‘look’ contributes significantly to your likelihood of success as well. I’m hoping to keep people informed on my personal and professional journey via my blog. We’ll have to wait and see what happens…
What inspired you to start your blog The Jimmie Journal?
I’ve always loved writing, and for many years I’ve been trying to find an outlet and a worthy, unique subject. I’ve also been building up the courage to share my vitiligo story. Marrying the two is the perfect combination. While the focus of ‘The Jimmie Journal’ for now will be sharing my vitiligo story, I also have a huge passion for conveying real and honest stories from the perspective of performers. Subjects I’m itching to write about include; ‘the stigma around children’s entertainment’, ‘audition experiences’, ‘recounts of ‘struggling actors’ and ‘redefining what success in the industry looks like’. I hope to use my blog to share these stories too.
What has been the hardest moment of your career?
I think the hardest moment of my career so far was finishing my contact on Singin’ in the Rain. It was difficult, not just because it meant saying goodbye to an amazing show and an incredible group of people, but also, because I didn’t know whether I would ever be given the opportunity to do something as spectacular and rewarding again. I was going to say I was very lucky to be given the opportunity, but on second thought, I worked incredibly hard to get there, so I’m not sure ‘luck’ is the right word. However, there are a lot of talented, hardworking people out there trying to pursue a career in theatre. The competition is tough, and with only so many opportunities on the horizon, you can never be truly sure of where, when or what your next gig will be.
What has been your most memorable moment on stage?
It’s so tricky to pick just one. I think that my highlight is getting to perform the role I covered in Singin’ in the Rain. I had the absolute pleasure of covering the legendary Robyn Arthur in her role of Dora Bailey. I was lucky to be given numerous opportunities to step in to the role during the tour. While stepping in for someone like Robyn is daunting, I was privileged enough to admire her stunning work and lucky enough to have her many years worth of industry wisdom imparted on little old me! She was a huge support. Standing on that stage in such an iconic show, beside phenomenal talents including Rohan Brown, Jack Chambers, Erika Heynatz, Gretel Scarlett, Grant Almirall, Michael Bishop, Rodney Dobson (and the list goes on), was an incredible honour.
I also need to mention the main reason I love children’s theatre. During 2018 I’ve had the pleasure of working on Paw Patrol Live for Nickelodeon in the role of Rocky. I’ve also had the pleasure of ‘dance captaining’. Something most don’t take into account when considering kids’ theatre is that for a lot of your audience, it is the very first time they are experiencing theatre. The performance you deliver has the power to stay in that impressionable audience member’s memory forever. It could light a spark within them –a passion for watching theatre, or a passion to be just like you one day — up on the stage. That is a huge responsibility and it’s always so awesome to be a part of creating that experience for a child.
Why do you continue to pursue a career in the arts?
I continue to pursue a career in the arts because it’s my passion. My partner Anthony once told me that as long as he can fulfil his life with jobs in the performing arts, he’ll be happy. Whether that be on stage in a musical, as a children’s entertainer, straight theatre, film, TV, behind the scenes, writing material, collaborating, I have to agree with him. I feel the same.
What would you say to your younger self?
I would encourage my younger self to embrace the uniqueness my vitiligo gave me. I would tell 14-year-old Lauren to be proud, and not to waste so much time and energy worrying about what others think. I’d remind my younger self that my vitiligo has nothing to do with my talent, passion or skills and that I deserve success just as much as the next hardworking person. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to 14-year-old Lauren. What I hope to do instead is to be a positive role model for others like me, young and old. I hope that something positive will come of sharing my story. I hope my words can help empower and inspire others.