Saturday, August 2, 2014

Betrayed by a fat actress

March 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Body Image, Fat Acceptance, Featured

Since you all enjoyed Elizebeth Turnquist’s post the first time around, here it is again — a blast from the past …

WATRD

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I remember when Ricki Lake was fat.

Not just plump or curvaceous but unmistakably fat.  I was 15 in 1989 when I watched the made-for-TV movie “Babycakes”.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a fat woman in a non-comedic leading role.  And, even though Riki and I are not the same body type (she’s an apple and I’m a pear), it was the first time I was able to identify – as a fat girl – with an actress.

“Babycakes” was a terrible movie.  The low production value show in the acting and plot.  “Hairspray”, Ricki’s first big role, was much better.  But I didn’t see myself in “Hairspray” because it was like all the other fat-as-comedy vehicles. And, as a lifelong fattie, I just don’t find my weight that funny.

A couple years passed. In 1996 Riki played the lead in another imperfect movie, “Mrs. Winterborn.” It was only marginally better than “Babycakes” but it was an actual movie.  Made for the big screen.  And, despite it’s flaws, I loved it.

Somehow I didn’t notice the difference in Ricki’s weight from “Babycakes” to “Mrs. Winterborn.”  Maybe I missed it because they dressed her in loose fitting outfits.  She was still a chunky in “Mrs. Winterborn.”  Not quite actress thin.  Or maybe I missed it because I didn’t want to see the change.

But noticing was unavoidable when, a year or so later, I flipped passed an airing of the “Ricki Lake Talk show”.  At this point she was markedly thinner.  There was no mistaking the weight change since her role in “Mrs. Winterborn.”  I don’t remember the date but I remember how I felt.

How deeply disappointed I was.

And how much I felt betrayed.

Ricki wasn’t a particularly good actress but she was my first fat female hero.  For good or ill, I saw myself in her.  I thought I saw a woman that didn’t want to change her weight because she was happy with herself.  And, as a fat girl, I really didn’t have other experiences identifying with the people I saw on TV or in the movies.

I’d like to say that I learned my lesson with Ricki Lake.  That I never again believed an actress saying that she was fine with her weight.  And that I never again let myself become disappointed.  But I can’t say that.

There was Sara Rue from “Less than Perfect”, who went from kinda plump to actress thin.  Or Queen Latifah, who I recently saw representing a weight loss company.  Or Mia Tyler when she decided to go on “Celebrity Fit Club.”  And the list goes on.

I’d also like to say that I haven’t fallen for thin women that play fat.  Like Renée Zellweger in “Bridget Jones Diary” or Toni Collete in “Murials Wedding.”  But I bought their fat hook line and sinker.

I felt kinship with these actresses.  At least until a couple months after the premier.  When I’d learn more about the actress behind the fat.  And find out that they dropped the weight the moment the role was over.

There are a couple actresses that have – supposedly – stuck to their guns.  But can I really trust them?  I’ve gone from gullible to jaded about the whole celebrity weight thing.  It sure seems like every time I find a fat actress I can identify with it’s only a matter of time before she decides to loose weight.

I know that celebrities are just people like the rest of us.  And I’m sure the pressure to be thin is doubly intense in the world of movies and television.  But I think an actress consistently standing up to the pressure to be thin is heroic because of the deeply rooted anti-fat sentiments.

In 2003 I watched another TV movie called “To be fat like me.”  It was terrible.  Like an hour long backhanded compliment.  I think it was meant to be in the same vein as “Babycakes.”  To give a voice to us fat people.  But it failed miserably.  I came away feeling insulted instead of empowered.

Then, in 2009, there was another bright spot.  Lifetime released its new series Drop Dead Diva.  It’s about a thin woman living in a fat woman’s body.  Brooke Elliott plays Jane Bingum, the lead character.  And the stories feature fat acceptance themes.

Is Brooke Elliott the new Ricki Lake?  Is there hope that sometime in the near future I will see a fat actress on the big screen in a leading role?  Or am I just following the same path of disappointment?

It’s so hard to know.  And I’ve been let down before.  For now I’ll hope that this is a new turn.  That the writers won’t decide the character Jane Bingum needs to go on a diet.  And the actress Brooke Elliott won’t choose weight loss.

I want so much to see myself in movies and on TV.  I want to see a fat woman that is not the butt of a joke.  A fat woman that isn’t the object of ridicule or disdain.  And isn’t restricted to the role of best friend.  To see a fat woman in a role that could just as well be played by a thin woman.

Because I remember when Ricki Lake was fat and I saw myself in her.  I remember what it was like before I was disappointed and jaded.  And how seeing Ricki Lake on the television made me feel just like any other person.  Like I belonged in this world.

And that feeling, it was really nice.

Comments

72 Responses to “Betrayed by a fat actress”
  1. Mish says:

    I get it, but come on she’s healthy looking. She did it through diet and exercise. She’s not 95lbs cracked out and living off of soda.

    I get that the fat acceptance is a realm of thinking, however what about praising her for the fact that she did something for herself which she felt was necessary and which resulted in her being healthy.

    I agree with the first commenter. Let her be happy…at whatever weight she’s at.

    • heart says:

      Agreed.

      My problem with this post is that it still buys into the idea that a woman’s body, in this case Ricki Lake’s body, is somehow other people’s business, somehow *belongs* to other people in the sense that the author feels entitled to appropriate it as symbolic or meaningful in her own life. How is this different from the ED girls’ obsession with Nicole what’s-her-name (Good-Charlotte-guy’s wife?) (showing my age here, obviously). Fat identifying with a fat girl or too-thin identifying with a too-thin girl, this is not healthful thinking.

      My own body is my own and its condition is only my own concern and that of the people who love and depend on me. I have to love it for my own sake and for the people who depend on me/it, and to be authentic, I have to do that without the crutch of seeing some celebrity I imagine looks like me. (A coworker’s daughter once said I look like Kathleen Turner. ?! OK. Flattered, thank you. Relevance to my life? Nil.)

      Taking this the step(s) further of feeling good about myself because figure I look like the celebrity and she looks like she feels good (so I can figure I can feel good, too), and then feeling “betrayed” by something that suggests that maybe she didn’t really feel as good as she looked like she did, so somehow *that* made my identifying with her feeling good counterfeit or fake… Well, good grief, it was *always* fake, wasn’t it?

      So while I appreciate the author examining and sharing her perspective, I think it ought to be examined some more. The problem is not that the media images we see are uniformly thinner than most of us. The problem is how we use those images to tell us how we ought to feel about ourselves, instead of looking to our own lives and inside ourselves to see how we really do feel about ourselves and why.

      If part of your “why” is how people look on TV or in magazines and films is different than how you look, *that’s* your problem, not the difference between you and the pretty pictures.

      • beautifuldancer says:

        Heart…

        I could NOT agree with you more.

        What you said really moved me.

      • atchka says:

        Heart,
        There have been countless studies on the affect of media images on people’s self-worth. This is not a matter of “Gosh, why don’t you just not place so much value on media images.” This is an industry that actively and undeniably influences public perception (especially in young girls) of what is and is not beautiful. Living in a world that reinforces the “thin=pretty” ideal is not a matter of personal preference. It is a matter of psychological manipulation. If you doubt what I’m saying, I’ll be glad to send you a half dozen links to researchers who have studied this phenomenon.

        No, Ricki Lake’s body is not anybody’s business. But if she says things like, “I love being big” then turns around and gets thin (for whatever reason) it’s going to make someone question whether she honestly loved being big.

        If you hate being fat, then say that. Be honest. Don’t patronize all the fat women who think they’re finally being fairly represented in the media.

        Peace,
        Shannon

        • heart says:

          Re: effect of media images
          Of course they have an effect. But so does your own mind, and once you have the ability to notice that something affects you (backed up by studies, which are paid for by people who want to know how to manipulate us, right?), you have the ability to choose how to respond. Nobody’s glued your eyeballs open, a la Clockwork Orange. If looking at something makes you feel inadequate or bad somehow and you really can’t reason your way out of it, look at something else. The solution to being a brainwash victim isn’t to shake your finger or your fist at the brainwashers. It’s a living & they’re making too much money at it to stop. Take control of your own mind. If you know young girls and women who are being brainwashed, help them. Otherwise, it’s just whining.

          Re: Whether Ricki Lake really and truly accepted herself as is and then changed her body anyway
          People change. We’re talking about a span of 20 years. If she hadn’t changed somehow, it’d be because she died. You can’t call someone a liar because her feelings about something changed. Maybe she got her cholesterol checked. Or developed type 2 diabetes. Or you could take her at her word that she felt her weight was restricting her career options, so she took the necessary steps to develop her career. Going back to school for a Masters degree doesn’t mean you’re suddenly lying about having been glad to have the Bachelor’s.

          Is hating being fat really the only reason you can imagine someone would lose weight? Do you really feel you’re part of some class of people who is “patronized” by a woman trying to come up with answers that will appear in print that will satisfy nosy and deeply personal questions? Don’t you think Ricki Lake or any actress (or any professional) would rather be interviewed about her skills than her body? Even if she didn’t really truly sincerely and forever mean what she said in an interview 20 years ago, so what? How confused does someone have to be to take that as being patronized and some sort of insult?

          There seems to be this deep sense of entitlement to desired/affirming content. I think that’s crazy confused.

          Sort of like “certifiably fat”. Wow. Just wow.

          • atchka says:

            Am I reading this right? Did you just suggest that a young girl who is deluged by media images of thin=pretty, fat=ugly should just “look at something else”? Really?

            So, if you feel like crap because every woman who is portrayed as beautiful, confident and happy looks nothing like you, you should just “tune out” so to speak? Meaning no television, no movies, no music, since 99% of those mainstream art forms subscribe to, endorse, or encourage the thin=pretty, fat=ugly message. Meaning if your friends say, “Hey, let’s go see the new [insert thin, pretty actress here] movie?” you’re supposed to say, “Oh, no thanks, I need to stay home and work on my self-esteem.”

            What the hell?

            So, the answer to all of this is to isolate ourselves more. Subsist on the scraps of cultural reassurance that get thrown at us (typically mixed in with a commercial or two for weight loss) until the day we’re mature enough to understand how unimportant the media really is?

            Really? Is that how fat people should deal with being treated like crap in the media?

            Gee, thanks for enlightening me.

            And no, hating fat is not the only reason for losing weight. I understand doing it for your health. I understand changing your mind. But Ricki Lake isn’t the only person who has done this. As Elizabeth mentioned, the number of fat actresses shedding the pounds to enhance their career has only increased in recent years. The drumbeat is growing louder, even though the science is in: dieting does not work (MeMe Roth, of all people, accepts this as truth).

            These are all strong, confusing mixed messages. Especially for a developing girl who is not mature enough to decipher an actress’ self-worth from her career ambitions. To shift the impetus of responsibility for those messages to the girl who is being manipulated by media science is just plain wrong, in my opinion.

            And one last thing: certifiably fat. Meaning other people would say, “Hey, look at that fat woman” vs. “Oh my gosh, I’m so fat.” There is a difference.

            Peace,
            Shannon

          • heart says:

            “Did you just suggest that a young girl who is deluged by media images of thin=pretty, fat=ugly should just “look at something else”? Really?”

            Yes. And think for herself instead of buying everything she’s sold.

            Look at your life, is what I’m saying. You are either being dishonest to make a point, or you are blinding yourself, to state that the only alternative to viewing media that portrays messages you see as negative is to “isolate yourself”. Media with affirming messages is available to people who seek it out.

            Sure it’s 1%. What percentage do you feel entitled to? That sense of entitlement is a problem. Not for me, I don’t even know you. I think it’s a problem for you and that you could help yourself by looking for what’s healthy for you instead of railing at what you think makes you unhealthy.

            And movies are not the only way people socialize, btw. So you’re not a hiker, mountain-biker, or gym-rat. Invest in a deck of cards and in people who’d rather play cards & gab than sit in the dark feeling left out by Hollywood standards. Set your own standards.

            That’s what I’m saying. I’m no straw-woman, you’re going to have to think harder than that to get off the hook with me.

          • Atchka! says:

            Yeah, I can and do set my own standards.

            An adolescent me? Not so much.

            How many adolescents do you know that are into “alternative” media? And are the ones who aren’t just SOL?

            I’m not trying to “get off the hook” with you. I’m just suggesting that you consider other viewpoints than your own, including that of the young and impressionable.

            Peace,
            Shannon

    • Meems says:

      I get it, but come on she’s healthy looking. She did it through diet and exercise. She’s not 95lbs cracked out and living off of soda.

      But “healthy looking” does not always equal healthy. I’m sure I looked healthy at a size 6, but I was over-exercising and barely eating enough calories to keep myself going.

      Riki Lake’s choices about her body are her own, but we really can’t assume anything about her health unless we have direct information. All we have is her visible thinness.

  2. Gina says:

    This piece shows the futility of fat women regarding fat actresses and other fat celebs as role models. They are not fat activists – they are actresses, first and foremost. When their weight starts limiting their career, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that they will bcome thinner.

    Every time a formerly fat person in the public eye loses weight, fat acceptance advocates cry betrayal. It’s as tiresome as it is predictable.

    • Mish says:

      agreed 100%

      • Shelly says:

        Agreed.

        It is so exhausting when someone writes about how an actress loses weight. Here is an idea….quit looking in hollywood and towards models, actresses, and actors to make you feel better about yourself. Look inside yourself.

        I am getting annoyed at this site. One minute they are praising the fact that there are curvier models in a magazine, the next they are bashing an apparently toothpick model, and the next they are talking about using sensa to lose weight. I dont get it. I bet this confuses a lot of people who dont know what to think (I for one, am not confused as I have been through enought therapy and accept myself, thank god). Personally, I think that there are too many differing opinions on this site to make it effective. This is just my opinion.

        God forbid a person wants to lose weight by eating healthy and exercising.

        • mamaV says:

          Hi Shelly: We pride ourselves on the fact that we have wide ranging, very diverse opinions on fat, weight loss, body image, and everything in between.

          WATRD was born out of the idea that we could create a space online that was different than all others…and we’ve accomplished that.

          Here is a question for you; do you think you have learned anything from reading the perspectives of others? Or does all the differing opinion just tick you off too much to focus on the message of the post?

          The reason I ask this is because there is A LOT of discussion that goes on here that I am opposed to completely (and I own the darn blog!) So I could just cut those opinions off, or I could sit in it and listen, or I can bark out my opinion when I feel compelled to ….but in the end I won’t turn away because there is a goal here.

          The goal is to learn from other women AND become more accepting of others. This, I am afraid, is not a strength for most of us, or at least does not come naturally, so we need a forum to let it all fly.

          Thanks for being here,
          mamaV

          • Shelly says:

            I do see your point heather. And I applaud the fact that you have a great deal of women contributers who come from different backgrounds and with a wide range of opinions. That you have definitely accomplished.

            I guess the whole sensa posting pissed me off. It sparked something in me that peeked my interest and that pissed me off. You know I have worked hard to get where I am. I was an emotional eater (or non eater at times) and I had to slave through all those emotions without the aid of an appetitte supressent (even as I stood in my kitchen all day long binging on half cooked pancakes). Even as I read the post something clciked in my head that said, what a great idea, you should look into that. WTF. I consider myself in a pretty stable recovery and to have that fly through my head and catch me off guard was like woah, what the hell? Luckily, I am strong enough at this point to blow off that thought as being utterly riiculous. But I have to wonder, how many people come to this site, read it, google sensa, and then go pick it up and use it. We all emotionally eat. It is safe to assume that very little of the population eats intuitively, but we cant run to the next chemical fix or latest fad. Unlike misslori I wonder how many people who do use this product are able to be as introspective and aware of why and when they emotionally eat. Not many, but I am glad she covered this in her post (kudos for her). Maybe others who read it will see that there is somthing more to their overeating. It concerns me that you are worried about women being triggered by images in magazine articles and by fad diets, and then wham, that post shows up and probably triggered lots of women (even those without ed who might just need to lose a few pounds) the website says no restrciting, eat what you want, and still lose weight. Thatis impossible.

            And I guess I was a little angered at the post on the curvier models and then the post after where you called the model a toothpick. not that I am saying anything about the way you write or how you say things and I know calling her out on her thinness wasnt the point of the post, but there was some comparison there. That is undeniable. And as a person who is thin and healthy and an ED activist, I found myself feeling like a big ass. Like some sort of fraud. And then I realized it doesnt matter what I look like, I still have the right to fight against the things I believe in.

            And then today. A fat activitst feeling betrayed about a celebrity losing weight. Which I call bullshit on because they dont want people to accept who they are, but are unwilling to accept a person that wants to lose weight (and I am not saying all of them as it does go both ways-skinny people not accepting fat people, and I am not going to get into thin privelage and all that) It just gets exhausting and confusng.

            So what is ok? Is it not ok to lose weight (and I am not talking about disordered eating here), is it ok to be fat? But if you are fat and you say you are happy, can you not lose weight. If I am normal and gain weight, should I start WW or sensa or get a Wii fit?

            Perhaps it is because I am in a good place I get so angry about the mixed messages. I accept that we all have our own opinion and I am open to that. It is just when they are all thrown in to one place with the same mission it is just a lot for a person to wrap their head around and can gets confusing.

    • atchka says:

      I’d be curious which of you three is fat. Not chubby, not chunky, but fat.

      Certifiably fat.

      Because if you’re surrounded by a culture that celebrates all things thin and once in a blue moon there stands *GASP* a woman who looks like you, you would feel a rush of sisterhood with that actress. You would feel that even though you were fat, maybe someday you too could be an actress, a model, a whatever career currently requires nearly impossible weight standards.

      It would give you hope that maybe you’re not the ugly, laughable troll that Hollywood typically makes you out to be. Maybe you are a sexy, confident woman.

      Is that how self-confidence *should* be created? Absolutely not. But we are all influenced by our culture, for better or worse, and to find a positive influence in a fat actress is completely natural.

      Now, imagine if every skinny Hollywood actress suddenly, inexplicably, weighed 300 pounds. What kind of mass hysteria would this country undergo? What kind of identity crisis would we, as a nation, have on our hands if beauty were portrayed through a fat lens? People would be rioting in the streets, demanding their thin actresses back.

      And because one woman feels the need to express her disappointment, her sadness at losing an idol, you feel the need to belittle the “death” of her hero?

      Geez, what the hell is wrong with people when they can’t understand something as simple as wanting equal representation on the silver screen.

      Personally, I’ve got it. There are tons of funny troll-men out there, like Seth Rogan, who get juicy leads with no expectation of losing weight. When I heard Seth was buffing up to play a superhero, I wasn’t devastated because, let’s face it, there are a dozen more waiting to take his place like that one Jonah kid or any number of fat men who are acceptably fat.

      But for a woman, a fat actress in a lead role is a rare opportunity to project yourself into a fantasy world. And it all too often gets killed by that actress’ second role.

      Lastly, Shelly, your assumptions are asinine. So, Riki Lake wasn’t eating healthy and exercising before? You think she was just gorging herself on Taco Bell and Krispy Kreme, then she saw the light, changed her diet, and lo and behold, thin Riki?

      Do yourself a favor and do some research on how these actresses ACTUALLY get thin, and it has nothing to do with eating healthy.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Shelly says:

        Shannon.

        Ricki lake cites that her weight was from sexual abuse that resulted in overeating. And for the record, not once did I say that she gorged herself, especially on taco bell and krispi kremes.

        • Shelly says:

          Oh and I dont find anything wrong with a person choosing to identify with a person on screen or in magazines. But they should be totally ok with themselves should that person want to change th way they look much like they should accept them if they want to stay the same.

          And furthermore, I dont see why I have to be fat in order to make the comment I did. That is so beyind the point and the reason why people like you piss me off. If we can accept a person as being fat, why cant we accept them if they decide to lose weight.

          • atchka says:

            Shelly,
            First, you don’t have to be fat in order to comment, obviously. But there’s the whole issue of (and I’m afraid to mention it because I know what a firestorm it can cause) thin privilege. So, if you have been thin all your life (or, I should say, if you haven’t lived life as a megafatty (you know, the kind of people they use in headless fatty shots to illustrate the obesity epidemic)), then you probably don’t know what it’s like to be under-represented in the media.

            Maybe to you it’s different because there are more actresses that you can identify with, so you take it for granted that people like Elizabeth take great relief in being accurately portrayed in the media. And yes, they should be totally okay with themselves, but that’s not how it works. Some people get to that level of acceptance early on, while others struggle their entire lives with it. Is that Ricki Lake’s problem? Absolutely not.

            But if Ricki Lake is overweight because of sexual abuse that resulted in over-eating, and she is uncomfortable with living in a bigger body, then don’t go on the tabloids and express comfort in your skin, then turn around and lose the weight. That’s called mixed messages.

            It would be easier to admire her if she came out and said, “You know, I’m a fat actress, but I’ve had some food issues and I think I would be happier if I were a smaller size.” Fine. But don’t put out some frou-frou self-acceptance BS when inside you’re really not pleased with yourself.

            I have no problem accepting people who decide to lose weight (in fact, my blog just pissed off the Fatosphere as a whole because I have stated as much publicly, and it led to my ouster from the feed). But I do have a problem with role models (and for Elizabeth at age 15, an age rife with self-esteem and body issues, Ricki Lake was a role model) being dishonest about themselves.

            No actress should “stay fat” to appease some little girl’s self-esteem, but her decision to lose a significant amount of weight, and the resultant tabloid coverage she got, did have consequences beyond her own body. Elizabeth was sharing one of those consequences.

            And it’s not just Ricki Lake either. Every fat actress seems to eventually decide to get thin. I think a lot of it has to do with the pressure that is no doubt pushed on them: “Lose XX pounds you can get the lead in this juicy new script” or “If you were a size XX we could get you all kinds of endorsements.”

            I don’t blame the actresses, but I think they should be aware of the consequences of their actions so that if they are contemplating a weight loss regime (and, let’s be honest, it’s most likely with the aid of a personal chef, private weight loss coach, and who knows how many assistants), they should knock off the “I’m so happy in my body” crap and be honest with us.

            Just my two cents.

            Peace,
            Shannon

          • Shelly says:

            shannon,

            you gave me something to think about. And I am not starting the thin privelage thing, but I do see now what you mean that fat people dont have as many celebrities to identify with.

            The bigger issue it seems is why are we looking to the media anyway? Which is something that occirs and doesnt seem to be changing anytime soon.

            shelly

          • Atchka! says:

            The bigger issue is indeed the bigger issue. And it all has to do with who has the money and the power and influence. We’ve all kind of bought into this “Hollywood knows what we should be thinking, doing, wearing, saying, etc.” mentality and it’s hard to get out of that loop.

            The best we can do is try to help our own children realize the superficial futility of it all. Because we’re sure as hell not doing away with Hollywood any time soon.

            Nice talking to you.

            Peace,
            Shannon

      • tom brokaw says:

        lol. If all the actresses suddenly gained 300 lbs, I wouldn’t be rioting. I would simply wait for them to be replaced. Which would occur in about 8 hours.

  3. CandiceBP says:

    I’m right there with you. I think Hollywood doesn’t hate self-hatred as you’re hating yourself, so fat actresses have to say they love their size meanwhile they’re probably planning how to lose weight – THEN they can talk about how much better they feel about themselves and how poorly they felt before. It’s entirely aggravating.

  4. Frances says:

    The problem I have with ‘Drop Dead Diva’ (apart from the fact that it’s SO dull and unfunny) is that it is a thin woman in a fat woman’s body. The late Jane – the real Jane – was homely, timid and boring. SIt is the thin woman with the confidence and the attitude.

    Gabby Sidibe seems like the real deal. She’s talented, she’s outspoken and she says all the right FA things: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/fashion-articles/gabourey-sidibe-precious-interview-0210

  5. Trenia says:

    I think watching formerely fat actresses just goes to show how fluid our feelings are about our bodies and they are subject to change depending on where you are in your life. We have to give people the room to change. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with accepting your body as you lose weight, it certainly beats hating yourself. I also think part of the problem is seeing actresses as role models and many of them don’t want to be they just so happen to be in the public eye.

  6. It’s hard to know what goes on in a person’s personal life, just because you see them on the TV screen. or on the street, or anywhere. Until you walk a mile in her shoes, you just can’t know why she made her decision to lose weight. Ricki Lake was fat for a long time. Maybe she had health problems that made her decide to change. There are plenty of healthy fat people, but there are plenty of NOT healthy fat people too. And sometimes losing weight can make a not-healthy fat person healthier. I’m going through that right now; I was recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes and I’ve been having a very difficult time controlling it. I can’t accept myself at my current weight anymore because it’s killing me. I admired Ricki as a role model before, and I admire her now for losing weight, and doing it in a healthy fashion.

  7. beautifuldancer says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Mish. Ialso think Ricki’s weight loss was reasonable and I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get in shape and be healthy.

    Who’s to say that if you enter Hollywood as a “fat girl” you aren’t entitled to lose weight if you want to (not just for roles but for YOURSELF).

    Actresses ARE NOT activists and we should stop expecting so much from people who often portray things that we cannot (and sometimes SHOULD NOT) be.

    I DO think that it is a different story when a bigger actress proclaims LOVING herself at a heavier weight, loses A TON of weight quickly, then confesses to HATING herself but that wasn’t the case with Ricki. She kind of went under the radar for a WHILE and emerged slimmer and healthier and I congratulate her for not succumbing to unhealthy measures to get the body that she knew was healthiest for her.

    It may be a stretch for me to feel “betrayed” by a woman who makes her living off of being seen. What do you expect someone to do when they can’t pay the bills or get roles due to her size… just throw her hands up and say “Well, I’m supposed to be the fat girl so I can’t go losing weight now!”… that’s ridiculous.

    Go Ricki for getting healthy and for all the hypocritical slimmed-down actresses that have been deceptive about their motives for losing weight… I don’t really expect anything else because 99% of Hollywood is that shallow anyway, so I’m neither surprised nor upset about it.

    • CandiceBP says:

      “Actresses ARE NOT activists and we should stop expecting so much from people who often portray things that we cannot (and sometimes SHOULD NOT) be.”

      Very true – and we should stop asking them to talk about things beyond their profession. One of the problems is that they are looked at as experts and role models because their job requires a certain body type . . . but in reality, it’s so much more complicated than that. I would prefer actors to just stick to talking about acting. (And, well, okay, some do some really great charity work – but even then, not all of them talk about it.)

      • beautifuldancer says:

        Thank you so much for re-quoting me on that. I think that people assign WAAY too much responsibility to actresses to dictate how we feel/what we think/what we do and they get paid to ENTERTAIN us, not tell us how to feel about ourselves.

        I also agree that with all that extra money, they should ALSO only be doing charities and giving that money AWAY to better causes.

        • heart says:

          Yes. That’s how an actress or celebrity can/should be an activist. Not with their looks, but by using the attention they attract to draw attention to people in need, instead of highlighting the supposed inadequacies of the target demographic. (that Product X will help you fix for the special, discounted rate of $$$$$$!)

    • atchka says:

      You can be fat and healthy. Your assumption that Ricki “got healthy” is insulting to fat people who practice HAES and/or have no health issues.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  8. mutlu says:

    She shouldn’t stay fat to make others feel better about themselves (although I understand the author’s point and sympathize).

    Also — and I hope this doesn’t sound too snarky — spell check, please! It’s Ricki.

  9. This is a personal piece about my feelings.

    It’s about me coming of age through and realizing that I am not represented in the mainstream. Because I’ve never tried to loose weight and I don’t have any plans to try.

    The one time I truly identified with someone I saw as being a part of the mainstream, it didn’t last and that was disappointing.

    But, I want to make it very clear, that I’m not advocating anything with this piece. Ricki Lake made choice for her body and I am VERY PRO-LIBERTY.

    While I’m openly a fat activist in the fat acceptance movement, this particular piece of prose IS NOT about me trying to advocate a position. This piece is me talking openly about feeling unrepresentative by pop-culture.

    Elizebeth

  10. Renee says:

    I so enjoyed this piece. I, too, looked at Ricki Lake with newly opened eyes and said hey, there’s someone who has a body sorta like mine. And she’s on television. Wow. It was like in the early 70s, as the only child of divorced parents in my little elementary school, it was a blessing to look at the Brady Bunch and see a family that was something like mine (not exactly, of course) on mainstream television. I was so excited to see other kids who called a parent something other than mom and dad (because I’ve never called my step-dad something other than his name),

    We like to see our lives and our experiences reflected in the media because then we don’t feel so alone and so much like a freak for being what ever it is that we are. That’s why there are activists who call for more television and movie characters who are Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Native American, gay, disabled, older, middle class, wearing glasses, etc. And fat women are a minority on television and in movies, make no mistake about it. And we surely don’t want to go into the double standards for fat men and fat women….

    Television and movies have given us a warped idea of what “normal” looks like. (Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that a 00 is not normal, but when it’s the only body type you see all the time….) All women are not size 00, but most women in movies and on television are (or maybe a 0, 2 or 4). When we see a Sara Rue (size 10 or 12 at her “fattest”) she looks even larger next to the other women on screen. That’s why it’s almost shocking to see a woman like Gabourey Sidibe (and it’s even more shocking to hear her say how at ease she is with herself) — and how appalling that comments posted by people about her are so viciously negative about her weight.

    So, like Elizebeth, I get excited when I see a woman who looks something like me on television — that’s why I love Camryn Manheim, Melissa McCarthy, and Conchata Ferrell. That’s one of the many reasons why Roseanne was revolutionary. I see women who look like me all the time in the grocery store, on the street, in the mall, on the college campus, you name it, fat women are out in public, living their lives, being visible. But they are virtually invisible on television and in movies.

  11. atchka says:

    Can I just say that just because a person (be they actress or average Joe or Jolene) is fat does not mean they are unhealthy? Also along those lines, just because a person decides to lose weight, it is not because they are unhealthy or even because they think they are unattractive, but, as in what seems to be Ricki’s case, personal ambition seems to demand weight loss?

    Peace,
    Shannon

  12. mamaV says:

    Nice convo happening here…just a note to take a peek at the beliefs tab at the top navigation.

    There you will find a few things that drive us INSANE so please refrain from:

    -Correcting other commenters type’os-they are irrelevant (actually I am cracking up because I am typing on my BB with no spell check so chances are I a butchering a few words here).

    -Bringing ‘thin privilege’into ANY discussion, it aint happenin here ladies, take that crap elsewhere. We have been there done that, and that debate is offically closed.

    OK, carry on!

    • Atchka! says:

      Alright mamaV, but you’ve just really crossed the line with me.

      I ain’t no lady.
      ;)

      And believe me, if anyone doesn’t want to bring privilege into a discussion it’s me. I just thought it happened to be relevant to this discussion. It will no longer be relevant to my contribution to WATRD.

      Peace,
      Shannon

    • Atchka! says:

      Took me a while to find it, but I read it and I like it.

      The only thing I’m confused about… are members of the penii persuasion welcome?

      (And I totally get the fat activist thing… *sigh*)

      Peace,
      Shannon

  13. tom brokaw says:

    She’s just an actress trying to make it in this world. She doesn’t have any responsibility to be a role model or icon for a movement. She’s just another person who has been in a few pictures. She’s not even very high profile really.

  14. wriggles says:

    “This piece shows the futility of fat women regarding fat actresses and other fat celebs as role models. They are not fat activists – they are actresses, first and foremost.”

    Sorry if this bends your rule mama V ( you’ll have to decide whether to publish it or not).

    But hopefully I’m clear, the point itself is fine, it’s the partiality that offends. The attempt to portray a reaction we all to some degree can have, as pathological merely because it is seen from a fat person’s point of view is one of the things that can make being fat really, really tedious and alienating.

    Which possibly leads you to identify a bit more with the rare examples you see reflecting yourself.

    Any group that feels marginalised and underrepresented, tends to by default put a lot on the rare examples.

    I’ve never gotten the feeling of betrayal thing regarding fatness, I really can’t imagine the pressure on them to conform. Also, there is the fact that if you achieve success, or fulfilment and that is threatened, you might feel differently to someone looking at you from the outside.

    Although, I suppose there is overlap in feeling disappointed with what they say being at odds with what they subsequently do. I’ve rarely heard anyone convincingly say that being fat is how it is, it’s usually a prideful, face saving, rather than a FA stance.

    I’d rather they were honest in the first place and just said they have mixed feelings, or they fear for their prospects or they feel OK now, but the pressure on them is such that they don’t know how they’ll feel tomorrow, let alone next week.

    • Gina says:

      But hopefully I’m clear, the point itself is fine, it’s the partiality that offends. The attempt to portray a reaction we all to some degree can have, as pathological merely because it is seen from a fat person’s point of view is one of the things that can make being fat really, really tedious and alienating.

      Wriggles – since you quoted my original comment, I’ll respond.

      I think anyone who needs to seek validation by looking for “role models” in films and the mainstream media has a problem. Entertainment is available to us for entertainment purposes – not as a source of role models, or as a guide to how we should be living our lives. We would all be better off by seeking validation from within ourselves and inspiration from the people we react with in real life.

      • Gina says:

        Sorry – the last line should read “the people we interact with in real life”.

      • Atchka! says:

        Again, can I reiterate that she was talking about her role models at 15. Who were your role models at 15? I’m sure nobody in the entertainment industry (just to be clear, that was, indeed, sarcasm).

        It’s easy to be idealistic about who “should” be role models versus who “are” role models. And we’re not even talking about Elizabeth’s role models at this point. We’re talking about the current crop of role models influencing our children today. And quite frankly, the draconian beauty codes being enforced are even more unattainable than they were when Elizabeth was 15.

        Peace,
        Shannon

        • Gina says:

          Shannon – Elizebeth wasn’t writing exclusively about her role models when she was 15. The piece sounds as though she’s still looking for validation from the mainstream media. Otherwise, why would she write:

          I want so much to see myself in movies and on TV. I want to see a fat woman that is not the butt of a joke. A fat woman that isn’t the object of ridicule or disdain. And isn’t restricted to the role of best friend. To see a fat woman in a role that could just as well be played by a thin woman.

          • Gina says:

            And just to reiterate my point, in a comment above, Elizebeth says:

            This piece is me talking openly about feeling unrepresentative by pop-culture.

            Notice the present tense – “feeling unrepresentative”, not “how I felt unrepresentative when I was 15.”

          • Atchka! says:

            First of all, Elizabeth spoke of her role models at 15. Now, she’s talking about representation. She’s talking about how *every* single movie and TV show (unless it is ABOUT being fat) stars a thin actress. The fat women are consigned to sidekicks and jokes.

            I don’t see how it’s any different than a black person complaining that there aren’t enough black actresses in movies or pretty much any minority group that is underrepresented.

            I would hope you wouldn’t tell a black woman, “Well, this is just the way it is, get over it.” I would hope you’d be as eager as we are to create some diversity in the media. Fat women aren’t the only one’s under-represented and they’re not the only ones who feel insulted by their lack of inclusion.

            Peace,
            Shannon

        • julia says:

          Well, I was a chubby 15 year old and all my aspirational role models were writers. Except for the ones who were scientists. Or lawyers.

          And I didn’t give a hoot what they looked like – I’ve always been more interested in the contents of people’s skulls than in the size of their waists.

          Sure, I was not exactly representative among my age-group, but it’s not like we get issued subscriptions to Cosmo when we enter high school.

          Some people can and do choose to be interested in things outside of the entertainment industry, even when young.

      • wriggles says:

        Representation not validation.

  15. wriggles says:

    The quote should feature the word fat, with a line through it.

    Ditto this “fat”

    a fat person’s point of view

    I’m not sure why that happened, sorry about that.

  16. Meems says:

    Shannon, I just want to thank you for taking the time to do so much responding on this post. You’ve been much more eloquent than I probably could have been.

  17. FatNSassy says:

    People should look for role models in real life, not the phony world of Hollywood and the media. The only thing that really worries me is what these actresses really did to loose weight. Like politicians, are heroines can say one thing, but do another.

  18. Diyet says:

    Hi_I_from_Canada_Im_Meryln_Good_JOB_Keep_on:)

  19. Tanya says:

    I didn’t read through the entire thread of comments, but as an actress who is fat (and honestly, doesn’t want to be fat anymore) it is really hard to get considered for roles. No one ever looks at the fat actress as the romantic lead. I’m for holding fat up as a glorious thing to celebrate, however, I am for making sure that there are stories told about every type of person.

    Fat as comedy is ultimately hurtful. Even the actors who play those roles have taken an “I’ll make fun of it and that will make it okay” attitude. I can’t hold it against actresses who decide to lose weight to make themselves more marketable in their business, but it does make me angry that there aren’t more stories being told that include people of average-to-heavy size… because we live our lives in a normal fashion. We go to college. We have jobs. We are parents and spouses and lovers. We experience tragedy, adventure, love. Why aren’t those stories allowed to be told?

    Honestly, I think it’s because on some level fat people are ashamed. Nevermind the health risks/issues involved with being overweight. We like to hide. I do… And I’m actually fairly accomplished in what I do. But I still feel it.

    Don’t be angry at the actresses. If they lost weight, it’s because they found the courage to fight hard to do so. Maybe it’s because of the pressure. Or maybe they just always wanted to be thinner and could never get the help or self-confidence to do it before…

    If you want to get angry about something, try this: Why is it that movies trying to put forward a “body acceptance” message always shows a thin actress eating all kinds of junk food? You know there’s no way in hell that those women eat like that in real life! And before anybody jumps on the “some people are just naturally thin and can eat like that” bandwagon, I’m talking about those previously fat actresses as well.

    My favorite fat actress anecdote is from Camryn Manheim’s book Wake Up! I’m Fat! She talked about being on The Practice, and the first day on set, she walked around “her office” and there was a big bowl of candy sitting on the desk. She picked up the bowl and handed it to a props person and said, “Fat women don’t keep their candy in a bowl on the desk. They keep it in the drawer.” That bowl never showed up on her desk again.

  20. jenn says:

    I think you are too focused on the external. Someone should be your hero because the are decent, someone you aspire to be like regardless of their physical apperance. No one wants to be overweight. Brooke elliot should learn to love herself and lose weight on the show. Being overweight is unhealthy, its not a lifestyle. No one should want to hust their body or have a shorter life expectancy. If people truly stopped focusing on apperances than no one would care if these people gained weight or lost it, that has nothing to do with the people they are inside.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Wow, great comments by everybody but I tend to agree with “jenn” because how you look on the outside does not affect who you are. Although society would like us to think that way. Being thin or thick is not the problem, but when it is taken to the extreme of being too thin or obese and how can somebody who is either of those be healthy? America is the “fattest” country and people accept that like it’s ok, but there are so many health problems that are associated with obesity and extreme thinness. Granted I love the character of Jane on Drop Dead Diva and she doesn’t look obese, just a little overweight and if she is still having a healthy lifestyle then there’s no problemw with that. But if there was somebody 500 pounds who couldn’t move off their sofa then well would you watch them as an actor/actress on tv? Could you identify with that person or would your heart bleed for them every single time you saw the pain in their eyes of not being able to live a healthy normal life?

  22. tidbit says:

    I think trying to identify yourself with an actress or a role based on her weight is very superficial and selfish.Actresses are humans too and if they prefer to lose weight for health reasons or due to body image,that’s their call;it should never affect their ability to perform or portray a role.It’s one thing if they become anorexic. As an audience, we should watch a show not because of a character’s weight but because of his/her talent.Misery loves company but in this case, that’s just pathetic.

  23. Ms.Ivy says:

    I have never been big… Im petite 5’3 and small built. However if I were ever to let myself go forget it, i don’t have good genes! meaning, high blood-pressure, diabetes etc run in my family.
    My brother is big and though I find him very handsome and so do his fans(he’s a musician), I know that with every pound he puts on his body is cringing “whhyy”… see I think women can look beautiful no matter what but when does “big is beautiful” start to gloss over the other fact “big has a very serious impact on ones body!”… though all big happy women claim they are “healthy” how healthy really? I have a close friend who I honestly have never thought of as big, she’s gorgeous and my god can she light up a room when she walks in… unfortunately her ankles begged to differ, her weight put so much strain on her ankles she just got surgery on them. Though this may not be the case for most, why risk it?
    Just because 14 is the average size in America doesn’t mean we should hold it up as the standard… in Bill Maher’s “C to shining C-” show he made a good point that ignorance in America can have life and death consequences “18% of us think the sun revolves around the earth” aside from that on his show with Eva Langoria as guest, he mentions what the institute of medicine said “the average person can’t maintain a healthy weight in this pro-obesity promoting environment”… though I like Bill and pro making your own choices and living the consequence, what can easily be said about skinny being promoted in America , so is fat! Mind you not in the same way but blah he can say it better:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lWIIUJTkqk: why do we want to be STUPID and ignore ALL the problems that face us as a people, food deserts(not sweet stuff but an area where healthy options are just not available) etc… Being BIG is a luxury, taught to us by our consumerist country… see:the average weight in other countries(mind you our body insecurities and consumer culture has spread to other countries as well)… IOM executive officer took time out of his busy schedule to co-author this book..http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/ObesityPrevProgress/Book-Press-Release.aspx and hbo series “The Weight of the Nation: to win we have to lose” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pEkCbqN4uo

    Sorry for the rant but what would our country be like, if say, we were number 1 in healthcare, if we were number 1 in health in general, education and literacy, employment, etc instead of pretending we’re great!!! and number 1 because we have the freedom to be Drop Dead Diva?

  24. Susan Wheeler says:

    There is a difference between a little body fat and overweight or obese people. It’s okay if you have a tummy that’s not flat and rock solid, but what I find disgusting is that Drop Dead Diva promotes obesity as something normal. Obesity is NOT normal, it’s unhealthy and can cost people up to 20 years of their life, that’s a disease. I really don’t understand how Bridget Jones suddenly fell into the fat category; fine she has an ass and was a little chubby, but for god sakes many women look like this and they have a perfectly normal BMI.
    The reason why actresses drop the weight after a role, is because they want to live healthy and return to their normal BMI.
    I would have liked more a tv show embodying healthy nutrition and sports in women’s live, rather than “How to shorten your life by decades”.

  25. Ann Onymous says:

    Dear MamaV,

    While it is sadly true that our society sees the more hefty from among us as less worthwhile than others, please don’t lose sight of the fact that being overweight has a lot more implications than just image. I love and treasure many truly fat people for who they are, but it is because I love them that I am ever eager to encourage their attempts to lose weight safely and thus be healthy. I guess maybe I am being selfish in my wanting to keep them around as long as possible, but I think most of them are OK with this kind of selfishness. You might consider having a bit of this kind of ‘selfishness’ for the overweight actresses that have slimmed down, and even more so for yourself since you too are precious.

    God bless

  26. atmikha says:

    The nice thing about the show “Drop Dead Diva,” is that a lot of the cameos and recurring guest roles for woman, — and men, feature actors who have publicly struggled with weight and appearance issues. Margaret Cho, Liza Minelli, Delta Burke, Rosie O’Donnell, etc. And, while appearance is a running theme, it is not a show about being fat per se. The overarching theme seems to me to be about finding a balance between life as a girl and a professional woman, who wants to be pretty and have a boyfriend AND be taken seriously for her achievements. Probably something that resonates with a lot of twenty-somethings entering the work force. There is also a lot of not taking things at face value, and looking below the surface, and doing the right thing. The hard fact is, that as an actress your opportunities to work will be limited by your appearance, so in order to maximize your earnings, you have to be sort of generic. It isn’t Shakespeare, but I like the show. Mostly for the clothes.

  27. Megan says:

    Ok so let me get this straight. You want people to continue to be at risk for High cholesterol and triglycerides
    Type 2 diabetes
    High blood pressure
    Metabolic syndrome — a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high cholesterol
    Heart disease
    Stroke
    Cancer, including cancer of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, breast, colon, rectum and prostate
    Sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts
    Depression
    Gallbladder disease
    Gynecologic problems, such as infertility and irregular periods
    Erectile dysfunction and sexual health issues, due to deposits of fat blocking or narrowing the arteries to the genitals
    Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat builds up in the liver and can cause inflammation or scarring
    Osteoarthritis
    Skin problems, such as poor wound healing.

    Just so your fat ass can have someone else to be unhealthy with you and look up to. You are the dumbest person I’m sorry.

  28. jojobean82 says:

    I am a “FATTY” I have always been a big girl and just when I thought I came to terms with wmy weight I became pregnant…I thought once I have my baby I will lose weight because I will have this wonderful being to love and look after and i will set a good example for him or her on being happy healthy and happy…after having my son I have never been more fat!!! I can’t seem to lose the weight that I have gained :( With that being said growing up I was always looking for that beautiful actress that would play a role on t.v. or in the movies and everytime I thought I found her I was mistaken. As soon as the actress would become famous they would lose the weight. I have tried every single diet that there is out there and the only thing that I came come up with as to why I can not seem to lose this weight is MONEY…thats right money. Yes, in order to lose weight you have to eat healthy (not diet) just eat healthy and exercise. But when your fat food is your only comfort…it can be your best friend or your biggest enemy. But if we all had the luxury of time and MONEY we would all be thin, simple as that…We could afford the healthier eating (because lets face it, healthier food is more expensive than the crap out there make us fat girls fatter) Actress/Actors may work some of the time but not all of the time…I am a single mother and I work full time (long hours) I don’t have time to exercise all of the time…I can’t afford healthy food all of the time and I don’t have a trainor after me all the time (I can’t afford that either) Anyways my point is if we were all actresses and actors maybe we could all afford to be thin…besides that its hard to lose weight on your own and granted there a few of us fatty that can do it on their own…bu a lot of us can’t. Its like a viscious cycle you eat because your fat your fat because you eat…you eat because your sad that your fat…it just goes on and on…So if I were an actress or if I had money like an actress I am sure I could lose weight then…Until then I will keep fighting the fight…I am still fat, but I am trying hard every day to change that…

    • jojobean82 says:

      Oh and I like drop Dead Diva because she’s real…She’s a fat girl learning to love herself for who she is and settng an axample that it is ok to be bigger or fat…and still be happy and healthy…It is about time that someone came out with a t.v. show that doesn’t have a fat person as the brunt of a joke…

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