“I struggle with self-esteem,” actress Heather Graham tells me, at which point my head explodes. If she—by all accounts a successful, talented, world-renowned beauty—battles voices in her head that say “not good enough,” I wonder, what hope do the rest of us have?
This all-too-familiar quest for self-love—and the myriad ways in which society hinders it—is the main theme of Half Magic, the new indie comedy it took Graham 12 years to bring to the screen (she’s its writer, director, and star). The film is inspired, in large part, by Graham’s experience of being underestimated and undervalued in Hollywood. “Working in a male-dominated business is hard,” she says. “It took me a long time to learn that I can ask for what I want.”
“It took me a long time to learn that I can ask for what I want.”
Graham didn’t come to this realization alone, however. She only learned to stand up for herself and demand what she’s worth, Graham says, after opening up to the members of her goddess circle. Yep, Heather Graham has a goddess circle.
“I met these really cool women in a female empowerment class, and we started getting together,” she explains. “A few of them read witchcraft books, so we came up with some fun rituals.”
Just like the three lead characters in Half Magic—who also meet in a female empowerment class, hilariously led by the actress Molly Shannon—Graham and her group started lighting candles and taking turns expressing their desires out loud, she says. “We wished for things like love, money, hot sex, meaningful work, better self-esteem, and more gratitude,” she tells me, adding that it was there that she also expressed her desire to make a movie.
One specifically “magical” goddess-circle scene that appears in the film, Graham says, actually happened in real life. “We had dance parties and [did things like] call upon the elements,” she says. “One night, we were calling on the elements on my friend’s rooftop and a storm broke out.”
“It’s so intimate to say your heart’s desires in front of your friends.”
The real magic, however, was in talking so openly with these women, an exercise that Graham tells me helped her to feel supported in ways she hadn’t before. “It’s so intimate to say your heart’s desires in front of your friends,” she says. “You can feel how much they are rooting for you.”
It also illuminated for her—as she’d later do for me—that she wasn’t alone in feeling not good enough. “We all share the same issues,” she says. “When I see my wonderful friends struggle with not being able to see how beautiful and special they are, it’s clear that the most important thing to do is to love yourself.”
This, she says, is something she continues to work on.
Want to host your own women’s circle? Here’s how. You might want to include a screening of this #MeToo miniseries, too, and be sure to bring along this Nina-Dobrev-approved, Insta-friendly accessory.
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