Candice gets in touch with Kayleigh-Paige Rees— actress, producer, and model— to discuss her latest film, Skinny World. Acting as the producer and main character, Mona, she brings a film that breaks the taboo of mental illnesses and eating disorders and opens the discussions for progressive change.
Tell us about yourself?
So, I live in Somerset. I am a full-time actress, and I model on the side when I’m struggling between castings. I am currently shooting on the new ITV drama Sanditon. Unfortunately, it’s all a little cloak and dagger at the moment, but it’s a series based on Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel. I am playing the role of Julia Beaufort. How long have you been modelling and producing? I’ve been producing for a year, which started with producing a sitcom called Ragtags (going onto Amazon Prime in the Autumn), and then Skinny World is the first short film that I have produced.
What got you into modelling?
When I wasn’t at castings or on set, I found that I got offers to model for different designers and photographers. It was never something I decided to go into, but I really enjoyed going on the shoots.
You have also featured in our magazine before as well.
What issue and feature was that for? I was the front cover on Issue 29. We shot in Canary Wharf last November, and it was such a good shoot. Met some lovely people and had a great time.
How did you go into acting?
I went and trained from 16 to 18 in musical theatre, and then after some auditioning, I decided that what I really loved was developing characters and the acting side. I then went on to get an agent and started auditioning with my first job being a Samsung advert in 2016.I’ve always loved it and feel very fortunate to be able to call it my career!
Thank you so much for inviting us to attend your film event on the showing of Skinny World. Tell us about the film! What was the reasoning behind the making of it?
No worries at all. The event went amazing. We had around 60 people there, and we raised over £400 for BEAT, the eating disorder charity, who worked with us to make the film. As well as screening the film itself, the writer Agata came to me with the script and explained to me that the script was based on her own experiences with an eating disorder and the challenges. We talked a lot, and she asked if I would be interested in producing the film. I leapt at the opportunity and created a team of cast and crew who had all been through an eating disorder or known someone close to them who had. It meant that the film was that much more personal and allowed a real understanding on set, which brought us all a lot closer together.
So, you produced the film and also acted in it?
I produced the film, and I also played the lead of Mona in the film. Agata was very sweet and insisted I play her younger self. It was a challenging role, and even on the screening, I struggled to watch it. I think it’s a little too close to home and brings up a lot of emotions.
What are your personal connections to the film and the issue of eating disorders? Was it something you had struggled with?
I don’t enjoy talking about this often, but yes, it is something that has affected me since a young age and many of my closest friends. The thing is, we all have our own struggles with food because food is such a massive part of our lives. The amount of diets, pills, potions and the pressure created by celebrities and media means that most people are affected by this in one way or another.
What message do you think this film portrays, and who is it aimed at?
This film is aimed at everyone. We touch on many different issues in the film, such as the influence of media on young people and the depreciating effect that words can have on anyone but especially young people in their formative years. This film portrays what every person has gone through at some point in their life. 100 people could say something nice, but one person says something bad and that’s what you will remember, which can lead to detrimental effects. We want to open the discussion about eating disorders with this film but also the harmful effect that negative words can have on anybody generally.
How did the screening go? Was the response positive for the film?
The event went amazingly. I was a complete mess throughout the night, but I felt so fortunate to have so many people support the film and our endeavour. The response was better than we could have ever expected. We were unsure if it had the emotional punch we wanted at the end because we were too close to the project, but we were assured by the audience that it has a lasting effect.
Is there somewhere people could go to watch the film?
We are going around film festivals now this summer, and then we are looking at distribution options. Skinny World will be at numerous festivals throughout the UK as well as internationally. I cannot disclose, at this time, what festivals it will be as that is still being decided, but we really hope it will do well.
Could you tell us more about BEAT and the issue of eating disorders in the UK?
BEAT is the UK’s eating disorder charity. They were kind enough to support us in the making of the film, and they have been really great! Over 1.6 million people suffer from eating disorders, and Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. I think we can agree that this is incredibly shocking, and due to the nature of the disorder, being inclined to hide it makes it a lot harder to open the discussion around it.
How did you get in contact with them for the making of the film? I contacted them directly when I got the film for their opinions on the script and whether they would support us in making the film. They said “yes,” and we went from there! A couple of friends got a massive amount of help when they went to BEAT, and if it is the charities who are the ones helping people, then they are the ones who deserve our support and donations.
What are your views on how eating disorders are handled in the UK? Is enough being done? Is it a taboo subject?
Not enough is being done. When you go to the doctors and NHS, the help that they give is either medication, which will never actually resolve the issue, or they send you on to places such as BEAT. However, BEAT isn’t funded by the NHS. Therefore, our taxes are going to the NHS for them to send us onto a charity. This is why we wanted to raise money for BEAT. It’s a taboo subject because it’s incredibly difficult to accept. However, in recent years, mental illnesses have been more widely discussed and helped, and I hope that this will continue.
What can we do personally do to alleviate the issue? Are there any solutions currently that greatly aid in the cause to bring more awareness to eating disorders?
Not particularly. I think the media and our entertainment industry play a crucial role, and without that ever being changed, you will always have these continue. There are solutions already happening, but the most important thing is to continue opening up the discussion and helping people wherever we can, such as the charities who are there and those affected by the illnesses.
After this film, what would essentially be “next” for you? Do you have other aspirations you want to pursue besides acting, such as maybe getting into more producing?
After we see how Skinny World is doing, we have just signed the rights for a novel called Cafe Tropicana by the author, Belinda Jones, which we aim to start shooting in Costa Rica next year. My best friend and I have opened a production company called Raspberry Films. We currently have 5 projects in production, so it’s going to be a busy time!
What is one interesting/weird fact about you that would surprise people?
I was actually brought up in Portugal, and my first language is Portuguese.
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