When actress Reid Cox, 24, was much younger, she wrote in her journal during a fight with her parents that the day after she graduated from high school she was going to jump in her car and drive to Hollywood.
That childhood threat became a literal reality: the day after she graduated from J.L. Mann High School, she packed up her car and headed west. She’s been working in Los Angeles in TV, including a guest role on MTV’s “Awkward,” and independent film ever since as an actress and now a producer.
And it is work, hard work, Cox is quick to emphasize. And potentially demoralizing to those not confident in their abilities or goals.
“I joke that it’s my job to get rejected for a living,” Cox says.
Working in an industry unashamedly focused on physical appearance and increasingly revealed to be sexist towards women brings its own level of challenges.
“In LA, there’s a million girls that look like me,” she says. “I had an agent tell me my eyes were uneven so I’d always play the ugly girl.”
Cox says she has learned the importance of working with her integrity intact.
“LA will test you,” she says. “You have to remember who you are and not compromise or lower your boundaries.”
At first, desperate for work, she wasn’t going to rock the boat and just accepted her opinions being ignored, but she eventually regained her footing and learned to stand up for herself.
“I’m demanding not to be pushed to the side,” she says. “Things are changing. It’s the most incredible time to be working in this industry.”
Cox recently spent a weekend in Greenville promoting her first project as producer, “I Blame Monty Hall,” during the Reedy Reels Film Fest. She also used the time to speak to drama students at Eastside, Greenville and Travelers Rest high schools about setting goals for themselves in whatever field they chose.
“And whatever those goals are, go a step higher, make them a bit bigger,” Cox says. “You have to be vocal about what you want.”
Cox says if she hadn’t set goals for herself in high school and really pushed to achieve them, she’d never have succeeded to this point.
A self-described wallflower while in school, Cox says she never did well in academics.
“I barely graduated,” she says.
She also failed to get into the Governor’s School and Fine Arts Center drama programs. But, that didn’t discourage her.
“I knew I wanted to be in the movies,” she says. “I pushed myself.”
She focused on dance and studied film and acting every day – and still does.
At the time, local filmmaker Chris White was the drama teacher at J.L. Mann and saw her potential. He helped connect her with his contacts in Hollywood.
“She’s one of those, who in a year, we’re all going to be saying ‘I know her,’” White says.
After a summer internship in a Los Angeles casting office before her senior year, Cox knew she was on the right path.
“I was living my dream,” she says.
Coming back to Greenville to finish her senior year felt like having her dream ripped away, she says.
Her singular focus became getting back to Hollywood, even though she did consider applying for Julliard or NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts drama programs. She decided against it because of the inevitable student debt that would weigh her down financially for years after graduating.
Throughout this whole process, she was fighting her own personal battle with an eating disorder, a common problem in Hollywood among men and women, Cox says.
Her family worried that moving so far away while she wasn’t healthy would be devastating. Cox says it was only after moving that she finally got the help she needed to overcome and heal.
She gained true closure over her disorder after playing an anorexic in “Mackenzie,” filmed earlier this year.
“I’m not afraid to talk about it anymore,” Cox says.