There are few things more refreshing than a well-written book. It doesn’t really matter how interesting your story is if you lack the ability to tell it in a compelling way. Thankfully, Lisa Jakub is a child actress who grew up to be an adept writer with plenty to say. Her memoir, You Look Like That Girl, is a thoughtful look back at a childhood spent in the public eye and an adulthood firmly rooted in everyday life. Her self-deprecating humor, insightful observations, and unexpected anecdotes make for a delightful read.
As a small child, Jakub was spotted at a Toronto farmer’s market and her parents were told she’d be perfect for commercials. It turned out she was perfect for commercials, modeling, and, eventually work on TV. After appearing on the Toronto-based Friday the 13th television show, it only made sense to pursue acting more seriously. Since most major shows filmed in Los Angeles, Lisa and her mom made the trek west. And so began a Hollywood career.
Though the film industry is fascinating to those of us who love movies, reading about the inner-workings of the business can easily make a person feel like an outsider. Jakub does an excellent job of acknowledging the weirdness of movie-making while somehow making it all seem cozy and familiar. Rather than dropping names or taking us through a behind the scenes play-by-play, Jakub makes the experience personal. The most interesting aspect of her work on the film Ramblin’ Rose is not the special friendship she developed with Robert Duvall or meeting Princess Diana at the London premiere, but the fact that she randomly flipped in her chair while at school on set and broke her back.
These consistent doses of reality remind us that being a star in no way removes a person from life’s hard knocks. Though she excelled at work, she had trouble fitting in with kids at school and her teachers were often less than accommodating when it came to providing assignments and helping Jakub keep pace with the class. The assumption was that she was privileged and thought she was special. Not so much. Going on location with A-list actors became far less intimidating than showing up at her own school. Robin Williams famously wrote a letter to her high school after they asked her not to return because she’d missed too many days while filming Mrs. Doubtfire. They didn’t let her back in, but they framed the letter.
Jakub adeptly describes a life where every perk comes at a cost. She was afforded great opportunity at a young age, but it came at the expense of her parents’ marriage and a normal childhood. She was recognized for her work, but lost her anonymity and the ability to move freely in public. She was given a mansion to stay in for a few months, but it was the one where the Menendez brothers killed their parents. This odd balance undoubtedly created the sense that one life was not necessarily better than another, i.e. being a star might not make a person any happier than leading a regular suburban life. As Jakub chronicles her journey away from the film industry, she illustrates that happiness is not about having your name in lights, but in feeling comfortable in your own skin.