You may know her best as the quirky Type-A Yael Baron on Degrassi: Next Class, but off-camera, Jamie Bloch is a talented actor, screenwriter and content creator – who happens to be extremely passionate about periods. We spoke with the Toronto-born actor about her first period, being a role model and how actors deal with periods on set.
How would you describe your relationship with your period?
I was a late bloomer. Starting in Grade 5 I found myself wishing my period would come already because not having it made me feel so different than my friends. It really felt like getting your period was the key to growing up. When I finally got it, I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, why did I want this?’ When I first got my period it was super overwhelming because it seemed like something you had to keep hidden. In elementary school, girls would hide tampons in their sleeve to bring them to the bathroom. As I got older and started becoming more comfortable with my body, I became more comfortable talking about it with my friends. Being on a show like Degrassi, where they cover super cutting-edge topics for teens, also pushed me to embrace that side of growing up.
I always had an irregular period and often felt at odds with my body because I could never predict what was coming from month to month. At one point I was misdiagnosed with PCOS because I was having irregular periods. I would have conversations with friends where they expressed going through similar things. They’d tell me about their five-year journey toward figuring out why their period was late every month or why their period was happening twice in a month. Over the years I’ve come to realize how many menstruators have had abnormal experiences – we’re made to feel like we’re not normal but in reality we are.
Do you remember getting your first period? What was the story?
It was a Thursday night, I was in Grade 8 and I was at dance class at the same studio where I’d been going for lessons when I was five years old. I went to the bathroom after class, looked in my underwear and was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I went home feeling so embarrassed. I wasn’t sure how to tell my mom. There’s a tradition with Jewish moms where they slap you in the face the first time you get your period - I don’t know why. I told her and she gave me a hug and a little slap and said ‘Welcome to womanhood.’
As an actor, has menstruating ever had any impact in terms of your experiences on set?
Because I have been acting since I was 6 and grew up in the film industry, getting my period was a rite of passage in the sense that it became something else that I had to think about on set. When I get my period, I want to wear sweatpants and stay in bed, but when you’re an actor you can’t control what you’re wearing. The wardrobe department might put you in jeans, or a tight dress, or a swimsuit and you just have to deal with it. I remember showing up to the Degrassi set one day when I had my period and I had to wear a pair of light-colored pants. I was so terrified of bleeding through my pants I made sure that my friends were checking me all day.
I have close friends who have bled through clothes on set and it holds up the entire production. Especially as a young girl, working on set and 98% of the people you are surrounded by are adults, most of whom are men, having your period can feel like a shameful secret. You want to tell someone that you have to go to the bathroom to change your pad but you don’t feel like you can say why.
How has your relationship with your period changed over time?
It’s changed a little bit in the past year since I’ve been off hormonal birth control. I’m definitely crampier, but also more in tune with my body, interestingly enough. Before, I couldn’t feel much of what was going on down there but now I feel everything, which is both good and bad. I feel like I’m more in control but it's also more painful.
When I gained a bit of a following for being on Degrassi, I realized I had a responsibility to pave the way for difficult conversations that teens would often look to their role models for. Starting university and got into a long-term relationship, I found myself wanting to talk about that taboos of menstruation and sexuality as much as possible because they’re both such a major part of our lives, and we should be telling our stories so that future generations don’t have to grow up with the shame and secrecy we did. I think the more we talk about periods the more we destigmatize them and create space for difficult conversations where people can seek support.
Do you have any regular period self-care rituals?
In the two days leading up to my period I’m extra moody and sensitive. I will literally cry over everything. That’s usually when I decide to indulge myself by eating my favorite foods – donuts, cakes, muffins and a really nice cup of tea – taking baths with Epsom salts, and watching a comfort movie like Cinderella. I also find that on day 1 or 2 of my period that I feel so yucky that taking a long shower where I do a full body shave, wash my hair and exfoliate always helps me feel sparkly afterwards. I try to be gentle with myself and do exercises like candlelit yoga or a slow Pilates workout. I find that slowing down, listening to my body and doing comforting activities is really helpful for me.
What are some things that make you bleed confidence every time you get your period?
Funnily enough, Kt by Knix leakproof underwear makes me feel like a million dollars. I love not worrying about having to change a pad or tampon and leaking. When I wear them, I feel so much more comfortable than I normally do when I’m on my period, like I can do anything I want.