Break the Rules Like ... Jen Ponton
Not all Wonder Women wear capes, and not all Unladylike role models need to sit in the C-suite to spark change. We want to introduce y'all to rad women and nonbinary folks we admire. They'll offer up pointers on how we all can #breaktheruleslike they do and help them make the world a better place. If you have a role model to shout out, send hot tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Introduce yourself: Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Jen Ponton, and I am a hardcore lifelong New Jerseyan. Most people know me as an actor, with some of my favorite projects being AMC's Dietland, 30 Rock, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In recent years I've also become a writer and producer, with a number of pilots in development.
2. When did you first realize this was the right path for you?
I've known I was meant to be a storyteller since Day 1. I've always been a ham, emceeing holidays, wearing crazy costumes — so becoming an actor was a very natural evolution. I'm also enjoying a return to writing after my halcyon days of erotic friend fiction! I knew better before I got in my own way with insecurity.
3. What’s unladylike about you and what you do?
I do MOST things with the grace and bearing of a 10-year-old boy, so I would say the only really ladylike thing about me is my fashion sense! I'm into playful, feminine styles, I own crinolines, and my closet is 95% dresses. I curse a lot, because Jersey, and I possess a sense of humor that is not infrequently gross or unsettling.
4. Which of your heroes or role models would you immortalize in bronze?
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, for sure — she and I share an unflappable drive, rooted in optimism and waffles. Also Jeff Goldblum, because this is the only acceptable answer.
5. What was your feminist aha moment?
I wish it had landed sooner, but it truly landed for me when I was 24, and I had my first exposure to fat acceptance activism. There's something so intrinsically powerful about learning to love and forgive yourself for all the hatred you've ever shown your body — and realizing how patriarchal and controlling that hatred was. It helped me reclaim myself, and the unalienable right for women's bodies to look however the hell they look. It's like I couldn't really call myself a feminist until I unlearned that.
6. What’s the best advice you’ve received? The worst?
The best: You know you're getting it right when not everyone loves what you have to say. I am a recovering people-pleaser and doormat, so that's a great check-in for me to really stay on purpose in my life.
The worst would be everything that created the aforementioned people-pleaser — anything that focused on being socially acceptable and palatable. I worked to dim my shine for a long, long time. Fuck that.
7. What’s bringing you joy right now — or at least keeping you sane?
I most tap into joy by doubling down on my purpose — creating entertainment that centers the stories of marginalized women. I love making stuff, and I really love making stuff that helps people to soften their relationships with themselves. I'm just as passionate about supporting and consuming that content, too — I've almost always got female creators in my podcasts, TV and films. It keeps me super-inspired and feeling like I'm part of a larger movement. Also fatkinis.
8. Aside from keys/wallet/phone, what do you never leave home without?
A giant bottle of Vintage seltzer and Lemony Flutter cuticle cream from Lush.
9. How can unladies help you and/or your mission?
My new digital pilot Queens of Daytime is looking for a bigger home like Netflix or Amazon Prime! Sharing is super helpful — so wherever you're happiest online, your shares and desire to see more is great! If you're a blogger or journalist and want to talk further about it, that's also wonderful. To watch, go here.
More from Jen
Hashtag it: #queensofdaytime #womeninfilm #femalefilmmakerfriday #femalefilmmaker
More about body-positive and size-inclusive TV
I’m So Happy To See Fat Characters Who Don’t Hate Themselves (Buzzfeed, 2019)
10 Best Body-Positive Shows to Watch (Teen Vogue, 2018)
The Evolution of Fat Women on TV (Vulture, 2017)