Reported by MTV Act.
This world needs more female directors, so keep your eyes on AnnaLynne McCord. The actress and philanthropist just directed her first movie, a short film called “I Choose,” which contrasts consent and assault, autonomy and slavery.
The film can lead you to getting involved with her new I Choose campaign, which fights human trafficking around the world. (She refers to trafficking survivors she knows in Cambodia as her “girls” and her “heroes.”) AnnaLynne also recently wrote a tell-all for Cosmopolitan where she discussed childhood physical abuse and a sexual assault that happened to her when she was a teenager. The piece was about reclaiming your voice as well as rising above and stopping abuse. AnnaLynne talked about this and more to MTV Act, discussing topics like slut-shaming (women feeling bad for their sexual sides) and the ultimate importance of having control over your body: physically, mentally and emotionally.
ACT: You’ve been passionate about the cause of human trafficking for years and now you’ve created the I Choose Project. Can you tell us more about it and how to get involved to help fight trafficking?
ANNALYNNE: The “I Choose” film premiered online to launch the campaign. I’ve fought human trafficking for over six years now, specifically with my beautiful heroes in Cambodia. I felt like I could do more as a voice and as an activist in Hollywood. I’d been mulling over this, trying to figure out how I could lend a bigger voice, how something could come really personally from me that sheds light on who I am as an advocate as well as what I’m advocating for.
I did my tell-all with Cosmo, talking about my whole life. Something I’d always feared was that if anyone involved in anti-sex trafficking activism knew I liked sex, even though I’d suffered sexual assault in my life, they’d throw me from grace. I would no longer be able to speak on behalf of sex trafficking survivors. My girls educated me against this. They’d survived, they got through it. They could make sexy jokes. That freed me, to see these girls weren’t damaged, that they could think about having a love life with a man they fell in love with. They weren’t tainted because some other man took something from them.
With the article released, I felt like, “Okay, now I can be who I am.” Then this thought came to me of showing the parallel between a woman who chooses [to have sex] and one who doesn’t, because I’ve been both. I wanted to show that I understand these two women, the one’s love and happiness in the act, and the other’s agony and shame with what’s been done to her.
+ Watch I Choose
If people want to get involved, I’m building a house for the girls in Cambodia called the Lotus House. I created a page where I have organizations around the world that I endorse that I think are doing a wonderful job fighting trafficking. Cambodia might not resonate with everyone, and I understand that. To me, it does. If it doesn’t resonate for you but Atlanta, Georgia does, then let me show you an organization in Atlanta.
ACT: You’re also the writer, director, producer and actress for the film “I Choose.” What did you set out to show with this film and what do you want people to take away from it?
ANNALYNNE: I want them to take several things away from it. My heart is in the fight to end slavery across the board, but there’s also the message of slavery we’re all touched by. That’s the slavery of our minds. The slavery of cultural and societal belief systems. We can step back and say, “No, no, no. I choose. I choose every detail and decision in my life.” It requires breaking down the biases from other people and coming to an awareness of a voice in our minds.
Are we in fact free? That’s the metaphor challenge on this film. I think there should be more of a conversation about sex so it’s not so taboo. I feel like the more we push something down, the more it can manifest itself in different ways. What is suppressed will be expressed. There’s also sexual liberalism and female empowerment in the film. I wanted to put some rough stuff into the film — without being too PG-13 — to say that as long as you choose, it’s okay, provided that you’re safe.
ACT: What’s it like being a director? Do you think you might make more pro-social films like this?
ANNALYNNE: Directing was the most fun I’ve ever had on set. The experience was really beautiful because I think the real reason I wanted to be an actress is because I love stories. I noticed my own frustration as an actress from my lack of control as to where the story was going. I would love to direct more, absolutely.
ACT: We at MTV are very proud of you for your piece in Cosmopolitan, where you talk about child abuse, sexual assault and giving women a voice. In the piece you also say that everything you’ve been through has led you to your own revolution. What is your revolution, and what words of advice about getting help do you have for people who’ve suffered physical and/or sexual abuse?
ANNALYNNE: Thank you, MTV! You guys are awesome. I would say my revolution was coming back to myself. I came into this world, guns blazing. As a child I would get myself into trouble because I couldn’t shut my mouth; I had an opinion about everything. By age nine I was telling my mom I was never getting married because there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks (because we couldn’t say “hell”) I was ever going to have to listen to a man. I had the wiring of a young feminist. And through the years of abuse, that little voice diminished and it became a very quiet whisper I barely heard anymore. My revolution is that that voice is back, full-fledged. And I’m not using it simply for my own interests. I am looking out for me, which is part of that revolution, but I’m also speaking out for anyone suffering abuse who hasn’t found that voice again or doesn’t have that voice.
Just before I got on the phone with you, I was finishing up an email to a young woman who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of two family members while growing up. None of her family believed her when she told them what happened. It’s hard enough to even say what happened to me, let alone to not be validated. I was telling her about separating the beliefs systems. There’s an amazing three-step process from one of my favorite authors, don Miguel Ruiz, where he says something very crucial to the healing of your mind. I became my worst abuser because I perpetuated it into my adulthood. He says step one is: do not believe me. Step two: do not believe you. Step three: do not believe anybody else. And you’re like, “What are you supposed to believe?” What he’s saying is that the truth will always survive your skepticism. A lie needs me to believe it for it to be true. The lie I believed was that I was not good enough. Because I believed in that lie, it became truth for me. Reading that flipped my whole world upside down.
ACT: In your Cosmo piece you also say, “Most of all, I have my message for women and girls: You have a voice.” Lately we’ve been seeing more push for women’s rights with things like the #YesAllWomen campaign. How do you think we can keep this momentum going and see real change and equality?
ANNALYNNE: I’m going on a college tour this fall to talk to our little world changers, to have this conversation face-to-face. If you want me to come speak, your school can contact my rep Amber Bobin of the ESA Speakers Agency. I want to reach as many young people as possible. These are the young people on our planet who will keep this going. They’re the ones on social media, they’re the ones connecting around the world. Investing in young people will really keep the snowball effect going here. Then we get on-board with them and it’s just a circle effect.
[Editor's Note: If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, please contact RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE. With sexual stuff, everyone involved must consent 100% to what's going on. If you or someone you know is a minor being abused, please call 1-800-394-3366 for Child Welfare. If things are bad, please contact the police.]
Photo: (I Choose)