Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life! I’m serious. It’s the Monday after Breaking Dawn: Part 2 opened here in the United States. You’ve walked the red carpet. You’ve made nice with Robert Pattinson such that people don’t appear to be throwing rotten vegetables at the supercute ensembles you’ve been wearing on tour. You’ve been Bella Swan for more than four years now, and I hope you now get to take a break and eat absolutely anything you want and do whatever the hell you please with your hair. But inevitably, that vacation will end, and I have some ideas for how to make your professional life more fun, since you haven’t seemed to be enjoying yourself much lately.
1. Move beyond the princess: As I wrote in July, one of the reasons your cheating scandal hit so hard was that you, more than any other actress of your generation, are associated with princess roles, whether it’s informal ones like Bella Swan, or fairy tale characters like your star turn in Snow White and the Huntsman. Meanwhile, Emma Stone’s cornered the market on funny and likable and scored herself a role in the Spider-Man franchise to boot; Mia Wasikowska’s chomping up period roles left and right; and the girls coming up behind you, like Chloe Grace Moretz and Saorsie Ronan, are racking up action bona fides you don’t really have. You’ve kinda got the indie thing going, but you haven’t yet had a true breakout role in that realm—I’m talking about a Jennifer Lawrence-in-Winter’s Bone type success. So find something else that’s your thing. Because princesses may be eternal, but those roles are limiting.
2. Forget love: You’ve proven you can do immortal romance, and you’ve seen what can happen when fans get overly invested in one of your passionate on-screen (off-screen) relationships. So take a break. Find a way to play brilliant and conniving, like Alison Lohman’s con-woman in Matchstick Men. Convince someone you can get all Ellen Ripley in a science fiction or horror movie. Just forge a cinematic identity that doesn’t involve you in relation to some man. Don’t do a romantic comedy.
3. If you’re funny, prove it: This is probably the thing I worry about most for your future. You’ve shown that you can be incredibly desirable, both to women in Twilight and to indie dudes in Adventureland. But you don’t actually seem, on-screen or off, like you’re any fun. Now, of course, you don’t owe it to anyone to smile for the camera, or to crack jokes in an interview, or to divulge certain parts of your personal life to a reporter. But far more people will see you on screen than will ever read a Vogue profile, and you can transcend your press image by working in a whole new tone. You can add to your range and stop everyone from dissecting your personal life through your movie persona if you’d lighten up a bit onscreen. And if you really, really, really do turn out to be funny, I may consider rescinding the romantic comedy ban from rule No. 2.
I know it can be hard out there for a young actress. And maybe you’re tempted to take that Twilight money and buy yourself a Cullen family-style private island. But if you’re going to come back and keep acting, and I hope you do, remember: You don’t have to sparkle anymore, but you do have to shine.