You might remember Diora Baird. She was a scream queen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Vivian in Wedding Crashers, and, more recently, Meg in Shameless. Oh, she also had a stint as a Guess girl — you know, those ads from the ’90s featuring Anna Nicole Smith, pre-TrimSpa — bringing her to full-on sex symbol status.
Today, she’s not so much in the limelight for acting or modelling. “For a minute I was like, I don’t even know if I want to be an actress anymore,” she says. She’s focusing more right now on the behind-the-scenes side of the industry — writing, developing, and producing.
Talking to Diora, you get the sense that she’s one of the most genuine people in Hollywood. Maybe it’s because she’s got some Canadian in her. “I have a maple leaf tattoo on my foot,” she reveals. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh you’re Canadian!’ I’m like…kind of. (Laughs.) My grandmother was from Ontario.”
She’s got no shortage of things to keep her busy at the moment. Producing a horror flick, working on a documentary, a coffee table book (with photographer Stephanie Vovas), being a mom, hell, even being an activist. She’s in a documentary based on the book Sexual Fluidity, telling her story of divorcing her husband and starting to date a woman. She’s also quite critical of President Donald Trump and the Instagram celebrity era. You might even say she’s woke.
Do you get to visit Canada often?
I haven’t been in a couple of years. I haven’t traveled much since having my son but I want to go back. I think the last time I was in Toronto was for TIFF, like four years ago. So it’s been a minute, but I love it. I mean, with the way our politics are going [in the U.S.], I might end up moving to Canada. (Laughs).
So what do you think about the current political climate in the United States?
Oh god. I think it’s a well-known fact that America is politically in a state of crisis at the moment and it’s just truly unfortunate because we’ve come a bit of way and it seems like a huge regression. You know, I’ve never been the one to speak about politics or be very active in the political world and this has changed my entire outlook on how we each make a difference. I went to the Women’s March in January that was in D.C. and that was a huge experience. It was just so many people coming together and all standing up for, what I believe to be, the right cause.
For instance, I was just at the library with my son who is four and he’s very interested in presidents right now. Like, who’s on what coin and what bill and all that, so we got a book on presidents that showed Donald Trump and he immediately pointed to him and went “BOO… BOO!” It’s so crazy to think that at four years old he’s already aware of our situation. I never experienced that as a kid growing up. The biggest deal was the fact that Bill Clinton had an affair. Like really? Honestly, who cares compared to what’s happening now!
So you got started in the industry with acting but now you’re producing. What was the most challenging point in that transition?
I mean, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always been more intrigued to focus on behind the scenes and the creative process of making things. It’s a lot more time consuming, whereas when you get an acting job you show up on set. They’ve already been in pre-production for months, sometimes years, and you just show up for your few days of work like “la-di-da” and that’s that. It’s interesting getting to now be at the very beginning stages and how challenging it actually is. But I feel like I will get a little bit more satisfaction from that because I definitely have more control and more of a say and more power. I think after being in this business for pretty much my entire life, it’s nice to have a little bit of change.
What’s one hidden talent you have?
At 34, I can still do a cartwheel and a round-off, which is impressive to me only because I’m always in pain. (Laughs.) My back is always hurting, my knees are cracking, and yet I can still do a round-off. I don’t know why. I think it’s because I did gymnastics as a kid. It just kind of stuck.
What do you think is your greatest accomplishment so far?
Well, I think it’s going to be a two-part. In my life, it’s definitely being a mother. Striving to be the best mother in raising this little boy. That’s definitely the biggest accomplishment. As far as my career goes, I would say the biggest accomplishment for me was when I realized I didn’t always have to say yes and that I can pick and choose what I want to do. When I was young and starting out, I kind of got thrust into the limelight and I didn’t know how to say no. It was really hard for me to stand up for myself and say, “Actually I don’t really want to do this. I’m not comfortable.” So for me, even though it’s taken me on a little bit of a hiatus because of that, I’m definitely very proud of that realization. It’s pretty much changed my career completely.
If you could take a six-month vacation, what would you do?
My god, I don’t even know what that would be like. If money was not an option (laughs) I would definitely just travel and see as much of the world as I possibly could. It sounds so ridiculously cheesy but I’ve always wanted to volunteer my time and go to Africa. I mean I’ve gone to Africa, but for work. I’ve never really gone to explore the places. I’ve traveled so much in my career but mostly just to see the hotel and the airport. So I’d like to travel and get to see other cultures, and bring my family along with me and show them how other people live and how other people struggle. It’s something that I have to constantly remind myself and my son. We’re focused on this one iPad game that won’t download as though this is our life source when in reality there are people out there that have no water, no food, no shelter. It’s interesting because we’re so sheltered in America in what we see and what we know about. We’re so focused on the fact that we have this — I’m not going to say a bad word — but not-so-great president and all of this stuff that’s going on in our country, but then there’s all this other stuff going on in the world like Syria, there are wars left and right. When you think about that, it’s like we’re not the most important people. My life is not the most important life in the world. Being able to see that first hand is the only way to really affect you. And by being affected by that, it just makes you a better person. Hopefully, you can create better change.
Is there anybody in the industry that you really look up to?
I genuinely respect and admire actors and actresses who are able to find that balance between their life and their career. We live in Hollywood where it’s very common to have your publicist call in paparazzi and have your day out with your family photographed. Social media has changed everything and, as great as it is, I also feel like it’s harming our next generation. It puts this expectation and pressure on us. So I really respect and admire those that can divide the two — keep their private lives private. I was at a women’s conference and Meryl Streep — of course, I’m going to talk about Meryl Streep — was honouring Carey Mulligan who had just had a baby. This is a couple years ago. She was saying, “I’ve known Carey for many years and what I admire about her is that while, at her age, everybody else is posting selfies and being in the limelight as much as possible, she does the opposite and her work is her work and her life is her life.” I think we’re losing sight of that because of this social media era we’re in.
Have you seen Ingrid Goes West?
Oh yeah, I did see it. It’s definitely a play on that whole social media lifestyle. It’s funny. When I started out and had a little bit of success, publicity was very different from what it is now. It had a little bit of Old Hollywood left in it. Whereas now anybody can be famous. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with somebody and they’re getting bombarded by girls and I’m like, “What in the world is going on?” And they’re like, “Oh, it’s just my Instagram followers.” I’m like… what? I’m constantly trying to figure out how much I want to be out there because I feel like it will tarnish your ability to portray these characters and be believable. There are certain people that you’re like, “All I see is THAT person.”
Tell me about the documentary Sexual Fluidity.
The documentary is based on the book by Dr. Lisa M. Diamond called Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire and my good friends Nikki and Jill Weiss who were on The Real L Word are putting it together. They ran into me at some family function and were like, “Oh my god, you’re not married anymore… to a man. You’re dating a woman? You have to be in this documentary.” Of course, I was like, “No.” I wasn’t hiding my sexuality or my identity from anyone, but I wasn’t ready to make a public statement and be the poster girl for what it means to date both genders. I declined at first because it just felt really invasive and I’ve never done anything in the documentary format. As much as I love watching documentaries, being in them is a very different thing. Then Donald Trump got elected and I was like, “Okay, now is the time to stand up and be loud, be heard, and be seen.”
Tell me about the coffee table book you’re working on with Stephanie Vovas. because it seems like there’s definitely a relationship there.
Yeah definitely. We’ve had a long friendship for many years. It started out as a fun little project. She wasn’t really a well-known photographer at the time and I just liked her and we got along so great. It’s the same thing with when you’re working with a director. Sometimes you click and connect. She and I just connected. The way she shoots me is different from any other photographer I’ve ever shot with. It’s not like a modelling shoot; I always feel like I’m doing a film. We have a storyline and characters. It’s a very thought out process. We started talking about putting together our own little film because we’re basically doing that, just in the still format. We’ve been saying for years, “Oh, we have so many images, we’ll be able to do a coffee table book.” Now her career has taken off and our photos have ended up doing really well — I don’t know how or why, but in Canada especially. I think in Toronto there’s an interior designer that has been selling a few of the images and now they’re all over Canada in people’s houses. Every so often someone will recognize me, not from my acting career but…”Wait a minute, your teeth — I know your teeth! Oh yeah, here’s a huge photo of you in my dining room.” It’s almost eerie in a way.
If you hadn’t gotten into the entertainment industry what would you be doing?
I probably would have been a teacher. I was a pre-school teacher when I first moved out to L.A. and I loved that. Or, like, a social worker — something with kids for sure. I still think I can do that. I still think I could go back to school. I’m never 100 per cent like “my career is what I can bank on” because it’s not. Even though people back in my hometown see me on TV on reruns or this and that, I’m just like, that was ages ago! Doesn’t mean I’m surviving. Hollywood is the most fickle industry. There’s nothing definite about it, even when you’re super famous and super rich. I mean, didn’t Johnny Depp go bankrupt? For me, I’m not even in that category. It’s a constant hustle. I would also love to be a midwife. I’m really into midwifery. (Laughs.) I sound like a total hippie right now.
What’s one thing you would eat if you had to break your veganism?
Goat cheese. Absolutely goat cheese. I love goat cheese. I miss it.